What do you say if someone asks you for a job reference, but you only have a bad reference for them?

Prepwise AnswersCategory: General CareerWhat do you say if someone asks you for a job reference, but you only have a bad reference for them?
Career Dev Staff Staff asked 1 year ago
1 Answers
Kate McKeon Staff answered 1 year ago

Keep it classy folks!
Think Southern.
I was put on the spot for a staffer who had left almost 10 years prior and sadly I not only remembered him, but remembered him WELL. Could not wait to get rid of him back then, even subtly put career expanding opportunities in front of him.
The interviewer should have known better than to ask the questions he was asking. He got into some tricky areas that as a former employer would get me in trouble just for answering positive or negative. In some cases I just had to say, “I’m afraid you know I cannot answer that.”
This job was also a really big deal company and seemed like a good fit for him. Enough space to hide and learn if he decided to. I still believe people can grow. Most days….
At some point the big question came, Would you have him work for you again?
To which I responded, you know, my business focus has changed quite a bit since then. It seems that our paths are more likely to cross as vendor client rather than employer, employee.
(not untrue)
The part I didn’t add was, if he is working for you, I am not likely to become your client – that much he didn’t need to hear.
Google offered him the job.
I remember this every time I check references. It’s a totally bs process and does not yield new, helpful information.