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How do you get off a blacklist? And how do you know if you're on it?
September 6, 2012 7:00 PM   Subscribe

How do you determine if you are on an employment blacklist? I have an MBA degree, and I have more experience and credentials than most of my MBA class, but I have not been able to get hired, and the only jobs I've been close to getting are at much less compensation than the average for my class. I interviewed for a position, made it past a phone screen, and went through a second in-person interview. I was told that they would get back to me in one week, but less than 1 day later I get a voicemail saying the company has chosen to go with another candidate. It's not the rejection, but the swiftness of the rejection after initial enthusiasm that makes me suspicious. If you are on a blacklist, how can you find out? And what can you do about it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (41 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never heard of a blacklist in any company, and I've seen people come back from some very bad behavior.

Most likely scenario here is that one of your former employers or your references are saying something bad about you.
posted by Intrepid at 7:05 PM on September 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Is it possible one of your references is giving a bad reference and turning potential employers off?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:06 PM on September 6, 2012


Given the legal ramifications if this kind of blacklist were found to exist, I highly doubt this is the issue. Either hire a professional coach or have a friend help you conduct mock interviews. Have a third party working in a job/industry you are targeting watch with you and offer feedback. Best of luck!
posted by mozhet at 7:07 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never been aware of a "blacklist". I agree with the above, you might want to have an honest conversation with past employers as to how they are responding to requests for references.
posted by HuronBob at 7:07 PM on September 6, 2012


Or just pose as a potential employer and solicit references from your past employers so you see exactly what they're saying. Easy, ethical, and fun.
posted by LonnieK at 7:18 PM on September 6, 2012 [21 favorites]


I mean this with all due respect, but if you think something like a universal employment blacklist exists, you might throw up some other flags during the application/interview process. I suggest you take a fresh look at everything, including resume, attire, interview conduct, references, etc.
posted by milarepa at 7:19 PM on September 6, 2012 [44 favorites]


@LonnieK, semi-ethical, but easy and fun.
@OP Have someone else call them.
posted by pyro979 at 7:19 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also totally possible that you were interviewed as they were making an offer to another candidate and you were their backup hire. I think Occam's Razor leads away from a blacklist and towards a poor timing issue or a bad reference.

(NB, people: when you list someone as a reference, you better have asked them first a) if it's ok and b) if they feel comfortable giving you a positive reference. If they hesitate in the slightest on b), find someone else. The last thing you want is "Oh... him. I did work with him. Yeah, he... worked. With me." and the second-to-last thing is "Oh, him, yeah, fun guy to have a beer with but I really don't know anything about his work habits, he was in a different department.")
posted by restless_nomad at 7:23 PM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Have you tried googling your name to see what comes up? Made sure your facebook and linkedin profiles are clean and professional?

In my experience, employers don't check references until fairly late in the interview process.

While I've never heard of a list of specific people who are unhireable, I have seen circumstances where past employment at certain firms will get you blacklisted. This has always been in the case where the firm in question was involved in illegal activities. (Think Raj Rajaratnam's Galleon as an example.) But most likely, if this were the case, you wouldn't even get called in for the interview in the first place.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 7:23 PM on September 6, 2012


A few years ago, I made it to on-site interviews for something like 15 different firms and only received one job offer. In retrospect, I realized that I had answers prepared for all the standard questions that were asked during those interviews, and those answers were not good. As a result I pretty much consistently screwed myself during every interview. Take a hard look at what you're saying and how you're presenting yourself -- maybe do a mock interview with a friend or someone at your school's career center.
posted by telegraph at 7:25 PM on September 6, 2012


Check your credit files and make sure there's no erroneous information in there. The swiftness of the rejection may mean that they are running up against something almost instantly when they start researching.

The only question they can legally ask former employers is whether or not you are eligible for rehire there.
The only answer they can give is yes or no, without explanation.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:26 PM on September 6, 2012


I've been a management-side employment lawyer for quite a few years and I've never heard of such a thing, ever.

But when I was in law school, I had what I thought was an extremely promising interview with a great firm for whom I fit the advertised qualifications perfectly. The interview was first thing in the morning. I received the rejection letter in the U.S. Mail later that same day. So, yeah, sometimes the crap flows swiftly.
posted by The World Famous at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2012


(by "such a thing" I mean a universal employment "black list")
posted by The World Famous at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2012


The only question they can legally ask former employers is whether or not you are eligible for rehire there.
The only answer they can give is yes or no, without explanation.


