when your references aren’t responsive

A reader writes:

I’ve had 2 jobs in the last 3 years after graduating, both with very small companies of fewer than 10 people and no formal HR dept. I’ve emailed and left messages for coworkers and manager from my last position to ask if I could list them as a reference, and I haven’t received a response from anyone. I didn’t leave that position on bad terms, but I haven’t kept in touch either. I can’t list my current manager since he’s not aware that I’m job searching. There is one girl who has left my current company and agreed to be a reference, but we didn’t work on any significant projects together, aside from planning company events.

1. Should I still list people from my previous employment as references, even though they haven’t acknowledged my messages?

2. What if none of my references respond to messages from the hiring manager? Will this jeopardize my chances of being hired?

3. Is it sufficient to provide their e-mail addresses, since I don’t have their phone numbers (aside from the manager) and it’s not posted on LinkedIn?

I’m at a loss for professional references I can list, since I had worked for such small companies and only had 1 or 2 coworkers. I really appreciate any advice you can give.

The fact that they’re not getting back to you is troubling. And yes, if they do that to the hiring manager, it’s going to be bad, because not returning calls for a reference often signals, “I don’t want to have to give a bad reference for this person, so I’m just going to ignore your call.”

You say you left on good terms, but I wonder how your work was when you were there. You might have left on good terms and still not wowed them, which could lead them to be ducking your calls now. Generally, someone who impressed an employer doesn’t have trouble getting their messages returned, so this is worrying. Granted, if they don’t feel they can give you a great reference, they should still get back to you and tell you that, but they wouldn’t be the first people to take the easy way out, by conveniently forgetting to return the call.

On one hand, it would be good to figure out a way to get in touch with these people and see what’s going on … but on the other hand, if someone isn’t enthusiastic about serving as a reference for you, that’s a reference you probably don’t want anyway.

You’re in a tough spot since this is your only previous job and so you don’t have other employers who can serve as references for you … or do you?  Did you have jobs or internships in college that could serve this purpose for you? If so, that might be a better alternative. (Although you might still run into people like me, who will say, “What about the manager at your last job? Can you put me in touch with her?” and at that point, you’ll probably need to just explain that you’ve trouble getting back in touch with her and hope that the new employer won’t make assumptions about why.)

If your current manager thinks highly of your work, another option would be to say that you’d be happy to allow them to contact your current manager once you have an offer, and that the offer can be contingent on that reference check … assuming that you’re confident you’d get a good reference from her.

Regarding the email versus phone number question, most reference-checkers want phone numbers, since they want to have a conversation, not an email exchange. For this group, it’s a moot point since you don’t want to give phone numbers for people who aren’t going to return the call anyway, but I’d think that you could at least give the company’s main switchboard number.

Morals of this story: (1) Do great work so that you get great references. And this is one reason that it’s worth it to go above and beyond at work, even when you don’t see what’s “in it” for you. (2) And stay in touch once you leave.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    If there’s one piece of advice I wish I could go back and give to 18 year old me, it would be ALWAYS LEAVE A JOB WITH A GOOD REFERENCE. At least one- be it manager, co-worker, whatever. Because there will always be a point sometime after college where you need three professional references and will have to rack your brain thinking of who you could possibly call to give you a glowing review.

    That might not help the OP now, but I hope it helps SOMEONE down the line.

  2. Similar but different*

    I’m in a similar, but different situation and I’m curious to how you’d advise me.

    I have a few years work experience (less than 5) and I have 5 references I use from the companies I have worked with. I have made an effort to keep in touch with my references (since I know I will need them) however:

