employer won’t give job references

A reader writes:

I have recently been on two interviews with a company. “When can you start” and “will this salary be acceptable” have been discussed.

My issue is that my former employer of 12 years has a strict reference policy that only allows them to confirm dates of employment and salary. I provided additional references at the potential new employer’s request, one former employee of my former company who now runs his own company, and a current client and current supplier of my former company, as well as a former co-worker of my former employee.

It seems that my potential employer is not aware of this growing trend of strict reference policies and we keep going back and forth: “I still haven’t heard back from this person, or that person you provided.” “Can you provide more?”

I’ve been searching for a year with no results and I fear my references situation may be part of it. I did not leave my former employer on bad terms, just felt I need to move on and better myself.

What can I do? I feel like I’m being held back because of this procedure of my former employer and this will affect any future tries at employment. I feel stuck and not sure how to proceed. Can you advise me?

I’d be concerned if a candidate couldn’t get a former employer to give her a reference. Yes, many companies do have the type of policy you described, but I’ve never — and I mean literally never — had a problem getting someone at those companies to give a reference anyway. HR may stick to those policies, but the actual managers usually don’t. And I would be very surprised if a former employee who shone on the job didn’t have past managers jumping to help her.

Have you tried reaching out to your former manager(s) directly, despite what the company says its policy is?

Also, you said that the new employer is telling you they haven’t heard back from the references you did provide. That’s not a good sign either. Have those references told you that they’re able to provide you with a good reference? And that they’re available this week (as opposed to out of town, for instance)? You want to prep your references beforehand, to make sure they’re going to speak well of you, as well as simply willing to return the calls promptly.

If a candidate told me that they weren’t able to get any past manager to serve as a reference (despite the reason) and the references they did give me either weren’t getting back to me or weren’t in a position to be able to really speak to the quality of the person’s performance (which can be the case with peers), I’d consider it a red flag.

I think you do have a reference problem here. I don’t know if it’s because your references aren’t particularly enamored of you or if it’s because you haven’t been hands-on enough in managing the process, but I recommend being more aggressive in figuring it out. Specifically:

1. Contact your former manager(s) and tell them your job offer is contingent upon the company being able to speak with them. Ask for their help.

2. Contact the other references you offered and say, “The employer is becoming concerned because they haven’t heard back from you, and my job offer may be on the line. If you’re not able to serve as a reference for me, would you let me know so I can find alternatives?”

3. If all else fails, ask the new employer if they’d accept (hopefully glowing) past performance reviews in lieu of speaking with your manager.

Good luck.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Kisa*

    As a manager who often receives these types of phone calls inquiring about former employees, I will say the following: In this litigious society, I (and many other managers) will not answer any more than what is specifically asked. I will also not say anything disparaging about a former employee. So, if a GOOD former employee has a reference called in, I will verify employment information, and respond positively to the ubiquitous question about whether I would re-hire them or not. Most reputable companies looking to hire ask very little, these days, beyond basic and relatively objective "Was she able to adequately fulfill her duties" – type questions. I think this is because they KNOW most of us will not answer questions of a more subjective nature. That said, if your references are simply NOT RESPONDING, then you have a problem. You either haven't given your potential employer the right contact information, or you left your former employer with a worse taste in their mouth than you thought. I would suggest contacting your former employer yourself, alerting them of the potential incoming inquiries, and then gauge their response. You'll know if they are less than warm. If a reference is called in to me for an employee who left on bad terms, I will generally do no more than verify their employment, and refuse to respond to other questions. Believe me, that tells them what they want to know.

  2. Kisa*

    One more thing, because it bears elaboration: Although most companies, as I said, now only ASK objective questions in their reference-verification script, I think that any really good employee who had a reference called in would discover that I gave highly subjective, positive, comments. On that I don't hesitate. I WILL be emphatic about someone that I feel deserves a really good reference, and I WILL volunteer information in that case.

  3. Evil HR Lady*

    My husband once worked for a company that had a strict no reference policy–and it was enforced. Managers really wouldn't give references.

    He had a job offer once that was "contingent on references." The former boss at this company wouldn't do more than confirm dates of employment, told the recruiter that it was against company policy to do more than that and held her ground.

