Hiring blacklists: Do they exist?

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In this tough labor market, it’s challenging enough to get a job, even with the right experience and a spotless employment record. So what happens if you left a company on bad terms or you got caught in a lie during an interview? Could that land you on a company’s no-hire list, or blacklist?

According to Fred Cooper, managing partner at Compass HR Consulting, “In the case of labor-relations law, it is unfair labor practice to discriminate against — blacklist — employees who encourage or discourage acts of support for a labor organization, and one does not want the Department of Labor investigating an allegation of an unfair labor practice.”

But that doesn’t mean recruitment firms or companies don’t have some form of a do-not-hire list. “Most employers maintain records of employees that are not eligible for rehire,” says John Millikin, clinical professor of management at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business and former vice president of human resources at Motorola. “This is usually because they have been terminated for cause. These would be difficult to appeal unless there were new facts that were not evident at the time the adverse action was taken.”

What could land you on the list
Cooper says a variety of infringements could land someone on an informal no-hire list, including:

  • Former employees leaving under less than acceptable circumstances.
  • Job seekers who have applied numerous times to the same company, but for different jobs and using résumés that tell conflicting stories about their skills, abilities, education, etc.
  • Candidates who were interviewed previously and failed background or reference checks.
  • Applicants who gave such poor interviews that the time spent was considered a waste.

Word of mouth can wound
Judi Perkins, career coach and founder of Find the Perfect Job, says that it’s also possible to get on a no-hire list of a company you haven’t worked at or applied to. “Underground references, as I call them — off-the-record ones — can be equally damaging,” Perkins says. “People who know each other through professional associations, relationships between a company and a vendor, and small industries where everyone knows each other can be instrumental in [causing] further damage to a candidate. For instance, Candidate A may have interviewed at Company A and been blacklisted. Thanks to word of mouth, they’re now blacklisted at Companies B, C, D and E as well.”

Can you repair the damage?
With the current state of the economy and the number of potential applicants for each vacancy, unless it is a ‘low inventory/high demand’ type of job needing to be filled, and a former employee has the experience, education, training and skills needed, employers can be quite selective in deciding who to interview, and ultimately, who gets a company ID badge,” Cooper says.

Yet he says in some circumstances you can get a second chance. “If the former or prospective new employee has turned their life around, learned from their mistakes, has matured and can somehow demonstrate a virtually ‘new person’ is now asking for another chance, perhaps that second chance will be given … the former employee can demonstrate they are not today the same person that left under less-than-favorable circumstances yesterday.”

  1. Tebaliah Burgin I don’t know if I’m blacklisted well I know is I got a domestic felony on my record and I can’t find a job every interview I go to I tell them about the felony they tell me they don’t hire people that have felonies

  2. Good article.
    I’ve only worked as an armed guard over the last 24 years and landed on my previous employer’s bad side when I was hurt on the job. They initially refused to take me back, so with bills piling up I filed a Worker’s Compensation claim against my employer’s wishes. It was disputed, but I won and was taken back to work at reduced pay and reduced hours which subsequently and progressively dropped even further until I was given no work at all. I then filed a Worker’s Compensation Discrimination claim, which I also won.
    Even though it is illegal to bad-mouth candidates to potential employers I can no longer get work as an armed security guard. In such a litigious city employer’s apparently find lower risk in sharing negative assessments between themselves in than hiring potential bad apples and dealing with the resultant problems. (It’s just good business).
    So though I’ve never called out sick and have always done what was asked of me in my working life, (and not just over the last ten years with my previous employer), I’ve gotten no call-backs from prospective employers after interviews that appeared to go very well.
    Any thoughts on reference checking services and legal re-courses?

    •  @New_Yorker a similar thing happened to me 5 years ago, only at a cabinet shop. i could prove discrimination took place as the employer never had any intention to create a “light” duty position and put me right back to work in a “heavy” duty position right after a spine surgery. my doctor had to put me back on disability. my lawyer didn’t want to do anything but settle and get his commission, so i did. when prospective employers do a background check, the fact that you filed a work-comp claim will be there. i have asked people hypothetically if they would hire someone with an open medical claim and they do not like the idea at all, because if you injure yourself on the job again, the new claim will be on them, even though the majority of you damaged back happened elsewhere. and voc-rehab where i live is a joke. take care and good luck.

  3. This is a very troubling article. While I would concur that there can be, and many times are, troubled candidates is any pool of potential employees. However, companies must be very careful to determine the validity of the information on these so called “underground blacklists”. I know for a fact that good employees unfortunately can become victims of the politics of unethical coworkers and managers. The same unethical folks who are feeding these “blacklists”.

    Hiring Managers, you are entrusted with a great responsibility. Please make sure to do your homework on any and all candidates. Be the leaders that you are supposed to be. Use your own judgement, and give all candidates the chance they deserve. Throw the “blacklist” out the window.

  4. How would one correct being blacklisted because the person in charge had it “out” for you? I have had interviews & have had tried using a “headhunter”, everything is all wonderful & very promising, then all of a sudden I don’t hear from the headhunters & they stop answering my emails. When I get the interviews, that I have done without a headhunter, I receive the typical declination letter. Almost 3 yrs later & still am not employed. I have obtained additional licenses, furthering my education and now I am about to loose the licenses that I have worked very hard to get & to keep because I am not appointed with any company. One can not get re-appointed or newly appointed withou working for someone who represents a company. I can not PROVE that they are blacklisting me so how do I get past this?

