How to Deal With Bad Job References

not getting a job offer

Maybe you’ve had this happen to you: you go on an interview for a job, and feel like the interview went great! Your interviewer asks for some job references and says they’ll be in touch.

…And then you never hear anything. What happened? Unfortunately, you may have been a recipient of a bad job reference. So how can you deal with a bad job reference? And what can you do in the future to prevent them? Here are the best tips for dealing with bad job references.

Follow up with your interviewer

 After your interview, if you still haven’t heard anything from your interviewer after over a week, or if you’ve received the “we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates” email, you should always take the extra step to ask your interviewer why. If they’ve decided to pursue other options, it’s fair game to respectfully ask them for feedback so that you can improve and grow moving forward. Was it lack of experience? Culture fit? Something they heard? If you can zero-in on the factor that prevented you from getting the job, you’ll be able to correct it moving forward.

Prevent bad job references by listing them in order of favorability

The same as you would have your resume and cover letter, it’s also important to have a printed out listing of your job references. The key with this printed out sheet is to make sure that your references are listed in the preferred order that you’d like for them to be contacted in. More often than note, potential employers will only call one or two of your references, and they usually start at the top (or your most recent employer), so make sure you set yourself up for success in how your references are delivered to your interviewer.

Another important tip is to make sure you’re not including any references who could potentially give you a bad job reference. Especially early on in your career, it can be tough to find enough references to list, but don’t feel like you need to include someone who may not be your best advocate just for the sake of having more references on paper. With references, quality is better than quantity.

Check in with your references before listing them

Before listing someone on your reference list, it’s so important to ask if they wouldn’t mind serving as a reference for you in the future. This is a simple step that can potentially save you the headache of receiving a bad job reference and wondering where it came from.

If one of your colleagues or former bosses doesn’t feel comfortable serving as a reference for you, when you ask them about it, it’s likely that they will respectfully decline. This is a good thing. By confirming willing references before listing them on your reference sheet, you’ll decrease the likelihood of receiving bad job references at all.

Take charge of your reputation

The most important thing you can do to prevent bad job references is to not give previous employers any reason to give you a poor reference. Hold yourself to a high standard at your place of employment: do your best work, maintain a positive attitude, and develop a habit of relaying wins back to your boss. This will help set you up for success down the road when you come to them asking for a reference.