Workplace References for a job I quit

Apr 3, 2008
in the clouds
I am interviewing for a new job where it relates to a previous job I quit. I quit the previous job and applied to graduate school because it was a hostile work in environment. Since I left, my hiring manager and several other people have left the project that I worked with day to day.

The only people that are left at the office I could ask for a reference are the project directors that I didn't know that well. They were literally never there. They only came around every few months so I never really got to know them. I only worked at this place on year.

So, I am afraid someone will ask me why I didn't reference anyone from this job on my application. I only listed people that know me well so I left people from that job off. Do you think the places I am interviewing with will be suspicious? How do I explain this in an interview if it is brought up without raising red flags?


Orange Pyramid
May 24, 2006
It sounds like an unfortunate situation for you. However, that'd be hard to explain to a HR person who's meeting you for the first time. They're going to want to know what happened at your last job, so be prepared to answer questions about that. Try to prepare in advance for that. Don't badmouth your last employer, even though you may be tempted to.

Maybe you can use a former co-worker who did know you at the last job? Even if he or she is no longer there, they can speak about your qualities and how you were at doing your job there.


A taste for the arts
Oct 7, 2006
San Francisco
Maybe you can use a former co-worker who did know you at the last job? Even if he or she is no longer there, they can speak about your qualities and how you were at doing your job there.
This, and is it possible to track down your former supervisors who might give you a good reference?


Nov 5, 2011
Most references will only confirm dates of employment when asked (for legal liability reasons). Can you just list the HR person as a reference?
^As someone who works in HR, being given the HR department as a reference can be incredibly frustrating. When we're checking references we usually have a list of questions to ask to help assess the person's work ethic and fit with the company. Usually an HR department can't do anything but confirm employment, which is fairly useless to us (you should still list it, because some employers would want to confirm you actually worked there, but they would probably still need 1 or 2 other people to provide verbal references for).

Call and ask your HR department what their reference policy is. We had one company that, at the written consent of the employee, would send us over their most recent performance review. That's as good as having a reference from your manager. But if they'll only confirm employment, then you should ask if they have a contact number for your old supervisor or if they know what company they went to.


Lovin' Life!
Apr 21, 2006
I agree with Lori: do your best to track down your former supervisor and/or co-worker and request a reference from them. If they no longer work for your former company, there are no liability issues.

I know first-hand it's a big red flag if a job applicant cannot provide a reference from a former employer, so do your best to identify someone who can vouch for you.

Good luck!


Feb 15, 2011
Massachusetts USA
I say try to keep in touch with previous coworkers through LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. You never know when you'll need references or be able to share networking opportunities. Perhaps you can find them there?