Former Boss Won’t Answer Questions about Performance

Anonymous writes:
I am desperate for some assistance!! My former supervisor was
recently contacted by one of two persons who interviewed me.
After follow-up with the interviewer I was told that my former boss
was rude and did not want to answer questions regarding my
employment. Needless to say I did not get this job!
What do I do? I have always given very positive responses to
interviewers when asked about my former supervisor and I’ve had
no reason not to do so until now. Of course I know not to express
anything negative about my former job.
You should know that I worked under her supervision for 5+ years
and received outstanding evaluations!

The Career Doctor responds:
Many job-seekers are under the mistaken view that former bosses and
supervisors are the only ones who can provide references when applying
for new positions. You simply need someone who can speak of your skills and accomplishments.
My guess is that your former boss feels betrayed that you left — and
perhaps in frustration — is acting unprofessionally.
I would look for someone else to list as a reference from your previous
employer as well as continue to talk about the positive relationship and
evaluations you received from her. But you should be prepared for at
least one interviewer to ask why she is not listed as a reference. And I
would simply state that she is too busy to — or prefers not to — act as
a reference.
But I would also contact the former boss and invite her to lunch or tea
and try to rebuild the relationship. You did outstanding work for her –
and she should be the one telling prospective employers about how
great you are. And if she refuses at least you know you were the better
person in trying.