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I am thinking of looking for a job again, or at least seeing whats out there.

My problem is that I have had an usually long string of jobs where the companies no longer exist. Either they were acquired (and dissolved) or just went out of business.

The last time I was looking for a job and I got a feeling that some of the interviewers were skeptical when I cant provide contact information for a number of the companies. At best, I can point them to the company that took over, if it was acquired.

Also, references are an issue. For some of these out-of-business companies, I do not have contact information for my supervisors.

What is the best way to handle this situation?

  • I had a similar thing happen around 2000-2006 where a number of companies closed or were bought out. For a background check I had to find some people that I worked with at those jobs to confirm that the positions were real. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 29 '14 at 20:21
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    I have had a lot of jobs, many with companies that no longer exist. The only time I had to track any of these people down was for security clearances. I wouldn't worry so much about this. Just get a variety of references that you can. – Bill Leeper May 29 '14 at 20:43
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    Did you try tracking down your former supervisors through Linkedin? – Vietnhi Phuvan May 29 '14 at 22:48
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    Track down some former supervisors. It should not matter that the companies are gone, the people are what matter. I have people using me as a reference that worked for me 15 years ago at companies that haven't existed for most of that time. Your inability to find a past supervisor to vouch for you would give me pause too. – renegade May 30 '14 at 16:41
  • In my experience companies only care about references for your last couple of jobs. If you can produce three of those you should be okay. I would suggest that in the future each time you get a job you get all contact information for the company and supervisor and just keep them with your resume and reference list. Even if the phone numbers and addresses are no longer in service, it's good to be able to produce them. Before you leave a company get references' cell phone numbers. They will, hopefully, outlive the company in case of company dissolution. – Francine DeGrood Taylor May 30 '14 at 16:57
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It would be unreasonable and unusual of an employer to ask for specific references from specific employers. When they do though, you should be forthright and honest.

Company X was acquired by Company Y and all of my co-workers and managers there have moved on. I no longer have their contact information and have made an effort to find them, but have not been able to.

or if you have made contact, but they are elsewhere

My Manager Bob from Company X is now working at Company Z. I have his contact information if you wish to talk with him about my time at Company X.

When I have been asked for references I provide the 2 to 4 people that I want them to talk to. Choose some co-workers and managers you have contact with and use them (with permission of course).

If the future employer wants to confirm prior employment you can help them by saying company X was acquired by Company Y, or Company Z went out of business in 2010.

It may be wise of you to keep old paystubs, they can sometimes be used if an employer is particularly picky about verifying employment dates.

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  • This might be considered an answer to the reference question(though not a great one) but it doesn't even try to tackle how to discuss the issue in an interview. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 29 '14 at 21:22
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    In addition to pay stubs (or tax documents), it's useful to keep offer letters and departure paperwork. I recently needed to supply that to validate a stint at a now-defunct company. – Monica Cellio May 30 '14 at 2:49
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The people you worked for still exist, more than likely. Connect with them on LinkedIn and when you need to use them as a reference, ask them on LinkedIn. The company doesn't need to still be in business for you to give references.

However, if you can't find the people you worked for online, then I would suggest finding coworkers from previous jobs instead and use them as references. Or see if they have contact information for your bosses.

Finally, when leaving a job on good terms, if you plan to use your boss as a reference, get his/her personal contact information so you don't have this issue in the future.

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    Ive looked for them, cant find them. Not everyone uses linkedIn,facebook, etc.. – Keltari May 29 '14 at 20:02
  • If you can't find your former boss, supervisor, etc. You should be able to locate at least one person from your previous employer. HR Manager, colleague, department head, team lead, etc. I could believe one company you can't locate a contact, but multiple I would also suspect dishonesty. – RualStorge May 29 '14 at 20:36
  • @Keltari That's unfortunate. I would suggest finding coworkers from previous jobs instead and use them as references. Or see if they have contact information for your bosses. Finally, when leaving a job on good terms, if you plan to use your boss as a reference, get his/her personal contact information so you don't have this issue in the future.. – Garrison Neely May 29 '14 at 20:59
  • @GarrisonNeely, I edited in the info from the comments to make this a more complete answer. Feel free to edit further to put in your own words, if needed. It's important to note that comments aren't searchable, like answers are, so we try to put all important content in the actual answers themselves so others can more easily find the content. Hope this helps. – jmort253 May 30 '14 at 2:21

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