Nobody's perfect, and sometimes you leave a job with a bad taste in your manager's mouth. If you know they're going to give you a less-than-stellar reference, tackle it head on before it happens.
Photo by Samuel Mann
Nick Corcodilos of Ask the Headhunter recommends you call your old boss and ask for their permission to add you as a reference — even if you know your new employer is already planning on calling your previous bosses. This will often open up the opportunity for you to clear the air, which may help them see you in a better light before they give that reference.
However, that isn't foolproof, and when you think it still isn't going to go your way, just own up to it:
Even if the reference is unfavourable, a smart employer will rely first on her own judgement — and ask you to explain your old boss's comments. So, anticipate the question and be prepared with a good answer that is honest and not defensive.
Then there's the tactical approach. Tell the new manager (Ann) what your old boss (Brenda) is likely to say before they talk. Since you cannot block that conversation, own up to the facts and impress Ann with your candour.
It won't always win you the job, but when you have no other options, it's probably the most graceful way to handle the situation.
How to Fix a Bad Reference the Hard Way [Ask the Headhunter]