Don't know where you are, but that's simply not so in any state where I have worked. Such limitations are policy for many companies, but there is no legal restriction on any commentary short of libel.
posted by peakcomm at 7:35 PM on September 6, 2012 [16 favorites]


"The only question they can legally ask former employers is whether or not you are eligible for rehire there. "

That is not even a little bit true.

OP, this might well be bad luck and bad timing. If not, the most likely explanations are a bad reference or that you give bad interviews.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:36 PM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Or just pose as a potential employer and solicit references from your past employers so you see exactly what they're saying. Easy, ethical, and fun.

Have a friend do this. I would do this for a friend. I have had friends offer to do this for me. If I were you, this would be my first next step.

If that proved fruitless (i.e. doesn't turn up anything bad), I would go to the career center at your school and ask for someone to review your resume and give you a practice interview, just to make sure that you're not doing something weird and offputting without realizing it.

But it sounds to me like a shit reference.
posted by phunniemee at 7:43 PM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


nth-ing that it's policy at most places, but not law, that past jobs only answer if you were employed and if you were eligible for rehire. don't trust that this is iron clad. absolutely get a friend to call (someone who doesn't know any of your references). also, you might want to check your credit and criminal history - make sure that a driving offense isn't listed as a felony or something.

you could also look into the headhunter route - it's been my experience that companies are more honest with headhunters than prospective employees about reasons that employment wasn't offered.

there is no blacklist. be careful about desperation fueled paranoia, that might be coming out in unexpected ways.
posted by nadawi at 7:55 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only question they can legally ask former employers is whether or not you are eligible for rehire there.
The only answer they can give is yes or no, without explanation.


I just got told today by people at a company I have been talking to that "we talked to your references, and we asked them these sorts of questions, and these are the sort of answers they gave." (They were good answers!) So, um, no.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:55 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only question they can legally ask former employers is whether or not you are eligible for rehire there.
The only answer they can give is yes or no, without explanation.

Nope, not universally true and definitely not true for the references I check. Although some employers will simply answer "no comment" or only give start and end dates, titles, and the like, I usually get fairly honest answers that aren't slanderous but are sometimes negative,

Yes, there are people who are difficult to place and aren't ideal candidates, but there is usually someone willing to take a chance on a qualified, if difficult or contentious, hire. I suspect your issue is not with a blacklist but with either your competition, your interviewing, your reputation, or any number of things that have nothing to do with your potentially being blacklisted.
posted by sm1tten at 7:56 PM on September 6, 2012


It sound like there could be a couple of things. Have you ben able to see some of your classmates' resumesto see if they are presenting themselves in a stronger way? Do they include compelling cover letters explaining their value to the organization? Are they using their networks more effectively? Are they applying to a higher volume of positions? I ask just to double check some other reasons you aren't getting to the interview stage, even if you technically are more qualified.

As for the interview, can you review the questions asked and your answers with someone you trust? I ask because human beings are notoriously conflict adverse. It is why you don't hear from someone when you thought you had a great date, and it's why you don't hear from interviewers, even those who look you in the face and tell you they will call. It's so much easier to end the relationship with the silent treatment or some impersonal email. But it still worth double checking that you're not raising any red flags, even if the interviewer didn't act like you did.

Finalt, have a friend call your references. People really aren't on the same page about what qualifies as a strong reference, and could be tanking you with faint praise or their version of being candid.

There isn't really a blacklist. What there might be is a well known company on your resume who you didn't list as a reference who they are calling anyway who is sinking your prospects. There is also a chance they are doing a background check, and something is coming up. Finally, there is the possibility that youve got some social media hits out there that are not to your advantage...phas you are tagged in a cup,e of unflattering photos?

But before you imagine that, check your materials, your job search strategy and expectations, your interview skills and your references to make see they all pass muster. Usually when people ask me the question you're asking, it is one of those four things.
posted by anitanita at 8:01 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound like you're doing so badly, really.

less than 1 day later I get a voicemail saying the company has chosen to go with another candidate
At least they contacted you. Most places won't even bother these days. And you got to the second interview, so you must be doing something right.

If you were "blacklisted," they wouldn't even have you come for one interview. And as noted above, reference and background checks tend to not happen until someone is about to be hired. It is possible they are finding something negative on google, but again that would usually come up before you even went for an interview.