    About 3 years ago, 2 senior guys at a company I worked for agreed to be references for me and at that time they were indeed fantastic references and we did keep in touch when I moved to a different company. A while later, when I had to use them for a reference again they did indeed provide a positive reference. The issue I have now is, now that need to move elsewhere and I want to use them once again, I haven’t heard from them in almost a year. I have in that time made continuous efforts to keep in touch with them (periodic emails, sending actual holiday cards) and I haven’t heard from them at all, as in I’ve heard absolutely NOTHING. I still give their information when asked for references and I still email them every single time I give their information out (2x this month) but, I must admit it unnerves me that they don’t respond to any of my emails (or haven’t in almost a year). I know they were recently promoted (around the time I last spoke to them) to very, very prominent positions so I can imagine that they are extremely busy (and travel somewhat frequently). I know them to both be good hearted individuals who I doubt would intentionally ruin a job prospect for me by purposely not returning a reference request. Right now, I’m going on good faith that they are indeed returning the calls. However, I was thinking of sending them an email asking them if they would still be comfortable being a reference for me so as to give them an easy out. Though, truth be told, I really do not want to lose them as references.

    As well, in December, 1 of my references confirmed I could indeed use her. However, she was pregnant at the time and probably just had the baby (she said she was due in February). I still list her (since she said I could) and I always contact her when I give her information out to put her on notice, but recently I haven’t heard from her at all (since she probably had the baby). Again, since she did say I could use her, I still give her information out. For now I go on good faith that she is indeed returning the calls. Also, when I give her information out, should I mention she recently had a baby?

    As you can probably deduce, If I can’t use these 3 people, it only leaves me with 2 really solid references.

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t mind giving references for great employees but I would have to say if I was getting called twice a month for a former employee I would no longer wish to be a reference. There’s something wrong there. In fact, more than a couple times a YEAR, and I’d start to resent the need for regular reference-giving. You should start diversifying that list (or perhaps, stop jumping roles).

      1. Ellen M.*

        I disgree with this – it wouldn’t bother me at all to be reference for someone repeatedly while he/she was job hunting, over a period of time.

        If the person kept getting and losing jobs again and again and was starting to look like a job hopper, I might not want to be a reference for that reason, but twice in one month wouldn’t be a problem for me. It’s tough out there and someone might have his/her references checked and still for some reason not get the job and then need his/her references to speak to another employer within a short period of time.

      2. Confidentially speaking*

        I respectifully disagree, too. Maybe the person above that gets a reference call twice a month doesn’t truly realistically understand the job market.

        For ANYONE to even get an interview for ANYTHING, let alone be considered is a blessing and nearly miraculous.

        If somene asked me to use them as a reference AND if their potential employer called me, I would consider it an HONOR instead of annoying as the person above has implied.

        Also, it’s not always about “diversifying” one’s references. You could work for a great company for years, work under several supervisors/managers, etc, but the reality is, you’re going to have a better rapport with some than others–not that things weren’t bad or negative with other supervisors and it’s not always personal.

        Sometimes one is comfortable in asking one supervisor over another or one manager over another because they each have similar work styles, work ethics, some take the job more seriously than others (even amongst “leaders’).

        So picking a reference isn’t like PICKING DAISYS.

        All references ARE not the same. In my last interview, I didn’t even use my immediate supervisor because she had only been my supervisor for 6 months and really didn’t know my fully as an employee as my previous supervisors in the same position

      3. Miss L*

        Why would you resent someone who makes it to the final round of an interview process?

        If anything, that’s testimony of YOUR strong management skills – that your former underling is so highly sought after that he or she makes it to the final round. With the economy this bad, making it to the final round of an interview is nothing short of a miracle. I’ve only done it once so far, and the role was eliminated, so no offers were made.

  3. nyxalinth*

    This happened to me last year.

    I had a supervisor down as a reference for a former job I’d held. when the potential employer called my reference, she was told that he, my former supervisor, could not be the one to give references, that the employer had to talk to the manager instead. (Keep in mind this manager was not the same one I’d known when I was there, and who was familiar with my work. Given that my supervisor had happily agreed to be a reference for me, I’m guessing Mr. New Manager came in with his own ideas on the subject of references, whether good or bad).

    The employer tried for two weeks to reach this schmuck, who wouldn’t return her calls. So I lost out, because he couldn’t be bothered to get back to her in a timely manner, and my supervisor wasn’t permitted to speak with her.

  4. Dana*

    For the third reference, I think you could make a note next to her name/contact information stating that she’s on maternity leave from the company but is still willing to give a reference.

