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I am at the end of my PhD and searching for my next professional opportunity.

I recently had a job interview for a research engineer position. I had two different interviews:

  1. with the scientific/technical managers
  2. with the HR manager.

Both went very well. According to the latest news I have from them, I am their top candidate (under the condition of internal validation of the company), and they said I just need to wait for their final answer. Here is where the problem rises:

The scientific/technical didn't ask for any recommendations from my PhD supervisors, and the HR manager simply asked for a reference, and I naively gave the name and email address of my supervisors considering that they would give a positive feedback! Apparently they still haven't responded to the email from the HR manager, and I feel they are not going to answer (I just found out by asking her).

So my question is: would it be OK if I tell the HR manager that I would provide her with another reference, for instance saying that my supervisors are not happy that I am looking for a job when I have to concentrate on preparing my defense (sounds like a lame excuse but I can't come up with something more plausible), or is it not a good idea at all?

Moreover, what if my supervisors don't respond at all? What would the company do? Would they ask me for new reference or flat out go on with their next candidate?

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    Did you ask if they could be used as a reference first? – paparazzo Oct 29 '18 at 16:55
  • "Apparently they still haven't responded to the email from the HR manager, and I feel they are not going to answer (I just found out by asking her)." So you talked to your supervisors and they said they are not going to respond? Did they give a reason? – David K Oct 30 '18 at 12:26
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    @DavidK Well I just talked to one of them after he received the email from the HR agent and he said "I'll see", one week after when I asked him again he said "I still didn't respond", from his tone I could clearly see that he is not willing to respond, it's been 2 weeks since he received the email from the HR. I am actually surprised, because apart from some disagreements during my PhD (which I think is normal) I had a calm and professional interaction with them. After my interview I emailed them and very politely asked them for supporting me, but nothing. FYI I am working in France – Dude Oct 30 '18 at 13:25
  • @paparazzo No that's the point, I didn't ask them and i know it was a mistake, but come on they are my PhD supervisors, it is very usual to address them on my CV – Dude Oct 30 '18 at 13:27
  • I contacted the HR agent yesterday and she said she still didn't get any news from the references I introduced (after two weeks), so my main question here is, would it be a good idea to somehow tell her that I would give her a new reference? She didn't necessarily asked for my supervisors' contact, just asked for a reference! – Dude Oct 30 '18 at 13:36
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Moreover, what if my supervisors don't respond at all? What would the company do? Would they ask me for new reference or they flat out go on with their next candidate?

The exact procedure depends on the company(s) you applied, so we can't know for sure, but usually they will ask you for other references.

However, it is not usual for references not to respond. As a basic principle, you should reach out to your references first, and ask them if they are willing and able to function as such. that way they can be aware that they are to be expecting an email or whatever. I strongly suggest you have this in mind for the next time.

What I suggest you do now is to speak with your references (if you haven't) and politely ask them to reply. If some of them won't or can't, reach out to the company ASAP and tell them some of your references are no longer able to respond, and provide them with alternative contacts that you reached out and agreed on being references to you.

Again, it's really important that you call your references beforehand next time.

  • Thanks for your answer. Well I already politely asked my references (after my interview though) for feedback, but apparently they haven't answered yet (I just assume they won't answer) and I don't want to repeatedly request them for a feedback. If I suggest the HR manager that I would give her new references, wouldn't that raise the question in her mind "why his supervisors don't answer?", considering that I am still not done with my PhD. – Dude Oct 29 '18 at 18:01
  • Have you tried to apologize explicitly for naming them as a reference without asking and then asking if they could write you one despite this and that you won't do it again. Sometimes people respond to a bit of grovelling. – Marianne013 Nov 1 '18 at 11:46
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would it be OK if I tell the HR manager that I would provide her with another reference, for instance saying that my supervisors are not happy that I am looking for a job when I have to concentrate on preparing my defense (sounds like a lame excuse but I can't come up with something more plausible), or is it not a good idea at all?

It was a huge mistake for you not to check in with your references before you used their names.

First, you want to get their permission to be references. Second, you want to ensure that they will say nice things about you.

At this stage, you shouldn't make up any excuse or say that your supervisors are not happy without knowing the facts. Instead, call your references and ask if they would please respond to this HR manager. Then tell the HR manager that you have contacted your references.

Moreover, what if my supervisors don't respond at all? What would the company do? Would they ask me for new reference or they flat out go on with their next candidate?

While you never know for sure, most reference-checkers would ask for new references. When I checked references, I always wanted three. If I couldn't get in contact with three, I'd inform the candidate.

  • Thanks for your answer. Yes I now know that it was a grave mistake I assumed my supervisor would give a positive feedback without giving them a heads up. So what you suggest is I just wait for the HR manager to ask me for new references? The point is I told the HR manager that these references are my supervisors, so wouldn't that make the HR manager think, "why his supervisors don't give a feedback, maybe they are not positive on him". Or she wouldn't really mind and ask for new references? – Dude Oct 29 '18 at 18:08

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