How To Deal with Bad Job References

So you left your job from hell and are now looking at other prospective employers. However, if you have bad job references, you may have a difficult time getting someone to hire you. After all, you’re only as good as your last position.

How do you deal with bad job references? Here are your options.

  • Select the information you put on your resume very carefully. Any prior employment history you put is fair game for your prospective employee. Be sure if you put someone as a reference, that he will at least be neutral and fair, and hopefully give you a glowing recommendation. Try to list someone who may be able to give you positive feedback, such as a supervisor from another department that you worked on a project together with.
  • Talk to your prior employer. Try to contact your old boss and let him know you’re on the job hunt. Let him know that you will be listing him as a reference and say that you hope you can give anyone who calls fair feedback about you. You may ask what is the office policy about references. Some companies issue a blanket “no comment” statement in response to all reference inquiries to avoid any litigation issues.
  • Know your rights. It is illegal for a former employer to make up stuff about you as retaliation for not getting along with you. If your former employer is giving you bad references on purpose even though it is baseless, you may choose to sue him. An employer can only comment about the quality of work that you delivered and not talk badly about your character or defame you in any way.
  • Be upfront. During the job interview, let your prospective employer know if he may have difficulty getting references. If you had work issues with your previous employer and you are now concerned it may come back to haunt you, it may be best to be honest and say in the interview that you had a conflict of personalities and work styles with your prior boss. You can even say it is the reason why you left the position since you are looking for something that will be more in line with your work style. Don’t lie during the interview because these things can be clarified if your interviewer does manage to talk to your old boss.
  • Sell yourself during the interview. A bad reference is only one aspect that a prospective employer looks at. If you are professional, personable and exude confidence and charm, an employer may look past your work history and see your potential. A bad reference doesn’t mean the end of your career as long as you are willing to work hard and make a positive impression during the interview. Focus on your skills and how you can contribute and make the best of the current position you are vying for. Help your future boss look forward rather than look at your past.

If you happen to have a bad reference, don’t let it get you down. Learn from the experience so that you treat every position with a high level of professionalism. This is the only way to ensure no one says anything negative about you.


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