    My husband didn't get the job because the recruiter said, "If you were a good employee, she would have broken the rules for you."

    She wouldn't have broken the rules for her own mother–which I believe shows integrity. There really are some companies out there who WON'T GIVE REFERENCES.

    (In the end, he got a better new job anyway, so ha! Take that lame recruiter.)

  4. Just Another HR Lady*

    I'd be interested to know how many people are actually litigious around receiving a negative reference. In Canada, this topic comes and goes, with few to none cases of litigation. I think employers are going way too far off the side on references…as long as you are telling the truth based on factual evidence, a reference is fine even if it's negative.

  5. fridayprofgroup*

    As a staffing company we check a lot of references. We rarely have trouble finding someone who will talk.

    Before you provided the references did you check with them first to make sure that 1 – they are willing to provide a reference and 2 – that they are available?

    Also it's a good rule of thumb to ask for a reference letter when you leave a job. This won't stop any future employers from wanting to speak with your former employers, but at least you will have it on the record.

    1. positivestuckwnegativeones*

      true but last company I contracted 4 the CTO said on last day that simply leave the card on the table when leaving we do not have any formal in writing dismissals.

      I do understand liberal attitude but I think professionalism must be followed.

  6. Anonymous*

    I think there is a difference between not being able to verify one reference and not being able to verify ALL references. Unless you are a recent grad… you should have at least one great reference.

  7. Debbie*

    I asked professors at the college for references prior to graduation (in advance). I believe in asking an employer for one in advance. If you do not burn bridges and have been a good employee, there is no reason the employer will not give a good reference (even in these litigious times). You may have to type it yourself and get their signature, because a lot of people are busy and procrastinate about such things. This is my opinion.

  8. Anonymous*

    My company has a strict "no references" policy and we have managers call to verify this occasionally. We refer all reference calls to our outside verification source and advise managers they can no and should not give personal references. No, I don't know why, I'm a cog in a huge HR wheel, but I do know that there are companies out there who refuse to allow more than "dates of service" type of references.

  9. Charles*

    If I may chime in with another reason for a "no references" policy.

    I used to work for a company that has a very strict policy against references to the point of firing anyone who violated this policy.

    The reasons were really quite simple. In their line of business a competitor can make a few calls asking about "recent" employees. Even simply asking for the dates of employment and salary (which would include bonuses paid based upon work completed within those dates of employment) will give the competitor an idea about the amount of business conducted. Information that the company would not want a competitor to know.

    So, their policy was for HR to only give a simple answer "Yes, they work here or used to work here." Nothing more. No salary information, no dates.

    Does such a policy suck? yes indeed; especially for those of us looking for work. I do wish more recruiters understood this; as the only references one can get from working there are co-workers who are willing to give "personal references." While such references are okay – they don't seem to carry the same weight as managers' professional references. Why do so many recruiters not understand this type of situation?

  10. Genny*

    When a company states no reference check. Do you think anyone want to risk against their current company to help you?????? Everyone is afraid to lose their jobs. One of my previous companies is like that. When I talked to my previous manager, she was almost a friend to me, but she would not give reference no matter what happens. She is so happy to hear from me, but when it comes to reference, she said no straight away and said the company has a very strict policy against it. I totally understand her. Because you dunno how people can lie. If a company can do background, employment verification, education verification, interviews w. the candidates. Then why let a simply unnecessary reference from a complete stranger ruin all the good processes that had been there and legal documents to prove the candidate. I just hope this reference check should be banned all together. There are too many people losing job offers due to bad ex managers, irresponsible ex co-workers, maybe even harassment, and etc. What do they care? Just talk whatever they want. Whether you lose a job or not doesn't affect them in anyway. Even it is illegal to give a negative reference. People looking for jobs really do not have time to actually sue anyone. So, please ban this super unnecessary process that caused more problems and inaccuracy then anything else.

    1. PeterGill*

      agreed 100%, but they are usually asked for if an employer doesn’t know a lot about you and you have somehow developed wrong reputation. Definitely everyone is getting their salaries why would they be bothered? even most of the CEO’s in corporate world are shareholders and earning monies, least of their worries.

