Question: Can you stop a former employer from saying they would not hire you back if given the chance to when a prospective employer asks that question when they call for references?

I was forced to resign without just cause from my position that I held for 22 years, and was awarded unemployment benefits.

Wouldn’t you think that my former employer would stop wanting to get revenge at some point so I could move on with my life?

Sylvia
Muncie, Indiana

Answer: Sylvia, I know of no law, rule or regulation that says that anyone – employee, employer or anyone else – can be forced not to answer a question such as “Would you hire this employee again if you had the chance to do so?”

We live in a very free society, and a truthful answer to a question is something that is, simply, legal.

That being said, there is nothing to stop you from trying to motivate your former employer to refrain from answering that question in a negative way, if asked. You can “motivate” people to do things, or to stop doing things, by saying to yourself “What is important to that person?”

As an example, if one of the company’s Board of Directors is, for example, a minister, and you know someone from your town who knows the minister, you might request a private moment with that minister to respectfully request that he try to get the “revenge” to cease, and the question “Would you rehire her?” instead be answered with “It is our company policy not to answer that question.”

As another example, if the company’s customers are important to them, and you know one or more of their customers from your 22 years of working for the company, you might ask for a private moment with that customer, and tell him or her that “Something the company is saying to people who call for job references for me seems to be hurting my chances of getting a new job. Might you make a call to them for me?”

As other examples, the company’s main suppliers, landlord, local state senator or even the owner’s or CEO’s country club members may be important enough to them to intervene. A respectful appeal to one of these people – in which you note your 22 years of service – may just strike the right “soft spot.” Be careful not to say anything that is not truthful so you cannot be accused of interfering with your former employer’s business.

You see, “both sides” can play the same game: telling a truth that hurts. When you tell people that your former employer is telling prospective employers something that is hurting you, you are telling the truth, just as they are telling the truth when they say they would not hire you back. Perhaps, just perhaps, a “taste of their own medicine” would be the remedy you need.

I sure do hope so! I really do. Thank you for visiting our blogsite. If this has been helpful, please tell you friends about us. Good luck to you!

Best, Al Sklover

P.S.: Got a Job Offer, and Background Check is about to happen? Use our Model Letter to Your Former HR, Managers and Colleagues to Discourage Negative References. “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.