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Old 08-20-2012, 05:50 PM
 
Location: Temporarily, in Limerick
2,898 posts, read 5,200,286 times
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Hello All...

This one is a bit dicey & I'm out of ideas. My cousin is suddenly divorcing. She did regular office work for her husband for 10-yrs, but wasn't paid for it. Basically, he paid all the bills, she did a full work week. He absolutely refuses to give her a reference & she has no paystubs to prove she worked for him. She had no contact with clients, co-workers, bosses, etc... she simply did all his paperwork, computer work, typed reports, made travel arrangements.

It's very knarly & there is no communication between them whatsoever (his choice as she decided to end the marriage). He's being childish, e.g., saying he'd love to speak to prospective employers to give them an earful of exactly what she's like, etc., so after a few months of trying, she's given up begging him for help, yet needs to find work & is stuck with no reference or job verification for the past 10-yrs. As an aside, knowing her husband, he's not likely to come around, so she needs to find another avenue.

Prior to marriage, she held various jobs... mostly secretarial. She was always a good employee, but many of the biz's she worked for were sole proprietorships & gosh, she's got the worst luck. One was a doctor (she was his only employee) who died 15-yrs ago... no reference. She tried to remain in touch with his daughter, who also died years ago... no reference. Another was for a friend's husband. 10-yrs ago they moved out of state & lost contact. She's tried to trace them, heard they divorced & remarried & can't find them... so, no reference. She's twice worked PT for friends, one from France, the other England. Both returned home years ago & for some reason, never kept in touch. She can't locate them 5-10 yrs later... so, no references.

She can furnish a resume with all her correct job info & responsibilities, but cannot back up 1 job with a verifiable reference. Because she's a homebody whose life revolved around taking care of her husband who worked extraordinary hours, she had little social life outside the home. They also moved quite frequently from state to state so establishing friendships was low on her list. She was happy to be at home. So, she's hard pressed to even come up with a list of personal references, if that were her only option... not sure an employer would care, in any case, to talk to her friends/relatives for a reference? Of course, we'd say she's great.

A friend suggested she simply explain her situation in an interview & see what happens, although each story sounds just that to me... a story leading to another story. If I didn't know her & know her character, I might have a hard time believing her myself. My only thought was that she begin with a temp agency... typing, receptionist. She can use MS Office programs, types 80+ wpm & is a reliable worker. Perhaps if she explains her situation, then backs it up saying she'll be willing to take whatever they offer her, PT/FT, 1-day only jobs & remain on a probationary period with no benefits knowing they can dismiss her immediately if she cannot deliver the goods, it might work? After 1-yr or so, she'll then have a verifiable reference. Does that sound plausible?

I don't know how else to advise her. How does she tell the truth, but not make it seem as if she's killing off past employers or making them disappear (yes, I'm kidding). No references, no co-workers, no paystubs, companies were small & dissolved long ago or people moved out of the state/country & vanished. It sounds like a wonderful plot for an MI-5 spy movie.

Oh, one other thought someone put on the table (I nixed it, btw) was to say she never worked. Had a husband, didn't have to work, now she needs to... so essentially, no resume. It doesn't sound any more looney that the truth, but it does sound unambitious.

Any thoughts on how to approach the resume? Ideas on presenting her job history in an interview?

Thanks very much. She really needs a job soon to afford rent, so I'm trying my best to find out suitable info to help move her in that direction.
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Old 08-20-2012, 05:53 PM
 
Location: On Earth
399 posts, read 602,892 times
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If I were her and I've done this, is you put down where you worked, but that this employer cannot be contacted if they request if they can contact them. Keep it simple and say that there are personal reasons why he cannot be contacted and you'd like to leave it at that. NO need to elaborate. She worked, whether she was paid or not, she was employed. She doesn't have to show paystubs from an previous employer when starting a new job. Wishing her luck!
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Old 08-20-2012, 06:12 PM
 
Location: Temporarily, in Limerick
2,898 posts, read 5,200,286 times
Reputation: 3424
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaylee11 View Post
If I were her and I've done this, is you put down where you worked, but that this employer cannot be contacted if they request if they can contact them. Keep it simple and say that there are personal reasons why he cannot be contacted and you'd like to leave it at that. NO need to elaborate. She worked, whether she was paid or not, she was employed. She doesn't have to show paystubs from an previous employer when starting a new job. Wishing her luck!
Firstly, Kaylee, thank you for the quickest response on the planet. I swear I hit Enter, posted, 1/2-second later, there you were.