  11. Anonymous*

    Indeed I worked for a very large software company for 15 years and they have a very strict no references policy to outside companies, internal is fine. You could lose your job if you gave a reference. Which given this economy and the number of layoffs that occured there made finding a job difficult. Only job I could get was as a contractor at the same company.

  12. Anonymous*

    One thing that is NOT being discussed here are actual STATE LAWS. Some states don't allow a former employer to give any sort of reference other than to answer Yes or No (ONLY) to questions being asked. This means that NO information may be offered up, including such simple things as dates of employment. Just Yes or No!!! That this has not been discussed means that no one here is a professional HR person, including the original blogger.

  13. Anonymous*

    My company is very serious about NOT allowing any employee to give a reference about a past or current employee. They will not give references, and basically threatened the rest of us as well. I think it SO strange. What are they hiding? But I'm not willing to lose my job over it. So I guess I will stop giving references.

  14. Anonymous*

    My former employer has a very strict reference policy. No one outside of HR is allowed to answer reference questions. One person was fired after being caught agreeing to serve as a character reference for a former employer. Everyone else is terrified of being caught and also fired.

    And the HR department will only answer 'yes or no' questions. That is, if you ask 'what dates did this person work for XYZ firm', they will not answer. But if you ask, 'did this person work for your firm from 01/05 to 12/09' they will answer either yes or no. If you ask them 'what salary did this person have at the time of their departure', they will not answer. If you ask them, 'was this person earning 50,000/yr at the time of their departure' they will answer yes or no.

    I am actually grateful that everyone in my department was laid off, because we can serve as references for each other. Since none of us work for the company anymore, we are not bound by their policy.

    Of course, I have other references too, from previous employers, colleagues, non-profit directors, et cetera. Some employers don't care about anyone but the most recent employer, though, and don't care at all about my previous work experience.

    I'm pretty surprised that the author of this blog claims that they have never encountered such a strict policy. Just about everyone I know has worked for a company with the same policy at some point in their career, a company that enforced it to the letter.

  15. Michael Snow*

    My previous employer two jobs back was a large insurer. They never give references. The confirmation of dates worked is garbage, it counts for nothing in the eyes of the new company that's hiring. They tell me this when I go for jobs. The agencies are the same. I agree with the comment that reference checking should be banned. It's open to abuse or non-compliance. If interviewers can't judge a candidate based on the face to face discussion and things like certificates, they really are peter paranoids. I mean these days firms have around SIX MONTHS to fire someone if they really think you've turned out to be a dud. If they like your personal presentation at interview, that should be more than enough to go by. I had one temporary employer who was INTELLIGENT enough to do this, just using his judgment on the day, and he to me stands out as a man who is confident in his managerial post. All these other HR/agency/managers are a bunch of gutless cowards, imagining that what a person did in different circumstances still bears relevance. We all live and grow but the stupid HR theory doesn't recognise this. Their saying "past performance is indicative of future behavior" is the biggest load of university junk-science–and i'm speaking as someone who majored in business and hr management!
    People think about it–you can impress a company leaps and bounds, but then when it comes to references, you have zero control and can literally lose all the hard work you've put in. Surely academic background and police checks are more than enough to tell about a person. They can do psychometric and computer tests too if they want.
    Using referees is so subjective. There's zero science in it.
    I call on all industry to wake up to this outdated and unscientific garbage.
    We don't reference check toshiba before we buy a laptop do we? We don't reference check our spouses before marriage do we? Seriously, with much more important things in life there is yet further proof that character references count for a big fat zilch.

    1. Mona*

      I soooo agree. I personally know bosses who are alkoholiks, jealous , mean, incompetent people. What kind of reference can such person give you? I also have a problem with the “recruiter” position. Does this person know all the specifics of every positon open in the company,that he or she can decide if you are a good candidate to even be concider for the interview? What happened to old fashion managers reading the applications? I know that it’s a lot more to read nowdays, but I was told that recruiters scan the very fiew first lines of persons’ resume and “bum”. Either you are called in or not. Is it fair? I’ve been told no mistakes on applications. Yeah, what if I am a plummer ? What counts more , my grammar or my skills? But recruiter’s job is to throw my application to the garbage if he finds any mistake. Another excuse to have a full time employee in HR, because it is too much work for the boss to deal with the applications. Somehow administration always needs more employees, only the hard working go.

