What to do if you receive a bad reference

Job interview - worried candidate

Many people believe that it is not possible for your employer to provide you with a bad reference. However, this is not the case. The reason for this misconception is that employers are nervous about giving bad references as it could be grounds for legal action if the details are not completely accurate. So, what should you do if you receive a bad reference that could affect your chances of securing future employment?

All references need to be correct and honest therefore you need to ensure that all information given is completely true. The previous employers must be able to back up the reference by providing evidence, such as warning letters or emails. If you believe the statements are misleading, it is possible for you to sue for ‘negligent misstatement’. In cases such as this it is advisable to contact Citizen’s Advice who will be able to recommend the appropriate action.

If the reference is completely fair, but may harm your chances of securing employment, it may be worth considering contacting the reference giver directly to see if you can arrange a mutually agreeable reply to any future requests. Many employers would offer a basic reference giving only dates of employment, job title and salary.

In some situations, employers may refuse to give a reference altogether. This is becoming increasingly common, particularly in larger organisations who may be worried about the prospect of legal action if the information provided isn’t 100% accurate. A lack of reference could be deemed just as negatively as a bad reference by a future employer, so ensure you have other references available. Think about using networking sites such as LinkedIn to gather a list of recommendations from colleagues and managers, which may be able to be viewed by potential employers.

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