So, I recently got an offer from my dream company for a software engineering summer internship, and graciously accepted. I have an ex-friend who is incredibly vindictive and has been known to do everything in his power to make me unhappy. He's a very troubled person, and I've been trying my best to keep him far away from my life. However, I recently became aware that he found out about my offer, and I'm worried that he might try something malicious.

Now, I'm totally new at this whole career/job thing, so I really don't know how it all works. But is it possible that he could contact this company and put a bad word in, and that they would take it into consideration and possibly rescind my offer?

I might be being paranoid here, but all I know is that if he were to ruin this for me, I'd be really, really depressed about it. Do employers know that this type of vindictive behavior happens? The company in question is not a small one. Should I be worried, or is there anything I can do to make sure he isn't able to sabotage my career?

  • 14
    How clever is this person? Just about anything is possible if you're clever enough and motivated enough to pull it off. Nov 18, 2014 at 19:54
  • 10
    Just checking -- the friend has no connection to your dream company? Doesn't work there, doesn't know people there, etc? So you're asking what he can do purely from the outside? Nov 18, 2014 at 22:42
  • 2
    Honestly, I would assume the person was lying, but still be a put off because of the drama. Your friends (ex or not) can often times reflect on what kind of person you are. Just another opinion - not saying that it could 100% change my mind on hiring a candidate... but if it was a toss up, you'd lose points.
    – Gray
    Nov 19, 2014 at 15:03
  • How long until the job starts? Nov 19, 2014 at 19:15
  • 1
    @Gray, that's a fair enough point, but you can't really generalize that... so much depends on the specifics of the candidate, the nature of the drama, the candidates response to it, how many equal candidates there are to choose from, etc. It's more true of someone who is older than someone who is in school or recently graduated, because people's social groups are more varied and grow in different ways more when someone is younger and their friends are younger. But yes, it's always a good idea to minimize the personal drama that your employer is exposed to.
    – Jason
    Nov 19, 2014 at 20:18

6 Answers 6


is it possible that he could contact this company and put a bad word in, and that they would take it into consideration and possibly rescind my offer?

Anything is possible. And you know your friend more than we do, so know better if he would actually do such a thing.

That said, I can't imagine I'd take some random stranger's "bad word" into consideration when making a hiring decision.

Unless your friend already has some connection with this company, it's extremely unlikely that he could exert any influence without the hiring manager at least asking you about it.

I might be being paranoid here, but all I know is that if he were to ruin this for me, I'd be really, really depressed about it. Do employers know that this type of vindictive behavior happens? The company in question is not a small one. Should I be worried, or is there anything I can do to make sure he isn't able to sabotage my career?

I once performed a reference check on a candidate. The person I spoke to casually mentioned that the candidate's nickname was "zipperhead" (the candidate was not Asian, but had a scar from a motorcycle head injury).

In my circles, that wouldn't be a term of endearment.

So I spoke to the candidate, and mentioned what the reference had said. The candidate explained that his reference was also a childhood buddy, and kidded around like that all the time.

I ended up hiring "zipperhead" - and he turned out quite well.

In the unlikely event that the saboteur actually contacts this company, I can't imagine the hiring manager just dropping you from consideration without giving you a chance to speak for yourself.

And should the hiring manager take a random caller's word without providing a chance for you to speak, it seems to me that you wouldn't want to work for such a manager anyway.

If it were me, I wouldn't be worried.

(Note: I understand how the word "zipperhead" might be used these days. The person in question wasn't of Asian decent. And I don't think that term had that context in those days (it was a number of years ago). The individual had a head injury from a motorcycle accident that left a scar. That was how his references used the term. Still not nice, but nothing at all racial about it. Just some goofy friends.)

  • 13
    Great response. You've certainly helped to put me at ease. Thanks. Nov 18, 2014 at 21:24
  • 3
    @GottaThrowThisOneAway I just wanted to say that if they do try something, how you deal with it can even play in your favour - i.e. to show that you can handle yourself inspires confidence.
    – d'alar'cop
    Nov 19, 2014 at 9:02
  • 3
    "In my circles, that wouldn't be a term of endearment." Agreed. It is actually a pretty messed up racial slur. I am surprised you were comfortable enough to repeat it, especially in the context of an interview. I'm not the most PC person, but I wouldn't touch that one with a very long pole.
    – Gray
    Nov 19, 2014 at 15:01
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    @JoeStrazzere To be clear, I don't mean to imply anything about your character or even the person who said it to you. I have made similar mistakes before. It is an old racial slur that was used for people of Asian descent. Disclaimer: I find it deplorable. But I believe it stems from wartime where shooting someone in the head made it look like it was unzipping. Don't want to be Googling that at work, but it was along those lines. It's not quite the n-word, but it is a pretty horrific term from a pretty dark time in history. Not something I would say at work, much less during an interview. FYI
    – Gray
    Nov 19, 2014 at 16:02
  • @GottaThrowThisOneAway while you're probably fine, this might be the time to sort out legal representation should it be necessary in the future. Conciliations are typically free. I would bring up your concern there and take whatever advice is offered. Essentially if you ex friend does nothing then all you've done is found a lawyer should you ever need one. If your ex friend does something shady you'll already be prepared to take action to prevent this jerk from ruining your life. Nov 19, 2014 at 19:03

Unless he works at the company, I wouldn't say he is a threat. Any employer worth their salt is going to trust their own intuition before trusting that of a complete stranger.