Can you elaborate a bit? I know you can use the 'don't contact present employer' excuse if still employed because you obviously don't want your current employer to catch wind of your desire to leave. I've been in those situations, but they've always contacted them after I came over to work for the new company via mail... I had to sign a waiver saying they could afterwards.

I'm assuming if she says 'personal reasons', they'll ask which personal reasons & she can't keep repeating the same. Also, she might come across as difficult to get along with... I think it would be a flashing red light to say you're having personal issues with an employer, no?

Also, how would you handle no references with all the other jobs? Tell that ridiculous sounding story... nope, he's dead, she died, he left & can't be found, they returned to Europe. Wow, that sounds... all made up! Additionally, she does have reference letters from several of those past friends/employers, but that too looks dicey handing someone 3-4 reference letters, none with bosses who can be contacted any further & whose companies are now long gone. Even the old phone #'s & addresses aren't where any of those people can be reached. 'I can make up letterhead on my computer, too', is what I'd expect them to say. Oh, it's a mess.

She's getting a resume together today & said she'd just make an appt with an employment agency this week, give them the resume & if they seem suspicious she'd just toss herself on their desk saying 'I'm sorry. I have no references. Hire me or don't.' Not sure a wise move in this economy... At least she's keeping her sense of humor about it.

Thanks Kaylee
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Old 08-20-2012, 09:03 PM
 
Location: California
4,402 posts, read 11,601,056 times
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Volunteer. Anywhere, but preferably somewhere that requires you be reliable.

Combine this with the work history and lack of ability to contact former employer. People pick and choose their references all the time. So, volunteer and get a reference from the volunteer coordinator. Couple that with the other info.

And, honestly, go with the truth.

References should NEVER be provided with the resume. I would advise she apply online with her resume. Let them interview and like her. At which point they will ask for references. Let them know that you have one from a volunteer place, have personal, etc...explain BRIEFLY that the work experience was in an office torn apart by a divorce.

Someone will be sympathetic. Divorce is common. I am guessing that at least a couple of the hiring managers have been through one, or know someone who has, and will sympathize.

The trick to this is getting the resume out IN FRONT of the reference issue. Once she has been interviewed, they will know she has the necessary skills (you can't talk some through how to set up an Excel Spreadsheet with no prior experience) and the reference thing may be less of an issue.

Heck. I have managed to get jobs at which my references were never called. So, resume out in front of the paper application.

Oh, and I ALWAYS tell people to stay the heck away from "personal reasons" as a reason. "Personal reasons" can come back. This situation...well, as she is not applying to work for her husband, there is little to no chance the issue that keeps her from having references will happen at this office. Let them know it is an isolated incident. People can have personal reasons over a whole bunch of stuff...no references due to employer being ex husband...that is a much more specific situation that is MUCH less likely to come back.

I would, personally, say when asked for references "Well, as my ex husband was my boss, can't really say what he would say" but I do have this personal reference and this volunteer one. And this one from the pastor of my church. But being honest while light about it...well, as I said, who in their right mind doesn;t understand that one. Or, let them call him. Tell them that he is the ex husband and you are going through a divorce, so you are not sure what he will say. I call references all the time. A 100% negative reference only happens when there is a personal axe to grind. NO ONE works a job longer than about a week without having AT LEAST ONE good quality. References who only say REALLY bad things are automatically suspect.
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:15 AM
 
Location: Temporarily, in Limerick
2,898 posts, read 5,200,286 times
Reputation: 3424
TBunny... Thank you very much! Great advice about getting resume visability online first. Volunteering is another great idea for reference building.

