What should I do when one (or more) of my planned references are on leave (or otherwise unavailable for some period of time)?

I think there are 3 (or possibly more) aspects to this question:

  • They are reachable using any method of communication

    Depending where they are and what they are doing, they may not have as consistent access to these forms for communication, or ability to talk, as one might expect from a desk-job. If they say it's okay to contact them, it may just be that they're trying to be helpful and/or are underestimating how reachable they are.

  • They are unreachable using some / all methods of communication mentioned by the interviewing company, but are reachable using some others (e.g. the interviewing company requested the phone number and email address of the references, but they are only available by phone, or perhaps only using Skype)

    Here is mainly comes down to whether it's appropriate to provide contact details different from the ones the interviewing company specifically requested, and how this should be approached.

  • They are completely unreachable

    Here is mainly comes down to whether it's appropriate to request that the contacting of the reference be delayed until they come back from leave, and how this should be approached. This also applies to the above two cases.

The leave may or may not end after the point at which the interviewing company planned to contact them by, which, I, of course, don't know.

Which of these should affect my choice to use them as reference as opposed to a fallback reference?

Should I mention the fact that they are on leave (and perhaps include their return date, assuming I have this information) in any of the above cases? If so, should I provide the details of a fallback reference in case they wish to contact the reference prior to coming back from leave and/or using a form of communication which they don't have available?

Should I instead try to find out when they plan to contact them to see if it's during or after the leave?

PS - This question isn't about finding out if they're on leave and how / whether I can contact them - it's assumed that I already have this information.

  • My attitude is that everybody or almost everybod is reachable through LinkedIn and/or Facebook - go ahead, tell me otherwise :) Apr 10, 2014 at 13:27
  • 2
    @VietnhiPhuvan I doubt many companies would like contacting someone's references via LinkedIn or Facebook, and I certainly can't speak for everyone, but I, for one, am rarely, if ever, available on either of those platforms when on holiday.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 10, 2014 at 16:03
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    The question doesn't make any sense. Either the reference agrees to the method of communication along with the person doing the hiring or they not. I'm on leave, here's my cell phone number; tell them to call me any time. What's the problem?
    – user8365
    Apr 10, 2014 at 18:49
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    If you already know they'll be on leave, then the contact would be to find out if they'll be reachable, and if so how. Only provide the reference if the person will be reachable, and only provide contact information of the appropriate types. So that the company doesn't think you just don't know how to read directions, write something like "not available by email" if that's the case. Apr 11, 2014 at 0:11
  • @JeffO I tried to add a bit of details to explain better.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 12, 2014 at 14:17

2 Answers 2


I try to have home/personal numbers of any references I give. And my references tend to be ex-coworkers who have become friends, which also makes it easier to count on their references being bullet-proof.

If you only have work contact numbers for your references, I would call them and let them know that you are submitting them as a reference before you submit them as a reference. This has multiple benefits:

1) You make sure the contact number still works.

2) You have an opportunity to catch up and see if the reference is still good/worth submitting.

3) You have an opportunity to ask if they will be out/on leave, and if they have a backup number that will work.

  • 2
    I know it's good practice to contact my references prior to giving them as references, which would of course give me the opportunity to find out if they're on leave or might be going on leave (and how / whether I can contact them), but my question assumes that I already have this information. I added a "PS" to my question to make this clear.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 9, 2014 at 23:00

This is one case of the more-general problem of "how do I make sure my references will be available if contacted?".

I just did this, and, knowing that I'd need to supply a list of references soon, I contacted each of my "standing offers" -- people who had in the semi-recent past said they'd be a reference for me. In the email I thanked them (again) for being a reference, told them where I was applying and for what job (I included the link), and asked if the contact info I had was still the best way to reach them. Silence would have meant that I had a problem.

As this answer suggests, I always try to have non-work contact information for my references. People change jobs, and some companies silently ignore incoming email for people who don't work there (that is, you won't get a bounce message). Similarly, if you call the old office number and actually reach a human, that person won't be able to give you new contact information. (Do you know the current phone number of the last person who had your work number? Probably not.)

  • 1
    As mentioned in the "PS" in my answer, it's assumed that I already have this information. I edited my question a bit to try to highlight the problem(s).
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 12, 2014 at 14:22

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