Share If You Dare: Part 2 of Employment References

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by Nanci Lamborn – Brightmove Writer

Last week we took a look at the value of securing prior employment references. As promised, let’s turn the tables and look at how we respond when we’re the one being asked for the reference. When a coworker or a subordinate leaves and requests to name us as a reference, do we oblige them?

What if the one leaving was a mediocre worker on their best day, the dreary sot after whose departure you expect a merry parade between the cubicles? (Don’t deny it… someone specific just came to mind.)

Some recruiters or hiring managers will screen themselves behind the “My Position Won’t Allow It” shield. Many more will agree to only provide the name, rank and serial number response. And growing numbers of employers are handing over the reference reins to some automated technological reporting service or other, which is basically an equivalent to a 1-900 number without the promises of entertainment. We all hate to call these data clearing houses, don’t we? But apparently we must not all hate letting them speak for us. According to “The Work Number”, one of the largest such verifiers, close to 2,000 employers currently let The Work Number do the talking for them, and their participation roster lists some rather recognizable clients Adding insult to injury, potential employers must now pay to get the most basic of information verified. Seems something of a double standard, does it not? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…

There is also the occasion of fulfilling a promise we later regret making. How many of us, perhaps in a termination situation in which we feel (or know) that the departed was separated unjustly, feel obligated to utter “Of course you can use me as a reference.” Or senior management thinks it’s a good idea to make this promise just to get someone off their backs. When the time comes to write the letter a few days after the worker has vacated, by then some horrific problem was discovered lurking deep within their unique filing by pile system, and you find yourself asking, “And I agreed to this reference why?”

Then there are the office bedsores, to whom you would like to be kind, so your best response to the “best qualities about them” inquiry garners some gibberish about a spiffy wardrobe and propensity for being prompt. Never mind the months of work you see in your future spent finding and fixing Mrs. Promptn Spiffy’s mistakes.

Rob Thompson, a blog author with an employment background screening service, provides an excellent article here on the downside (and potentially scary litigation risks) of providing falsely negative, falsely positive, or falsely neutral references. Thankfully many states are also now adopting shield laws to protect employers who give factual references, which should help ease the reference-giving fears at least somewhat. Even in these shield laws, however, individual state-specific guidelines do apply, and some states specify that references must be requested, not volunteered. If your state is not listed here, you may be out of luck for now.

Even with emerging pro-employer legislation, I don’t believe there is a single right answer for every situation. There are the rare and spectacular stars whose spouses you could throttle for relocating your precious worker gem out of state; you would gush about that employee’s accolades for hours to anyone with ears. Thankfully now we have the LinkedIn recommendations option for that, which we can later withdraw if the love gets lost.

So. Will you recommend me?

Nanci Lamborn
BrightMove Team Blogger/Writer

Nanci Lamborn is a 20-year veteran of human resources and recruiting. She currently recruits in the Atlanta area for the insurance industry and recently obtained her SPHR designation.

About BrightMove

BrightMove is a leading provider of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applicant tracking software and talent management solutions for staffing, enterprise, mid-market and outsourcing areas of recruiting software.

Incorporated in 2003, BrightMove has quickly grown to become a system of choice for recruiters who want to use advanced tools designed to find and manage only the best of talent. With more 60 clients worldwide including Subaru of America and Maidenform, BrightMove is one of fastest-growing ATS providers in the industry.

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