I'm going to help her put the finishing touches on her resume today & tomorrow as she seems to be stunned by it all & doesn't know what to do... best in these situations to keep moving forward or the mind races with all sorts of defeating thoughts. I also told her to print up some quick biz cards (just name & phone) & always carry 1-2 copies of her resume with her. You never know who you might run into & it's always good to be prepared. Back in the old days when all my mates were 20-something musicians, they'd print up 30 copies of their resume & walk through the local mall, dropping off one in each store with an employment vacancy sign. They usually were offered something same day. This was basically my attempt to prompt her to get dressed in something other than baggies, brush her hair & get out of the house. She tends to hide away & this nastiness is taking a toll on her.

After processing all your info, it's perhaps best they don't call the husband. It's unlikely he'd return their VMs & if he answers, who knows... it could be very embarrassing for her. Another way I felt to avoid talking about any discordance at all during an interview is to stretch the dates a bit (it wouldn't be by much), saying she's still working for a family biz & no they can't call as no one is aware she's looking for another job. Her reason for leaving can be she'd like to broaden her horizons after 10-yrs in a small family-run office. If they call afterwards (as I've had done with me), then she can explain about the divorce if the husband is less than cordial. As you'd mentioned, it's not the first time HR has probably heard this story, but I feel why invite it in? Does that make sense?

Well, I guess we've got to get moving to post her resume online. She won't know which obstacles she'll face until she begins the interviewing process. All this is a good learning experience, for others, too. Until this happened, I must admit to not being a good networker myself. I've worked for dot.com companies which were bought out so many times, no one in the new incarnation of the old company has any idea who I am & I normally was glad to leave jobs (or moved away) & didn't remain in contact with old bosses or co-workers. That was the old days. In our technologically advanced era, we can't afford to lose touch with valuable contacts or burn bridges any longer... too many LinkedIn contacts need to be built. I'm going to revamp my resume, too. Her experience has taught me that I'm not too savvy about this who process either.

Thank you very much again! This info was most helpful!
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Old 08-21-2012, 11:03 AM
 
Location: Temporarily, in Limerick
2,898 posts, read 5,200,286 times
Reputation: 3424
Default TheBunny... forgot to ask

... your opinion on her written reference letters? If asked after an interview, she could supply them, but nothing can be verified as all the companies have long dissolved & the people can't be found. Is it best to just not offer them?

Also, are her chances pretty good with an employment agency, particularly if she says she'll take the harder to fill jobs with lower pay or short assignments? I haven't done temp work for 25-yrs, but I'd say 1/3 of the companies I had a short temp assignment with asked if I were interested in becoming a FT employee. I'm a bit out of the modern loop, so don't know if those options are available these days?

Thanks again.
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Old 08-21-2012, 03:43 PM
 
Location: Portlandia "burbs"
10,234 posts, read 13,977,460 times
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Y'know, only once has an interviewer not wanted references from me, although that was a long time ago. She considered them to be a waste of time.

And they really are a waste of time, as far as I'm concerned, because the person giving reference for someone will only give glowing reviews. But supervisors/managers have to walk on eggshells with any information they provide. Concerns like attendance, poor performance. . . Those questions are illegal to ask, and if a bad reference causes someone to not get hired then it's fodder for a lawsuit. Of course, this is a threat only if they want to contact management; other references are people of our own choosing.

I will likely search for a job within a few months, and I do not want anyone contacting my last supervisor. I will make that known up front in my applications. But I do have a long list of good references willing to back me up. None of my prior supervisors or employers are around, either. All have gone away. Except for my last one, of course.
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Old 08-21-2012, 06:01 PM
 
Location: Temporarily, in Limerick
2,898 posts, read 5,200,286 times
Reputation: 3424
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluesmama View Post
... references... are a waste of time, as far as I'm concerned, because the person giving reference for someone will only give glowing reviews. But supervisors/managers have to walk on eggshells with any information they provide. Concerns like attendance, poor performance. . . Those questions are illegal to ask, and if a bad reference causes someone to not get hired then it's fodder for a lawsuit. Of course, this is a threat only if they want to contact management; other references are people of our own choosing.
I agree BluesM... cheers for replying. A hundred years ago, when I was a teen, I worked in HR when it was called Personnel... it might even still have been called Employment Dept. Goodness, I'm old. People never called direct managers for references, only HR. That was thought to be a ploy... a co-worker acting as direct mngr... but HR had the employment records. At that time, we could only legally verify 3 things... if the person was indeed a former employee, their title & their dates of employment. The word separation was used only, even if the person was terminated for stealing or escorted out of the bldg drunk (both of which I've seen)... couldn't ruin an applicant's ability to get another job... date of hire, date of separation. We couldn't even verify salary, but the way around it was to tell the person they could quote a salary range & we would either agree or disagree, so it was in essence, an opinion. My boss, Personnel Director, instructed us to always agree, no matter the salary range. Whenever anyone wished to ask anything further, or used the phrase 'off the record' we were instructed to give the aforementioned name/rank/serial #. And, that was before times were so litigious.

