Mark is excited about a new job opportunity. He's interviewed, he knows he's a finalist, everything has gone exceedingly well. Until the subject of references comes up. He immediately recognizes that he's in trouble. His last employer no longer exists, and he doesn't have contact information for anyone who worked there. The previous employer has a strict policy that they only confirm employment dates. And the employer before that -- that was a long time ago, and Mark knows that everyone he worked with has moved in. In a nutshell, the only reference he is able to provide a name and phone number for is his current supervisor, who doesn't know Mark is looking for a new job. The employer Mark is talking to understands his predicament, but has made it clear that references are a critical part of their hiring process. Mark contacts a couple of respected career experts for advice...
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The key to providing references is knowing what the employer is looking for. If Mark is in sales or has a lot of contact with clients outside the company, these names are often better references than direct supervisors. He should list the last contact info for the company that went out of business and the company who only confirms hire dates. Often times, references are outsourced to a third party who just checks off the box when it comes to references. For his current employer, he should not provide the name or number, and explicitly make it clear in writing that contacting his present employer is not authorized. In the future, Mark needs to do a better job of keeping up with references going back three jobs or seven years, whichever is shorter. When it comes to references, even those from a co-worker are better than nothing.
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Heather Mundell is a life and career coach who helps professionals decide on their next career move. Formerly a director of human resources, she now coaches individuals to discover and pursue careers that align with their vales, aspirations and desired way of life.
Dream Big Coaching Services
life@work, the blog about finding career happiness: http://dbcs.typepad.com
Since Mark's only option for a reference is his current supervisor, he needs to talk with the supervisor ASAP. But first Mark should find out from the prospective employer if references are the last hoops in the hiring process. Before he talks to his supervisor he should feel as confident as he can that an offer is at hand.
Mark should be positive with his supervisor about his experience at the company and explain why this new opportunity is a good fit for him. This would be a good time for them to discuss the timeline for departing. For instance if they're at a critical juncture in a project, Mark might offer to ask for a later start date if he is offered the job.
Mark could then potentially ask his supervisor's manager, his peers and his subordinates (if applicable) to serve as references as well.
Also, if Mark has made copies of his past (positive!) performance reviews at the company that no longer exists, offering these would be better than no information.