Knowing what your past employer is telling potential employers can make or break you in your search for a new job. Usually you won't know that someone is bad mouthing you unless you continuously get rejected for every position you apply for. It's important to give thought to who you list as a reference, so you will have a good idea what they will say about you.
Contact Your References
Contact everyone you will be using as a reference. Make a list of employers who would be fair and honest in providing the best summation of your skills. You may also use colleagues, but call everyone and let them know you will be using them as a reference. Provide examples of recent accomplishments and ask each person if they would mention those qualities.
Consider Past Employers
A potential employer can contact anyone you have worked for, even if you do not list them as a reference, according to U.S. News. This is especially true if you worked for someone the interviewer knows personally or has had a past business connection with. If you are worried about a past boss giving a negative reference, CNN Money suggests you should be honest and tell the interviewer that you did not click with that person and he would not be a good judge of your skills. Hiring managers understand at some point in your career you will run into someone who you do not get along with. Be honest about it rather than have them find out about it during reference calls.
Request a Reason
If you continually get turned down for employment, especially if the initial interview seems to go well, ask for a written reason on why you were not offered the job. In the very least you should ask the person who contacts you to tell you that you did not get the job if the company spoke with your past employer and what was said, suggests the Advantage Law Group, an employment law firm out of Orange County, California. The firm also suggests you keep track of all conversations by writing down the dates and names of people you spoke with, in case you need to file a lawsuit later on.
Know Your Rights
Understand that in certain circumstances a negative reference can be illegal if it is discriminatory or retaliatory in nature. For example, your former boss can't give you a negative reference if you have filed or won a legitimate lawsuit against someone in the company for harassment. Check with your state labor law codes to see what your employer can say about you. If you have any concerns about something that was said about you, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney to protect your legal rights.
Use Other References
Stop using someone as a reference if you suspect they are saying bad things about you, because you aren't helping your cause. Provide other names of people you worked within the past that saw your potential, even if it is a college professor or the manager of a past internship. An older reference is better than a new one that will be bad.