Long story short, graduated, worked as a developer for a family business (tech start up) after 5 years things went sour between my employer and I. Employer mixed family and office politics which ruined our relationship. In an effort to get rid of me, employer and line manager schemed and built a paper trail based on setting impossible deadlines. I was written up for underperforming, and pressured into resigning.

Since then, I have worked for many other people who are not related, as a freelancer developer and now as a project manager in my current role. My current role is my first perm role since leaving the family business. I have had no issues at all, if anything I am a valued member of the team. The company is also a tech start up that is doing much better than my family member.

I am planning on changing jobs by year end, I would have had 2 years racked under my belt in my current position which I'm aware is what employers want. I am concerned though that the 5 year job might bite me in the ass if any future potential employer asks for a reference given the length of time I spent there.

My family employer has already told me he would not give me a favourable reference, will disclose that I was written up and will talk about me in a negative light.

Have I got any reason to be concerned - or would the future employer not bother to ask for the 5 year reference since it was a while ago, but only interested in my recent perm role?

  • 1
    Sounds like you have a reason to be concerned. Try omitting the bad reference from your list of references. It might help. Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 19:59
  • Should I mention in advance at the interview why I left that company, I just think that it is really unfair that I may face withdrawn job offers from this shitty family business despite doing a good job elseware
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 12:30

3 Answers 3


Don't volunteer references from the 5-year employer. You are doing well in your current role, and that's what matters. Five years ago, the technologies were different anyway and not necessarily relevant to what is expected of you today.

  • How many references do employers ask for? I have worked in 3 positions so far, 2 perm role and 1 6 month freelance gig? I am concerned that companies will ask for 2 or 3 leaving freelance gig + current perm role not being enough.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:16
  • @bobo2000 - They usually ask for three references. Your concern that you don't have enough references is no excuse for offering a lousy reference so that you get to that magic number of three. Capice? Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:20
  • Right, so I will have to volunteer a reference from that firm in the end, and it could end up affecting me negatively.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:21
  • 1
    @bobo2000 - Are you hell bent on shooting yourself in the nuts? How doe shooting yourself in the nuts help you with your job search? Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:23
  • 3
    @bobo2000 - Where does it say that you can get only one reference per company? Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:25

A reference does not have to come from a supervisor - if you agreed still on good terms with someone else from that company, that that's fine. I'm also not sure where rule for the 3 references comes from - usually two is enough.

You should also know that you can't give a negative reference in the UK. The worst they can do is refuse to give any reference.

  • Legally though, they can disclose that I was taken to a disciplinary hearing and written up, which is the same as giving a negative reference, at which point it will be my word against theirs where HR in the new company will probably believe them. Disclosing 3 references seem very high, if two then I will just give my current company + subcontracting gig. Does the subcontracting role carry as much weight as perm roles?
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 15:28

It would have been difficult to join a company after those 5 year spent in your family business as a developer.
But since after that you have gained experience of 2 year as a project manager.I don't think so that you need to show your experience as a developer as there are many question you'll have to face after telling about the earlier period(Which I don't think have any effect on your present role as a Project Manager).So I would suggest to avoid telling and referring about that period.

Have I got any reason to be concerned - or would the future employer not bother to ask for the 5 year reference since it was a while ago, but only interested in my recent perm role?

No you don't need to be concerned about that as, as the time pass your earlier roles would mean less to your present role.In life you would have many bad experiences in your personal or professional life.And for being a good employee all that matters for a company is that you are ready to move on and in your case you have already much to show that you have moved on.

  • I have read that companies want up to 3 references, so I am concerned that it may still affect me, I have worked in 2 other companies since.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:20
  • There's no obligation for that even though it would have been good for you if you had a three references for the role but that does't make you less effective in your present role.Moreover I don't think that ,that 5 year developer period would be affect your 2 year period as Project Manager Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:27
  • Yes, don't have any plans going back to being a dev, but more in the PM/Scrum master type role. Still concerned it could affect me if my professional character is deframed through it.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:34
  • I've added somethings to the answer have a look Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 14:44

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