Managerial layoffs mean more competition for jobs. That, in turn,
means companies can be choosier about hiring. Many firms now
interview references in much more depth. Recruiters may spend an
hour on the phone with just one reference.
Some companies, fearful of lawsuits by former employees blaming
them for missing jobs, provide only dates of employment, position,
and salary. But sometimes former colleagues spill the beans anyway.
Some are malicious; others, well-meaning but "objective"; or the
interviewer may trap them into revelations.
Bad references aren't always damaging. If there's only one bad
out of the several that are checked, it's usually thrown out as
showing bias. Even if there's a consistent negative thread,
realistic employers know that nobody's perfect.
If you think some specific reference may keep you from a job, ask
the company or recruiter about it. New York law says he has to show
you your file. In other states you probably won't be told who
bad-mouthed you, but you may be told what was said. If you can
identify the person, talk with him calmly and ask him to soften his
Often a good offense is the best defense. If you think you may
have bad references, tell the company or recruiter at the earliest
tactful moment. People who admit mistakes and learn from them are
admired. Be specific about what you learned.
One way to avoid bad references is to omit references from your
resume but offer them "on request." Then, when requested, first have
a friend pose as a recruiter and find out what your potential
references will say. After he has identified the ones who will sing
your praises the loudest, ask them if they will serve and at the same
time remind them of your good points.
If you discover they'll also talk about your faults, discuss those
with them and suggest that your weaknesses have silver linings. For
instance, if they say you drive subordinates too hard, you canphrase
that differently: "I set high goals for my staff."
You might think the best defense is not to have defects, but
that's impossible. It's really true that nobody's perfect. For that
reason, if employers find somebody with no negatives, they become
QUESTION: With all the emphasis on hiring women and giving them
equal pay, I've found a woman's productivity just isn't up to a man's
because most of them need sick leave every month. Two daysa month
adds up to a month a year. That's why I don't like to hire women and
don't pay them as much as men when I do.
ANSWER: Studies show no differences between male and female
productivity on the whole, though men excel at some tasks and women
at others. (That's a statistical difference and doesn't predict the
success of any individual at any task.) Obviously neither men nor
women produce if they're absent. If your women employees take sick
leave every month, the problem is probably primary dysmenorrhea
(painful menstrual cramps), from which more than half menstruating
women suffer. …