General Question

Mr_M's avatar

Bad References? Aren't there are a gazillion different ways your former boss can convey to your new employer that you were no good?

Asked by Mr_M (7586points) September 21st, 2008

Sure, the law limits what he can say but just the fact that he will ONLY say what the law allows is a dead give away. If you were a good employee, your boss would shout your highest praises. I know because I’ve gotten references for MY employees and it didn’t take much to read between the lines. So what do you do if you have bad references from your last job?

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39 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

I worked for a dude (Texas) who was not only a lousy supervisor, but sadly, he was the owner of the company, and a miserable excuse for a human being, to boot.

I had this unique habit, when I used to work for others (before becoming self-employed): I would, at my first opportunity, steal several sheets of company letterhead and envelopes. Then, when I left the employ of a company, for whatever reason, if the employer refused to tell the truth about me, I would make sure that s/he or they did, with the purloined company stationery.

Just make sure that when you author a letter about yourself, that you first do it on a blank sheet of paper (and that you’re positive, regarding what you wish to say about yourself) before you transfer the text to the official company letterhead.

Have someone else sign the letter, so no one will suspect you, of signing your own recommendation letter.

Finally, mail the letter to yourself, so you have the envelope in which the letter arrived, to prove that the reference letter wasn’t recently written, and enclose a cover letter with your reference letter that reads something like:

Dear Mr. M,

We are pleased to enclose this letter of reference you requested, and wish you well on your future endeavors. You will always have a position here, should you ever change your mind, and wish to re-join our team.

Sincerely,

Jon Dough, Head Asshole

Mr_M's avatar

I don’t know. Seems to me you could get in legal trouble PLENTY with a maneuver like this one.

Mr_M's avatar

Also, employers ask for telephone numbers of the people to call. If you don’t give it, there are EASY ways they can get it.

JackAdams's avatar

I have never had anyone double-check on the authenticity of a reference letter, and I have been working since age 15, which is 43 years, now.

Mostly, I have enough genuine letters to “cover” me. And as far as “trouble” is concerned, a former employer could also be in serious legal trouble, if they uttered written falsehoods about me.

They would find themselves in a courtroom, begging a judge to not award me many millions of dollars in punitive damages.

fireside's avatar

I guess it depends on the nature of the bad reference. If they would say that you were lazy and slow, then that is one thing but it is another if you had a perceived negative attitude.

I would say that the best thing to do is to acknowledge, or allude to, the fact that there may have been a falling out at the end. The more honest you are, the more likely the reference won’t matter. Of course, that depends on the job too.

Many employees simply grow out of jobs and forget to move on until they are forced to do so. If the new job is a higher level, then let the employer know that it was time to move on and say that you would prefer that they didn’t contact that employer.

Hopefully, you have a couple of other references from previous jobs, or possibly use a coworker who would give you a better mention than the boss would.

fireside's avatar

Or just give them the number to the HR department. Depending on the size of the company, they may only have the facts to relay.

wildflower's avatar

A reference that just states the time you were employed and what your duties were, speaks volumes….

Mr_M's avatar

@fire, Remember that the number of applicants for most positions is vast. I know, for every resume that comes across my desk withOUT a college degree, there are 20 that HAVE the degree. I don’t need to look at the diploma people and don’t.

Similiarly, if you tell your employer NOT to contact your previous employer you raise up your own red flag. The employer need not take the chance with you. He’s got plenty of other applicants.

Mr_M's avatar

@wildflower, that’s PRECISELY right. People take blind consolation in the fact that if you had a bad time on your previous job, then don’t worry. All they can say is when you were employed, etc.

But the fact that is ALL they say DOES raise the red flag.

wildflower's avatar

And this is why it’s a good idea to build and maintain a good relationship with your employer – if that’s not possible, leave as soon as you can so it doesn’t look like you spent years doing nothing constructive, but just had a short, bad, experience.

JackAdams's avatar

I also have never had any prospective employer request to see copies of my diplomas, nor proof of my degrees, nor have they ever contacted any of my former colleges and universities, seeking a transcript of my grades.

