Being blackballed

Sunday, August 10th, 2008 - CV Writing, Job Application, references

Donna asks: A candidate client suspects that the former employer may be blackballing, is wondering how to determine whether this is true, and what he/she might be advised to do about it. The client worked for the former employer for a significant number of years and handled major accounts. Suggestions and insights appreciated. Thank you.

In answer:
Lets be honest, its not uncommon – plus on certain occasions, if a candidate provides three references, and the first one highlights a certain issue, its not difficult for the reference taker to verge towards that negativity.

The first thing to check, is that the candidate client is being wholly honest with you about their reasons for leaving past employers? When I first meet new candidates, I always ask on those I choose to put forward or place on the dBase, to think about where and who they will reference to – even dumb candidates know to avoid the boss who hated them, only desperate one’s are likely to knowingly make that mistake

If you are convinced about the candidates clarity and honesty, then I think approaching each of the references they have given (they may think its X, where as it could be Z being very horrible for reasons unknown to the candidate), and advise them you are the recruitment agent/career advisor, and as they had been provided as a reference to the candidate, was wondering if they could provide a written summary of their reference to you for your files. Then, if they don’t or if they provide a statement that says one thing and yet say another on the telephone – which the future employer will always comment on – then its isolates the reference who provides the problem, and makes them looks like an idiot, not the candidate unemployable.

If you do find such a situation, and that employer and the experience gained is key to the candidates being employed in the new post, then – if they are a reasonable person – there is always someone else who can be suitably referenced to, either upwards or sideways. If they weren’t dismissed, but don’t have any other contacts, there is always the HR department which is a highly suitable “last resort” reference

References are a good thing, but some times reveal a situation in a one-time telephone conversation which can destroy a good career opportunity. I hence think referencing needs careful management from the point of initial contact with the candidate, to successful new employment.

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