All the answers to how to deal with job references for potential employees, including how much to believe.
How to Deal with Job References for Potential Employees
What Information Should I Be Looking for about Potential Employees?
Some employers argue that the only worthwhile information to ask for in a reference is the applicant’s dates of employment, attendance, health record and the referee’s response to the question: would you re-employ this person?
Job references are key to verify information given by the applicant on factual issues. This includes the dates of employment, role, attendance and health record, salary and the experience which the applicant claims to have.
You may also ask for an evaluation of the applicant’s personality and abilities. In doing this, you should remember the response will be subjective, especially if the person providing the reference does not know the applicant personally.
It may be helpful to provide background information about the position the applicant is being considered for. You can do this by providing an outline job description.
This can help the referee to comment on the applicant’s suitability for the role. Though, you should not put too much weight on whether the referee believes the individual will be suited to your organisation. They are unlikely to have enough information to make a sound judgment.
Meanwhile, the best way to verify qualifications is through the institution concerned. The university/college/professional body can give the person’s name and date the qualification was obtained.
A qualification may not always be an essential requirement of a job. Yet, the falsification of such information should give cause for concern over the applicant’s integrity and honesty.
Recruitment consultants estimate that nearly 15% of job applicants either falsify or exaggerate their qualifications. Therefore, essential qualifications should be verified.
Can I Trust What Job References Say?
You should be careful to attach only limited value to the content of a job reference. It is not unknown, for example, for an employer to give a favourable reference to an employee who they dismissed for poor performance or unsatisfactory conduct. This may come from a desire not to adversely affect the employee’s future career.
Alternatively, a settlement resulting from a claim to an Employment Tribunal may give a poor reference to a satisfactory employee. This may happen to prevent them from leaving their employment.
What Should I Do If I Receive a ‘poor’ Job Reference for a Potential Employee?
If it’s a written reference then you should follow it up with a telephone call to clarify the content and obtain further information. If the adverse content of the reference ismaterial to the job under consideration, you should consider withdrawing any offer of employment.
You should make a job offer subject to receipt of satisfactory references, where references cannot be obtained before the offer is made.
How Should I Treat the ‘to Whom It May Concern’ Reference?
Open job references addressed ‘to whom it may concern’ are generally of very little value. An employer may feel obliged to provide an overly positive view of an employee in the knowledge that s/he will have sight of it.
In the worst case, the job reference might even be forged using company’s headed notepaper. The best response is to note the contents of the general reference and follow it with a direct enquiry to the employer concerned, preferably by phone.
(Main image from Sentinel Herald)