    For the first two, if they agreed to do it, I’m guessing they might be wondering why you are emailing them twice a month to tell them that you gave their name. They probably just don’t reply because it’s a courtesy from you- maybe they think of it as writing a thank you note for a thank you note, you know? Anyway, if you’ve emailed them recently, I don’t think you need to email them every single time you give their information.

    1. Liz*

      This makes sense to me.

      Also, I’ve seen managers blow off giving references for good employees because the manager was busy – also generally rude. I have been getting the impression that it is old-fashioned to assume giving references is part of a manager’s duties. Now people are so overworked try just can’t be bothered with this kind of extra work, particularly when there is no benefit in the process for the manager.

      1. Charles*

        Liz; I’ll second your comment:

        “I have been getting the impression that it is old-fashioned to assume giving references is part of a manager’s duties.”

        As I have seen too many managers/supervisors today who decide that if it doesn’t help them with their immediate needs then they don’t bother to give a reference. This “what’s in it for me” attitude is, to me anyway, very unprofessional. Sadly, it is far too common today.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not in isolation, though. It’s part of a manager’s job, but it’s a small, proportionate part, and obligations to current employees and tasks have priority. It’s not carte blanche for ex-employees to expect call after call or responses at short notice.

          I love giving references; I’ve been lucky in the people working for me and I enjoy kvelling about them. But they’ve kept the requests reasonable and appropriate; there has to be courtesy in both directions.

          1. Miss L*

            Liz and Charles, I am ever-grateful for your response.

            I’m an unemployed former manager (I managed at three jobs – first was a team of 11, second was a team of 3, third was a team of 6). Whenever anyone I’ve managed has requested a reference, I’ve gone out of my way to provide that reference, if s/he was a good employee. And everyone who’s asked me so far has been a great employee, so I feel good about giving those references, and I make sure I word them so my former employees are hired.

            And they always are. And it makes me feel good.

            Alas, just because you want to help people doesn’t mean people want to help you.

            I’ve just entered the sixth month of my fruitless job search, and while my references from several jobs ago (when I was more junior), are willing to testify for me, I can’t get an answer from my bosses from more recent jobs. I really need those supervisors to vouch for me, but they can’t be bothered. Some senior positions request references along with your resume and portfolio, so I have no choice but to list those bosses, even though they haven’t agreed to vouch for me.

            Their stony silence when I need their help is especially ironic, because they wouldn’t hesitate to blow up my phone at night or on the weekend to help them get out of a jam for the umpteenth time. I even saved one manager’s job. Repeatedly.

            I know you’re not supposed to take business personally. However, I can’t help but feel betrayed. It’s to the point where I’m seriously considering enlisting friends or family to stand in as references. I doubt I will, because I don’t think I have it in me to stoop that low, but in this era of “Me, me, me – what can you do for me?” generous people will always finish last, whereas the cheaters rise to the top like cream.

            I’m only in my early 30s, and have been in the workforce just over a decade – so I’m pretty young. But I hate the direction the business world has taken over the past few years. Specifically, I’ve never seen so many selfish, self-involved people who can’t be bothered to connect unless it benefits them. I’ve always felt that business is about building relationships. I suppose I’d better ditch that belief, because it’s absolutely prehistoric these days.

  5. Dana*

    Whoops, above response was for similar but different- I thought I pressed reply to the message, but guess not.

  6. Suzanne*

    I think this issue is sooooo complex. I realize that employers want professional references who knew you well, etc. but sometimes this is simply impossible. My daughter, for example, had a summer job a few years ago; one of her first jobs ever. The place closed up within a year of her leaving and she has no idea where any of the people went. So, no references.
    I worked a temp job for a time. I had an interview a few months ago, and was asked by the interviewer why I had no supervisor from that position on my reference list. The place was chaos, and I’m not even sure who my supervisor was! We were never given any contact information for any higher ups, and no contact information for the company at all (it was a subsidiary of another company and not even listed in the phone book or on the company’s website). I doubt my supervisor, whomever he or she was, would have even known me by name.
    I also worked for quite a few years at a business that no longer exists. I have tried to keep in touch with my supervisor, but it’s been several years and the place she worked for after our company closed is also no longer in business. I also worked at a seasonal job a few years ago and never even knew my supervisor’s last name.

