Should I mention the possibility of a poor reference in a job interview?

by admin on September 10, 2010

I am looking for a change of career, and have an interview coming up which would suit perfectly. I know the manager relatively well, and we get along pretty good. However, the interview will be conducted by 2 additional people I don’t know well or at all.

I fear that my current employer will give me a poor reference due to the fact I have been unable to work, due to injury and illness a LOT during my employment with them. I work for a large company, in a manual job, with a lot of strict back to work procedures, as they have had a few recent compensation claims. I have not yet been deemed fit to work which have prevented me from being able to return. The back to work stuff is conducted through HR, but my reference would come from my line manager, who is annoyed by my level of attendance.

The sickness and injuries would not have prevented me from working in the new environment, and would have had near perfect attendance if not for my employers overly strict back to work procedures.

Should I mention that during the interview, say something to the effect of, my current employer will have to mention that I have had a lot of time off recently, but assure them that it would not have affected my ability to come to work in this environment, and previous employers would not mention that I am a "sickie", be honest, and try to preempt the apparently negative reference, which may or may not mention it. Or should I ignore it, and hope that my employer doesn’t really mention it, and not draw attention to sickness if i don’t need to.

I’m not talking about lying if asked directly about it, but rather bringing it up at the end when they ask if i have any other comments.
Just as a side note. I live in the UK, and workers comp/disabilities I guess work differently here.

I am not getting any state benefits at the moment for my sickness, I’m not "signed off" by a doctor, rather my current employers HR department has chosen not to allow me to return to work, due to fear of aggravating the condition.

In essence, my doctor has suggested only returning to light duties, no heavy lifting etc, which my employer says is not something they can accommodate, whereas my new job would be a desk job with no heavy lifting involved.

I am not "playing the system" or anything like that.

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destaduda September 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

No! Employers are terrified of giving bad references. They open themselves to the possibility of being sued by you. They usually limit themselves to verifying income and length of employment. Your interview is meant as a chance for you to sell yourself. Give the most positive information possible. The sickness you mention won’t affect your new employer.

James R September 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I would bring it up in the answer to the question- "Why are you looking for a new job"?

Say your last employer’s working environment gave you health problems (make it clear because of the manual work) and you are looking for a position that will not be affected by that.

Andi, HR Specialist September 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

If you are injured or ill and unable to hold a job, you will have a problem. When asked if there is any reason why you can not fulfill the job tasks, you can not lie – so what will you say?

You should not be looking for a new job while you are on work comp, and if you are on disability you need to get well and fully recovered before you will be able to obtain new employment.

Your employer should only remark on your performance and not on your medical condition. However reliability is part of performance – don’t you think?

If you are fully recovered, then I would clearly state that you had an illness or injury and have fully recovered and are completely able to work, but are looking for a new and more challenging position.

dymond September 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I would say something like-My previous employment was affected by injuries and illness that have no relation to the skills required to positively preform my duty’s in this job.They will ask what illness and injury’s kept you from working, This is to see if they could be a factor in your new position.The main thing is be honest.Finding out you lied or stretched the truth will cost you in the long run.

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