But, I would have not objected, had they wished to do so.

Mr_M's avatar

@wild, it’s not easy for some positions to leave. So my question is, given one had a bad boss that won’t give a good reference, what DO you do while, at the same time, not set up the “red flag”.

@jack, I worked for the city where they checked it ALL. They have dedicated AGENCIES to do the checking. ALL. Right down to Conflict of Interests.

JackAdams's avatar

I would never apply to work for such an employer. But, for jobs requiring a security clearance, which I have had in the past, I can understand them being very thorough.

wildflower's avatar

Well, references aren’t everything. If you have documented/demonstrated ability to achieve results and complete the tasks required in a job – and at the same time, your old employer confirms you didn’t have attendance or other issues that lead to disciplinary or grievances – how they personally feel about you won’t matter that much.
The recruiter at the new job will probably be relying on their own impression of you, anyway.

fireside's avatar

Different Industries require different skill sets and different approaches.

Do they look at references before or after the interview?
If it is after, then I would just add the following to the bottom of your resume/application:

*References available upon request.

If it’s just a job application form that forces you to list it then, simply put it down and hope that they give you a chance to prove yourself to be a viable candidate before they start calling. Or say that you left the address/number at home…

Mr_M's avatar

@wild, I strongly disagree. Again, remember, the employer narrows it down to a FEW people. No matter HOW much he likes the applicant, the references will influence. So what do you do?

And I’ve never experienced a situation where the refs are checked AFTER the hire. That’s bad management.

JackAdams's avatar

References can be (and often are) checked after someone is hired, but only when the new employee is not performing to expectations. Then, the employer may decide to see if they can get rid of a non-productive employee, based on a fraudulent application.

wildflower's avatar

They influence, yes, but they’re not the sole deciding factor. Sell yourself on your other attributes, skills, achievements, etc.

The smart thing is to let the recruiter know, without saying anything bad about your old employer, that you weren’t entirely compatible

Mr_M's avatar

@jack, that would be unfair to the employee and I’d, personally, NEVER do it.

sarapnsc's avatar

@Mr. M…I got a job, because someone lied on their references….my employer told me I was their 2nd choice…because that person had applied first, and a bit more experience…the person was on the job 3 days, they checked their references after they were hired. They were fired for lying about something on their references. I was called, and after they told me that, first thing I asked.. did you check my references…because of the other person who had lied…my references where checked before I was hired.

Mr_M's avatar

My experience is that there is lying and there is lying. If you lie about your credentials, then it’s curtains for you as it should be. If you were fired by your last boss and you have no one else at the job to ask for a reference, then what? I guess say “I think this person was angry that I left so I’m not sure how good a reference this person would give?”

wildflower's avatar

Personally, I wouldn’t be impressed with that line – too much of a victim mind-set, but yea, something to that effect.

JackAdams's avatar

@Mr. M: Respectfully, I don’t believe it is “unfair” to any employee, to check out references that weren’t checked prior to hiting someone, if you had certain expectations about the minimum level(s) of their performance, and were disappointed, because that is sending up a FLARE, and those things need to be “retroactively investigated.”

I remember when I was a supervisor and hired a guy who did not measure-up to the job requirements. I told the company owner that I believed the employee had lied to us to get hired, and an investigation revealed that he had.

Almost everything he told us about his past was fabricated, and not very well, either.

sarapnsc's avatar

@Mr. M…I’ve worked from the bottom of the totem pole and up…I do a majority of the hiring, where I work…if a person has the qualifications, the company is looking for, I’ll hire them, even if their references weren’t up to par, like being lazy, not on time, etc. Exemptions, stealing, fraud…that kind of thing.
I’ve hired many people where their references weren’t the greatest. I know from experience, employers can be the problem just as much, and not always the employee. I’ve even hired someone with a domestic violence arrest record, who has spent 30 days in jail. I’ve hired someone out of prison….I look at it this way, maybe they have learned and won’t have a repeat incident on the job. It all depends on the interviewer and hirer. I hire after I have checked the references.
My motto: Always be honest and upfront…it will take you much further, than lying.