    All these things probably look sketchy to an potential employer, but in reality, it isn’t. So many businesses are in chaos these days (reference the posting a few days ago on how to treat a new employee) that supervisors often don’t or won’t help out once you are gone, even if you were a decent employee. Don’t employers have some responsibility to realize that employees don’t have any control of what happens to former co-workers, supervisors, etc. after they leave a job? Don’t they have any sympathy for employees thrown out on the street when a business closes leaving them no way to get in touch with former co-workers or supervisors?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, and that’s an understandable thing when it’s not ALL your references. The problem is when someone can’t give any manager as a reference — then it’s reasonable to wonder why that is.

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s not especially uncommon for it to be that way, though. If someone’s been in their current job for a while, say 18 months or more, and can’t use their current manager for fear of jeopardizing their position, then time has pretty much obliterated any chances of contacting old managers and they’re in the exact same position of having no references.

        The most stellar employee on the planet can’t stop a former boss from getting fired (or the company from folding) or from simply being a dickwad and not bothering to answer calls. Plenty of amazing people have worked their hearts out for said dickwads. Side-eyeing them for not having a solid history of working at companies which never go under, where no managers ever leave, and where there’s enough staff to give said managers time to return every single call right away with total recall of every project the former employee ever helped with is entitled and classist, locking everyone but the silver-spoon Good Old Boys out from ever moving up in the business world.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sure, but if every former boss falls in that category, hiring managers are going to wonder why that is. I remember good employees from years ago, and my own references from years ago remember me; if someone’s forgotten after only 18 months, that might say something. Especially if it’s true of ALL their past bosses.

  7. Anonymous*

    I have several former colleagues who I consider “guaranteed references” – they’re people who have told me that I am always welcome to use them as a reference. Even with this guarantee I ALWAYS contact them before putting their name down and let them know to expect a call, I also forward them the job descriptions and any other relevant information so that they’re aware of what the job is and can pick out how my skills and experiences working with them relate. I would never put them down without receiving a response from them first because you never know whats happening in their lives. For example: During my most recent job search I contacted one of my “guaranteed references” to find out that her father had just passed away and she wouldn’t be back in the office for another two weeks. Even though she was happy to be a reference for me when she returned, the timeline in which she would be able to return the reference call didn’t fit with the timeline the employer wanted.

  8. ChristineH*

    This is probably a stupid question, but I know when I fill out job applications, you put your supervisor’s name and contact information when you input your work history. But I’m always confused as to whether the list of references is IN ADDITION to those on the application?

    The issue of references always has me flummoxed. I know it shouldn’t be, but there are so many variables, especially when you haven’t been in touch with previous supervisors for several years and, as in my case, left one job on iffy terms. A somewhat spotty work history doesn’t help either :(

    1. NDR*

      You are usually asked to provide professional references in addition to the supervisor information requested on the application. The idea is that your references are who you are offering as people who can speak to your work product positively and consistently. This doesn’t mean that the potential employer will only contact your references, but you want them to be your allies in the job process. This should/can/will help balance any unfavorable or out of character information that the hiring manager/HR might get from speaking to others (past supervisors, listed or not, for example). I am sure there was a way to say that more succinctly and clearly.

  9. Anonymous*

    There are a lot of companies that ban employees from providing references for current and former colleagues and subordinates; where I currently work all inquiries must be directed to HR, who will only provide dates of employment, position, and eligibility for rehire. I personally think references are close to worthless– nobody (or almost nobody, lol) is going to provide the name and number of someone who is going to provide a terrible reference… the only time references are really a benefit to both parties is when all provided references are incredibly enthusiastic about someone’s abilities/work.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Lots of companies do have those policies, and lots of people violate them all the time :) I’ve never had trouble getting a reference for someone, even at those companies.

      You’d be surprised — people do provide references that aren’t especially positive. And of course, a good hiring manager will ask to talk to people who aren’t on the list as well, if the list seems like it’s left out some obvious names (like recent managers).

