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The last place I worked at was a really bad fit. I think most of the employees would agree that the company was very disorganized. I was terminated without cause but had already been looking for a new job.

I had asked two people if I could use them as references and they said yes. Sometime passed and I'm in the final round of an interview processes. I double checked with the references to make sure it was still OK to use them. One replied "I no longer work there". The other took awhile to reply and said "I can't be a management reference but can vouch for your work ethic". In the termination meeting I asked my manager if I could use him as a reference. He never gave straight answers and said something like "use my personal email". I'm certain I can get positive references from my previous job.

My questions are, how many references per job/workplace is good to have? Does it matter if references are all from one workplace or is it better to have a diversity from a few? How long do references "last", for example if I worked at my current job for 3 years would I still be expected to provide references from my previous job? Should you ever argue if a reference gives a reason why they can't, like they no longer work at the company you met at? I think some people feel strange giving a reference when it's not coming from the corporate email address.

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My questions are, how many references per job/workplace is good to have? Does it matter if references are all from one workplace or is it better to have a diversity from a few?

In my experience, you don't need more than four good references.

The references should not all come from one workplace, unless you have only held one job. Instead, one from each of the most recent jobs is best.

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You want people you worked with recently enough that they can still remember details about what you did, and where there wasn't a large gap between the level you were working at with then and what you're currently applying for.

IF your positions have all been relatively short, either due to bad luck, or because you've been working on contracts that didn't renew at the end then one per job is reasonable. If you worked at one place for 6 or 10 years, then you probably want all your references from them and not from any prior.

He never gave straight answers and said something like "use my personal email".

Did you ever contact him via that email and ask? Some companies have policies not to give anything beyond HR confirming that you worked for them between Date 1 and Date 2. It's possible that your previous manager was hinting at that sort of situation and suggesting you contact him offline to get around that sort of policy.

Since your last position was short and ended poorly, I'd probably mostly go with people from before. If you have at least one person who's willing to give a good reference I'd probably use them too, so at least you can show you didn't depart on disastrous terms.

Should you ever argue if a reference gives a reason why they can't, like they no longer work at the company you met at?

That's an odd reason to decline because the reason for references is to confirm that you're a good worker. A new employer can just call your old ones main line and then get a transfer to HR to confirm that you did work there. I'd try to limit pushing back much if someone says no though, you want people who will serve as cheer leaders for you not those with major reservations.

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