Is Your Former Employer Going to ‘Bad Mouth’ You?

Bad-employeeDid you leave your last job under a cloud? Perhaps you had a falling out with your boss or one of the team members? Or maybe there was some conflict or grievance surrounding your departure?

Are you worried that your former employer might give you a bad reference which could jeopardize your job chances? If you are, what can you do about it?

The first thing to do is not to bury your head in the as studies,  such as this one from CareerBuilder, show that currently around 80% of employers do check references so you need to face up to the possibility of that your former may employer may have some negative things to report to future prospective employers. And ignoring the situation could limit your career prospects.

But, don’t be too alarmed, because although its not illegal for your ex employer to write a negative reference, they can’t just ‘bad mouth’ you. What they write needs to be accurate and a fair representation of the situation or else they would be open to claims of defamation of character or misrepresentation should you choose to pursue it. And actually most employers tread with care when writing references preferring to write a neutral and safe reference that doesn’t comment on performance and just confirms basic info like: job title, salary and period of service.

However, if you have good reason to think you may receive a bad reference you could try contacting your boss (ideally before you leave) and explain that you would like to make sure that the reference is a true and fair representation of the facts – and ask if you can jointly agree a reference to be supplied to other employers. You could even offer to draft the initial copy to move things on. Many employers will recognize your attempts to address this matter in a professional way and may be cooperative.

If you have already left the employer and are concerned about the prospect of receiving a bad reference you could try out a site like (there are several others on the market) who will approach your former employer posing as your prospective future employer and find out what reference you are likely to receive. You could also get a Private Investigator to do this for you, although that may be a little expensive. Having received your reference you would want to check that it doesn’t contain any inaccuracies and doesn’t misrepresent you in anyway. If you feel that you are being unfairly defamed you might want to talk to an employment lawyer to determine your next course of action.

Good luck and don’t let a bad reference hold you back.

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