      1. SCW*

        I just had my previous supervisor, who had assured me she’d be happy to give me a reference, call me to tell me that when the hiring manager called she told her no, that it was against policy(not completely true), and that I could give them my evaluations from her or nothing. Right after that I got a call from the hiring manager saying basically WTF was up with your previous supervisor, are you in some kind of trouble? I felt I had to give her my evaluations, which were good for the company, but I don’t think translate well.

        I was shocked after reading your blog, and after she assured me she would gladly give me a reference, to hear she said no. This was such a good opportunity, and I feel like I’ve blown it!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You should contact your previous manager and ask what happened, since she told you one thing and did another. It’s possible she’s confused about the policy (or that it’s changed since you were there), or it’s possible that she actually doesn’t feel she can give you a great reference and wasn’t honest enough to tell you that. Either way, you need to know.

          1. SCW*

            I did call her back and she said she thought my evaluation was really good and she wanted to say good things, but she felt the county policy said that any references had to be approved in writing by the county before they could be given, when it really states that references not based on the evaluation have to be approved by the county. She even referenced the date on the policy which was the same as when I read it.

            I even told her how her hesitancy to say anything put me and the entire organization in an incredibly bad light, because the hiring manager was now worried we all were going to be fired and because previous supervisor had basically promised I would sent my written evaluation I felt forced to send it because otherwise would send red flags that there was a problem.

            What is your opinion on the evaluation issue?

  10. OP who submitted the question*

    Just a follow up–I did end up getting responses from my previous manager and coworker, who were happy to serve as references. I had called/sent e-mails on a Friday afternoon, and it turns out that some people were traveling or just not checking e-mails until the following Monday. This is a HUGE burden off of my shoulders, but I have definitely learned my lesson about keeping in touch!

    1. moe*

      Glad they replied, but this whole question was about two people not returning business-related emails over the weekend?

        1. Another Brit.*

          Indeed. This is the same/worse as the person who emailed me back three times (at 3pm and 5pm Tuesday and 8am Wednesday) asking for copy documents. My email signature – in the email which caused the initial enquiry – clearly says that I work 10am to 2pm!

          If someone got annoyed/worried I wasn’t responding over the weekend and my job didn’t include an expectation to work weekends I would not be happy!

    2. Anonymous*

      Never send an email like this on a Friday afternoon if you expect an immediate response. If I have a lot going on it’s emails like that that are put in the “respond next week” pile – especially since it’s unlikely someone would do reference checks over the weekend.

  11. Liz*

    I have another situation that makes references difficult: I’ve worked four years as a consultant, and large agencies put us on projects that pay well so I generally used them. The agencies always has a clause saying that you could not represent yourself as working for the client, and you could not use the client as a reference. Instead, consultants have to use the agency.

    This means 1) Your jobs were all short term 2) The only person who can speak about your work did not, in fact, work with you and in some cases hasn’t even met you.

    I could use references from my volunteer work, which is extensive, but I don’t know that employers weight unpaid work as heavily.

    With the economy as bad as it has been, and the exponential increase in the use of temps for even high- level work, the use of traditional reference checks is starting to feel like a way to block people who haven’t already reached a certain career level from ever climbing higher. It only works for certain types of jobs and certain types of managers.

  12. Liz*

    Ugh. Typing on a phone and I slipped up on the s and d keys, for has and had, in a few places. Sorry about the grammatical errors. I do know the difference :)

  13. Anonymous*

    What if your references really are busy, not just dodging the hiring manager’s call? I have a former direct report who in the past has given me great recommendations and with whom I am in constant contact. I know for a fact that she has been tied up with a major project this week and unavailable most days. I’ve only had 2 jobs in the past 6 years and I’ve been told by the hiring manager that she has been unable to reach either of my references. I left messages for both and even gave more coworkers’ contact information despite them not being direct reports. I’m concerned this will reflect poorly on me and ultimately cost me the job.

