References From Hell

So you're out of work and looking for a job, like millions of other Americans.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Blend Images | Getty Images

You provide the names and contact numbers of past employers as references because you're pretty sure they'll say good things.

Heck, it wasn't your fault you're not working there.

It's the economy, stupid.

Plus, they're not allowed to say anything bad, right?


A company called Allison & Taylorspecializes in helping people discover what references will actually say about them. It's in the company's interest to convince us to pay it money to find this out and avoid disaster as we apply for new jobs. I get it. Still, the press release the company sent me is one of the most entertaining I've read in some time. It contains what Allison & Taylor claims are "actual quotes from former employers".

My favorite quotes include:

  • "I am not allowed to say anything about this person as they were fired." (HR is holding on line 1 for you...)
  • "Let's save time. Basically, you could rank them inadequate in all areas."
  • "It was a rather delicate and awkward situation. You should call her other past employers. I made the mistake of not doing that."
  • "His name doesn't ring a bell."
  • "Is zero in your rating scale?" (Clever. This doesn't technically violate any rules.)
  • "Hold on, let me get the legal file and see what I am allowed to say." (Even better.)
  • "I cannot believe you were given my name as a reference."
  • "I fired him! He and his buddy had some illegal things going." (Someone put this guy down as a REFERENCE?)

What's the best line you ever said, or heard, involving a job reference? Leave it in the comments section below.

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