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Last updateFri, 14 Jun 2024 6pm

Missing job references, what can I do?

Drumheller Jobs



Dear Working Wise:

I’ve applied for a new job that I’m really excited about, but the employer wants references from my past three supervisors. The problem is I’ve been working for the same company for the past six years. My former supervisor has since retired and the supervisor I had before that was at a fast-food restaurant. What can I do? Signed, Missing References


Dear Missing References:


Your situation is not unique—many people come up short when it comes to references for a number of reasons. Hiring decisions are not based entirely on references, but they may make the difference in a competitive job market.


Create a list of potential references:

- Contact your retired supervisor, explain your situation and ask if he/she is willing to act as a reference;

- Use your “fast-food” reference. They may not be able to talk about your current skills/experience, but they can talk about how reliable and trustworthy you are;

- Look for other potential references in your current and past workplaces, including co-workers, supervisors in other departments, internal/external clients, and other people who are familiar with your work;

- Ask someone who supervised you in one of your volunteer roles;

- Assemble a package of performance evaluations, letters of recognition, thank-you letters, written comments from clients/customers, and examples of your accomplishments and offer that in lieu of a reference;

- Round out your reference list with character references from your personal life, such as a teacher, coach, landlord, and religious or community leader.

- Offer your current supervisor as a reference once you have been shortlisted for the job.


How to ask—Ask, “Do you feel you know me and my work well enough to provide a reference?” This question gives them a gracious way of saying no. If they say yes, you can feel fairly comfortable that they will have good things to say about you, but ask just to be sure.   


More tips:

·        Prioritize your list based on how well they know your work, how recently you’ve worked with them and what they will say about you;

·        Always ask permission before providing someone’s name as a reference;

·        Contact your references each time you provide their name to a potential employer and give them some notice so they can prepare for the phone call;

·        Keep your reference list up-to-date including their name and current job title, company, contact information, and how they prefer to be contacted;

·        Coach your references – send them a current copy of your resumé and the job posting so they are familiar with your current skills and accomplishments, and will know which of your strength to focus on;

·        Ask your reference what they think your weaknesses are/were and tell them how you’ve worked on them since;

·        If your reference is a former supervisor, make sure you both agree how and why you left that job;

·        Some employers will only confirm basic employment information such as dates, job title and salary. In this case, ask your former employer to explain their policy so the new employer does not mistake their brevity for a bad reference.

·        Thank your references and keep in touch with them;

·        Every time you leave a job or your supervisor leaves their job, ask for a letter of reference just in case your former supervisor wins the lottery and disappears;


Explain your situation to the potential employer and show them how you’ve tried to meet their needs—they will appreciate your efforts.


Good luck!


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

How can I leave my current employer and still maintain a good relationship with them?


Dear Working Wise:

I work for a small print shop and I’ve accepted a better job with a competitor. There are a number of print shops in town, but it’s a small industry and so I don’t want to burn my bridges. How can I leave my current employer and still maintain a good relationship with them? Signed, Moving On


Dear Moving On:


No matter how big a community or industry you work in, you never know how your past relationships may help or hurt you in the future.


Your current employer may be disappointed that you are leaving, but they know that most employees change jobs from time to time.


In fact, the best bosses are proud to see their staff move on to bigger and better things, because they have played an active role in your development.


But no matter what kind of boss you have, you can earn their gratitude and respect by acting professionally and making your departure as easy as possible for them.


Your boss will probably remember your last few weeks with the company more than your last few years and so make them count.


Create a positive lasting impression:

o  Give as much notice as you can. Check your contract or your company’s HR policies for what the minimum notice is. If in doubt, try to give at least two weeks notice;

o  Tell your supervisor in person before you tell your co-workers. Use this one-on-one with your boss to thank them for the opportunity and for everything you have learned;

o  Keep what you say positive and professional – you don’t need to explain your reasons in detail, but you should be ready to explain why you are leaving; and

o  Write a letter of resignation.


Your resignation letter should:

o  Be brief and professional — stick to the facts — don’t include a detailed explanation of why you are leaving.

o  Include the date, name of the person you are sending it to, the position you are resigning from, and when your last day of work will be;

o  Be positive and polite even if you didn’t enjoy working for the organization — don’t use your resignation letter to air your discontent; and

o  Sign your letter and keep a copy for your records.


Other ways to leave a lasting good impression:

o  Continue your good work habits;

o  Prepare a work plan for your supervisor including: projects you will complete before you leave, the status of any ongoing projects, and written instructions for the person who replaces you;

o  Offer to help look for and orient your replacement (if appropriate);

o  Make yourself available. Your last few weeks on the job are not the best time to use up your vacation days;

o  Clean your workspace and tidy up your files. Ensure important files or project work is labeled and easy to find. Pack up any personal items and return company property such as keys or supplies;

o  If asked to participate in an exit interview, the rules stay the same—keep it positive and factual.


Resigning in a professional way will preserve your relationships with your supervisor and coworkers and build your reputation in your industry.


Good luck at your new job!


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.




I need a resumé that will help me stand out and get noticed.



Dear Working Wise:

I am applying for a job that I really want, but I think I’m up against some stiff competition. I need a resumé that will help me stand out and get noticed. Do you have any suggestions? Signed, Eager Job Hunter


Dear Eager:


Yes, you need to have a top-quality resumé in today’s competitive job market. Your resumé must be brief and compelling, because employers use resumés to quickly sort through stacks of applicants and decide who they want to meet.


Your resumé should focus on your strongest qualifications so use a format that puts your most impressive qualifications at the beginning.


If you want to emphasize your career progression, list your work, education or volunteer experiences in chronological order. Chronological resumés are the most common type of resumé.


To emphasize the skills you have learned, use a combination format that groups your skills into categories. Then you can provide a brief chronological account of your background. Be sure to describe how your skills benefited your current and former employers (e.g., increased sales, saved money, improved efficiency, etc.).


If you don't have much work experience but your education is directly related to the work you are applying for, list your education first and stress the skills and abilities that your formal training has provided.


For more information, and sample resumés, check out the Resumé Types tip sheet on the Alberta Learning Information Service web site at


When drafting your resumé, remember:

·        Your resumé should be two pages maximum. Busy employers won't take the time to read through a lot of information;

·        Print it on good-quality white or off-white letter-size paper;

·        Make it look professional and inviting to read;

·        Use language that is clear and concise. Every statement should emphasize a skill or ability. Drop unnecessary words or sentences to tighten up your statements;

·        Ensure all the information is positive and relevant to the job requirements;

·        Use action verbs – “developed, created, coached, guided, produced.”  Avoid passive phrases like "I was responsible for" or "my duties involved";

·        Don't exaggerate or misrepresent yourself—employers will check;

·        Include your daytime contact information;

·        Don’t include a photograph or unnecessary personal information;

·        Check spelling and grammar. If you are not absolutely sure, ask a friend to proofread. Don’t take yourself out of the running over a silly little error;

·        List your references on a separate page. Always ask your references if they are willing to provide a positive reference for you and ensure they can verify the skills you want to emphasize; and

·        Always include a covering letter and use it to highlight your qualifications for the position. 


For more tips, or for a second opinion on your resumé, visit and take advantage of the free, secure online e-Resumé Review Service.


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.


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