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I don’t want to provide my boss as a reference for a job interview because we don’t get along. So what should I do?
Sometimes two people are just oil and water. It may not be anyone’s fault…necessarily; it’s just that you don’t really click – or see eye to eye on one thing or another. When that other “eye” happens to be your boss, it can make for not only a rocky employment period, but the relationship can become a liability come reference-checking time – as a lukewarm or negative review from a former boss will frequently spike a candidacy. So how does a candidate navigate this situation without compromising his/her candidacy?
If you have been asked to provide references as part of a job interview and do not want to include your current or former boss, the following guidance may be helpful:
By excluding a former boss, you leave a potentially large reference hole for an employer to notice. So my advice is to provide at leastthree references of individuals who not only have worked closely with you, but who are also in a position of power and authority. Those who sit lower on the totem pole won’t cut it and will prove insufficient for even the laxest reference checker. An anemic list will raise flags and spark a deeper level of inquiry. So, offer up other senior, meaningful executives to fill the gap.
Which professionals are best to include? For the in house lawyer, anyone at the VP or in the C level suite with whom you work/ed closely (CEO, COO, CFO, CAO, CRO, VP etc.). If you are a junior lawyer, you’ll have slightly more latitude on executive leveling, but not a ton. Director/Senior Director may suffice depending on your organization and working relationship. And it should include someone with whom you have worked closely, someone who knows your work. Provide at least two of these reference types from your current/most recent company and at least one from a second employer. What about a peer or someone you’ve managed? These profiles can be adequate references (supply only one though) as long as you have at least two to three others at a higher/executive level. For the law firm lawyer, client and other partners who know your work are best (current firm or a mix of current and past employers).
But sometimes, regardless of how impressive your references are, an employer will inquire about the omission of a current/former boss. If you encounter this situation, be calm, answer the question and avoid a defensive posture. Below are a few sample responses:
When providing a recruiter or employerwith your references, you can also choose to take a proactiveapproach and include the following statement:
In a perfect world, we’d all enjoy a blissful, harmonious relationship with our bosses. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. At times, differences and friction dominate the professional relationship, and place those seeking greener pastures in a predicament during the reference check phase of an interview process. For those job seekers who wish to exclude a boss as a listed supporter but want to successfully manage the risks of doing so, the information and advice above will provide greater clarity and confidence as you move through the final step of the interviewing process and in the best of worlds…over the finish line.
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