  16. Anonymous*

    yes, since a career change some years ago, my first employer backed out of its agreement with me; second employer went to the wall; third employer decided it was too busy to provide a reference; fourth employer was involved in a workcover claim, and my original occupation is seen as irrelevant.
    so it's bad luck for me, despite accolades, hard work and dedication.
    whereas, if you looked at everything as a whole – specifically all of the self-development and career preparation that i've achieved, and spoke to me face-to-face, you'd be hard put not to recognise a valuable employee.
    only thing i can suggest is for those who can get it, a written ref when times are good, or personal refs such as from volunteering.
    reference checking is often an expedient device lacking potential for genuine discovery, such as with simple questions as: what happened to you there and what did you do in between times?, but it would be improbable to find anyone in the recruitment industry being intelligent enough to recommend this to their employer client.
    there are some employers who will claim to not have to conduct face-to-face interviews, having educed suitables from the refs and cv, which means if you're an ugly, mean, arsehole werewolf going for a job in a childcare centre, but have at least one 'great' ref, you're home and hosed.

    1. Anonymous*

      I think bosses should be a bit more flexible, that’s all I would say. When they found a company they take on this responsibility to maintain their HR department properly.

      These tiny things lead to bigger complications at later stages.

  17. Anonymous*

    Interesting comments – thanks! References are a terrible way to determine wether or not someone is a great candidate. A person's performance ten years ago, may not reflect their performance today. Further, managers have so much responsibility, that they do not have the time to return calls for reference checks for all of their direct reports from previous years. This is an antiquated system that should be modernized. Skills assessments, personality testing, academic checks and background checks should be sufficient.

  18. Anonymous*

    Some managers have alot of years at the company because they bully people out by abusing their powers. Managers are not Gods so HR and recruiters should not be so gullible as to believe everything a manager says. Alot of managers are sneaky , unthical and are no way pure. When you report them to HR , they set you up to fire you with BS write ups. I had a managers who’s friends always no showed to work but she would put 8 hours into the time clock for them anyways. Wake up people because things are not what they appear.

    1. Lisa*

      I agree with you about managers setting up employees for termination. I worked with a not so great manager, and she kept finding things to complain about. She sterotype me base on my color and told me she did not like the way I speak and prounouce my words. I arranged a meeting with her and HR to come to a conclusion. When I got to HR, she had a write for me to sign, a total set up. From then on, this manager kept on writing me up for anything, it came to the point that she had nothing eles to write me up on, and began to write me up for the things she trained me on, saying I don’t know how to do it before she trained me. After she trained me, I created new ways to do the projects faster and accurate. I still did not get credit for it. She also wrote me up for things that happened when I was on vacation, and things that occured a year ago when I was in another position because I had informed her about it when I transferred into her department when she had asked about the previous position. Every month I had a write and she tried to make it relate to the other write up so it look like its an ongoing problem I was having, inputting things from the pass to make it look ongoing. HR did not do anything, and just supported this nonsense. There was no where eles to turn, so I left the company.

  19. John*

    You give information of a negative nature on me, and I find out (this is the hard part), I would sue if I knew I had done everything requested of me to the best of my abilities. Personal reasons do play into giving negative answers all of the time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s legal if it’s accurate, however. You could do something to the best of your abilities and still not meet the standards they needed, and it’s legal for them to discuss that.

      1. John*

        Up to a certain point but most companies know that they can be sued, as I said I would, that would end up costing them money even if what they did was not wrong. So, most companies are taking the “Don’t ask and Don’t Tell” type of policy because if you openly discuss, or make a simple slip, that cost a person their job you could easily land up in court along with the company you work for. This is especially true if the employee is in one of the protected status categories (race and sexuality being among the biggest).

