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bad reference

Who isn’t interested in a new job, a better job, or upgrading a career? That’s what many of us work for.

But there’s a component of the career betterment process that people sometimes overlook, and that’s the job reference. A bad reference can be a killer we’re not initially even aware of.

Former employers are supposed to offer limited information like employment dates and title about previous employees.

Human Resource reps are generally—but not always—consistent in following this policy.

However, it’s often a different story when former supervisors are the ones who are contacted.

While there’s nearly an unlimited list of reasons why a former supervisor might offer potentially damaging information about a job seeker, we’ll focus on seven possible reasons why approximately 50% of past bosses ignore corporate policy and offer negative commentary.


7 reasons bosses give a bad reference


These reasons are:

  1. The past boss may think the person is not qualified for the position for which they are being considered. They may even be envious that one of their team is being considered for such a position.
  2. The past boss may not have liked the person or their performance.
  3. The past boss may fall in the “bad boss” or “bully” category.
  4. The past boss may be unhappy that the person left the organization or are thinking about leaving the organization, and they are either retaliating and/or discouraging someone else from hiring this job seeker.
  5. The past boss may be having a bad day and offer more revealing commentary than what they normally do.
  6. The past boss may simply be offering the truth as they see it, not being mindful—or aware—that they shouldn’t be offering that level of commentary about a former employee.
  7. The past boss may have personal issues and/or biases regarding a person’s age, religion, or sex.

Given the substantial number of negative supervisory references that are given, what can a job seeker do?

First, never assume that a prior supervisor(s) is following company policy when they are contacted about a reference.

Another useful step is determining whether or not a former supervisor is indeed a reference problem. You can determine that by using a reference checking company (they exist!) to conduct a reference check on your behalf. If a former supervisor’s commentary is in any way unfavorable, the job seeker will have some form of recourse in discouraging them from offering such commentary again.

Bottom line, it is critical that the job seeker vet their references prior to seeking new employment.

Sadly, too many candidates only become aware of a negative reference once a number of promising job opportunities have passed them by.



About today’s contributor:  AllisonTaylor and its principals have been in the business of checking references for corporations and individuals since 1984.


Image source: Pixabay