Job interview help
July 22, 2010 8:59 PM   Subscribe

How can I survive a job interview with limited references?

I've been working freelance for the past year - making ends meet, but barely. I have a tech screening tomorrow which I feel confident about, but past that I'm a bit worried. I left my last job after I wasn't paid for several months and ended up suing my employer (and won a judgement but not holding my breath on ever seeing that.) My boss at the job before that suffered what appears to have been a psychotic break and hasn't been heard from in a few years. My credit hasn't ever been great, but it's gotten even worse due to my continued belief that my most recent employer would live up to his promises to pay. I do have some client references, but as I'm a developer I'm not sure they'll be satisfactory since none of them are technical people.

In short: How do I survive the interview\vetting process with little to no references and shitty credit?

[this is a sockpuppet.]
posted by barely legal to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are a few things that I've done when I don't want someone to talk to my immediate boss:

-Was there respected coworkers at that job? Someone who can actually review that skill and can state yes you were most days/blah blah blah. I was always honest in the list of references (put the job title), but often did not list my supervisor. Not a problem

-For the first job, can you call HR and ask if they have a recommendation? They may take the call as it is and just state that you worked there from dates X to Y. I've worked at companies where this was the policy.

Also, I've always been in close contact with my references. Probably less than half the time does someone actually call.

Why can't you use a freelance client? Do you have clients that requested you to do work for them over and ove rand over again? IF so, they liked your work. You can be honest and list the job title of that person and list what you did for them. The key to asking that person for a reference would be, "what is the quality of sock puppet's work? Did sock puppet deliver the project ontime? What were sock puppet's communiation skills like for the project?"

Almost no one ever did a chec on my credit and in those cases they asked in advance - I think if you are honest, this should not be a problem Don't worry about it unless they ask.

I'm also going to suggest that you tell all your clients that you are looking for a full-time job -- they may have something available.

Good luck
posted by Wolfster at 9:42 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have anyone who will vouch for you? Co-workers? Friends? Anyone?

I interview lots of people, and am involved in the reference checking from time to time. In my experience, if you have anyone who will serve as a reference, that's all you need. It doesn't have to be the owner / CEO / HR director of the company you worked for.

The bad credit score could totally going to screw you though. You should really fix that.
posted by ged at 9:43 PM on July 22, 2010

As someone who has to do hiring at my current job I would say that:

~ client references do count.
~ be honest (without divulging every last detail) about the reasons why your last two employers are not qualified to give you a reference.
~ consider colleagues who can speak to your technical qualifications.
~ ask what they hiring manager is looking for in a reference. By the time we get to references we're not really asking about qualifications, but probing work behaviors (how well does the person take feedback, how do they deal with conflict, how do they deal with challenges, etc...)
posted by brookeb at 9:43 PM on July 22, 2010

Do you have any peers, friends or colleagues in the same or a similar field that would be willing to vouch for you? Who perhaps might be willing to bend the truth just a little? Not that they'd be lying for you- they'd be giving an honest account of their perception of your skills, work ethic, all the things a usual reference might say about you- just that the context in which they've observed these things might not exactly be the workplace, exactly. Perhaps people you worked with in your previous job who might not necessarily have directly supervised you, but nevertheless are aware first hand of your skills, abilities, aptitudes etc?

Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to use clients as secondary (or tertiary..) references- they've seen the end results of your work after all, and know you well enough in a professional context to have trusted you to work independently on their projects.

As for the credit part... I can't say much about that. Do they really run a credit check on potential employees in the USA (where I am perhaps misguidedly assuming you hail from)? Why on earth do they do that? I have never, ever heard of this happening in Australia, the wide brown land in which I dwell.
posted by Philby at 9:44 PM on July 22, 2010

Response by poster: I do have clients who will vouch for me - in this case my concern is that they will say "he did a great job" rather than "he's a gread coder." Perhaps that's enough.

Philby - yes, employers do run credit checks on potential employees. I don't know if this place will, but it does happen here.

ged - unfortunately, I don't think I can fix my credit score this week but thanks for the advice.
posted by barely legal at 9:52 PM on July 22, 2010

I don't have good news on the credit front. There absolutely are employers in the US who will check your credit. I was made a job offer last year and the offer was rescinded after a credit check. I was initially told that the background check would be only for criminal history (of which I have none) and at the last minute they ran my credit (I made some stupid mistakes several years ago that I was working on fixing before I was laid off 18 months ago). This was after they had contacted my references (who all gave me glowing recommendations). In 3 of the 6 interviews I've had in the last year, I was told that credit would be checked.

The bad credit score could totally going to screw you though. You should really fix that.

It's tough to do without a job, Captain Obvious.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:07 PM on July 22, 2010

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