Mr_M's avatar

I would have been concerned the one with a domestic violent arrest record could lash out at a fellow employee or supervisor and the company would be libel.

Did you not have anyone else?

sarapnsc's avatar

@Mr. M….domestic violence cases differ case by case…when I got their criminal background check/report…it stated what happened…, this person has now been with the company for 4 years…laid back as can be, shows no more violence/anger/aggravation than the common person.
Different reasons, for different situations. I look at it like this…many people should be in jail/prison, the difference is…they got caught, many people haven’t. I am the type of person, depending on the situation…crap happens…did you learn from it?

tinyfaery's avatar

Not feeling good about looking for a job right now. :(

Judi's avatar

Every employer I ever worked for went out of their way to give out NO information about their employees. I also have had a problem getting honest information about employees from other employees. I think our environment is to litigious for employers to give out bad references. Instead, they refuse to give any information but their hire date, job title, and termination date.

JackAdams's avatar

When I found out that one prospective employer had run a so-called “routine” background check on me, I was unconcerned. But, when I found out that such a check included my credit history, I instructed my attorney, with the firm, Sue, Grabbit & Runne to initiate litigation proceedings.

$10,000 later, I dropped my plans and waited for the employer’s bank draft to clear.

You don’t F*** with me, unless you have a vagina!

Judi's avatar

@Jack
and that is exactly why I don’t give out any info. I also run credit checks but they have to sign a release before I do it. My employees have access to money and people’s homes so financial responsibility is a job requirement.

JackAdams's avatar

@Judi: Respectfully, an individual can have an excellent personal credit profile, and still be an evil or untrustworthy person.

I know prison inmates who have much better credit histories than I do.

Leona Helmsley had flawless credit, but was still a bad person, who went to prison (19 months) for federal income tax evasion.

Judi's avatar

@ jack;
Yes, but that is not the only check that we do. We also do criminal background checks, and try as hard as we can to get positive employment references. In the end, you have to check as well as you can and choose the person who you feel would be the best fit for the company based on the interview. All those other things are just screening tools. After your first post I am going to start confirming the authenticity of letters of recommendation now too!

JackAdams's avatar

@Judi: I might be able to find this confrontation on YouTube┬«, eventually, but in the meantime, I’ll try to give you the basics of it, because it is germane to the discussion you and I are having.

It concerned Congressional hearings that were being conducted in Washington DC., regarding employers being able to require prospective employees to submit to drug testing, as a hiring condition.

A man approached the witness table to speak in favor of the practice, but before he could sit down, the chairman of the committee told him, “Before you are sworn in, you will accompany the Sergeat-At-Arms to the Men’s restroom, where you will provide him, in front of witnesses, with a urine sample of your own, for testing and analysis. Because you are in favor of this, we know you won’t object to it, at all.”

Some members of the audience began to applaud, while others laughed out loud.

The witness refused to comply with the Congressional “order.”

If I am successful in finding that clip, I will certainly post it on this thread, for all to see.

Judi's avatar

He should have had no problem complying. If you apply for a job that does drug testing then you shouldn’t have a problem taking the drug test. If you have a problem with it, apply elsewhere.

Mr_M's avatar

@judi, I NEVER accept written references an applicant walks in with. All it FREQUENTLY means (not always) is he or she got a friend at the job to write it, or it was written IN FRONT OF the applicant so it may not be as valid as one compiled confidentially. I can’t tell you how many times employees present with GLARING written references yet, when you ask about calling the person who, supposedly, wrote it, the employee balks! So much for written references the employee brings in.

Mr_M's avatar

No one has to comply with the urine test or anything they don’t like. The employer will just go with someone else.

Judi's avatar

I have written reference letters at the request of employees that I am cheering as they go out the door. It really changed the way I READ them. If they are just loaded with facts about accomplishments while on the job I will wonder how they got along with their co-workers.

Mr_M's avatar

That too! Been there, done that!

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