How to Deal With a Bad Job Reference

One of your most relevant work experiences you had ended badly. You know they will probably give you a bad reference, so you don’t want to risk listing them on your C.V. What to do? One of the following tactics might get you out of hot water:

1. Confirm that they really would give you a bad reference.

Have a friend call and pretend to be a company that is asking for your references. Find out what they say. It’s possible that they may leave out any negative information, in which case, you’re in the clear.

2. Contact them and ask if they will give you a positive recommendation.

People are often more reasonable than we give them credit for. Contact your former supervisor and ask them if they will help you out by giving you a good recommendation. Cite your history of being a good employee, despite the bad situation at the end of your employment. They might surprise you with their willingness to show compassion.

3. Ask someone else for a reference.

Instead of listing your manager, maybe you could list a direct supervisor or colleague to give you a good reference. You could even get a past client to vouch for you, if you served their account well, and they agree to be listed as a reference. That way, you don’t have to worry about a potential employer speaking to someone who you know will give you a bad recommendation.

4. Own it.

If all else fails, let the bad recommendation stand. It’s better to have relevant experience and a bad recommendation than to have a big employment gap on your C.V. If the potential employer gives you a chance, own the fact that you messed up, tell them you learned a hard but valuable lesson, and that you wouldn’t do it again. They may appreciate your honesty to the point that they hire you anyway.

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