Four ways to save a bad reference

I was told, “My former boss is giving out a horrible reference. Everyone calls him even if I don’t put him on my reference list because he is so well known. What can I do?”

There is no good way to resolve this, but you probably knew that.  

The way I did it with one particular person was, as a recruiter, to offer to do the reference checks myself. As the former boss slandered my candidate I nailed him down about actual job performance.  Did he get things done on time? Yes, but… Did he get them done right? Yes, but…  Did he come to work on time? Yes, but… Did he get along well with the other workers? Yes, but…  

Then I told the new employer everything. I said, “It appears this boss is incredibly vindictive, because when you pin him down about specific job performance, he gives a good reference. Yet he continually says he hates the candidate. Plus the candidate’s other two references are excellent.”

The new employer also called the boss, but since I had set a pattern, the new employer knew what he had to ask. My candidate got hired.

Four things you can do when your previous boss has a vendetta against you:  

  1. Go through a recruiter who will back you up.
  2. Tell people at the point where they will check references that so-and-so has a vendetta against you. Give the reference checker specific questions to ask that prove you did well. If you can, also prove you did well using written work evaluations. You can even give the reference checker a few people to call about the boss and his vendetta against you. 
  3. You may have to get a lawyer to call your former employer and tell him to shut up. It will merely be intimidation on the lawyer’s part, but it is worth a try.
  4. Give a lot of references, excluding him, and hope they don’t call him anyway.  

There are not a lot of options. None of them are perfect, but they are always applicable. Whether or not they work, they are worth a shot. 

Something to do today

Save all your evaluations from work. Check your email for any older ones that you may have. Make copies and save them. You never know when you will get a brand-new boss who wants to get rid of you. It is always valuable to be prepared.

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