Job Hunting Amid Fear of a Bad Reference

Job Hunting Amid Fear of a Bad Reference

Are you looking for a job, but haunted by what your former supervisor may say when contacted for a reference check? Were your previous evaluations bad or were you terminated? The good news is you can move forward despite an imperfect work record. 

First, stop worrying about what may be said and find out, by contacting your previous employer. See if an agreement can be reached so the negative incident or work history is not shared. Explain that you have grown from the experience and will apply the lessons learned to new opportunities. 

If reaching out to your past employer is not an option, there are others strategies to pursue when a bad mark exists on your work record:

  1. Check references. There are companies that will obtain a reference from your supervisor so you know exactly what the response is. A “neutral reference” simply confirms your employment dates and title. If the reference is negative, you can avoid using that person as a reference or have an attorney send a cease and desist letter to senior management. 
  2. Network. One of the best ways to find a job is by word-of-mouth. Attend industry events and consider joining organizations. 
  3. Create a LinkedIn account. Keep your profile updated in case prospective employers check it. Engage in other forms of social media, too. 
  4. Volunteer. Hone old skills or develop new ones in a health care setting. You can add your experience to your resume. Also, your work may lead to a paying position.
  5. Be honest. Questions about why you left your last job or a lapse in your work history will come up during the interview. Be prepared. Never lie and keep the conversation concise, productive and positive.

Don’t let your past employment problems jeopardize future job prospects. Take action to transition into your next job wiser and more focused.  Do you have other tips? Please share.

Robin Farmer is a freelance journalist with a focus on health, education and business. Visit her at