Monday, May 23, 2011

Four Deadly Myths about Job References

This is adapted from an article by the Allison & Taylor Reference Checking Co.

Myth No. 1: Employers aren't allowed to say anything negative about a former employee.

Reality: While many employers have such a policy, people violate it every day. Half of our (Allison & Taylor's) clients receive a bad reference despite a strict policy.

Myth No. 2: Most employers direct reference checks to their human resources department, and those people won’t say anything bad about me.

Reality: Most HR people will follow proper protocol, but in addition to what is said, reference checkers often evaluate how something is said, notably tone of voice.

Myth No. 3: If I had issues with my former boss, I can simply leave him or her off my reference list and nobody will know.

Reality: Many employers check references that are not on your list, often without your even knowing. They conduct a “social security check” to determine where you have worked and then call the human resources department or office administrator at each employer for a reference. That practice is also used to see if a prospective employee has left any places of employment off the resume.

Myth No. 4: I sued my former employer and now they're not allowed to say anything.

Reality: They may not be able to say anything definitive but there are subtle ways to take a shot at you. There have been many instances in which a former boss or HR staffer has said something like, “Hold on a minute while I get the legal file to see what I am allowed to say about Mr. Smith.” Many employers may be uncomfortable hiring someone who has a legal history.


Maureen Nelson said...

Great post and great graphic! My roommate, who has checked thousands of references, says he never calls anyone on a candidate's list. He always calls someone else at the company who worked with the person and tries to engage them in a casual conversation about the candidate. He gets tons of dirt. (Or praise.) That's why it's so important to treat everyone right, from the cleaning staff to the CEO.

Anonymous said...

What would you recommend for someone who cannot/will not get a good reference from a former employer?

Marty Nemko said...

If you don't want to be self-employed, I wouldn't do that. In my interviews, I'd discuss the positive experiences on previous jobs and/or the positive things I bring to the table.' I'd then mention the problem you had with the previous boss and any lessons learned.

Grace said...

Here's another myth:
Nothing really bad happened at the job, so I’m sure they will give me a good reference.

If don't think your reference person is going to be steller, don't use that reference. I just called someone's reference and the supervisor said, "Well, I can't quite remember him except that he didn't get fired, so I'm sure he was fine." This is not a good reference.


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