In today’s society it is rare for an individual to remain with the same company that they originally started with when they graduated high school or college. In fact, moving up the corporate ladder often involves changing companies so that you can get better positions and salary options that will benefit your resume and income. However, it is important to remember that when you decide to make a move that there is a process involved before you are hired by a company.

When applying for new positions, applicants are usually required to submit a resume and complete the company’s application which asks for a wide range of information. Besides wanting to know your previous work experience history there is the matter of references which can be a touchy situation depending on how you left your previous position or the relationship status with the prior supervisor.

In some cases a single bad reference is not a deal breaker especially if you have impressed the HR Manager and hiring committee with your solid resume and outstanding interview performance; however, it is necessary to know how to deal with this situation should it come up. The following Do’s and Don’ts can help you safely navigate this tricky area with finesse and confidence:

DO’s –

– Provide a complete list of employment locations. You should always provide a thorough list of previous work experiences but this does not mean that you need to give the contact information. If it is one of the mandatory fields on the application then simply put NA or provide the name of a supervisor in your chain that you did get along with.

– Be upfront and honest when asked. If the hiring company’s policy is to speak with your former supervisor then explain the situation in a professional and brief manner without providing emotional and unnecessary details. Always ensure that you have an alternate name and number to give the committee in order to satisfy their requirements.

– Attempt to clear the air and call a truce with the supervisor. Try to get ahead of the situation and speak with the supervisor in an open and non-threatening way. Let them know what you are doing and ask them to provide a fair assessment of your work even if there were disagreements between the two of you. This can be a challenging step as you don’t want to make matters worse so be careful and think before you speak.

– Make sure that your documentation and presentations are near perfect. If you know there is no way around a bad reference then that makes your resume and interview that much more important. Use professional resume writers to help sharpen and edit your document so that it is perfect in format and grammar. Practice with someone on possible interview questions so you can establish solid and confident answers and look the members in the eye when speaking to them. You need to make an unforgettable impression so dress for the position and walk in with confidence about your abilities and skills. The most important tip is to always be honest about any situations that you know will be discussed and ensure that every other step will be above reproach.

– Understand the company’s policies on negative references. A company’s image is very important to them especially within their own industry so they may have written policies on reference letters. Check out the guidelines and make sure that the supervisor is abiding by this before accepting the document.

DON’Ts –

Ask for verbal references in place of written. Telling a hiring committee that you were given a glowing reference by someone without backing it up with documentation does not leave a good impression. You should always get a reference letter in writing so you can choose whether to use it or not.

Provide references from the distant past. The last thing you need for an employer to hear over the phone is silence because the individual is trying to remember who you are. You should never list individuals as references that you haven’t spoken to in a while even if you used to be very good friends. A good rule of thumb is to use names that you have spoken to at least a couple of times over the past months’ time frame and let them know that you use their name as a reference.

The best offense is a great defense so always do your best to remain in good standing with any members of management while you are employed. While you cannot control the actions of others it helps to know that they will be your allies in the future instead of potential roadblocks to success.