I've been contacted by a recruiter with a job offer. Besides my CV they asked me for 2 references. I'm fairly junior in my field (web development), I started work 1 and a half years ago at the very company and team I still work for, so only they could provide this. The reason I'm job hunting is, that over time the team has grown toxic. Due to bad working conditions, there is high fluctuation and those who leave are regarded as traitors, letting down those that stay. The offer I've been approached with is really good and would like to take a shot at it, but I need a way to decline providing references.

  • Are they specifically asking "current colleagues" as references? Otherwise you might want to check: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/19737/…
    – Erik
    Dec 12, 2017 at 12:07
  • This is my first job and I'm out of touch with those that have left the team.
    – Steve
    Dec 12, 2017 at 12:30
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    How do I get references when still in my first job? is probably the most useful answer you'd get to this question. Most ways to decline to give references would be similarly bad (and the other ways would be worse). Related: Is having no references necessarily a bad thing? Dec 12, 2017 at 12:50
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    Couldn't be simpler. You don't get references from companies you are still working at - obviously! Ignore the request. If they ask again, state "Which company do you mean? XYZ is my first job."
    – Fattie
    Dec 12, 2017 at 15:58
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    What you've been offered isn't a job, you've been offered the opportunity to talk with them about a job. There's a subtle-but-important difference between the two. References are the last stage in the process, not the first.
    – Blrfl
    Dec 12, 2017 at 17:56

3 Answers 3


You can state that your current employers are unaware that you are job searching and therefore you are unable to use them as a reference and as your current job is actually your first job you don't have any previous employers to draw upon.

If your time in education is still relatively recent then you could offer details from teachers/professors who can act as references for you (obviously having checked with them first that they are happy to do so!).


Your first try should be simply to ignore the request.

If they insist, point out to them that you are still working for company XYZ and you do not want to alert them that you might be leaving, so you can't ask them for references.

Normally companies do not ask for references from recruits that are actively employed somewhere else for that exact reason.

  • I know this post is a few months old, and I hope the OP has found work already. But if not - DO NOT ignore a request from a prospective employer. It will give the impression that you are negligent in your follow-up or a bad communicator. Worst case scenario, reply and ask the recruiter if they would be willing to accept alternate sources of verification/recommendation for your work - other answers provide lists of people to ask for references, so I'll omit that, but perhaps you can supply work samples or other documentation. But make sure you reply in a timely manner to recruiters!
    – QuoteRadar
    Feb 27, 2018 at 14:17

Get other references. You should know at least 2 people who aren't related to you who can say good things about you. If not colleagues, former professors or teachers. Classmates or friends at least. People you've volunteered with. People from hackathons or meetups. If you have absolutely no professional network outside of your current coworkers, you're doing something wrong after 1.5 years in the field.

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