        White heterosexual male? Oh, we could talk for days without much fear of a lawsuit from them. :(

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I know that a lot of people believe that many companies don’t give references, but the reality is that the vast majority do. Their HR people might not, but a reference-checker doesn’t want to talk to HR anyway; they want to talk to managers. And I’ve literally never had trouble getting a reference from a manager when I’ve tried to — and I’ve also heard plenty of bad references. So it’s something of a myth that references aren’t talking. They talk, and they’re often candid.

          1. John*

            I wonder how many managers who talked candidly about a past employee was later sued, as well as their company they work for, over what they said? The burden of finding out a company/individual is black balling you is a very hard thing indeed but if found out then a lawsuit would surely entail.

  20. Anonymous*

    Not a half an hour ago, and for the first time in my life, I was told by a manager that they could not provide a professional reference due to company policy. Frankly, I was a little offended.

    1. John*

      This is a growing trend as I was saying earlier. I hate this new trend but I do understand it thanks to all of the lawsuits. I mean what if a company gave out references and ‘talked’ about a person and they were not in a minority group but with enough documentation it was shown the company did not on those of a protected class? I could see someone suing over that and even a frivolous lawsuit still costs companies time plus money.

      So, I don’t blame the companies one iota but it does suck for us.

  21. Anonymous*

    I’d love your advice (or anyone else’s who’s reading this!). My recruitment agent has consistently placed me in jobs since 2007 due to great feedback from the client. I’ve asked my agent in January for a written reference on my LinkedIn and have asked several times since and she always makes excuses why she hasn’t had time. She has written a reference on LinkedIn for another candidate who is now based overseas, even though the candidate only worked for the agent one year. She keeps asking me to do assignments but I told her I can’t until she can write me a reference. I would at least like a written confirmation that I have worked consistently since 2007! That’s 5 years. This would greatly help me with applying for home loan, rental apartment, etc! I explained this to my agent and still no response! She just wants me to make money for her. I have to draw the line. It’s bad enough that temps have no rights in regards to long service or maternity leave. I would appreciate your feedback, as I am thinking of taking legal action. It’s the principle of the matter! I feel I have a right to a written reference or at least a confirmation of my work history. She has certainly given me plenty of verbal recommendation to her clients. I want a written reference as I would like to apply for jobs overseas and agencies there would prefer a written reference rather than having to call an overseas phone number. Please help!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no legal action you could take here, but I’d recommend asking her why she isn’t willing to write you a reference — is it an issue with your work quality, etc.?

  22. Anonymous in MA*

    I currently work for a company which has the no reference by line managerment policy. In the past I had no trouble geeting great references from direct managers. It is a while and the previous companies that I worked for has undergone so many re-structurings that I have lost track over time where my previous managers have gone(they have moved aroung too much). I have quoted mentors who are more familiar with my personality and skills and who have worked very closely with me (infact they know me better than my line managers!! who of course never had any time)

    1. John*

      As you can see this is a growing trend as I stated in my first posts and the Ask Manager person who wrote this article, and replies to us, is a tad out of touch judging by her responses alone.

      The fact is 20 years ago she would have been spot on but in 2012? Only for the lucky few and by 2017 I doubt she will be for us all. Too much upheaval in the employment market, and life, for anything to be consistent and with the litigious society we are in (I state this again) it is better to give nothing out than to risk your entire company. Age old adage of “Better to be safe than sorry” comes to mind.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sorry, you’re off base here. I check references all the time and have never, literally never, had a problem getting a reference to talk to me, even if the company has a policy that officially prohibits it.

        Most managers do give references, and smart candidates will stay in touch with past managers, regardless of what job changes both parties go through.

  23. John*

    Your rose colored glasses are so bright I am getting blinded by them and you must be as well because you have others telling you the same thing I said yet you are blindingly steadfast in your beliefs. You know what they call that, right? Bull headed.

    Anyway, I am done with this as you have shown you are not willing to see what others are telling you that is happening, or has happened, to them. It is almost like you are on an agenda to show that everything is so rosy out in the real world and while it might be as you have said for you too many are starting to see, and feel, what I have said and because of that you have lost all credibility with at least me.

