Tag Archives: reference check

How To Deal With Bad References That Cannot Be Avoided

Evil man with a banana

The best way to protect yourself from a bad reference

What can you do if you know a reference check is going to kill you?  Here is what happened to a candidate I placed.

He told me, “I only have 3 references from my previous job. That’s all the guys who worked there.  My 2 coworkers will tell you how well I worked.  The owner will only bad mouth me.  He’s mad that I am leaving after 3 years.”

I called, and the owner was a terrible reference.  Since I checked all the references I was able to prepare the hiring company for what I heard.  They wanted to call to verify what I said. I cautioned them to find out what really ticked off the old boss.  It was things like, “He only gave me 6 weeks notice before he left. I may not have given him a raise in 3 years, but he’s essential to the project.  He knows that, and he is leaving.  He’s a quitter. I hate him and would never recommend him to anybody.”

I had them really dig into performance. I gave them specific questions to ask. The boss couldn’t deny the candidate’s accomplishments.  His answers were, “Yes, he did that well, but you don’t understand.  I hate the guy because….”

That candidate was hired. He got a 50% raise at his new job.  No kidding.

The easiest way to deal with a bad reference is not to give out that name.  In some cases the company insists on a specific reference, and you know it will be bad. Tell them in advance what the complaints will be.  Tell them precisely what to ask and how to word it. What does the bad reference have to confirm you did well?

It’s an uphill climb, but you can often overcome a bad reference you can’t avoid. You just have to prepare the ground in advance.

Something To Do Today

Go back over that list of potential references.  Expand it again.  You will never be hurt by having too many good solid references to choose from.

Next I’ll talk about the references that you don’t know are killing your job opportunities.


Coming up:     References – phantom friends

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions

Liars, how we catch them

On a call with a candidate I am told,  “I was fired from my last job for lying on my resume.  I put down that I had completed my degree when I was 6 credit hours short.  They caught it 6 months after they hired me.  Now what do I do?”

fraud alert road sign

We catch amazingly smooth liars.

We catch liars on a regular basis.  The most common lie is stretching a job’s hire or fire date so that there is less time between jobs.  Some people make up a job and add it to the resume.  Others remove a significant job that ended disastrously.  Education is always a tempting place to lie.  Certifications make a big difference in getting your resume past screeners, so some people lie.

So, how do we catch liars?  Often they forget they lied to us in the past and they change their lies.  We have resumes and interview notes from two decades ago in our files.  When we compare them we find discrepancies.  We also check references.  When a person talking about you comes up with a different story, we do more research.  Education and certifications are all very easy to check.

A lie is any communication given with intent to deceive. (unkn)

One other way liars are caught is by alternate references.  We network into your old companies without telling you who we are calling.  For instance, we had a candidate who said he interned with a firm that disappeared in the Enron scandals.  That job rounded out his resume nicely.  The only trouble is that the man who had been managing interns still works in this area.  He knew the candidate never worked there.  The job would have been his even without the intern experience.  That lie lost him the job.

We don’t check alternate references to catch liars.  We do it to get fresh information and to keep our networks alive. Right before writing this we checked an alternate reference from a job the person had 12 years ago. It was a great recommendation of that person.  That is what we look for.

Do liars prosper?  Sure, at times. For a while.  But something happens to them. Liars we catch usually tell us, “Everyone lies.  I just got caught.”  Over time they lose the ability to really trust others.  They lose the ability to feel when others are honest or deceptive.  In business that will eventually be fatal. Business really is built on trust. Contracts are merely to put in writing what each side already trusts the other to do.

Something To Do Today

Do you need to correct your resume?  Then do it.  Send the new one to recruiters along with a note that the last one was incorrect.  Most people are willing to let you correct a mistake, even if it was a lie.

If you have been hired based on a lie you may want to correct it now, before you get a promotion that has an automatic background check.  You can submit a corrected resume or ask your boss for help to get that certification you really don’t have. Sure, you might get fired.  What is peace of mind worth to you?


Coming up:      Poisons

How to work a convention

What to leave out