Hello Career Therapy,
I've been unemployed for over a year, and I believe that part of the reason is because of a bad review by my ex-supervisor. I was also not a cultural fit at that company, since the environment did not support my leadership, innovation, and creative abilities, though I function relatively well in teams of diverse personalities. Hence, my last interview did not result in employment.
One strategy I thought of was to remove my last place of employment from my updated CV. Trouble is, I incurred an unemployment gap of six months prior to that, and the additional professional qualifications and experience have enhanced my portfolio.
Please advise on how I can recover from a negative review from a former supervisor and convince prospective employers that I am a great asset.
—Unemployed and Underrated
First thing’s first: After an interview that does not result in a job, don't jump to conclusions about why it went the way it did. In fact, if it seems appropriate, you can ask your interviewer or the HR person you worked with to give you honest feedback on why you were not ultimately hired. For instance, the company could have had another candidate who, due to intangibles, was a better fit for the position, or even had more qualifications.
However, if your negative review from your ex-supervisor is definitely the reason you did not get the job, the best way to get around it is to get in front of it. During the interview process, address the differences of opinions the two of you had, and clarify why you weren’t a fit for that particular company or that person. (My previous column offers some good tips for re-framing a bad experience in a past job during an interview). Make sure your potential employer is aware of the differences in opinion before he or she receives the negative review so it's not a surprise. If the hiring manager has heard your point of view, it's much easier to understand why the review seems negative.
It's also important to note that the only time a future employer would have contact with your past boss would be during the referencing phase. So, when you provide a list of references, try saying something like, “You may want to speak to my last boss. Unfortunately, we had differences.” Explain them so the negatives can be put in context, then suggest that the hiring manager speak with other senior people or peers of this person who can provide a more balanced view. That way, should the employer do an unsolicited reference call with your previous boss, the issue will seem like a personal problem with that one person (again, given that references from other people within that same company are positive).
Finally, I never advise leaving a hole on a resume when you were actually in a job. It looks suspicious, and you will have to have an answer if asked about that gap during the interview anyway. Don’t give any cause for suspicion, and be open and honest. If you get in front of the issue in a genuine, positive way, you should be able to mitigate it.
I wish you the best of luck,
Have a question for Career Therapy? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!