It never hurts to review your interview technique, but in general just keep trying and don't stress too much.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:51 PM on September 6, 2012


there is no such thing as a blacklist, but there is such a thing as a reputation. Do you know a lot of people? Do those people think you're difficult/lazy/dumb/annoying? That could do it.
posted by Kololo at 8:58 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


On a different tack, do you have a criminal history? Even if you did something, and it was supposed to be purged, you should make sure there's nothing there. Clerking errors happen.
posted by annsunny at 9:11 PM on September 6, 2012


It's not the rejection, but the swiftness of the rejection after initial enthusiasm that makes me suspicious.

They interviewed you, they decided not to hire you based on that interview, and they told you so in a slightly oblique, and unfortunately prompt, way. "We've chosen to go with another candidate" doesn't necessarily mean they know who that candidate is. They just know it's not going to be you.

When I interview somebody who's obviously a bad fit, I'll usually wait several days before notifying them, precisely so as to not send the kind of "Oh HELL no" message that they sent you.

I don't think there's anything more sinister going on.
posted by bac at 9:30 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is no such thing as a universal blacklist for people in your field. Too hard to maintain/update, too much damage if it came out, and not by far the simplest explanation for your lack of success. You might want to think about why that was the conclusion you came to, rather than something more realistic.

Check your online and peer-group reputation, check your references/credit rating, change your resume, make sure your cover letter is appropriately targeted and interesting, and get a resume audit and some interview coaching at your school's career counseling center. Can you ask your classmates with job offers to see their resumes/talk about their interviews?

Try a different way of highlighting your skill-set and abilities, and I'm sure you will have better luck.
posted by gemmy at 9:33 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hire MBAs. There is no such blacklist.

Check:
your references,
your Google presence,
your social media profiles,
your credit, and
THE DATES on your resume. If you say that you worked at XYZ Corporation until June 2012, but you really left in May 2012, then that can make you fail the screening. Get that stuff correct.

Good luck - it's a tough market for fresh MBAs. You'll find something, but it's definitely harder than it's been in the past.
posted by 26.2 at 10:01 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would ask your bluntest friend to review your resume and cover letters, ask you some mock interview questions, and critique your interview clothes/grooming.
posted by radioamy at 10:05 PM on September 6, 2012


It's not the rejection, but the swiftness of the rejection after initial enthusiasm that makes me suspicious.

IANAM (I am not am MBA) but have experienced something like this:

Monday: submitted application by post for job for which I was well-suited
Wednesday: received rejection letter by post

Looking at the timing, they must have literally looked at my CV and then immediately wrote and posted the rejection. But by sheer coincidence, some months later I happened to talk to someone from the workplace in question.

The job never existed. Not really. They had someone doing it, were happy with them, but policy dictated that they advertise it. Applications were examined in case there was someone astonishing in there, but broadly I never had a chance.

Applicants get rejected for all sorts of good and bad reasons. You can't control the bad. Look at your application and make sure there's no good reason in there.
posted by outlier at 11:59 PM on September 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


How fast you get a decision depends on how quickly the interviewing panel can get together & whether you are one of the last to be interviewed. They often sound upbeat, you can't always read too much into that.

Can you trust your classmates when they report their salaries? My experience of MBAs suggests a high level of bullshit and general face saving behaviour.

When I finished my PhD I interviewed for a stack of jobs, basically I sucked at interviewing. Consider your own technique.
posted by biffa at 12:14 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


There absolutely have been blacklists in the past: The construction industry in the UK maintained a blacklist for decades which blighted many people's lives, including those at the professional / managerial level.

That said, the odds are that you're not on a blacklist.
posted by pharm at 3:27 AM on September 7, 2012


I had a friend who found out after two years of job searching that his background check indicated he had a criminal record. This was an error and he had to work to get it corrected. He found this out by accident as no employer ever told him that's why he wasn't being hired.
posted by shoesietart at 3:55 AM on September 7, 2012


We have decided before a candidate has finished the interview process that we weren't going to offer him a job.

In my organization (we don't usually hire MBAs), someone can get a couple interviews and then be declined for several reasons:
(1) They didn't show up to the last interview in a presentable manner
(2) Their resume led someone to suspect that they had skill X, but in-depth questioning shows that they don't, so they're not right for the position.
(3) They express some ambivalence about the job or their future plans don't mesh with more than short-term employment.
posted by muddgirl at 6:15 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I too have an MBA. Unless it's from Harvard or Wharton, no one is going to beat down your doors to hire you. Hope you didn't pay out of pocket for the damn thing, it's nearly useless.

