I got my PhD 4 years ago in operations research, and I have been working as a data scientist since. I am looking to switch to careers to software development.

However, I am leaving my current company on somewhat hostile terms. I don't think I will be able to get any references from them when I apply for new software development jobs.

How big of a deal is this in software development? Is ace-ing the coding interview enough to make up for this?

  • 1
    Surely there is someone in the company you will soon leave that would agree to be your reference? Or is the situation hostile with every coworker you have?
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 21, 2019 at 0:02
  • Just supply the details of your previous companies HR department. They'll confirm your role and dates of employment, and not much more.
    – PeteCon
    Nov 21, 2019 at 2:31

4 Answers 4


How big of a deal is this in software development? Is ace-ing the coding interview enough to make up for this?

Usually, references are used for Background Check purposes mostly.

To judge the actual skills of a candidate, in Software Development, coding tests and interviews are more useful tools to find about that. Having a public repository or code portfolio to showcase what you've done is also helpful.

Now, regarding your situation. It is likely that at least someone in your current company will agree to be your reference (perhaps a coworker you are in good terms with). With 4 years on the company you surely must have at least one person that will gladly help you as reference.

  • @Joe Strazzere Like you both recommended, I will find someone, it would just be a co-worker from 1-2 years ago, and not my any recent co-workers/managers
    – Lee88
    Nov 21, 2019 at 0:28

It's a good idea to leave references off your resume

Typically references are used in the final stages of the hiring process - and given that the CV is the thing that kicks off the first stages of the hiring process - it's not actually needed.

If you're adhering to a 'two pages max' CV - then listing references is going to take up precious page real estate.

You don't know where your CV will end up

The main reason to leave references off your CV is to protect to privacy of your references.

Especially if you're applying for jobs with recruiters - often what recruiters will do is use the phone numbers you've listed in your CV to call them asking if they're looking for new hires etc.

Your CV may stick around far longer than your job search does, and your reference may be receiving unsolicited phone calls for years to come.


No References in Job Application. How bad is it?

Not bad, in my experience.

The primary criteria is for you to get the interview and get the job is to have the required capabilities and knowledge for the job and match the requirements. For the background check and verification, the references are used. So, even if it's not directly mentioned in the CV, they can ask for it when / if they need it.

For example, I have in my CV (and seen many more) mentioning:

References: Available on Request


Highly dependent on corporate culture

Some jobs have never asked for references. Others wanted 5, but didn’t really contact them. Companies that really care about you fitting in will make a bigger deal of it than companies which care about technical skill.

I’ve successfully used co-workers as references, people who I did contract work for as references, and friends as references. I’ve openly used classmates and friends as references. No problems with any of them.

Worst case scenario, you just create a fake email and have the reference sent to yourself. Most reference checks are done by third party companies that do little to no real verification of who is giving the reference as it’s little more than a box to be ticked. Known a lot of people to do this.

  • 4
    "Worst case scenario, you just create a fake email and have the reference sent to yourself" - This is something I would strongly recommend against
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 21, 2019 at 0:03
  • Besides from that, I agree with asking coworkers to be your reference.
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 21, 2019 at 0:12
  • 1
    Not to make light of ethics (or you could imagine OP needs the job to feed starving children or whatever), but even if we were to approach this advice on purely pragmatic grounds, what I'm familiar with in the US is that people will actually call the references (big and small companies both), and it could well be that one of the people that will work with you is calling... would be bad if they recognize your voice! Nov 21, 2019 at 1:42
  • 2
    "you just create a fake email and have the reference sent to yourself" sounds like a great way to get fired and burn your reputation and another reference when this fraud is discovered. And good luck in the future if you apply for a job at a company where a former co-worker now works. Don't lie on resumes, in job applications, in interviews, or really anywhere.
    – Player One
    Nov 21, 2019 at 13:36
  • 1
    While I will not go so far as to down vote this, I will say that advising someone to commit fraud is advising them to do something that could haunt them for years when caught. Make no mistake, there is no more if in the day of the internet, only when. Nov 21, 2019 at 13:47

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