Fortune article: Even a lukewarm reference from a former employer can be enough to cost you the job you want.
"I was recently forced out of my job, following a dispute with my boss that was partly about ethics. I spoke with both an attorney and the local labor board, and because of the unusual circumstances surrounding my firing, they both think that I could win in court if I decided to sue the company, but I'm not interested in a long, costly legal battle.""
"Even without a separation agreement that specifically prohibits a former employer from badmouthing an ex-employee, most big companies have blanket policies in place that permit references to confirm nothing more than dates of employment and job title."
"Unfortunately, like so many corporate policies, these are honored mainly in the breach."
One possible way to get around this...
"When an interviewer asks you for references, you can say right up front, 'My former boss and I didn't see eye to eye, so if I may, I'd like to give you contact information for three other people who can tell you about my performance, just so you get a balanced picture."
"That way, even if your old boss is undermining you, the person who calls him for a reference doesn't get an unpleasant surprise -- and you don't appear to be trying to hide something."
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