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Reference checks can make or break a job seeker’s chances of landing the job they want. Therefore, your references need to be on-point.

You should always reach out to references before you provide them to a potential employer, but what if that great boss you had or the co-worker that worked by your side for years isn’t returning your calls or emails?

Before you start panicking, verify you have the right phone number or email address. If your reference has gone to a new company conduct a Google and LinkedIn search to find them and reconnect with them.

But what if you have the right contact information but still cannot make contact with your reference? This situation isn’t just frustrating; it might be damaging your odds of getting a job.

Generally speaking, it isn’t a good idea to just pass along the contact information of these folks to a hiring manager and cross your fingers, hoping everything will work out. If your references aren’t responsive to the potential employer, you are pretty much sunk. In this competitive labor market, you cannot have anything unfavorable occur if you hope to be given a job offer.

If you cannot find proper contact information for a reference, or they are not responsive, you need to identify new references. Reach out to others you have worked with in the past that might be willing to vouch for you. If you contact someone and they seem unenthusiastic about being your reference, continue your search for someone you can count on to provide a good testimonial on your behalf. Obviously, your references should help your chances, not hurt them.

If you have lost touch with all your best potential references or don’t have a long job history, you may need to get creative. Work-study jobs or internships you had in college could still be a potential reference source. If your present manager has a good opinion of you, you could tell a hiring manager to contact your current manager if you will be getting a job offer, with the offer being determined by that reference check. While this isn’t an ideal situation, it does mean you have a reference you can trust to offer a good word.

Preparing your references

If you do happen to get a hold of references that will vouch for your skills and experience, your job still isn’t done. You need to do a bit of coaching to ensure your references will convey the right information.

Reach out to your references to confirm they feel comfortable in the role. After confirmation, let them know what you’ve been up to professionally if they aren’t completely up to date. Finally, you should ask your reference how they prefer to be contacted and when they are the most available.


At Action Group, we help job seekers with every part of their process, from writing out a resume or following up after the interview. If you are looking for some job seeking assistance, please contact our team today.


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