I went to school for tech but have had a lot of trouble getting permanent work in the industry. I know that may sound surprising given what I read on sites like this but where I live the economy isn't doing the greatest.
I've had several short term contracts, some of them were with companies that went out of business. I've had experience doing e.g. retail and I have positive references from the management at these companies.
I recently applied to a job where they seem very interested in hiring me. I have already provided the recruiter with 4 references, 3 of which are from management. She keeps asking for one from a company I worked for 4 years ago. Things didn't go well with this company and I was part of a mass firing. I have one coworker who still works there that I could use as a reference, and another who was also fired that I could use as a reference. But the recruiter said she wanted someone who was a manager. It also is a problem that the company was internally locked down so emails from outside of the company couldn't get in, also I think it was the same with the phones. Also the company was organized in such a way that I rarely worked with the same people and my manager was very hands off. The recruiter is asking for my managers name so she can look her up on LinkedIn. I was able to find my managers profile and could ask, but I doubt she would give me a positive reference. I don't want to get into it too much but one thing they did was kept track of so many different metrics it wasn't possible to do well in all of them then management would just fire (or promote) based on the ones that weren't good (which may have been fair if they made clear which were more important than others).
I have more recent experience in a tech contract but I don't think I can get a management reference from it either.
Other experience I've had in tech roles have only been for a couple week long contracts so I didn't even bother asking for a reference.
This "recruiter" seems a lot different than recruiters I've had experience with. I had my first round interview her, the second round with the people I would be working with, now I'm in contact with her again. She's not internal to the company, but she also isn't giving me a sales pitch like all other recruiter have. Maybe she's not paid on commission?
How should I reply to the recruiter? Should I go ahead and ask the managers if I can get a positive reference from them even though I suspect they would say no? Should I push back and say she already has 3 management references? The company I had applied for is small and I could easily go around the recruiter to the people actually making the decision.