What's your problem?

BAD REFERENCE IS HOLDING ME BACK. I've been searching in vain for a new job after being made redundant last year. Despite some near-job offers, nothing has materialised.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In desperation, I contacted the last company that had seemed keen to employ me and asked why they hadn't. They admitted that I'd had terrible references from my previous boss. As far as I know I'd always done a satisfactory job in my previous role and I got on with my boss, so I can't understand why this is happening. Should I contact him to find out what's going on?

You don't tell me what reasons you were given for being made redundant, but I assume you were told that it was nothing to do with your competence but all to do with the economy and the order-book and other external factors beyond anyone's control. The trouble is, people need to justify why it was necessary to make someone redundant. When they're later asked for a reference, they find it difficult to say: 'We all thought Nigel's contribution was exceptional in every respect, which is why I made him redundant' - so they allow the enquirer to infer some serious deficiency.

You say you got on well with your boss. So, yes, I think you should buy him a drink and let him know as unreproachfully as possible the damage he's doing to your prospects.

Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP. Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into

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