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Beware the unofficial City blacklist

The City of London is a small place, even factoring in Canary Wharf. Although the CEBR estimates ‘City’ employment at 305,000, this includes all manner of people in industries like accounting and law, plus everyone in support roles. Genuine front office bankers are but a small subset, and in areas like high yield that subset is minute.

If a former boss decides to badmouth you, it can therefore be disastrous for your career. Even worse, you may not initially realize that it’s going on.

“Sometimes people will find out when they’re going for a particular job that’s suddenly withheld that their ex-boss has taken it upon himself to say negative things to a prospective employer,” says employment lawyer Elaine Aarons.

“In other cases, they only realize what’s happening when a pattern emerges over time,” Aarons adds.

Some of the unofficial blacklisting is more insidious than a simple telephone call. One headhunter says he was offered a bottle of champagne by an individual’s current employer if he’d take that person off their hands. Another recalls how one banker’s former colleagues sent his new employer a bouquet of flowers as a token of their thanks for getting rid of him.

“Some people are just difficult characters,” says one headhunter. “People don’t like to have them around.”

Equally, however, agencies like Robert Walters operate official blacklists in which individuals found guilty of transgressions like CV exaggeration or falsehoods are given an indelible black mark. “We pride ourselves on the standard of our candidates,” says director Oliver Harris. “If we feel someone has let us down, we will think very hard before working with them again in future.”

If you feel you’ve been blacklisted unfairly, you may be able to seek recourse in law. Aarons points out that compromise agreements signed at the time of departure often preclude previous employers from providing oral references that deviate from the agreed written reference.

If that fails, she says it may be possible to bring cases based on reputational damage such as defamation or malicious falsehood.

Comments (10)

  1. I’ve witnessed this first hand, especially within the hedge fund business where the CEO has no HR or compliance department to answer to.

  2. Can we give black marks for role exaggeration or falsehoods?

  3. Can we black list recruiters for role exaggeration or falsehoods: tempting you with roles that don’t exist, not at all relevant or just sending you to interviews for roles without even a proper job description telling you to “take it as it comes”

  4. Yes, this does happen. The sad truth is that it is not always the fault of the maligned individual and can be down to bullying etc. Despite a subsequent successful role it can continue to ruin an individual’s career, possibly irreversibly, especially in these hard times.
    It is one of the last taboos and can totally ruin someone’s life .
    Any ideas on how the individual could handle this (assuming it results from an unpleasant past situation which has been covered up and is not the individual’s fault ?) Should the victim accept defeat and give up ? Leave the UK (not easy at present anyway) Or be open up front in order to fend off future mysterious rebuttals ?

  5. Matt- maybe you should read the job spec before attending the interview- you may realease that you son’t have the skill sets for the role- and you will decide not to go- but on the other hand you may think that I have a chance- only to realise that you can’t read.!

  6. … and you can barely spell, Kenny.

  7. One thing that you didnt consider in your article Sarah: some managers would indeed offer bottle of champagnes so that a Headhunter doesnt work with a particular individual but most of the times that is because that particular person is an underpaid/cheap resource. By making sure this person doent find a job elsewhere the Boss keep his cost very low and his PnL/compensation very high…
    All tricks are legal when comes to compensation ….

  8. @DerivTrader: this doesn’t sound right. If I were a HH faced with a choice between 35% of your salary and bottle of champagne, I’d take the cash. In fact, I might take both!

  9. blacklists are normally driven by jealousy and resentment eventually leading to a fall-out at work between the people concerned. Rarely is it because someone is useless at what they do. Ae sharp recruiter/HR department should be wise to this kind of immaturity and know how to dig deeper / ignore some of the gossip.

  10. candidates unfairly blacklisted can hire a hit man for a very cheap price, and send a nice surprise to their former bosses.

    As you said…City is a very small place

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