So I’ve been working the same job for about 5 years or so now. In that time I’ve received good performance reviews and small pay bumps!

My first boss at this company had pretty bad ethic issues with the company and was let go. I wouldn’t use him as a reference. From there my next boss was great but now works closely in a freelance position with the company, so I would have concerns that he would “spill the beans” or gossip to my current company. My next few bosses after that didn’t really know me or what I did too well, they left shortly after becoming my boss. I do have a current boss as well but obviously cannot use him.

At my current company, there have been only a few others whom departed the company that I worked directly with. While we were successful in our projects, I just don’t know how highly they would speak of me either or if they would gossip to someone who is at my current company.

So is it going to look odd or bad if I don’t have a reference person from the past 5 years at my current company?

Going back to my previous company, sadly, my original boss passed away (I heard through Facebook). There was maybe one person I could think of using as a reference that was beneath him but left pretty early on. Furthermore, there was another boss I had there who I don’t think liked me.

So any way, how long back is it okay to use references? I can think of some from 6-10 years ago lol. Like is a boss from 2013 just too old to use as a reference?

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    It doesn't have to be a manager necessarily. Peers will do just as well. If you can't find 3 people in a 5+ year career to speak well of you then that says something about you as well. Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 18:28
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    "spill the beans"? What do you mean by that? In what country is this? In the US at least, a reference is only to be used as final check on a candidate. I know some people are willing to provide references before a job is offered, but these people are either from a different country and don't know any better, or they're applying for an executive level position. And again, I'm talking about the US specifically. I am aware that these things will vary from country to country. Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 20:32

2 Answers 2


In the vast majority of cases these days, nobody actually gives "references" due to the real or perceived risk of legal action if the candidate turns out to be useless. Just let them contact HR, confirm your employment dates (and maybe job title) and everyone will be happy.

  • How could someone, much less a company be taken to court over a reference?
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 16:40
  • @JMERICKS This is established case law in the UK; see Hincks v Sense Networks. Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 16:43

I suppose that you can use any boss/reference since you started working professionally even if it was 20 years ago.

The important thing is that your references can talk about many great things about you such as your characters, strong work ethics, desire to learn new technologies, great leadership skills, high motivation to get the job done well, etc...

Your references do not even have to be your bosses. They can be your coworkers who have high credibility or more experiences than you at work.

If possible, you may want to ask your references to write brief recommendations for you on your LinkedIn profile. These good notes will stay on LinkedIn forever, and be visible for all recruiters and future hiring managers to see.

That way, even if your references move to another country or continent, retire, or lose touch with you, their recommendations will still be visible on LinkedIn, and you don't have to contact them to ask for recommendations again for every new job.

(Of course, if they are available to talk in person to your hiring managers as the references, it will be even better.)

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