Occasionally, job seekers will say they’ve only worked for one employer for the last decade, and they don’t want that employer to know they’re looking for other employment. This sort of situation has to be respected. One of the unwritten codes in the reference-checking business is to never jeopardize anyone’s current employment. By the same token, for individuals who have a lengthy history with one employer, it defies imagination that during all that time, they haven’t made friends with at least three people with whom they have worked who wouldn’t be willing to confidentially serve as references—company policy notwithstanding.
From the job seeker’s standpoint, long-tenured employees also need to remember that excellent references do things like retire, take other jobs, move to other functional areas within the same organization, or relocate to another company location in another city. In other words, a serious candidate can come up with appropriate references 99.9% of the time. On those occasions when a candidate says he simply can’t provide references to a prospective employer, my advice would be to look for someone else to fill the job!