Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Q: I am going for a new job and am afraid they are going to call my last employer. I was fired and I am certain they will give me a bad reference. How do I handle this?
A: Making the transition to a new job when a potential bad reference is involved can be stressful. That said, here is what is working in your favor; when you are at the reference stage you will have already had at least one interview, during which you will have had the opportunity to build a strong rapport with the recruiter and “sold” yourself as the best candidate for the job. Further, many employers are leery of saying negative things about past employees for fear of legal action being taken against them should it be found that their comments prevented that person from getting a job, so chances are your previous employer will say less than more.
Your best bet is to bring the “fired” conversation to the table prior to the new potential employer phoning your past employer, that way they are getting both sides of the story. Prior to the interview, prepare yourself for the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” This is an opportunity to show your strength of character by being honest and taking responsibility for your part in what happened and having a candid conversation. You don’t want to down-play or over-explain the situation. For example, “Here is what happened. This is what I learned from the situation. This is how I would do things differently.” Now that is a powerful and defining conversation certain to leave a positive impression on anyone.