    I’m done and peace out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Dude. If you’ve read much of this site, you’ll know that I’m far from having rosy-colored glasses on.

      These aren’t “beliefs” that I’m citing here — it’s actual experience checking references, and telling you what happens. Are there some people who have trouble getting references from past companies? Yes, of course. But it is much rarer than comments like yours would have people think.

      1. AnonymousTX*

        Ugh, this is why people think of HR as notoriously incompetent. As a former Office Manager and someone who’s worked with HR, yeah, a lot of companies do refuse to give references beyond dates of employment, position, and if you would hire the person again. I myself have been able to get references, save for the two companies who stuck to this policy. As others have noted, not everyone is willing to risk their own job to help you out, even though they may like you. Your response is typical HR pabulum, all rah rah BS and no substance or empathy for people who are unemployed. This is the kind of cruddy advice that makes me glad that I got off the HR track and was lucky enough to find a manager that is honest and goes out of his way to help all his employees. Sadly, it took years before I could find a place to work that was like this. But do what you HR people do best, bury your head in the sand and act like it isn’t completely rough and borderline degrading for people who are unemployed. FOR SHAME. I’m done. Thank God all job advice boards aren’t as bad as yours.

  24. anonymous in MA*

    I think policy of checking references is absolutely rubbish! I have seen employees who come is with glowing references move on within a few months from the company (due to poor management, bad work environment etc.) what will you say about them? That they could not perform?
    Hiiring managers should ask situational and behavioral questions to the candidates to gauge truth/lies. Often times by an interview an experienced manager can find out the depth of a candidate’s experience….references do not need to be checked at all….only background and criminal checks should be sufficient….in my case due to company re-structurings my line management changed 3 times within 3 years! 1 yr is not sufficient for a manager to be a good reference. On the contrary other senior people who were part of the group were more familiar about me….believe me this is very common nowadays…in that case they can be good references instead of a manager who hardly knew you at all!!

    1. Anonymous*

      The point of reference is that I can say I worked at some xyz company where as I do not know anyone there or have not known anyone there.

      How are you supposed to validate that ok this person is worked in this capacity and on duty till end of their contract or job. Common sense? Some companies won’t check because they have already seen an individuals performance through public or have some alternate interests, usually a big firm always does.

  25. Anonymous*

    This problem does exist. All my previous employers have some sort of reference policy in place but my current employer has the strictest reference policy I have ever seen. Supervisors and management staff can not answer any questions pertaining to an old employee, not even a yes/no answer. Calls must be transferred to HR and caller-id is used on a regular basis to screen calls. We’ve had 2 supervisors fired because they went behind HR and the company’s back to give references. People network and talk and somehow HR finds out. We can ask co-workers but we’re all worried that we’ll lose our jobs. We’ve seen plenty of ex-employees walked out by security for lesser offenses. Right now I use employers and co-workers from my previous jobs as references. I want to look for another position that will allow me to grow and expand my skills but it’s difficult when potential employers want to verify my skills, projects, and how I’m doing at my current job. It doesn’t matter how much my supervisors “like” me or how far they are willing to “bend the rules”, in the end it can cost them their jobs. No one wants to risk their jobs, especially if they have a family to provide for and bills to pay. Last month one of our employees had to relocate. As soon as the employee left, my supervisor informed us that there was no way he was going to put his job on the line even though the employee was one of our senior techs and worked here for 6 years!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That is a place you do not want to work. That company would change its policy if good candidates started turning down offers because of the policy (not that that’s likely to happen, in part because no one thinks to ask about policies like this when they’re being hired, but I wish it would).

  26. Anonymous*

    i worked 3 years at a work study job during college, and when i was about to graduate i asked my manager if she could be my reference. She told me she couldn’t be my reference because it was university policy not to give personal references. She said i could give HRs number and they could be my reference. I worked with her for 3 years we both began at the same time on the project but she said she couldnt, even though she told me i was the best worker she ever had. Now I am having a problem when applications ask for references because I cannot list her. I dont think its because she didnt like my work but because she really couldnt. My friend who worked there with me had a different manager and she told her the same thing. We were both employees with the longest time working there, yet they refused. We were definitely disappointed.