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks. At this point I’ve given HR everyone who I’ve even remotely kept in contact with, and whom have worked with me to a great extent. I even went back and gave HR my former managers’ cell numbers and emails as additional methods of contact. I don’t have any doubt they’d be able to reach my last manager since I speak with her weekly and she is always glad to chat me up. My next to last manager, however, I haven’t worked for in 2 years or spoken with her in a year. I did give her the heads up to expect the call, and although we always had a great working relationship she’s not keen to going out of her way to help others. I guess I don’t understand why HR can’t reach out to my last manager plus a couple coworkers from the past 6 years. How is being able to reach only 1 manager any different than a potential hire who has only had 1 job before?

  14. Jay*

    A potential employer just asked for references and seem really keen on hiring me. Unfortunately, I don’t have any references from a manager to offer. Why? My current manager, who probably would give me a recommendation, doesn’t know I’m looking, so I’ve asked a coworker instead. The only other manager that I can list from a previous job was frankly horrible to work for… I can ask someone who I came on board briefly, but we only worked briefly together — at best a couple of months.

    1. Do you think it’s okay to list peer coworkers?
    2. Should I just list the unpleasant manager?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Listing only peers is usually a red flag that there’s a reason the person doesn’t want you to talk to the manager. Most employers will come back and ask for manager references instead.

      1. Jay*

        Well, the problem is that I don’t have much work experience (only 3 years worth). It’s a bit difficult to ask my current manager seeing as she doesn’t know I’m looking, which is why I’ve asked a coworker instead. I’ve gotten a manager from my first year of experience to vouch enthusiastically for me. The problem is that I can’t seem to reach the manager for that second year of experience. She is extremely busy, so it may take her weeks to get back to me if previous correspondence is an indicator, which is why I’m wondering if I should contact a college professor instead with whom I worked at length (a thesis advisor). Do you think this is okay?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s reasonable to tell prospective employers that your current manager doesn’t know you’re looking and so they can’t contact her … but they’re likely to want to talk to past managers. Using your first year manager would be good. I wouldn’t include a professor though; they can’t speak to your professional work like a manager can.

  15. Joanna*

    I had lost my job back in July 2011 as I had managers at my company looking for excuses to fire people. I’ve now decided to not list the main manager for my former place of employment anymore as I fear one of the problem managers is now in charge. So, I have decided to ask people I used to work with and who I trusted, explaining my wrongful termination and how none of the managers on duty even listened to my side of the story before firing me. I never got anyone answering me back.

    My mom said I never should have explained it, but I’m really disappointed in my former co-workers. I have given up on them and I’m stuck having to use personal references as I really cannot see myself asking anyone else I used to work with as it was never the best environment. What do I do?

  16. wenna*

    a relative of a good and trusted worker is applying for a job in your company. Another applicant for the same job is better. whom would you chooses if you were the personnel manager ?

  17. wenna*

    the town mayor of Sta. Catalina, where the plant of Ruiz Manufcturing Company is located, sent to Mr. Ruiz, general manager, his private secretary and two former domestic help. they arrived at the company compound in a ploice car, and the secretary told Mr. Ruiz that the two maids were compromiso recomendees if the mayor. What would you do if you were Mr. Ruiz ? If you were the personnel manager, what would you do, if the general manager refferd the maids to you ?

  18. Tory*

    I just came across this website and so far it is providing a lot of valuable information…”Thank you”. I have a question…ideas from anyone…I know an individual whose current manager shared with him that there was a job opening in a different company. She indicated that they would be happy to be a reference for them. Individual made it to the interview rounds and provided this manager as a reference. They shared this with the manager where she then proceeded to say ” Oh, I checked with HR and I am not allowed to provide a reference”. Now how is this supposed to look to the hiring employer?