    • You may want to pull your own background check or credit check and see if there’s anything that is there in error. Also, if there is something there that you think may be flagging you among employers, address it upfront to let them know and be able to speak to it so you are crafting the message instead of the employer drawing their own conclusions. Another thought may be to ensure you’re cover letters & resumes are tailored to each position/company – being overly generic isn’t helpful in making you stand out as a job seeker. I’d also research more companies within the industry you are searching to vary who you are applying with. Many times, when you apply at the same company over & over & over again, you get flagged.

  5. i have been placed on a ‘blacklist’ of sorts. i’m an rn, worked for ny state dept of corrections and was unduly harassed at my job, vying with another more favorite employee for the boss’ job and they wanted me gone. it got so bad my attendance suffered due to mental anguish, and finally i did have to resign. i did qualify for unemployment as it was obvious my union did nothing to protect me from this. some 3 years later, i have moved to another state and applied to every nursing job i came across. after a year of looking i found that my former emplloyer has been giving potential new employers a would not rehire recommendation. not only were they instrumental in my having to resign after 17 years, but now are preventing me from being employed at all. it would be fien if this would not rehire could be expunged from my personnel records but i cannot afford an attorney. any ideas from anyone?

    • @keywestmm0 
      Hi keywestmm0, 
      Just read your post, and found we have much in common. Would love to visit more via my private email, as I too am a RN of many years who endured a similar situation as your own. With an excellent employment history, and a patient advocate NO matter what, it was a true “nightmare,” realizing a new nurse “manager,” who represented everything I was/am not as a person, nor a nurse…had been hired into a position of authority in a united unit of excellent and long term oncology nurses. Having a long history of bullying behavior at previous facilities, she shows up with but one goal, to inflict her special brand of “evil” into a dedicated, long term, bounded at the “hip” group of nurses.
      This cannot be tolerated for ANY reason!
      Much more available, but also I have ideas of change I would love to share!
      Take Care,
      A Texas Nurse

      • Hello kindred spirit- I am glad you responded to my post though it is pure hell to have been put in such a position. When these types aren’t stopped in their tracks by their own superiors, it fuels their narcissistic egos even further to do ever increasing damage to others. I still am not working, am not eligible for unemployment benefits or for government assistance, I rely solely on the meager proceeds made from the sale of my home almost 2 years ago, which is rapidly dwindling. The saying that ‘nurses eat their young’ now seems applicable beyond new grad status. Would love to correspond, maybe brainstorm- please provide an email address so this can be possible.  Thanks, an unemployed Delaware nurse.@Emily Broyles  @keywestmm0

  6. Hi ,all! One should be extremely concerned about blacklisting . Im a 8 year professional. I Sued my company for sexual harassment ,physical violence . I’m not getting into the details , however there was over 5 hours of video ,tape and numerous client co worker complaints .
    Well I’ve had 6 interviews to date same industry and EVERY SINGLE ONE starts off with extreme enthusiasm,3jobs offered salary information 2 jobs I met my new supervisor . All went away after the reference check . Responses range from what happened at company XYZ, to get lost.

    It’s extremely sad that these people will and have obviously destroyed people befor.
    Well Take care and smile … I am .

  7. I was terminated at my 90 day probationary period and have been blacklisted by the company.  Fortunately, I was signed up with a temp. agency prior to this and had the promise of an excellent assignment prior to this incident.  Now I have taken multiple tests to get on staff at one of hospitals as a travel nurse; however, although I pass the tests no interview has been forthcoming.  Wednesday I will be going to speak with an attorney.  This has affected every aspect of my life due to people in every facet of my life having access to this secret blacklist.  I am the primary breadwinner and my family will be sorely challenged without my income.

  8. ok, so i’ve had a few interviews and have worked at many different facilities. Most of which i left on bad terms, but some on good terms. Even tho the ones i left on good terms, i’m getting bad reviews from. How do i overcome and contact these people back, like what to say to them to let them know i will be a good employee? I do have a medical condition that to some previous employers i have disclosed to, which has resulted in alot of calling in sick. What is a good answer to get in the door?

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  10. Employers do keep records of former employees, and make particular notes of who is not eligible to be rehired. Ordinarily, as you leave a position, an exit interview with human resources personnel will reveal whether or not you would be considered for a future opening. As for formal reference checks, HR offices will generally only reveal dates employed, salary information, job title and duties. They may also reveal if asked whether you are eligible for rehire.

  11. Emily Broyles keywestmm0 I would like to join in this conversation and brainstorming. How do I send my personal email

  12. I think it’s a good idea to know your references. There are organizations on the internet that will, for a reasonable fee, check your references and give you a report on the results. http://checkyourreference.com/

    I would consult a lawyer if one of the references came back with an inaccurate negative — especially if the inaccuracy could be proven. Meritorious cases that stand to garner substantial revenue can attract a lawyer or law firm on a percentage basis. I’d be looking for lost wages, damages related to defamation of character, and psychological damages for starters.

  13. OS  the attorneys say that a ‘would not rehire’ comment by a former employer is not out of line. i tried to have this expunged from my record, the att’y wants 2000.00 to write a letter, heaven knows where that will lead

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