    1. Anonymous*

      I asked my head of department she said I can put a factual reference even though she had only spoken to me occasionally on some internal CMS issues.

  27. Reality Check*

    Having been laid off from a large pharmaceutical company, none of the pharma companies I worked for even asked for references. I have plenty of references from coworkers and offices I have worked with. However, the majority of my managers are still employed with the same company. I recently interviewed for a position at a large lab company they wanted 5 references prior to the final interview with 2 managers. No manager that is still working for the same company I worked for will give a reference. They direct everyone to the 800# the company has set up for this purpose. No one will rock the boat to risk their job. So to all those that say they have never had a problem with managers breaking the rules. Not in this industry in this economy. We all know that when work force reductions are on the horizon, the slightest infraction can result in a lost job or lost layoff package. I have seen it happen to successful employees. One manager I had in a healthcare clinic within a large corporation who said she would gladly rehire me still said she could no longer give a reference . Does anyone have any success stories working around this for professional positions ? (believe me not many companies at my level check references as of course you are only going to give ones who will glow about your performance They have connections and ask around. )

  28. Anonymous*

    My husband has been having a difficult time with a civilian contractor on a military base giving references to companies interested in hiring him after he left the company. Being in the transportation industry background and reference information is a must. This company will not even answer the question of would you rehire. I have contacted the company itself (no luck), labor and industries,the EEO, and the senator for this state. I have yet to receive an answer to the “question what can I do” from any of them. Please direct me to some one who can help. I can not afford a lawyer.

  29. yikes*

    Am currently seeking employment and have plenty of references. That’s fortunate, because one recent reference who’d produced for me a couple of weeks back suddenly failed to fill out a survey sent to her – she discovered that HR policy was that NO one in that company was to act as a reference. How the heck can one get hired if that policy exists? I was saddened to hear of this since many employers will only accept recent employers (<2 years back). Thank heaven, my super from that same company thumbed his nose at the policy and gave me a stellar reference otherwise I'd be sunk. I'm sick of dealing with all the HR nazis and nonsense. My resume and background speak for themselves and my interviews are generally quite good. I wonder how much talent is getting missed due to these constraints.

  30. Bailey*

    At the company I used to work for, there is a pretty strict non-reference policy. A potential employer cannot even speak to a human being for a “yes” or “no” answer. They must go on a certain website and enter the information and they will only be told what dates the employee worked for them.

    1. Guest*

      Check the website because I found an error and was not showing up. Human resources agreed to humanly verify my dates. I wasted months job hunting giving a bad reference.

  31. WorkingTherapist*

    I have had many jobs over the years that refuse to give references sometimes simply due to privacy and NDAs. Ways to get around this that I would advise to do under any circumstance. Ask around for a written reference from someone, preferably a co-worker as it can give a professional and character reference (sometimes managers simply dont know all their employees). Something on paper that an employer can have on file, make sure your written reference is dated and signed and contains contact information of your referee. Include in your resume any awards you may of been given at your time of employment (but present it more as a foot note rather then boasting). Almost everywhere I have worked has required me to do some type of extra training, ask the trainer/lecturer/teacher if they would be willing to act as a reference, though it is highly unlikely they will remember you they will have on record your employment and the course you undertook. Try to find a co worker that is willing to bend the rules a little.

    Furthermore your goals of references should be, one character reference, one academic reference, one professional reference. Also when writing your resume list the contact details of all places of employment next to the company name. This shows an aura of transparency. Good luck for the future.

  32. Anonymous*

    The no reference due to company policy is a joke. If you can only get a reference from a manager that has left the company – am I supposed to keep up with who he is working with now? They have moved on & to where – I do not know. References are ok, but unless you can verify the reference, what is the point? This whole thing leads to unverifiable references. Lets just go buy a “pay as you go phone” & that way you can give yourself a reference! If its not on a letterhead from a company they currently work for – can you trust it?

    1. Anonymous*

      The new firm won’t retain or hire you, I am working at a large investment bank but can’t provide references do you think they would hire?

