The old line “references upon request” may have fallen out of favor on resumes, but having references at the ready is essential for a successful job search. A good reference can make all the difference, offering insight into your skills, accomplishments, and character that a hiring manager can’t get from your resume and application materials alone.

Friends can make excellent professional and personal references for your job search.

But, there are a few things to keep in mind, to use these references effectively (and to make life easier on your friends who want to help you get a job).

Understand the Difference Between Personal and Professional References

We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, so it makes sense that our coworkers often become friends. If that’s the case, you might use your friend as a professional reference, i.e. one attesting to the quality of your work. If your friend is currently or formerly your manager, direct report, or colleague, they may be able to provide you with a professional reference.

On the other hand, if you’ve never worked together, your friend might be able to provide a personal reference. These references are about character, work ethic, reliability, etc. — all the personal qualities that make someone a great employee, tenant, board member, etc. Do not use recent acquaintances or anyone who doesn’t know you well.

Don’t ask spouses or family members to provide you with a reference — the hiring manager will assume that your family has only positive things to say about you.