Bad References

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This is a rather tough subject. Most job seekers have a list of references that they have cultivated and kept in touch with over the years. Potential employees then give this list to a potential employer knowing exactly what each person will say.

But what should you do when your potential employer wants to contact someone off the list? Especially someone you parted ways with on bad terms? Maybe you got fired, maybe you quit, at this point it doesn’t matter.

Good reference checkers will undoubtedly check all past supervisors. Most won’t even ask your permission. However, if you are lucky and the reference checker does give you a heads up, do your best damage control.

Let the reference checker know that the person from the firm (hopefully you listed one!) that you did list on your reference sheet is the person you most closely worked with and that she can best speak to your work performance. The reference checker will likely take the hint, but he might press on and insist that he needs to talk with your past supervisor. Now you don’t have a choice. Be courteous and give him your past supervisor’s phone number.

If you are comfortable you might want to give the past supervisor a call and give them a heads up that a reference checker from a potential employer will be contacting him. Tell him that you would appreciate his assistance. He may be amiable to your request if enough time has passed.

Hopefully, no matter what, you will know what the past supervisor might say about you. This is your opportunity to contact a positive reference and have them counteract that information.

For example, if your past supervisor says you had chronic tardiness, make sure one of your other references speaks to your dedication to the job and willingness to do what it takes to meet deadlines, even if that meant coming in early or staying late. If your past supervisor might say you were defensive and didn’t respond well to criticism, have another reference say you were always open and receptive to directions.

A bad reference does not necessarily equal the potential employer not offering you the job. As a job seeker, you just have to be smart about how you proceed. Good luck!

How have you handled a negative job reference? What advice do you have?

Brand Allegiance and Brand Bashing

If you list a brand name in any of your social media accounts, but then incessantly complain about the brand (even if it’s vague) or attack the brand, you look disloyal. Particularly if you don’t offer solutions.

If you are a student, especially one in PR or Strategic Communications and associate with a brand (club, organization, sports team, volunteer position, etc.) in your profile, bashing that brand could be a fatal career error for you.

Potential employers are going to search you and search deeper than Google. They’ll check to see if you understand privacy settings on Facebook and have Twitter open. Then a potential employer will comb through your tweets and wall posts and see if you complain about any brand you associate with and if you do how specific or damaging the complaints are. They may check cached pages to see if you’ve removed tweets or posts.

Ask yourself, if I associate with this brand in my profile, shouldn’t I try to represent it well, as I would a client? Won’t a potential employer view my bashes as detrimental?

Margot MacKay, @msbruschetta on Twitter, summed it up, “With students and PR jobs, it’s an entirely different situation. Less forgiving for iffy Twitter behavior, for sure!”
If you are going to complain about your associated brand, be constructive. @dpabowen defines constructive as “feedback that helps the company and/or its customers; destructive = everything else. A positive tone is important too.”
Jerry Gamblin, @JGamblin continues, “If you don’t have a solution to the problem its destructive. If you have a solution its constructive. Its the difference between saying ‘You suck’ and ‘You Suck, here is how you stop sucking so bad’.”
Or just don’t associate with the brand in the first place.