Job seeker needs help figuring out whom to list as a supervisor or manager on applications.
Q: I left my last job on good terms. But when I contacted my former boss requesting a reference, he refused, based on his lack of recall relating to what I did. Naturally, if a potential employer contacted him, it would jeopardize my candidacy.
So whom do I list as a supervisor or manager on the applications I’m sending out? Each company I apply to does an extensive employer reference check. I want to ensure that this past employer will give me a positive reference.
A: Your ex-boss’ refusal is, frankly, a bit disturbing. But I suppose he did you a favor of sorts: You’re right that if a potential employer heard “I don’t remember what this person did,” it would most likely sink your candidacy on the spot.
But if you really did leave the company on good terms, then presumably you left on good terms with some actual person or persons. Who can vouch for you, and is willing to do so? I’d focus less on where this person fits in the chain of command and more on whether he or she will credibly and positively assess your skills and attributes.
You can explain to potential employers that this person is actually a more appropriate reference, because you didn’t work closely with the person who was, on paper, your supervisor. (Or come up with some similar rationale that is not false, but that also does not involve actually saying, “My boss says he doesn’t remember me.”)
Finally, I’d say you should emphasize and point employers to your references from other jobs you’ve held, where you made a good — and lasting — impression.