By Liam Horan, Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers
Q: I worked in my last place of employment for four years, but the final year was hell, and we parted on poor terms. I suspect that potential employers will want to hear from the manager there, but that would be the death knell for my chances of getting work. How do I get around this? (DK, email).
A: We put this question to four of our career coaches so that we could get a range of opinions and insights. As is the case in so many potentially difficult career situations, there are different ways of approaching this scenario and, DK, you will need to make a judgement call based on the exact circumstances of your job search at any given time and what chimes best with you from the advice below and any other advice you are getting.
Deirdre May, Limerick: I would give the advice not to be so sure that it will be the death knell – it’s only one person’s opinion of you. Personalities can clash. Have you had very favourable experiences with other employers? Secondly there are restrictions on what an employer can write in a reference so perhaps it won’t be as bad as you think. It’s important to stay matter-of-fact and professional about the scenario. Give the information succinctly, don’t go on about the boss. Maybe it wasn’t the culture fit for you. We are all human (including the interviewers) and we thrive better in some environments than others. Don’t over react to it being brought up and if you show you are already moving on, then the interviewers will too. Move swiftly to the job on offer and don’t dwell on the past.
Mick O’Connor, Athlone: In this situation the previous employer can be expected to be asked for a reference in some form or other. Therefore you will have no other option but to outline the difficulties you had over the last year and give your account. You need to be honest and the approach should be ‘up front’. Taking this line, whatever your account is, can then be balanced with what your former employer is liable to say. If you feel you have nothing to hide, then be honest with potential employers. Let them judge accordingly.
Mark McDonald, Dublin North: This is a very delicate issue to handle at interview. Speaking negatively about a current or previous manager during an interview can be viewed as unprofessional. However, honesty is always expected at interview stage. I feel it’s best to explain the situation as clearly as possible and maybe choose other referees from within the organisation in the hope that they will validate your position and articulate your strengths.
Liam Horan, Ballinrobe: I would elaborate on two points that Deirdre touched on. 1. It is crucial not to re-hash the whole scenario in the interview, almost as if you are trying to the interviewer to agree with you that you were hard done by; and 2. You must make it abundantly clear that you are not harbouring resentment or a sense of injustice – the employer must be convinced that you are ready for the next challenge in your career, namely the job for which they are assessing you.
If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches mentioned above, see HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.