I have a couple of interviews for research assistant vacancies in the next few days, but I didn't list the advisors of my undergraduate research project as my references, even though I added the project details and listed them as the advisors. I left them out of the references as the relationship I had with them wasn't that great. It was solely a case of a poor fit between a student and advisors; they had a particular way of providing feedback and comments that worked really well for some students but didn't work for a lot of students. I unfortunately fell into the latter camp.
The other thing was that over the course of the year, my mental health condition had worsened, and I think it was fairly awkward for my advisors as they were not sure how to supervise or manage a student with a mental health condition. I had thankfully finished the project with their continued guidance and supervision (and lots of medication and therapy), but the entire experience was just rather unpleasant enough that after I submitted my thesis, I left fairly unceremoniously.
I want to emphasize that they were not bad people, but simply because the fit, both professionally and personally, was probably quite poor to begin with. They've had students before that really blossomed under their supervision style, but it required a particular kind of student with solid coping mechanisms that I unfortunately did not cultivate at the time. They've also had much more personable relationships with other students as well, one which I did not have with them; we only talked about the thesis. Again, it wasn't their fault, and I can't emphasize that enough, but it was just a case of a really bad fit that I unfortunately did not see at the time.
With interviews for research assistant positions coming up, I'm not sure how to address this if it's asked. For example, 'Why weren't your advisors listed as reference?' or 'How was you're relationship with your advisors?'
Worse still, 'Would you be able to provide us with the contact details of your undergrad advisors?'
Has anyone else been in such a position before? Have you had a relationship that made you not want to list your advisors as a reference? Has it come up in interviews before, and if so, how did you address it?
If you're a PI for a lab, what would your initial thoughts be on this? Are all poor advisor-student relationships a red flag, or do you consider each circumstance on a case-by-case basis?