With companies coming and going and employees switching jobs more, it’s difficult to keep track of your references.


Earlier this month, I received an e-mail from a reader who expressed frustration at a problem that is pretty common these days. What do you do if the companies listed on your resume have been purchased by another company, are no longer in existence at all, or have had such drastic personnel changes that those who could verify your employment are no longer there? Here’s the e-mail:

“In today’s world, companies buy and sell each other at an unbelievable rate and you can’t get information, but there’s another hazard that may or may not be related to this phenomenon. The at times astronomical rate at which people move from one company to another also causes problems.

In my last job I had, I was there for over five years. I looked at my resume – almost every other place I have worked, the people for whom I worked are long gone from that company. Sometimes they just left; other times, the company was purchased by someone else. Sure, I can use one or two of them as a reference, but they don’t really know my current work habits because they haven’t worked with me for X number of years.

What is your advice for this? I have to put down that the manager is no longer working there, maybe add a note asking them to please contact HR for the company to verify employment. But I’m not sure that’s the right way to go about it, with or without the ‘please contact HR’ bit. Is what I am putting down OK?”

In short, yes, ask them to contact HR. Your dates of employment are all they’re likely to get anyway. Your note, however, brought up another issue. In the old days, one could list a former co-worker as a work reference by giving that person’s extension number at the old company. But people move around so much anymore, it’s hard to guarantee they’ll still be there to get the call.

You could try to keep a database of people you used to work with and for and update it on what, anymore, could be an hourly basis. But this might just be a job for a social network. While you’re working for a company and after you leave, you should try to add as many of your co-workers as possible to your list of contacts. The benefit of social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook is that people will update their own status fairly dependably, and they’re easier to contact to get their permission to be used as a reference.

Got a career scenario of your own? E-mail it to us here. We’ll post it anonymously, and see what kind of feedback your peers have to offer.