It is important to leave a former employer on good terms and not burn bridges that one may need to cross in the future. Most job seekers know the importance of good references. Even if they give a mediocre performance during a job interview, good references may turn them into a leading candidate for the job they want.
Unfortunately, not all job seekers leave their former employer on good terms. Something as simple as poor attendance can be considered cause to fire someone. Others may be bullied out of their job by a tyrannical boss. Whatever the reason, fired employees need to be prepared for their former boss to be contacted and what they are liable to say to the person checking references.
Involuntary termination can be very difficult to bounce back from. Here are some things job seekers should consider when trying to find employment after being fired:
- A job seeker should rewrite their resume to emphasize talent and value over work history. Questions are sure to come up about why the job seeker is unemployed, with honesty being the best approach to answering those questions. Then the job seeker can explain how the skills listed on their resume will benefit the prospective employer despite that negative point in their work history.
- The whole point of providing references is to back up what a job seeker claims about their experience for the position. Unfortunately, their former employer is not likely to do this. To counteract what the employer may state, the job seeker can ask former colleagues that are familiar with their work to serve as references. If they are willing to help, former coworkers can provide valuable input to a prospective employer.
- Job seekers can be proactive and ask their former employer what will be said about them during a reference check. The employer may be agreeable to writing a neutral reference letter. At the very least, the severed employee may be able to negotiate with the employer that only verification of employment be provided.
- Many unemployed workers turn to freelancing when job prospects become slim or they decide to take their career in a new direction. Many companies find it beneficial to hire freelancers for specific tasks such as managing web sites, creating brochures or writing press releases instead of creating a full-time position to handle these tasks. Job seekers can network through websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find freelance opportunities, socialize with like-minded workers and to promote their credentials. Again, former coworkers may be asked to provide references to vouch for the job seeker’s skills.
How job seekers can stop bad references
Despite popular belief, former employers have few limitations when it comes to what they can share in a reference check. Although many employers limit the amount of information they share, this is mainly business decision from a risk management perspective. In short, it keeps employers from facing possible litigation if only documented facts are shared, such as verifying employment, dates of service and possibly eligibility for rehire. Some employers may not release information in a reference check without a signed release from the former employee. But in most cases, there is nothing that prevents a former employer from stating anything during a reference check as long as it is based on documented, verifiable facts.
If a job seeker suspects that a former employer is giving bad references, there are options available. Professional reference checking services will call former employers on behalf of job seekers. People employed by reference checking services know the right questions to ask and how to listen for subtle cues from the employer. Without realizing it, employers may give away how they really feel about their former employee through such actions as tone of voice, unwillingness to answer certain questions, and negative emotional responses. Once the reference check is complete, the job seeker should have a better understanding of the reliability of their references.
A job seeker may wish to consult an attorney if negative or false information is received from a reference checking service. One option is a cease and desist letter. While not all negative feedback is unlawful, the letter should demand that the bad references be stopped because of the negative impact on the job seeker’s ability to find a job. If a former employer has given false, unlawful or misleading information during a reference check, the job seeker may be able to take legal action for actions such as discrimination or defamation.