Leaving my current firm to join a competitor firm and was asked for references that didn't go well leading to a taking back the preliminary offer. How to proceed?

Big 4 conflict reference check working culture
New answer on Aug 14, 2022
4 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Aug 12, 2022

Hi experts, 

I just ended my first post-graduation big4 consulting job on a low note after having a bad first-year experience in the firm. 

Now, to move on I interviewed with a competitor firm (tier-2 boutique) and received an offer conditional on 2 references from my past job.

When I reached out to my mentor at the big4 job, I was informed that the firm has no reference policy for competitor roles. That lead me to ask for one reference from the manager who had recently left but had worked with me on the last project ( and gave me a really tough time). Now I hear that the new firm is not going to countersign the offer because “professional reference by my ex-coworker was not sufficiently good" 

Now, I need advice on how to deal with the situation: 

- should I have a call with the partner to address pain points and as them to reconsider? If yes, how could I make them believe that the reason I am ending the job is primarily that the culture and it was not a good fit which also explains why that manager tried to ruin a reference?

- how do I deal with this situation going forward and apply for more jobs?  

Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Content Creator
replied on Aug 14, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I'm really really sorry but this wasn't a great decision - please learn and get a reference from the right person next time…

Also, I know some jobs can be terrible/horrible, but this is also a lesson in always making sure you leave a role with a good reputation - you're only as good as your last job!

Now, let's “fix” this.

The best thing you can do is reach out to the firm and ask for a call. Do the following:

1) Explain the situation at the prior company (you need to seriously practice this to make sure it comes out right)

2) Acknowledge things you should have done differently and how you have learned from them and grown

3) Offer to provide additional references (as many as needed) from all your prior roles - explain that you have always done extremely well in all your other jobs and that this was truly an anomaly

Good luck to you!

Was this answer helpful?
replied on Aug 12, 2022
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

This is lack of judgement and you should take it as a life lesson. You gave a reference with whom you had a bad experience and did not get a confirmation that would support you in this situation…

I don't think you can salvage this, of course you can try. You can go for the “I give you 3 months on experience for free, if you don't like me you can just send me away and it costs you nothing”.

Was this answer helpful?
updated an answer on Aug 13, 2022
Ex-McKinsey Consultant; received offers from McK, BCG, and L.E.K.

Dear Anonymous A,

Am I understanding you correctly? A Consulting firm offered you a ‘conditional’ offer and that: 

1) this ‘conditional’ offer was contingent upon submission of 2 professional references not initially included in the application process; 
2) these professional references would come from a source which your aspirational firm KNOWS FOR A FACT is a)  - a competitor firm and b) a firm at which you still work but are intending to leave imminently;
3) the contents of 1 of these professional references was, in your own words, “not sufficiently good” (which, I must say, is rather unusual wording) and that your aspirational firm reverted to you with this assessment of the reference;
4) these assessment of the reference caused the firm to renege on its ‘conditional’ offer to you

Am I understanding all this correctly?

If I have misunderstood you, could you clarify what I may have missed?
If indeed I have understood you correctly, I would say that the situation is too bizarre, too unlikely, too amateurish for a professional organisation, and too exposed to civil liability to be true.

In any case, Pedro is right when he recommends you to consider this a life lesson because either way, you learnt something important.


Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous A on Aug 15, 2022

You got the situation correct! Appreciate your response, however, could you please clarify what you mean by: - "not sufficiently good" being unusual? - how is the firm exposed to civil liability? Thanks!

Tyrion on Aug 17, 2022

In the United States, the statutes of defamation and equal employment usually compel reference-giving employers to be truthful, objective, and free from any appearance of retaliation. There is sufficient Case Law settling these questions even though the legal standards continue to evolve. That said, I just realised I had made an assumption that this took place in the United States. If this occurred outside the United States, that potentially changes things as my comment only applies to legal statutes and applicable situations in the United States. 'Not sufficiently good' is a highly unusual phrase in the English language. It is grammatically sound, yes, but it is so 'unidiomatic' as to immediately stand out since few native English speakers would write in this manner.


replied on Aug 14, 2022
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Super unprofessional by the Tier-2 boutique. And a warning signal! They are actually admitting that they have zero trust in their own ability to assess candidates and will rescind offers after having talked to a third person who they don't even know. 


Please move on and get maximum distance between yourself and that company!

Cheers, Sidi

Was this answer helpful?
Ian gave the best answer


Content Creator
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep
Q&A Upvotes
96 Reviews