They've seen you. They've interviewed you. They checked your references. They know what you look like. They know where you live. They don't know him from Adam. Focus on keeping your lines of communication open with them and if he says anything, be prepared to immediately fill in with your side of the story. Try not say any horribly complex and convoluted tales. That's all there is to it.

  • What if he does as if he is the hired person? Social Engineering and such? Sending fake letters in his name?
    – phresnel
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:16
  • @phresnel Keeping the lines of communication open, being ready to instantly counter and put away any allegation is the most effective approach I can think of at the moment. I acknowledge that it puts the OP in the uncomfortable position of having to react to an action. But that's how policing and firefighting work - they can't be everywhere and prevent everything. Nov 19, 2014 at 12:42
  • That's right. If I would be evil, I would wait until the OP departs for his Himalaya trip, and send in something uncomfortable :P
    – phresnel
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:55
  • ... like what? You really think an HR department is going to believe OP just completely sabotaged himself for giggles? In a letter addressed randomly since you don't know who the OP has had contact with, rather than using already open communication lines through email? People aren't stupid, they can smell when something is up, and if they lent any credence at all to this thing they'd still follow up with OP.
    – Jason
    Nov 19, 2014 at 13:56

Speaking on someone else's behalf as a reference is actually a big deal. If someone knowingly makes false statements to a potential employer with the intent of harming the job seeker, that's slander and/or defamation, it's illegal, and you'd be able to sue them. see here

There's a couple take-aways from this:

  • It should be pretty provable that anything your ex-friend says about you is false, given that you haven't even been in the job world yet
  • If he actually does this, you have a strong case for (at minimum) a restraining order. You could escalate that to full on defamation suit if it resulted in negative effects. You don't really want to go down that path, though, I'm sure
  • Which is OK, because any halfway competent HR department will understand the pitfalls of false references, because they have to toe that line. Which is why they probably won't even take this yahoo's call in the first place. They call the references that you've provided and otherwise talk to their own trusted connections if they have any insight into you. They don't just let dude off the street speak into their hiring process.
  • And this guy is just a dude off the street to them. You're the one they know and have begun to form a relationship with. They seek out the information they want. Anyone who tries to get a word in unsolicited is going to look like a crank from the get go.

So, yeah, you don't have to worry about it. At all. And if something does go down with this guy that really affects you negatively (in this or any other situation), seriously, seek a restraining order at minimum.

  • actually while slander is pretty straight forward, defamation is extremely broad and vague... It can cover you saying good things, bad things, true things, untrue things, etc. (Which is becoming a real issue in the US lately) Realistically though you just need to establish do you have authorization, what is the intent, would they approve? Break one, you're pretty safe, break two it's probably okay but tread with caution, break three you're playing with fire. Nov 19, 2014 at 19:44
  • @RualStorge I was just going to go with Slander until Defamation was brought up in the linked page. Taking your points and applying them to the situation at hand, a false statement given as a reference to a prospective employer with the intent to harm the applicant, it's fairly clear that it fails at least 2 out of 3. The situation provided by the OP, it easily fails all 3.
    – Jason
    Nov 19, 2014 at 20:00
  • yes I fully agree with your answer I wanted to just cover even if the other person was telling the truth it could qualify as defamation. Nov 19, 2014 at 20:20

The rule of thumb when asked about why you got fired, your greatest weakness, and shady intel from arch-enemies is this: get in, out, and close the door. You're not going to get yourself an offer with your stellar answer to these questions; you're only capable of saying something very useful ("look, he's totally misportraying how I cheated on that exam") in how quickly it gets you shown the door.

If your employer asks you about something he says, answer in one sentence. Consider the sentence:

"I know he's troubled and I'm sorry he reached out to you. It's not true that {this thing}".

I know it sounds weird to say so little, but you can only hurt yourself by saying more. If they doubt your integrity you obviously can't improve that situation by blabbering about it. The more muck that you bring up regarding your frenemy the more muck that now exists in the space between you and your employer. The more relevant that muck is to your current employment.

I agree with the rest of the answers that there's probably nothing to worry about. In fact I don't even think he'll do anything; I don't need to know you or your frenemy to tell that your nervousness is clouding your judgment. I just wanted to give you some advice for how to keep it that way, should you have to confront this.


Unless he has some damaging information in his possession, such as pictures of you impaired or doing something illegal I would not worry too much about it.

I agree with Joe Strazzere's answer - I don't think the company will take some random person seriously if he shows up and slanders you.

Make sure your friend doesn't get your work information - email, phone number, address, etc. If he does, and he is motivated enough, he can show up and make a scene, or try to put you in embarrassing situation.

Other than that I think you'll be fine.

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