Simple ways to make sure your references pan out.
by Don Goodman
President, About Jobs
You’ve had 3 interviews with a potential employer and they’ve asked you for references from your prior job. The problem is that you didn’t leave on the best of terms and now you’re a bit worried about the kind of reference they’ll give. Follow these simple rules and you will be able to handle this without any problem.
The first thing to do is determine what kind of reference they will actually give. Ask a friend or relative to make believe they are a potential employer and call to get a reference on you. If you are especially concerned about the kind of reference you are getting, record the call if you can. Alternatively, you can find a lot of firms on the Internet that perform this service at a reasonable cost.
Ask the following questions.
- What date did she work for you?
- What was her title?
- What was her compensation?
- What would you say she does best?
- What would you say she does worst?
- Why did she leave?
- Would you hire her again?
Many companies, for fear of being sued, will not confirm anything other than your title and dates of employment. On the other hand, if your old employer says terrible things about you, you need to shut them down.
Compose a letter to company’s president and HR executives stating that you have been told that the company has given a bad reference on you. State that you feel this is unjustified. Then state strongly that you are actively interviewing and if anything the company says about you in the future should cause you to lose a job offer, then you will seek legal counsel and compensation.
Companies hate being sued so this should stop them immediately. Alternatively and especially if you have a low-cost legal service, have your attorney write the letter. Either way, the company will quickly learn to follow the rules and just confirm your employment.
Finally, depending on the reason you left the last firm, position your departure appropriately with your potential new boss. You do not want to go into detail about why you are getting a bad reference since that inevitably leads you to say something negative. There are always 2 sides to any story and even though you may feel justified in your position, your potential employer may have second thoughts. Just set the stage for any reference checker to receive basic information about you. For example, state “I have to say I didn’t leave on the best terms as we are still disputing sales commissions (bonuses) due me”.
In any career, there are always some bumps in the road. These techniques will make sure they don’t hurt your future endeavors
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