A reader writes:
My sister was recently chosen for a permanent position at a large organization where she had previously worked as a temp. They performed over three weeks of scrupulous recruitment procedures, and she passed a background check with flying colors. She was asked for a list of her references, which of course included the person she previously worked for at this organization, who she trusted implicitly. They had gotten along very well, he wrote her a very nice reference letter when her temp assignment ended, and he continued to provide stellar reviews of her to other companies she applied to during her work search.
Well, she just found out that she is being rejected due to an unfavorable reference from him. His review of her to the hiring manager was a complete 360 degree turn from the references he gave about her previously to other companies, wherein he praised her skills and work performance. Instead, he “hemmed and hawed” to the hiring manager and said that he thought he could do better, stating that my sister showed little initiative in the job with him. The hiring manager did tell my sister that this person’s review completely went against his own impression of her, and her other references checked out very favorably; however, since this person was within the organization, he was giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Needless to say, my sister is gobsmacked. She thinks she might have some legal recourse, as she has copies of the references this person had given to other companies on her behalf, as well as the reference letter this person wrote when her assignment ended. (She also sent copies of these references to the hiring manager.)
You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).