I had previously asked about listing references with which you've lost contact. Now I'm in a slightly different situation. I've run across a couple online forms which require that I enter my supervisor's name and phone number for each job that I held. While it's generally easy to think up what my last supervisor's name was, I'm not quite sure what to enter.

As for the supervisor's name, I've been assuming it should be the last supervisor I had. At my first job, I worked in the same department for the entire two and a half years and had four different supervisors -- one for about a year and a half, one for a few weeks, and the other two for about half a year. It makes more sense that the one which knew me the longest would be able to give more detail about the kind of worker I was. Since there's only one space to put a supervisor, which one would a hiring manager care more about?

Considering this job was a while ago, I'm not even sure if these people work there anymore, and certainly have lost contact with them. So for the supervisor's phone number, I have two scenarios:

  1. If you do know their phone number, should you give it out? From my previous question, I know that unexpected calls can sometimes be odd. It seems like this would fall under the same issue. Should I be contacting them to confirm, "hey I'm listing you as my supervisor for this job"?

  2. If you don't know their phone number, how do you indicate that? Type in a bunch of 0's and just tell them "I don't know their number" if they ask (which is what I've been doing)? Use the company's phone number, even though it's already listed above with the company's information?

  • 2
    Are these online forms for recruiters or HR departments? I wouldn't give out names and phone numbers to recruiters, unless they will be putting me forward for a position.
    – Oded
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 18:00
  • If the online forms are a mandatory part of the recruitment process and you want the job then you will have to fill them out.
    – br3w5
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 18:10
  • 4
    Use the company's official line, if you still have it. I personally find it asinine that someone will require me to have the current personal/official contact number of a supervisor I had years ago, that has probably changed jobs/locations several times since (and I'm no longer in correspondence with).
    – kolossus
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 3:20

2 Answers 2


For your question about which supervisor, you should list the one that you think knows you best and will give you the best reference. Even if that person is not the last supervisor you had, it's important that the employer you are applying to has the most complete reference for you.

On your other questions:

  1. Yes it is fine to give out a work contact number because receiving calls asking for references is an accepted part of a manager's job role. However you should not give out any personal numbers unless you've been given permission to do so.

  2. If you do not know the phone number give the company's number; or if that person has left and you know which company they have moved to, then give that company's number. Employers will understand that it is not always easy to keep contact details. If they can't get hold of that person then they will most likely call you to ask if you have any alternative means of contacting them such as email.


Who you list as your contact should be a delicate combination of

  • Who, out of the people you worked with, is most likely to communicate about you positively?
  • Who has the best understanding of your ability to do the actual day to day work?
  • Who is most likely to be viewed by the person calling as a credible and respectable person?

Some ideas that I've used,

  • Technical supervisor
  • Project Manager
  • Company CEO
  • Department Manager
  • Head of Technology
  • Contract Worker Administrator
  • Local office manager

Generally, if the CEO will give you a good big-up, go with them. Otherwise, choose the best one based on the criteria above.

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