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I have returned to the US, and my last eight years were working on major projects in the Gulf not for a company, but directly for the Crown Prince. I've returned, retired-ish at 35 but I'd like to pick up some work. I'm applying for a local government position, which requires my previous supervisor's contact information. As bureaucracy dictates, I can't just ring this potential employer to explain.

Even if a local HR department here on the West Coast were to call (12hr time difference, mind you, so at midnight) to get someone on the line, they'd not get through. I have paperwork showing I was employed, and even promoted twice, but in the reference section, I don't feel like putting my supervisor "His Highness, Sheikh XYZ, Phone: +971...." would be at all appropriate.

For those who have worked abroad - how did you handle this? What do you put in the reference section; and have I made myself unemployable?

Aside: this is Urban Planning, if that makes a difference, and I'm located on the West Coast of the United States, after working in the Gulf.

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    Comment, because not answer quality... Does it allow you to put "The office of His Highness", and a number for one of his minons? – JohnHC Apr 12 '17 at 15:12
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    @JohnHC - Some people had the luxury of this, they were consultants for a firm that worked for us; they had supervisors; but in my case, I was directly working for him. I know what you mean, but it doesn't work in my case. I am considering listing some of my consultants that I managed, but that's just not quite right. – Mikey Apr 12 '17 at 15:13
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    I agree, though... You're not going to give them his direct phone number, you're going to give them his secretary's number so (if they do actually attempt to call) they can set up a time in his schedule to call... or work out a written recommendation letter. I don't see this as significantly different than if you were working for the CEO of a major company... you give out their secretary's info, not their personal info. – Catija Apr 12 '17 at 15:19
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    Have you talk to His Highness The Sheik about this? Maybe he can guide you in how he usually handle those issues. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Apr 12 '17 at 15:29
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    Presumably, the Sheik did not do routine stuff like signing your paychecks. There must be someone in the Sheik's office who knows you were working for him with a specific job title from date X to date Y. Many US companies will give no more information than that about a former employee. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 12 '17 at 15:56
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Do everything you can and don't worry about things beyond your control.

  • His Highness was your supervisor, so there is nothing inappropriate about putting his name there. However, since he most certainly has better things to do than chit-chatting with background checking agencies, you could consider listing an additional reference. This could be a person who was in a (somewhat) "supervisory" role or a senior, or at least a peer. (If His Highness was directly supervising you, and you omit him altogether, it could be seen as an insult.)

    A one-line explanation like the below would also help:

    In case His Highness is not reachable, please contact Mr. Mohammad, who was my senior.

  • Providing his direct phone number, or in some cases even his PA's number, is indeed inappropriate. Instead you could provide the number that people have to use to book an appointment with him. If there is no such number, your best option is to call the PA's number and ask if it would be ok to enlist it for the reference.

  • To take care of the timezone, you could do a couple of things: explicitly specify the timezone offset with respect to your prospective employer's local time and specify the best time to call (in local time). This should take care of cases where the background checker doesn't realize that nobody is answering the call because it is "midnight over there".

As stated at the beginning, there is probably not much you can do beyond that. Whether the background checker calls at midnight, the PA answers the call or not, etc. are beyond your control, so leave that alone.

If you get a background check report stating that they could not reach your previous supervisor, then you could explain it to them and hope that they try again, now with a better understanding of the situation. If not, just take it in your stride and move on. The world is a huge place, you will always find another job with a more "favourable" background checking process. Good luck!

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