A bad work reference for a temp application...
January 12, 2011 8:36 PM   Subscribe

What to do about references for temp applications

I freelanced at a company for over a year. I'd been filling out my invoices the same way the entire time I was there, but it turned out I was doing it incorrectly, and last week I got fired.

So now I'm looking for more freelance work, and part of that involves applying to temp agencies. I've set up an interview at one of them, and they asked me to bring previous work references to the interview, specifically for my most recent employer.

I put my freelance job on my resume because the temp agency staffs similar kinds of jobs--so the temp agency knows the most recent job is the freelance job. I also know for a fact that my old freelance employer would tell any reference-seeker what happened, not just confirm dates worked, etc.

The temp agency asks for 2-3 references total, and I could provide good ones to fulfill that. So, what to do?

Tell the temp agency in the interview what happened, that I made a mistake, and that I've learned from it? (Which is true).

Just put the name of my old freelance company and hope for the best?

Cut bait?

Or is there an avenue I'm missing?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Don't list a reference from a job where you got fired!!

A resume is a list of jobs you had. References is a selective list of people you think will say good things about you. You've had other jobs, right? List references from them.

It's exceedingly rare a temp agency would bother to check references anyway.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:46 PM on January 12, 2011

specifically for my most recent employer.

But wait, you're saying they specifically asked for a reference from your most recent job? I have never heard of that before, but if that is the case I guess my answer doesn't apply. If they already know you had the job, and it was freelance, I think your best bet is to say "the assignment ended" and hope for the best.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:49 PM on January 12, 2011

it turned out I was doing it incorrectly, and last week I got fired.

Is there a causal relationship here? I can't tell from what you've said, and it might matter. That is, "Anonymous worked here and unfortunately had to be let go owing to an administrative policy on invoicing, regarding which we have no discretion" is different from "Anonymous worked here and did X, which is totally not okay, but we couldn't prove it and thus had to resort to some picky business regarding invoices."
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 8:52 PM on January 12, 2011

It's exceedingly rare a temp agency would bother to check references anyway.

I'm not sure how common it is, but I can tell you that the temp agency I applied with recently checked everything on my resume, including calling my high school to verify the GED I earned in 1984, for pete's sake.

Probably best not to count on anyone not checking references.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:05 PM on January 12, 2011

Is there anyone from your old freelance company that you're on good terms with, i.e. someone who can vouch for the quality of your work but didn't have anything to do with the billing? Doesn't have to be a supervisor, maybe just someone you you worked with on a project or two? They'd at least be able to vouch for your technical skills, reliability, etc...
posted by emd3737 at 10:10 PM on January 12, 2011

Find someone you worked with who will put you in the best possible light. Use them as a reference. Also, I like to give letters of reference (on company letterhead) when I apply to temp companies. One temp company agent point blank told me that if they have a letter, they are not obligated to call.
posted by Ys at 7:40 AM on January 13, 2011

It's exceedingly rare a temp agency would bother to check references anyway.

um, no. actually they're usually pretty diligent about it.

emd 3737 has a good idea--one that i often use myself. in fact, my current reference from my last temp job is a lead worker that i specifically asked after i left. i didn't bother asking the supervisor because i knew his company's policy forbade that kind of thing.

i'd be upfront with the temp agency about what happened at the last gig. let them know what to expect before they call. stress that the other references and jobs you've had are a better indication of character. being upfront might not work, but trying to hide things won't work at all since they already know about the last gig.
posted by lester at 9:41 AM on January 13, 2011

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