I am applying directly to several Professors for a PhD. As part of my applications I usually attach a CV, two references (one is a professor, the other is a research project leader in industry), and if asked I add a note transcript too.

My second referee just told me he quit his job as project leader. As contact info I had attached his work phone and address. Obviously, he will no longer be reachable at those.

What makes things worse is the fact that I recently submitted two PhD applications.

  • To professor A: I sent it a month ago, and he recently replied asking me for my note transcripts. Regardless if he is satisfied or not with my academic performance, when he calls/writes my second reference, the fact that he is unreachable would be a red flag.
  • To professor B: I sent the application a week ago, and have not got any response. Same problem applies, he won't be able to reach my second reference. In such case, he would probably not even bother to ask for my transcript.

What would be the correct course of action now?

  • 12
    Have you considered emailing your potential supervisors to update them with the new contact information of your referees? Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:09
  • 2
    +1 to @DmitrySavostyanov's comment. This is a great opportunity and a valid reason to immediately email your potential supervisors (reminding them of your application in the process) and give them your reference's new contact info. They will certainly understand that this can happen. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:22
  • @DmitrySavostyanov The referee who just quitted is between jobs. Would his home phone/address be adequate?
    – Keine
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:26
  • 4
    Consider asking him about the preferred contact method. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 15:17
  • Professor B just contacted me asking me for my transcript and two references. So I guess he just skimmed my CV and skipped the last page where I list my references. I will just send him the new reference list with the new contact info for the second referee and not mention anything regarding his resignation. Will a reference with a @gmail and non-work contact information look suspicious?
    – Keine
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


The first thing you need to do is check if your reference is still willing to act as a reference even though they have changed jobs. In general, they will, but if they have retired or left the field completely maybe they do not want to. Potentially, a reference who works in industry has signed some sort of non-compete agreement or an NDA that does not allow them to write a reference any longer. Once you either get the referee's new contact information, or a new reference, you need to email your potential supervisors.

In the email, you need to tell the potential supervisor what happened. A job change is pretty typical and does not look bad in any way. Having to change referees is a little more problematic, but just explain briefly what happened.


I don't see much of the problem here. You are applying to a PhD not a faculty position. The second reference should or might be contacted by email. The fact that he quit his job has no relevance (unless he tries to politely decline serving as a reference for you).

Otherwise, just ask your second reference to email directly the reference to the Professor.

The point being is that the bureaucratic side is unimportant.

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