I’m worried about a reference. Should I ask her what she’ll say?

Nine To Five: Special to The Globe and Mail, Published Sunday, March 13, 2015


I am about to be interviewed for a great job at a company I really want to work for. This is a large organization with 5,000-plus employees, so I will be dealing with recruiters to start.

However, I am concerned about whether they will ask about my last full-time job. I worked there for two years and left about nine months ago. I started the job with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, but after a wave of turnovers and general uncertainty in the second year, during which I reported to four different bosses, I decided to take a severance package. My performance and morale sagged during this time, but I did tidy up my loose ends and leave everything in order.


References can make or break landing a job. Even the most well-intentioned former bosses and colleagues have given inappropriate responses during a reference check and blown an opportunity for a candidate. Always qualify your references.

A reference does not have to be someone you reported to; it can be someone you worked with or an outside client or vendor. The important point is that the reference can validate what is written on your résumé. Bosses are the most preferred, but not the only choice by any means.

When you ask someone to be your reference, you have to go through a dress rehearsal of sorts. Review each point on the résumé that pertains to their knowledge of you. Ensure they know exactly what your role was and the results you generated. Agree on the answer to tough interview questions, such as your greatest weakness.

If your previous boss is aware of your declining performance, then maybe they aren’t the best choice of reference. Can they instead speak to what you are capable of?

Also check to see what type of reference the company is willing to give. Many companies today are not giving references, but they will likely validate your length of employment, job title and salary.

Colleen Clarke

Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It

Contact Colleen Clarke, your choice for career development and corporate training.

COLLEEN CLARKE is a highly recognized career specialist, corporate trainer, and public speaker in the areas of career management and transition, communication and networking. For the past 18 years she has motivated, inspired and counseled thousands of groups and individuals to maximize their career potential. Colleen is also a certified Workplace Coach with the Adler Institute. She is author of “Networking How To Build Relationships That Count” and “How To Get a Job and Keep It” and co-author of “The Power of Mentorship: The Mastermind Group”.

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