Job search/references question

I’m looking for a job after several years out of the workforce for one reason or another. Here’s my problem: My last “normal” job was in 1996, and it was, for various reasons, a disaster. Basically they hired me to do work that didn’t exist. When the funding finally dried up, we did not exactly part on the best of terms. I doubt anyone at this company (actually it’s a government agency) even remembers me, and if they do they can hardly have anything flattering to say about me, except maybe “Adjusts well to sitting in an office being bored out of her skull for weeks on end” :frowning:

Since this job was some years ago, will it look terribly odd not to have a reference from it? Should I enclose a letter of explanation, or would that just look suspicious? The jobs I’m looking at aren’t really in the same field, and I can get a reference from an earlier employer and probably at least one of the customers I did freelance translation for after that job.

If it doesn’t leave a big gap in your resume, I would leave it out. Whoever interviews you will ask you to run down your employment history, just be prepared with your cover story.

I agree. Better to come up with an alternate strategy. You say, that this was your last “normal” job. However, it was still a really long time ago and I think the prospective employer will understand. Just ignore it or claim that everyone you worked with there has either been fired or quit and you have been unsuccessful in contacting anyone there that you did work with.

I would just be more creative with the references and find some way to get someone to give you a really good one from anything else that you have done in the past few years. There has to be something if you try to spin it in the right way. Remember, it is all a game and winners play to win.

Yeah, but…

I worked for a company for nine months that was spun-off and later closed. I knew both my managers had left, and there was basically no one from the original company who knew who I was, let alone who could give me a reference. (All the personnel/payroll records had been transferred to the new company, and no one could tell me where these records were.)

When I interviewed at a different company some time later, they claimed resume, ah, embellishment because I could not “prove” that I had worked there. What I ended up doing was pulling a copy of my Social Security records that showed that, yes, I did work there, I just couldn’t find anyone who could serve as a reference.

In this case, I would do something similar. Explain that a personal reference isn’t possible, but that you’ll be happy to provide proof of employment.


As an occaisional interviewer, I look to see a continuous employment record and usually ask about gaps.

That being said, my personal resume includes just a brief reference to jobs that have nothing to do with the job to which I am applying. ie:

Various Resturant Jobs June 1993 - July 1995.

Maybe you can reference this job by something innocuous?


Omit the unfavorable references. Odds are, nobody will ask you about that (interviewers generally look for gaps in your career history, not your reference list). If anyone asks, make up something about the project being classified and you’re not allowed to name names. :wink:

(Does anyone ever actually call your references? 'coz AFAIK none of the references I give ever get contacted…)

Yes, we call references, and I’ve been called as a reference.

I don’t think it’s odd when some one doesn’t have a reference from a past job.

my bigger concern would be 'how are you explaining the gap between that last ‘regular’ job and now?

The first part of that gap, I was a SAHM doing freelance translation work. Since mid-1999 (when I had to quit that due to a complicated pregnancy) I’ve just been a straight SAHM. Maybe not the most favorable explanation from an employer’s point of view but at least it’s straightforward.

Thanks for the advice, all! I think I’m going to put it on there, but have the explanation rehearsed in advance and assume it will come up in any telephone calls or interviews.

I wouldn’t leave it out, as gaps in your resume will be seen very negatively. Since you will be the one to choose the references you provide, simply ensure your references come from your more recent work.

You are a little sketchy on the details of your recent ‘non-normal’ work, but make an effort to portray it as steady and continuous. Just as an example, if you did intermittent freelance work, label the whole thing as one continuous period of freelancing. You can break it down or give details upon request.