Your Worst Nightmare: A Negative Employment Reference. What Do You Do?

Have you ever failed to get a job because your background check or references have come back with an unfavorable report? Or worse, have you gotten the job and then been let go because the negative results came back after you’d already been hired?

Perhaps it’s gone something like this: you’ve finally found your dream job- the one that’s an absolutely perfect fit. Everything has gone smoothly in the interview process, so all that’s left before you can start work is the formality of the employment paperwork, including a review of your references.

Imagine the frustration, then, of having sailed through the pre-screening process with flying colors…having “nailed” your interviews…perhaps being assured that an offer would be forthcoming in very short order…only to hear that the company has “gone in another direction.” What happened?

Sadly, the often-overlooked “last phase” of the hiring process – checking the applicant’s references – has undone many a candidate.

The most likely reason you didn’t get that job: A former supervisor or HR rep has, either unintentionally or (worse) intentionally torpedoed your chances for career success. Perhaps a position of authority makes them feel that the company reference policies don’t really apply to them – or that there is no way that their employer will ever become aware that they have given negative feedback that is contrary to company policy. Human Resources can be problematic as well – while they are less likely than supervisors to offer extensive commentary, a simple “not eligible for rehire” statement can effectively kill an applicant’s prospects for future employment.

Even worse, many companies don’t conduct their reference checks until after you’ve started the job. Companies have a 90-day “probationary” period that allows them to terminate your employment relationship at will, and many use this time to complete all the hiring paperwork and checks dictated by company policy. “We actually spoke to a young man recently who was escorted from his desk and off company premises because of the responses that his references provided”, says Shane. “He was completely flabbergasted- did not even realize that such a thing was possible. And he’s not alone. It’s just so important to know what your references are telling people.”

Before you lose that perfect job due to an unfavorable reference, take the time to ensure that your references are responding appropriately to employment inquiries. The simplest and most effective way is to conduct a reference check(s) through a professional reference checking company like JobReferences. If a reference check confirms negative or inappropriate feedback, their documented response gives you the foundation recourse for action to prevent further career damage.

One such action is the option of a Cease & Desist letter, which can help ensure that the transgressor will stop their actions out of fear of corporate reprisal.

In offering this service, JobReferences works with attorneys well-versed in employment law who will review the client’s report from a negative reference, speak directly with them to discuss protocol and options, and then issue the letter to the organization where the negative commentary arose. As part of the overall fee, JobReferences then re-conducts the original reference check to determine if the negative reference is continuing to offer harmful commentary. This rarely turns out to be the case – the documented “success rate” of this letter is extremely high.

For further details on services and procedures please visit

About Allison

Allison & Taylor Inc. and its principals have been in the business of checking references for individuals and corporate accounts since 1984. We have successfully built our brand and corporate recognition and have been recommended by industry specialists such as The New York Times award-winning author Martin Yate (“Knock ‘Em Dead Résumés”). Numerous articles have been published about our business in newspapers and magazines including The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour Magazine, New Woman, Worth, National Business Employment Weekly, The Detroit News, and The St. Petersburg Times.