Ever wondered what happens when job references go south? We’ve all had those moments where a colleague’s reference turned into a career nightmare. In this article, we dive into the juicy stories of fed-up employers sharing their experiences of giving someone a seriously bad reference. Get ready to cringe, chuckle, and maybe even learn a thing or two about how NOT to burn bridges in the professional world. All content has been edited for clarity purposes.
The Computer Repair Con Artist
“Years ago, I owned a computer store. The store was located in a small town, and everyone knew everyone.
One day, I got a call from a local school district’s office. I had done work for them in the past, and I knew a few people who had worked there. They were looking to hire a full-time computer technician, and they needed to check the potential employee’s references. I thought it was a bit strange because my ‘staff’ consisted of my wife and I. I knew my wife didn’t apply for a job, so I didn’t know who it could have been.
When they finally mentioned the name of the applicant, I laughed out loud. I replied, ‘No, he never worked for me. Let me tell you a story.’
Several months prior, a man called me after hours about an emergency with his computer. After some pleading, I agreed to fix the problem and told him to meet me at the store. Before ending the call, I reminded the man that a basic fix charge would cost $50.
When he arrived with his computer, I ran a diagnostic test. I discovered a fairly basic mistake he had made in building it, and it took me 20 minutes to fix. I charged him $50, and he complained and kept trying to talk me down. Eventually, he wrote me a check and left. When I went to cash the check a few days later, it bounced.
Keep in mind that I never received a bad check. So, I remembered the man’s name going forward.
At this point, I was out $50 and was charged $20 for a check return fee. I wasn’t going to let the man with it, so I called his bank every day asking if his account could cover the charges. A couple of weeks later, there were enough funds in his account.
I immediately drove to his bank and cashed the check. A week later, the man called me to complain about how I caused a different check of his to bounce.
After explaining this to the school office employee, I finished with, ‘So, no. He never worked for me, and I’m not sure how great of a repair person he is. Plus, he lied on his application. Any other questions?’
The caller replied, ‘No, I think that about sums it up.’
Long story short, I didn’t think he got the job.”
“He Didn’t Even Get One Interview”
“I once gave an ex-employee two or three bad references.
This employee left the company because he wanted to be a cop. There wasn’t any problem with the career switch. You couldn’t have paid me to move to a career as a police officer. However, while he was in the office hanging out and talking about his future job, he CONSTANTLY talked about how much money cops could make. Whether it was by diverting drugs from the evidence room, robbing dealers, or setting people up with weapons, he always unfavorably spun the job.
Well, I started getting calls from various police departments wanting a reference for this employee.
My first question always was, ‘Will he EVER find out about what I said?’ and it always set the tone for the rest of the conversation.
The employers would assure me the call was completely confidential, so I would tell them about his ‘ideal job’ and his daydreams to scam people.
The last I heard, he was still trying to get a job as a cop. 5 years later, he didn’t even get one interview.”
“I Never Felt Safe Working With Him”
“One time, I worked with a guy in my department who wasn’t exactly the ‘best’ worker. He had a nasty streak, slammed things, and screamed when he got mad. He would get upset whenever he received constructive criticism, even over the smallest things. He received criticism quite often, too.
My assistant manager was a small woman, and she didn’t even feel safe around him alone. This guy eventually left or was fired. I couldn’t remember which, but none of us were sorry to see him go.
One day, the phone rang. My assistant manager answered, and it was another company asking about our terrible old coworker. Now, I didn’t hear everything my assistant manager said, but she DID make sure to tell the truth.
I heard her quietly tell the company, ‘He’s lazy, he has a temper, and I NEVER felt safe working with him. I would look elsewhere for an employee.’
My coworker and I couldn’t stop laughing when our manager got off the phone. We couldn’t believe he was stupid enough to put our store as a reference.”
“I Got The Message Loud And Clear”
“I haven’t GIVEN anyone a bad reference, but I have RECEIVED a bad reference.
One time, I interviewed a potential dishwashing employee who worked mornings at a restaurant down the street. His name was ‘Tommy,’ and I didn’t get a great feeling about him. So, I decided to call his current employer and see what they had to say about him.
Once I got the head chef on the line, I identified myself and said, ‘I’m just calling to do a reference check on your employee, Tommy.’
As with most corporate restaurants, the chef replied, ‘I can’t tell you anything about him, other than that he works here.’
Then, the chef told me to, ‘Hold on for one second,’ as he yelled back to someone in the kitchen.
‘There’s a guy on the phone asking about Tommy,’ the chef yelled.
The guy replied, ‘Tommy the dishwasher?’
‘Yeah, Tommy, the REAL lazy guy,’ the chef emphasized.
‘Oh, yeah. He’s terrible,’ the guy replied.
Then, the chef got back on the phone and apologized for not being able to share anything directly. Luckily, I got the message loud and clear.”
“I Was Speechless”
“A while back, I fired an employee for embezzlement. Afterward, I had her criminally charged. She was required to pay me back.
A few months later, a bank called me for a job reference for this employee. Since I didn’t want to give her a reference, I recommended they contact her probation officer. I gave her the officer’s name and contact information and hung up the phone.
Later on, the employee called me and asked, ‘How do you expect me to pay you back if I can’t get a job handling money?’
Seriously? I was speechless. ‘Handling money?’ Ridiculous.”