May 31, 2015
50
23
Status
Non-Student
There is a particular setting that I have applied to a couple of times for a paid position. I even make it through dozens (or in one case 100+) applicants to the second/final round of interviews. I suspect why I am not ultimately landing the job has to do with a poor reference from the last time I practiced in a similar unnamed setting. My CV and interview skills are really good.

I had a difficult internship experience. In short, me and my administrative supervisor did not get along. She does not provide the reference today, but my licensure supervisor from that same placement site does. I spoke to my licensure supervisor on the phone a couple of years ago and cleared things up so I would not be in a bad reference situation, believing that we had resolved some misunderstandings (with the help of my school, who worked in my favor). However, I am worrying now that she continues to provide harmful and inaccurate information to prospective employers, even after my school had settled matters on my behalf.

I have been a very competitive candidate for these positions, and work very hard to advance my career. All of my other references are pretty glowing. Now, I worry I am going to be held back forever because of this. Has anyone else experienced something similar? How did you work through it? Do you have any suggestions for me on how to go about resolving this? I recently tried emailing the licensure supervisor to see if she had heard from any of these job references (I know she has), and she never responded.
 
Jul 30, 2015
125
32
Status
MD/PhD Student
Find a way to get a reference sent to yourself, either by asking for one in an envelope or something similar. And more importantly find someone else if you are even unsure
 
Mar 24, 2014
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Rural Area Medical Facilty
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Psychologist
Can't you just use different references? I had pages of references to choose from after internship. If an employer is insistent on talking to the prior employer then just explain the difficulty that you had there. If everything else is solid, then one weak reference shouldn't be too big of an issue. It also depends on what their issue with you was.
 

MamaPhD

Psychologist, Academic Medical Center
7+ Year Member
Aug 2, 2010
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If you're not sure whether a former supervisor or colleague is going to give a strong positive recommendation, don't use them. Period. Choose only people whom you can rely on to speak highly of your skills and achievements. It would be nice to include an internship supervisor among your references, but if you don't think they'll really advocate for you then it's better to exclude them and address the gap in the interview (if it comes up). That gives you a better chance of controlling the message you want the prospective employer to hear. There should be no wildcards in an application package!
 
OP
5
May 31, 2015
50
23
Status
Non-Student
Can't you just use different references? I had pages of references to choose from after internship. If an employer is insistent on talking to the prior employer then just explain the difficulty that you had there. If everything else is solid, then one weak reference shouldn't be too big of an issue. It also depends on what their issue with you was.
Normally, I do not include them among my references, but sometimes if the position I'm applying for is specific (such as the one that led me to this post) then they always want to speak with someone from my internship where I worked at a similar location (e.g. a community mental health center). In this instance, they specifically requested it. No one has ever asked me in an interview about the issue with my administrative supervisor at this site (who is now gone), so I don't bring it up in interviews. My guess is they call references after the second interview and then make the cut. The licensure supervisor at my internship used to say they would have to mention the difficulties I had with my administrative supervisor, but then retracted this statement once my school cleared the issue up. I'm worried the licensure supervisor is not acting faithfully on this now, and hasn't returned my contact about if references are contacting them. I'm not sure how to work with this in the future. The issue was basically that the administrative supervisor was acting unethically and discovered that I was documenting (not sharing) this, became angry with me, and looked for every opportunity throughout the year to be critical of me to cover herself. Nothing egregious on my part, but unfortunately, it was a contentious relationship and I learned sometimes it's better to not get involved in other people's business.
 

WisNeuro

Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
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You can always ask places that you did not get an offer from why they did not extend an offer. There are a lot of ways to do it professionally, asking for professional development reasons and how you can address possible concerns for future opportunities. I've found this to be helpful in the past for students I've supervised. I would strongly advise against trying to get a recommendation letter through seedy means to see what it says. There are more ethical and professional ways to handle the situation.
 
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Sendtrees

7+ Year Member
Mar 5, 2010
113
56
Status
Hmm. It might be that there's nothing wrong with your application or references, but you're just in a really competitive job market. If I interviewed someone I really liked, and most of their references were "glowing," I would not necessarily put a so-so reference on the applicant! What do you think about contacting a near miss, particularly if you had a particularly good interview with someone there, and asking if there was anything about your total package that reflected poorly on you? Once you've already not gotten a job, you don't have much to lose by asking.
 
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MamaPhD

Psychologist, Academic Medical Center
7+ Year Member
Aug 2, 2010
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Psychologist
I agree with WisNeuro that you should try to get to the bottom of this - in a professional manner, of course. If your suspicion is correct that your internship site supervisor is a highly valued source of input for this employer, then unfortunately I'm not sure there is much more you can do about it right at this moment. If a key reference damns with faint praise (or worse), it could be enough to put you at a disadvantage if there are other strong candidates. On the other hand, it could be that another candidate was chosen for entirely different reasons.