  19. lady*

    I had a professional reference that was a reference for me once. In terms of work, I know I did an impressive job for that reference because I was praised with great feedback and thank you gifts (so there is no question about it) and i had left for a very good agreeable reason and good terms. The only problem was I didn’t keep in touch even though I said I would. Most of all, the thing I think that blew it was I was trying to fight through months of depression and anxiety 2 years later. I made a bad (but maybe it was good because i needed to do SOMETHING) sudden unprepared decision out of desperation to just do something out of my depression and anxiety in leaving a message for that reference to let know I needed reference again. but that message was so incoherent and embarassing because it was like i just lost my speech and everything about the message was screaming anxiety, loser, weirdo. lol It’s too bad, but i guess i just see that that’s life. :/ and i don’t try to contact that reference any more. :( i confess though I only tried calling once. I think I may have emailed once too. but i guess also i just didn’t see it fair for me to have that reference because I didn’t keep in touch when I said I would. so shame on me. :/ or am i being too hard on myself?

  20. Tricia*

    I received a tentative job offer. They had to complete a background and reference check. Received a phone call this morning from the employer that no one has responded to the reference request and they are under time constraint so if these references do not respond then I will have to supply them with others. The problem is that most of them are on either on vacation and would not be available or on travel for work would have to respond at a later time or one said they would give me a reference and then just cannot seem to find the time to give me one. So now I have to resort to going back to my old job references from other positions I held and seeing if they will give me a reference. It is truly frustrating since I am this close the be offered the position and this is the one thing that will stop me from a formal job offer.

  21. Griff*

    Hello. I’ve been reading through the comments to try to see if any of them intersect with my experiences in the jobseeking arena. The problems I’m currently facing are that I can’t seem to get references. I’ve was made redundant 5 years ago after a solid stint working in the public sector after the government dismantled the legal civil advice organisation I worked for and the job, and the staff have all since moved on. I was desperate to keep working, so took a part time role with an FE college where I was made redundant again after a year. At this point I tried to switch careers into Education and volunteered in a Secondary School for 1 year and a half with a view to going on to train. Unfortunately Coalition changes to the Curriculum and teacher training meant the programme was withdrawn from the university that I was to attend for school centred training, despite a job offer and timetable being drawn up. I operated with all the teachers and was liked and performed well, staying well after hours, so my mentor, the Head of Department agreed to support a reference for me. Unfortunately the DWP weren’t happy with THAT sort of voluntary experience and sanctioned me for not being available for work!! So at their kind behest I took whatever work was available, temping jobs here for a day, a week, whatever was available from various agencies. The last solid full-time work came from a subsidiary company which was employed by G4S during the Olympics dealing with the training and recruitment of the Gamesmakers, volunteers and security etc. This was a small company of 4 active members which recruits every 4 years when there is a Games on by liasing with OCOG in whichever host city needs the manpower. When the event is over, the job ends and people move on. You get an email with a standard reference to confirm you worked there as there. It’s impossible to get in touch with the managers or even supervisors that I worked with as even though they could vouch for me and my work/attitude, I’ve no way to contact them. I’ve already lost out on some jobs that want recent refernces but won’t accept the email refernce despite explaining the situation. With the schools, when trying to pursue T.A. roles I have the same problem, even though people have agreed to offer references, when employers/agencies contact them they can’t get through for whatever reason (exams/OFSTED inspections/just too busy) etc.

    So as time goes by I find that the references I can offer become increasingly shabby-looking, despite doing all the right things and taking work where I can get it. I’ve been in the workforce for 20 years and never had this problem before. I wonder if anyone else is experiencing this type of problem. Have I wasted the years I spent volunteering, or have I damaged my employment prospects by taking whatever work I could (bills don’t stop because you lost your job othe work came to an end) since some employers seem to have a retrograde attitude towards lots of little temporary or contractual jobs, despite them saying it is an advantage to getting more work by doing whatever work you can get?

    Any advice or assistance would leave me most grateful. I’m at wits end and the DWP really doesn’t care, they don’t help you all they want is for you to explain why you can’t get a job and if you can’t you get sanctioned or sent onto irrelevant Literacy Level 1 NVQ courses that are clearly inappropriate (as I’m a graduate with 20yrs experience in work not a NEET).

  22. anne*

    Its most stressful if you have a manager who does not respond back. Based on the comments, I really dread the references part cause I do not want to annoy more references eveerytime a prospective employer wants to talk with them, they are busy people and its not easy to get ahold of them.

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