So I am currently applying for new companies while still actively working at my current one. I have been with my current company for 4 years or so.

My question is if I am asked for references, is it appropriate to ask for references from my previous job (so >4 years ago). Or might be suitable to perhaps ask an ex-colleague/ex-supervisor who left my current company?

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    Are you specifically not going to use people from your current position as a reference, or are you asking about how to fill up the bank of 2 or 3 more references you'll likely need?
    – jcmeloni
    May 7, 2014 at 12:39
  • @jcmeloni My reading is, "I don't want to give current company as reference because they don't know I'm looking. What references should I use?" May 8, 2014 at 14:52
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    @starsplusplus That's probably the case, but I think it is important for the OP to clarify if these are references in lieu of a current reference, or in addition to, because likely there will be some additional advice to provide since they won't have a reference newer than 4 years...
    – jcmeloni
    May 8, 2014 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


It depends. It depends on what position you are applying for and when you got the relevant work experience. If, for example, the last time you did UNIX work was four years ago and you are applying for a UNIX position, then that reference from four years ago should be made available to your prospective employer. On the other hand, if your UNIX experience is current, then you should use current references.

If you can, make sure that you have a good idea what your references are going to say. Twenty years ago, one of my references with short-term memory issues managed to mix me up with another employee - I am pretty sure that's what happened - and said to my prospective employer that I required close supervision. That little prank cost me a job offer :( And no, I never found who was the smart ass who made that claim. Because nobody among my references owned up to it and my prospective employer wouldn't disclose whom it had talked to :) And needless to say, the frustrated recruiter who had come within one inch of getting her commission smacked me verbally and she smacked me good for being such a slob about collecting references :)

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    I've never thought about basing my references on a particular skill set or technology stack. The recruiter should have done her job and found out who gave the bad reference, so you wouldn't use them on the next application.
    – user8365
    May 7, 2014 at 6:44
  • @JeffO The prospective employer wouldn't cough up the informant either to her or to me, so I went through my list of references and did a Lenin-type purge on those I suspected :) May 7, 2014 at 6:47
  • Even so, perhaps the recruiter could have found out just so she could silently filter out any references who she knew were going to be bad, that way she could submit the paperwork on your behalf without you knowing firsthand who the rat is...
    – jmort253
    Jun 7, 2014 at 20:11

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