is my old manager sabotaging my job search?

A reader write:

I recently retired from a job that I had been at for more than 30 years. For most of that time, I had the same manager. In the last few years, we had a new manager and it was no longer a happy place to work. During that time, I ended ended up almost doing all of the new manager’s job for her.

This new manager was a nasty person and although I remained professional and managed to get through it all, I feel they are now making it difficult for me to secure new employment. To make along story short, I feel I am being “blackballed” by this person and that they are not giving me a good recommendation, even though I worked there for so long and had nothing but excellent evaluations, and did a good job.

I am now looking for another job. Since July, I have applied to over twenty jobs and have yet to find employment. I have been called in for at least five serious interviews, but still have not secured jobs which I know that I am qualified for.

I guess my question is this. How do I circumvent what my past employer is doing to me and find employment? Should I contact jobs I did not get after a successful interview and tactfully ask why? Please help me, and I am becoming frustrated.

I don’t think we have reason to think that your past manager is giving you a bad reference. It’s been three months and you’ve applied to 20 jobs — in this job market, that’s not a particularly high number.

There are 6.3 unemployed workers to every one job opening, according to recent numbers from the Labor Department. Compare that to the 1.7 unemployed job-seekers per opening that we had back in 2007. What do those numbers mean? That a ton of great candidates aren’t getting hired, even when they apply for jobs they’re qualified for and even when they do well in interviews.

As I’ve written here before, hiring managers are rejecting a lot of great candidates right now, candidates we’d happily hire if we didn’t have so many others just as qualified to choose from. That means it might not be you, and it might not be your past boss. It might be the math.

But if you’re convinced you have a reference problem, you have a few different options (and you could do any or all of these):

1. Call your old manager and ask what kind of reference she’s able to give you.

2. Have someone else call her and do a reference check on you. There are companies you can hire for that purpose, but it’s cheaper to just have a friend do it for you for free.

3. Explain to prospective employers that you got along well with your manager for 30 years, but during your last four years there, you had a new manager who you didn’t mesh well with. Explain that you can give tons of other references who can speak glowingly of you (including your 30-year manager, right?).

But I’m telling you — 20 job applications and three months isn’t that much in this economy, and that might be the real issue.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Kerry*

    Seriously, 20 jobs is nothing. I'm hearing from people who have applied for a couple hundred jobs and are still not employed (and these are decent candidates, not losers).

    If you had applied for only 20 jobs and had found sometime (especially after spending that many years in one place), you would be unbelievably lucky.

    Additionally, I've seen a lot of candidates in my day who have thought that their previous manager had somehow sabotaged them…but never once have I seen it actually happen. That's not to say this never occurs…but it's very rare.

  2. M*

    Oh, I can totally sympathize with you on that one. Only, my search has been since May and every great interview I have goes no where.

    I propose a secondary question that people like the OP and myself might benefit from:

    How do you make yourself stand out or memorable in a crowd of equally talented people?

    Tips to make your resume stand out in a flooded in-box?

    What should you do if you're already going in ultra prepared, researched, rehearsed, calm/ cool/ collected (even if you're secretly pooping your pants on the inside!)?

    Its SO hard to try to remember all of the extras you can bring to the position that maybe aren't listed on the posting without sounding like you're a total self-loving d-bag.

    I am trying really hard to not settle for a "job" when I am trying to get my career on track, but it might be inevitable.

    Its exhausting and spirit crushing at times…

  3. TigerTrails*

    Tack a 0 on that 20, and you'll be close to how many jobs I've applied for since June. I've gotten 3 interviews. I just don't have very much experience and there are a ton of people that do. So, I doubt its a bad reference, but you can always list your old boss instead of the new one, and do as Alison said, explain that you worked with one person for 30 years and he can speak best for you, that the new person doesn't know you as well.

    My problem is that I don't have 3 professional references, because the people I once worked for and with, have all moved on long ago, and I wasn't able to keep in touch. Which makes me question anyway; Is it fair to ask someone to be a reference for you if they left the company you both worked for and now work somewhere else, years ago?

  4. Just Another HR Lady*

    I wouldn't immediately assume that your previous manager is giving you a negative reference simply because you had not found a position as of yet. However, if you are certain, I would probably suggest using the manager you had for 30 years as a reference rather than this new manager. It's simple to explain that this is the person who worked with you the longest and knows you best.

    A few tidbits of advice: Always ask a person if they can provide you with a positive reference BEFORE you put them on your list of referees. At least that way you know one way or the other. AND secondly, always keep in touch with those people who can provide you with a reference. As an employer, I find it highly circumspect when someone tells me they can't provide a reference. Keeping in touch with solid references is part of managing your career properly, especially in today's environment where all you need is a quick e-mail occasionally to keep in touch.

  5. Anonymous*

    Someone with 30 years experience is most likely in their 50's. Though no one will talk about it, I suspect that the writer's age is another reason why they're not being hired.

  6. Anonymous*

    I agree with anonymous, I think it's possible (unfair, and silly to be sure) that it is in fact the 30 years in one place that's doing more harm than her manager, who probably is not giving her a bad reference at all.

    Also, really, only 20 jobs in three months? Shoot, I was doing probably 10 positions a week and getting maybe one or two interviews a month until I left the job search to go back to school this fall.


  7. Anonymous*

    Hello, in reading the original post, I too had similar thoughts about a past manager…initially. I tend to agree more with the idea that its simply a matter of math and "candidate overload" so to speak.

    FYI – I have been sending between 30-40 resumes per week for the past six months!! Do the math on that (total about 720)! I'm 28, have a bachelors degree, and have been in my indsutry for about 9 years. Six interviews, four of which I went to the second round and… offers!!

  8. Anonymous*

    Perhaps I'm the only one but what happened to quality of quantity? In this job market it is even more important to target your job search. Please do not apply to 100s of jobs without being qualified! You want to ensure that you fit the criteria outlined in job posting. We always encourage our clients to only apply for jobs for which they are suitable. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I can assure you that simply applying to any position is not going to make you stand out from the crowd. As an HR representative it can be overwhelming and frustrating searching through 100s of resumes only to find 1-5 qualified candidates. Your expertise and experience is what will set you out from the crowd. 30 years of experience is an asset, ensure you apply for positions that require this level of expertise. You will not get a call for a junior level job as a properly trained HR individual is aware you will not be satisfied and will only look for work elsewhere.

    Good luck in you job search. I truly hope you find the right position.

  9. Anonymous*

    You all haven't answered the question.

    What if you know for a fact that your manager is sabotaging you and she has even told you so?

  10. Ask a Manager*

    Anon, we haven't answered that question because that wasn't the one that was asked. Please feel free to email me your questions with more details; it's hard to answer it based just on one sentence.

Comments are closed.