I have submitted my PhD thesis in chemistry in India and am applying for jobs in chemical industries for scientist role. However, my relationship with my PhD supervisor is not good and I don't think he will give good recommendations or references

My questions are

  1. Are references and recommendations from PhD supervisors necessary?

  2. Is it helpful if I ask for referrals from the employees of the company I am applying to?

  • Maybe a stupid question, but do you personally know these employees that already work in the company? Commented May 25, 2022 at 13:23
  • @GregoryCurrie I was thinking about finding employees in social sites like linkedin and personally asking them about referrals (after sending them my resume). I have heard that some companies appreciate referrals from employees Commented May 26, 2022 at 7:02
  • No. Don't do that. Commented May 26, 2022 at 7:11
  • @Gregory Currie okay. then how to resolve the referral problem? Commented May 26, 2022 at 7:16
  • 1
    You're confusing "references" with "referrals". Those are not the same thing. Did you work with anyone else while in Academia? Fellow PhD students? Other Professors? Referrals are a good thing also, but don't just send your resume to perfect strangers and expect a referral from them. Networking doesn't work like that. Also, even if you're able to get a referral into a company from one of your connections, you may still need to get a reference from others who know you. A reference from a superior would be ideal, but if you can't get one, a reference from same level colleagues could work. Commented May 27, 2022 at 9:03

2 Answers 2


Is it helpful if I ask for referrals from the employees of the company I am applying to?

If you know people that work there you can use them as references. In fact some companies like to get recommendations from current employees. Some companies give a bonus to an employee if somebody they recommended gets hired. Usually they have to submit the recommendation before you apply for the position. They do this because they want the employee to identify people they don't already have in the system.

Are references and recommendations from PhD supervisers necessary?

They might be. The company will decide who they want to contact. If you don't have a lot of work place experience, they will want to get a feel for your capabilities, and the PHD advisors will likely be the best source of information.

  • Thank you for your suggestion Commented May 26, 2022 at 6:55
  • 4
    Guys, referrals and references don't exactly mean the same thing. And yes, a referral would help, but the OP should still try to get a reference from someone who has worked with him in the past. It doesn't have to be his supervisor. It could be colleagues, another Professor, a former boss (from a previous job), etc. Commented May 27, 2022 at 9:07
  • I agree with Stephan, this answer confuses (or conflates) references and referrals. Commented May 27, 2022 at 10:16

I was in a somewhat similar situation (USA, EE major).

In addition to my advisor, I had other professors serve as references.

Ask your advisor politely if he/she is willing to be a reference. If so, I would use them. Usually an advisor will be a reference.

After all, assuming you got your degree, that is proof they felt you did work deserving a Ph.D.

Conversely, if you did not get the PhD (ever), there is no need to use them specifically.

If you are still waiting, but expect to get the PhD, then the situation is somewhat more complex.

NOTE: It is well known that a PhD candidate and advisor can have a 'difficult relationship'; that is part of life in academia.

If you have done any internships or other work, certainly that can be a good source of refences as well.

Getting the first post-academic job is hard, so one may have to take a cut in target-salary.

Finally, although it is very hard to get an academic job, they will ask why you didn't if you ever go back to academia. If your plans/dreams are that you one day do this, you will have to be prepared to give an answer.

Best wishes on your career efforts.

  • Thank you for your suggestion. The problem is that my PhD supervisor is influential here and if he doesnt give recommendation, other professors from my Doctoral committee probably wouldn't give that either. I can ask my Masters supervisor but I don't know how effective that would be as I did Masters almost 5 years ago. Commented May 26, 2022 at 6:57
  • Also I would like to know what this means "if you did not get the PhD, there is no need to use them specifically." Do you mean I don't need my supervisor's recommendations if I have already submitted my PhD thesis but didn't get my PhD degree yet? Commented May 26, 2022 at 6:59
  • 1
    There are either two possible cases: You will get your PhD (in which case, your advisor will be an important reference) or you won't (in which case, your advisor will NOT be an important reference). From the tone of your question, it appears that you are waiting, but DO expect to eventually get your PhD. During this time, it would be good to use your advisor as a reference. If you thinking that just asking about it would cause you NOT to get your PhD (whereas you otherwise would), then don't. However, usually your advisor WILL be your reference, sometimes surprisingly so. Commented May 26, 2022 at 12:09
  • Thanks, I can understand now Commented May 28, 2022 at 10:12

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