References Aren’t Saying Favorable Things

Anonymous writes:
I have a question about job references. I have had bad reports from two previous employers and want to know how to combat that in job interviews. I have always heard it said that you should never badmouth a former employer and that you should always give two weeks notice. However I don’t plan on lying about why I left a certain job and hate fudging over the facts. I don’t want to blame a certain employer but I want the
interviewer to clearly realize why I left the company. And I don’t see how companies especially these days can expect the courtesy of two-weeks notice when they can lay people off at will. In my own case I was laid off with TWO days’ notice.
Your comments are appreciated.
The Career Doctor responds:
No matter how strongly you feel about it please do NOT rationalize justify or bad mouth any poor decisions made by your previous employers. Doing so will immediately label you as disgruntled in the eyes of your interviewer – and you might as well stop the interview because for all practical purposes it ended with your comments.
You might dislike not be completely honest about your feelings about a previous supervisor or employer but in reality no one really cares how you feel. You’re in a job interview – it’s a chance to sell yourself to the employer not complain about previous experiences. Leave the baggage at home when you go to interviews.
It really sounds as though you have a chip on your shoulder so beyond not talking about previous bad experiences I would suggest you try and block them from your memory during job interviews. Attitude is a crucial element – and you need to project a positive one in interviews.
Are these things fair to us as job-seekers? Of course not but in job interviews the employer has the upper hand.
As for references do you know for sure your former employers are giving you bad
references? More to the point who are you listing as references on your reference
page? If you are concerned what former supervisors might say about you ask
colleagues and former coworkers a mentor and other people in your network to
be a reference.
Finally if you are truly concerned (or just plain curious) about what those former supervisors are saying about you hire one of the reference-checking services (such as and find out. You can find links to all the major services in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job References & Portfolio Services.


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