I applied to job about 1.5 months ago and just got a call back for an interview.

During that time frame, I had a few work disagreements with one of the references on my application. I am no longer confident in their ability to recommend me.

What's the best thing to do in this situation? I was thinking about letting them know during the interview that I no longer have a good relationship on with one this reference, but I wonder if that would make me look bad. There's also the chance that they won't even contact the reference.

Wondering if there are any managers here that could let me know how they'd view a candidate if they told you not to contact one of the listed references.

  • 3
    For what it's worth, if you're in the United States, many companies now have a policy that the references can't do much more than indicate whether you worked for the company, and whether you were fired, laid off, or left on your own. Anything more is opening them up to legal liability. Not that that always stops people from gossiping, but it has created a strong incentive. Commented May 22 at 12:20
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    @SeanDuggan Couldn't that information be provided by the HR Dept of the former companies? The point of human references is to sing your praises.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 22 at 15:07
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    It's been a while since I've applied for a job, but references were generally provided pretty late in the process, after the interview if the company is still interested. How did this company get your references already?
    – Barmar
    Commented May 22 at 15:10
  • @Barmar: The process has changed, but when I was actively applying a decade or two ago, references were standard on most applications (and most resumes had standard boilerplate of "References available upon request" that I finally removed when I realized how meaningless it was). Commented May 22 at 15:26
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    There's something in the air, and it doesn't smell sweet. Too much missing context. Are you working now? Is the ref to be dropped your current job? Is the reference from a period 2 years ago or 12 years ago? Why would a "ref from 10 years ago" suddenly go sour? Roughly how many references do you think you need? How many do you have (incl-/excl-uding the problematic one)? How relevant is the ref to be dropped to the position you are interviewing for? ... The 'B' string is usually made up of weaker players... Too many unknowns... There's something in the air, and it doesn't smell sweet.
    – Fe2O3
    Commented May 24 at 7:53

2 Answers 2


When you go in, provide an updated list of references. “Here’s my updated list of references!” Done. Of course if you can get a new one to add all the better.

  • 1
    I like this the best. Sweet and simple. I agree that it is better to just give them the updated list without any explanations.
    – Basya
    Commented May 23 at 9:28

You can prepare a revised list of references. During the interview, you don't necessarily need to bring up the negative situation unless asked specifically about that reference.

But you can explain briefly, without going into too much detail, that you've updated your references to include individuals who can provide the most relevant and recent information about your qualifications.

Here’s how you can phrase it: "I've updated my list of references with people who know my recent work better and can give you the most accurate picture of my skills and performance."

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    This is golden. SPECIFICALLY don't mention the reference that you are removing. If it's noticed, you can say that the person is not currently in a good position to give a reference -- which would be true.
    – Xavier J
    Commented May 21 at 17:55
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    To me this seems to imply that you also at least added one or more new references when you phrase it like this. So I would say you can't really say this if you only removed references
    – Ivo
    Commented May 22 at 8:12
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    I disagree. It's an update either way. Commented May 22 at 12:18
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    Technically, it is an update either way, but it's much better if a reference was added. Commented May 23 at 20:14

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