Reference after you've been fired?
January 1, 2014 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Followup to this question; I was indeed asked to resign about a week after I posted here - thanks to those who gave advice. I was told during the severance meeting that my former employer would offer a reference (presumably "she worked here from date to date"), and I've also got two colleagues who can serve as references to provide greater detail. I'm applying for a job at a large institution that requires I fill out an electronic form in addition to submitting a resume and cover letter - if they ask for contact information for my last supervisor (the person who fired me), and that's the only reference they request for that job, what should I say?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Chances are that the request will have to be a written request/faxed to the HR department. They will fill in only your hire and separation dates, and confirm that you were employed there.

Nothing else will be added. Comments invite lawsuits.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:12 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

If they ask for your supervisor for that job, and that's the person who fired you, you really have no choice but to provide that information. Not doing so could be a huge red flag that might disqualify you from consideration.

Since that job is your most recent experience, a paragraph in your cover letter would be a good place to explain your work and experience there, to make a brief and gracious statement of why it didn't work out, and to offer alternate references who were familiar with your work there. You probably wouldn't include their detailed contact information at this point, unless the online application process offers a good opportunity to provide it; but you can at least state in the cover letter that you can provide positive references from that job.

I hope this goes well for you!
posted by Snerd at 3:44 PM on January 1

halfbuckaroo has it here. You shouldn't be assuming your previous employer will comment negatively about you. They might comment neutrally (which is neither good nor bad - some employers have a policy of not offering comments about prior employees) or actually comment positively (to be nice or just to avoid potential legal problems). Although I can imagine this sounds strange from your perspective, many managers don't actually want to ruin the future lives of former employees. They might not ever want to work with you again, but that doesn't mean they want you never to work again at all.

There's no reason you should make an excuse for leaving your previous job in a cover letter. That will invite questions and suspicion. Further, if you offer other references and suggest not contacting your manager, the prospective employer will be suspicious and, despite your wishes, contact your manager. Either way, you aren't helping yourself out. You should be taking the perspective that you left your previous employer voluntarily and have no hard feelings about your previous employer. Regardless of whether or not that's the truth, that's what a prospective employer wants to hear.

"The position wasn't a good fit for me" is something you should learn to say with a straight face. There's nothing wrong with stating that - it's actually even true from your previous question. There are many many other people that have had exactly the same experience as you. You don't hear about it because people don't admit it.
posted by saeculorum at 4:20 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

it is very rare for actual managers/supervisors to do employment verification. this almost always goes through hr and might even go to an outside company who only have the information to verify employment dates and position title. when i used to do hiring i would never take the number provided on the application. instead i'd look up the company myself and call them. if the information provided by the applicant was false, i'd immediately discard the application.
posted by nadawi at 4:30 PM on January 1

If you want to know what your reference is going to say, you can hire a reference checking service to find out. Here is one I've used:
posted by Jacqueline at 6:55 PM on January 1

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