People are terminated every day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll never be hired again. The important thing to know is what caused the termination. Here’s a real example: One of our clients wanted to hire an inside salesperson. All the references were essentially positive, but there was some question about this individual’s ability to do cold selling. The client was aware of that possibility, but felt his company’s training program could teach anybody to become a productive salesperson. Well, in this instance, the sales training just didn’t take. The individual who was hired simply wasn’t comfortable doing cold selling to total strangers. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t do it. As a result, he was terminated. Was that termination tantamount to an employment death sentence? Not at all. The individual had performed extremely well in many other aspects of the job and was well liked by everyone. This was just one of those instances where it was simply a job mismatch!

Furthermore, two of the man’s coworkers agreed to be references for him. In less than a month, he was hired for a job that turned out to be a good match, with no cold selling.

The first employer knew about the possibility of failure doing cold calling; the ones involved in hiring him simply guessed wrong about the impact of their training program on the guy’s job performance. All of his references provided honest opinions about the candidate. The second employer learned about the termination, but had the expertise to ask what caused it. Ever though it was a termination, the result was a far better job match on the second try. Honesty clearly paid off for the candidate in the long run. So, even a seemingly negative, but honest, comment has to be viewed within the context of everything else that’s said by each reference.