I have a job offer based conditionally on a standard "background check", which includes references.

The problem is that they are asking for 3 references in total, and note "managers/supervisors only". Well, I haven't had that many jobs! My current job is my third one.

It does note "If you are supplying a reference from your current employer, will you give permission for us to contact them for a reference interview".

Considering they are requesting three references, I have no choice but to use my current employer as well as my previous managers from previous roles, but what's the use if I say no to my prospective interviewing my current employer?

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    This is just a template that HR has to follow. They ask for three because they're told to ask for three. If you explain, and if they're really interested, two will be fine. Also - don't forget about college jobs / part time work. They're valid references, too. Nov 20, 2013 at 20:42
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    If you tell them you don't have that many supervisors, see if you can give them the names of professors in some of your more advanced classes, particularly those that had 'project' type assignments. Hopefully you weren't doing this in classes of 100 students where the professor barely remembers your name. Nov 20, 2013 at 21:02
  • @Wesley Long - if you put your answer in an answer instead of a comment, I would happily upvote it... question. Nov 21, 2013 at 14:09
  • @bethlakshmi - Thanks, but Dan Pichelman pretty much said the same thing. He's got it covered. Nov 21, 2013 at 16:24
  • @MeredithPoor: I think most professors pretty much tell you to write the letter (or fill out some template they usually use) and send it back for them to sign it... At least that was the common case at my university. Nov 22, 2013 at 20:09

3 Answers 3


So give them the two references you have and explain the situation.

If your new employer is reasonable, they'll make do. If your new employer is not reasonable, do you really want to work for them?

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    +1 for the good answer and just want to add . its very tough to work for an organization suffering from trust deficit..even in course of your work you will have to face this like asking for developer account or passwords every time and delays thus caused will only extend your work hours...
    – amar
    Nov 21, 2013 at 4:55
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    Or use a school or uni teacher of you dont have a 3rd employer Nov 22, 2013 at 12:28

In addition to just giving them two references like Dan suggested, you could give them the names of two people from one of your previous employers.

This would give your hiring manager the three references from three people that had individual relationships with you. Since they didn't specify the references had to be from three separate companies, I don't think it would be a problem as long as you aren't trying to deceive them.


Some might consider this a bit of a cheat, but did you ever work on a project that a co-worker led? If so, you might use them as a reference.

For example: Within the first week starting a new job a person who was senior to me, but really more of a co-worker than a manager asked me to do a small (one day) task for him. After I was done, he said something like "Now that you've done that, you can use me as a supervisory reference." He didn't trust the management in the place (for good reason as I eventually discovered) and felt this little manuever could benefit both of us.

If you do something like this, you may want to explain your relationship to the potential employer with something like: "When I first started, this person was a mentor and supervisor to me. Once I was established, we had a more peer-like relationship." Also, be sure this person knows this is what you plan to do.

  • @JoeStrazzere: Good point. I've added to the answer to address it.
    – GreenMatt
    Nov 21, 2013 at 16:23

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