  33. Anonymous*

    If your past work history shows you worked someplace for lets say 5 years, or 10 years – you must have been doing something right or you would not have lasted that long. Potential employers need to take that into account, as that can be verified, rather than something someone could fake on a phone call or letter. I have to agree to a point – just get rid the reference requirement.

  34. Anonymous*

    ah!ah!!ah!!!ah!!!! Victimisation could be the reason why some employees don’t get references from their last employer especially when the last employer was acting under the instruction of the previous employer who you had reported to an Employment / Equality Tribunal.

  35. anonymous*

    I have not had to look for a job in a few years, and a lot has changed since in those short years. There really seems to be more emphasis on references, even though a lot of places have had the policy of not verifying more than dates and salary. Yet recruiters act like there is something wrong with YOU because your former company is not willing or can not break company policy, and that it’s also YOUR fault that the recruiter won’t except written reviews from former employers or the word of a former co-worker.

  36. anonymous*

    I actually saw a company that whose online application only asked for 2 professional references from people you either worked for or with, but you also had to provide their emails. I am starting to see the email contacts being requested more and more these days too.

  37. Unknown*

    The reason why companies will not give positive references about past employees is because silence tells them that the employee was very bad and would probably call the police if that employee showed up to re apply for that job. Everyone I knew in my past that was fired immediately got their replacement job. This was a long time ago. One person who I thought was kind of a jerk to his workers, called one of the company’s clients and told the daughter of the owner about his fantasies of her let’s just say, mountains. Needless to state, that client abruptly ended business with us. That employee was immediately fired. One month later, he got another job in the same field. There are others who I used to know who got fired for various reasons. They immediately got their replacement jobs. I would believe it is because back then the managers who canned them would not make any comments other than to confirm their employment with the company. I do not know when this legal document came out, and I think it should be outlawed, I have never, ever seen in my past job searches prior to my last job any forced consent to protect a former employer from lawsuits if they spilled the beans about you.
    I would think it would be wise for a company if they were enquired about a former employee to just state on the phone, “Yes he or she worked here from this date to that date. That is all we are going to disclose. Good bye” Then hang up. Remember! Managers are human with feelings and there are people who may have worked for them whom they hated personally. Therefore if they got a legitimate excuse to discharge them, they will be hellbent on making sure they never get another paycheck. They do this by bad reffing to other managers. If you ask why would anyone work for someone who hates you? You work for a company who has a supervisor who makes your life miserable to his or her glee. Then to your misery, that supervisor has been promoted to manager. Your manager!

    1. Newbee*

      a) as the coach would say, negative vibe coming from you
      b) better try for an investment and run your own business, you can ask your ex-bosses to invest if they want.

  38. Anonymous*

    The blogger is wrong. Managers should not risk their jobs if there is a no reference policy at the company. My last 2 employers have a strict no ref policy. Resume, certificates, transcripts and interview should be sufficient for a prospective employer to make a decision with probation just in case. Michael Snow’s comment is spot on.

    1. Guest*

      The new fad is for recruiters is to get a “360 degree” view of an employee before hiring them. Everyone knows what the law is regarding references, so why are corporations trying to circumvent labor laws?

  39. Maura*

    This is new, I worked at my job for six months, did great didn’t want a reference but, they dont give references, a manager there is not allowed to bc they don’t give references. They consider themselves the top of their field company and therefore they’re not going to give references, they wanted 5, but they won’t give any and they acted like that with everything so I left.

  40. Aqua*

    Just found this AAM post when searching for “company will not give references”. My last two employors will not give references due strict company policies. One of these employors is a government institution. I work in compliance and most compliance managers are not going to break any company policies; let alone one that would risk their jobs.

    If you do not have the ability to determine if a candidate is solid based on the interview and background check; then you probably should not be a position to hire employees.

  41. mkh*

    I have never seen a company or actually worked for a company which won’t provide references, unless you are working for CIA, good or bad they usually do give em. I think the positivity of employers determine that whether they are going to provide a reference or not.

    Definitely the first point of contact should be managers but there is a curious case in which the development mgr should have be in charge instead the internee had to work with the directors for migrating things.

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