I don't know what the legalities are today. I realize times have changed & people may wish to know more about the person's day-to-day on-job experience, which projects they may have worked on, strengths & weaknesses, etc. And, I suppose it all depends upon industry. For the most part, I think references are a waste of time, as well. Some former bosses I've had looked good on paper & were awful at what they did... & the reverse. But, it's a hoop most of us must jump through at one point or another.

Quote:
I will likely search for a job within a few months, and I do not want anyone contacting my last supervisor. I will make that known up front in my applications. But I do have a long list of good references willing to back me up. None of my prior supervisors or employers are around, either. All have gone away. Except for my last one, of course.
Without getting too personal, may I ask what you will say about not wanting them to call your last boss? And, is your long list of references previous co-workers? Here's why I ask... I'm trying to get together something usable for my cousin. She never had any co-workers... always a 1 person office. And, she's a bit light on friends... her life was taking care of her husband. The 'couple' friends have disappeared & are on Team Husband & don't want to get in the middle, so are not even returning calls.

Still my only thought around her dilema is to say she's currently employed & doesn't want the current boss to be called. I guess I'm thinking if they ask why during an interview, she can't keep answering vaguely without eventually giving something plausible which will suffice. I just can't figure out what that excuse can be & the more I think about the divorce reply, the more off I feel about it. I like to completely separate my work & personal life. When I've broken up with SOs... most in the office never heard about it 'til long after the home drama was over... but, that's just me. Also, in our current day of rage this & rage that... were I in a hiring position, I might be a bit trepidacious of someone reporting hostile ex problems right out of the gate... don't want to invite in a lad in need of restraints & a good strong sedative visiting the office one day when he's feeling the need to lash out at the one who left him. First impressions & all...

Thank you again for your help! And, good luck with your upcoming search!
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Old 08-21-2012, 06:44 PM
 
Location: California
4,402 posts, read 11,601,056 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PatanjaliTwist View Post
... your opinion on her written reference letters? If asked after an interview, she could supply them, but nothing can be verified as all the companies have long dissolved & the people can't be found. Is it best to just not offer them?

Also, are her chances pretty good with an employment agency, particularly if she says she'll take the harder to fill jobs with lower pay or short assignments? I haven't done temp work for 25-yrs, but I'd say 1/3 of the companies I had a short temp assignment with asked if I were interested in becoming a FT employee. I'm a bit out of the modern loop, so don't know if those options are available these days?

Thanks again.
I would stay away from the written references. They are old and why call attention to the fact that she has references just not current ones. I say put off mention or discussion of references as long as possible.

I also think stretching the dates is a BAD idea. people get fired for that, and that is the last thing she needs now.
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Old 08-21-2012, 07:22 PM
 
Location: Temporarily, in Limerick
2,898 posts, read 5,200,286 times
Reputation: 3424
Quote:
Originally Posted by thebunny View Post
I also think stretching the dates is a BAD idea. people get fired for that, and that is the last thing she needs now.
Right, TB... but this job cannot be verified anyway... her husband won't give a reference, she has no paystubs, etc. It's only by a few months. Otherwise, she's got to come up with reasons he can't be called for a reference & therein lies the messy divorce story. Change your mind?

She's nervous enough having to interview. All past jobs were for friends or family & were offered to her. Just trying to get the resume done, then do some practice interviews with her beforehand, so she can feel comfortable addressing whatever might come up... not that I'm a genius interviewer. But, I'm doing the best I can.

Thank you again for your help!
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