Job References: Former Employer Says I’m “Not Rehirable”

CN_Marc_v1_eI recently got a comment from a job seeker who left his job, where he had received great reviews … up to the time he gave notice. And then he was treated like a pariah and told he’s not rehirable.

Naturally he’s worried about being asked for job references — and what will happen when a new employer tries to get his former employer to give their take on him and his future employability. What will being on the “not hirable” list do to his job chances?

What the job seeker wrote

“Dear Ronnie Ann,

I gave a two week notice to my manager, then the next day was called into the director’s office with my manager and told to “pack my things now and leave.” They were very angry. Having had two raises in one year, worked non-stop hard and knowingly did quite well, or else I would have been written up or let go like others, I do not think they are going to give a “fair, honest or positive reference” for me.

I found out from HR that they had me listed as “not rehireable.” I asked “why not,” and HR told me they do not know why. When I had my review, it was verbal, nothing in writing, nothing dated and signed … no proof. Upon asking for references from others in the department, they said, “absolutely YES”, and spoke of how awesome I was, but then nothing. Clearly they have been talked to/warned.

I learned several great lessons: never leave a job w/out finding a new one FIRST, make sure you get your review dated and in writing and a copy of it & when you smell something foul, it is foul.

My clients have given me rave reviews which is a relief. But how do I handle this situation w/out it making it difficult for me to find employment?

Your reply is really appreciated.

Thank you,
Moving Forward”

=>   REFERENCES GUIDE:  Sample reference sheet plus tips


Here’s my reply

“Dear Moving Forward,

I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.

Unfortunately there are many unfair, potentially vindictive bosses out there, and the good news is that many future employers (or at least ones you’d want to work for) use their instincts and ample evidence from elsewhere to inform their decisions. You might even see this as help in weeding out the judgmental, close-minded employers.

Your words are wise, both for your own future and for others reading this: “never leave a job without finding a new one FIRST” [if at all possible] and “make sure you get your review dated and in writing and a copy of it.”

To protect themselves from lawsuits, former employers minimize what they will or won’t say if contacted. But “not rehirable” is of course a clear statement that something went wrong. Your best approach for moving forward might include any or all:

(1)  Only include positive references on your reference sheet, identifying who they are. Some employers never go beyond that. Clients from that last job will help.

(2)  If they insist on contact info for your latest employer, explain to your potential employer ahead of time that you are being told you may get minimal or even unfavorable references from your immediately prior employer, but this surprised you since up to the day you gave notice you had great reviews and “had two raises in one year, worked non-stop hard and knowingly did quite well…”

You might even give an example of a major accomplishment to the benefit of your former employer. Add in something about previous jobs and glowing reviews there too — which is why all this surprised you. Hopefully you have excellent references from those.

While never dissing a former employer, you may also add that they weren’t happy when you gave two weeks notice, but you had to leave because you knew it was time to move on and wanted to give them ample notice.

(3)  If they ask why you decided to leave (they’ll probably ask that anyway), make sure it points to your realizing that you wanted a new direction (that the job you’re interviewing for now offers), somehow showing that the job you had wasn’t able to provide that for you.

Or come up with something else positive about you that is based on your real experience there and yet also connects to the new job. But don’t ever dump on the last job or employer (even if they deserve it).

Just remember, many people get the next job w/o a good reference from the last one. I’ve done it myself. Bad jobs do happen to good people. 🙂

Good luck finding a great job!

~ Ronnie Ann”

A few more thoughts

When I’ve been part of the hiring team, I often had the role of being the one who also does the reference checking. And I admit that I dug deep to try to nose out the truth about a potential hire.

As important as the hiring decision is to the job candidate, it’s as important or more to us — adding a wrong member to a well-functioning team can be a disaster. We learned that the hard way. The hiring process takes so long and the consequences of a wrong hire are just too great.

But even though I do my best to get the most out of every reference, I also know that one person’s opinion isn’t the whole picture. So your job as a job seeker is to paint the strongest picture you can of who you are and the way you add to any company you are part of. A wise employer will see that.

More articles to help

♦   When and How Does an Employer Check Your References?

♦   What Do Employers Ask When They Call Your References?

♦   Should You List Your Current Employer as a Job Reference?


♦   Do Employers Call Former Employers NOT on Your List?

♦   SAMPLE: How To Create a Reference List Sheet

♦   How To Find a New Job


=> EXTRA:  How To Create Good Job References for Yourself