Now, I will say that the education I received helped me understand business from a variety of angles, but as for the paper itself, doesn't mean anything.

In the mid-nineties, when I got mine, businesses were excited about the new tax break for Tutition Assistance and they encouraged anyone who was eligible to go out there and get edgemicated. You can skip a stone in any company, in any department and I guarantee you, you'll hit someone with an MBA.

The MBA won't open a door, but it will help you pass through one more swiftly. They get to check a box on the application. That's it.

It could be that those in your class have some highly specialized skills that in addition to the MBA make them marketable. They're also probably lying about what they earn. If we learn anything in B-School, it's how to bullshit.

So for sure:

1. Check your references
2. Check your credit report
3. Get someone to mock interview you for feedback
4. Accept the fact that in this job market getting the job you were dreaming of while you were suffering through Theory of Managment is darn nigh impossible.

I have 25 years of experience in telecommunications, selling data networking solutions to Fortune 25 companies. I'm an analyst making well under $80k. That's the reality of the market.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:23 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


You might also want to have a conversation with a good friend. Or ask a former professor or someone to do a mock interview. It could be that you are coming off in an unflattering way in your interviews.

But yeah, to pile on, there is no such thing as a blacklist. It is one of the following:
- A string of bad luck, maybe you were the last person they interviewed so they could make a decision immediately, maybe they already had someone else in mind.
- Bad references
- Something in the interview that is turning people off

If it was something in your credit or background check you would know about it because they would send you an Adverse Action Notice that tells you and allows you to correct any incorrect information. These are also usually done post offer and it doesn't sound like you are getting that far.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:20 AM on September 7, 2012


They're also probably lying about what they earn.

Oh yeah and totally this. At my last company there was a problem with the business analysts and immense amounts of jealousy about pay. These were all MBAs and we kept getting complaints and demands to know why so-and-so made more. The thing is, their pay, benefits, perks, stock, etc. was all EXACTLY THE SAME. We had a no negotiation policy on our entry-level MBA hires. They were all lying and bragging about things to each other and getting all worked up about it.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:24 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've recruited for a multinational and wished to high heaven we'd had an internal blacklist, but HR wouldn't consider it; we weren't even allowed to write references to avoid exposing the organisation to legal liability. So, toxic employees would leave one workplace and return a few years later elsewhere to laze around, create office drama and destroy workplace relationships. Sometimes they would stop being rehired due to word of mouth among certain groups of managers, but that's more 'reputation' than 'blacklist'.

On the other hand, I was always quite open to unsuccessful candidates about why they weren't hired, especially if I didn't have to put anything in writing. Try asking for feedback; if you are clear you're looking for advice, not trying to catch them out for making the wrong decision, you might get some useful suggestions.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:04 AM on September 7, 2012


A politic way to phrase an advice request might be to ask if the recruiter can offer "any suggestions." This allows them to tell you what drove their decision without getting into a specific past-tense explanation of your rejection, which could be contrary to company policy.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:27 AM on September 7, 2012


Which is to say, Busy Old Fool's approach is a good one.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:28 AM on September 7, 2012


Companies can rescind job offers if references aren't positive. In the UK, you have a right to ask for a 'basic reference' which merely confirms that you were employed at Company for X time, and no comment on performance or other issues.
posted by mippy at 9:08 AM on September 7, 2012


I was told that they would get back to me in one week, but less than 1 day later I get a voicemail saying the company has chosen to go with another candidate. It's not the rejection, but the swiftness of the rejection after initial enthusiasm that makes me suspicious.

It's also totally possible that you were interviewed as they were making an offer to another candidate and you were their backup hire. I think Occam's Razor leads away from a blacklist and towards a poor timing issue or a bad reference.

I was thinking something similar. A lot of the time, if there are several equally qualified candidates, they'll schedule interviews. The person that came in after you must have really wowed them.
posted by Doohickie at 10:44 AM on September 7, 2012


Just to correct something upthread. An adverse action notice is required for credit report issues. It's not required for background check problems such as criminal records, date discrepancies, or your alma mater doesn't recognize you as a graduate due to your name change.

I've had excellent candidates fall out during background check. As the hiring manager I do not find out why the didn't pass the check. I just hear that they are not eligible for hire. (Which is fine actually. The candidate has a right to privacy and it's none of my business.)
posted by 26.2 at 12:30 PM on September 7, 2012


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