Subscribe
The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

References: How employers bungle a competitive edge

In the December 8, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader gets down on reference checking.

Question

I’ve come to the conclusion that asking for references is about the dumbest thing a company can do in the hiring process. First, I believe that any prior employer is only obligated to give the dates you worked and at what salary. They don’t like to give any qualitative assessment because there are potential liability issues involved. Second, who is going to give a personal reference that would not describe you in laudatory terms? I think references are just another personnel department make-work project! What do you think?

referencesNick’s Reply

One of the very best ways to size up a job candidate is to consider the opinions of her professional community. Employers who ignore peer review take unnecessary risks when hiring. But that’s where today’s reference-checking practices have led us.

Incompetent reference checking

Asking for references seems dumb because it has been made trivial; so trivial that companies routinely outsource reference checks rather than do it themselves. (See Automated Reference Checks: You should be very worried.) They’re going to judge you based on a routine set of questions that someone else asks a bunch of people on a list. How ludicrous is that?

Employers have bought into the idea that a reference check is like a credit check, but it’s not. A credit check digs up objective information: numbers, loan payment dates, defaults.

A reference check is largely subjective. The source of information isn’t a bricks-and-mortar bank that’s required to divulge facts about your accounts. A reference source is a mushy human being who may be in a good mood or a bad mood; who may know you well, or not. The reference checker must know the context — the industry, the profession, the work, the community — or he can’t possibly understand what to ask or what the comments really mean. This is why most reference checks are simply incompetent, if not dangerous.

reference-checkerThe “reference and investigations” industry may be able to turn up criminal records and such, but you can’t tell me that a researcher is going to elicit a subtle judgment of a job candidate by calling a name on a list. Worse, if the information that’s collected is erroneous, why would such a reference checker care? He’s not accountable to anyone. The employer that buys it doesn’t care and isn’t going to ask you to explain. To borrow a phrase, outsourcing reference checks is like washing your hands with rubber gloves on. If you’re going to feel anything, you must get your hands dirty!

Real reference checking

There is no finesse in reference checking any more — not for most employers. A real reference check is done quietly and responsibly, by talking to sources that a manager tracks down on her own by using her network of professional contacts. These are candid references; comments made off the record within a trusted professional relationship. That’s where you’ll find the true measure of a candidate.

Did I just break five laws? That’s only because the skeevy industry that has grown around reference investigations requires regulation. It’s because employers are no longer good at teasing apart credible references from spiteful or sugar-coated ones. They want to put the legal liability for making judgments of character and reputation on someone else.

There’s a better way to do it, and it’s time-honored among honorable businesspeople. The person doing the reference checking must be savvy and responsible. She must know what she’s doing. A greenhorn human resources clerk is out. In fact, the only person who should be doing such a check is the hiring manager. The most candid discussions will take place between managers who know their industry, their professional community, and the issues in their business. Where a manager might not open up to an “investigator,” she’s likely to share information with a peer. Credible, useful information comes from credible, trustworthy sources. You can’t buy it.

If it’s true that hiring the best people matters, then real reference checks give an employer a very powerful competitive edge. Outsource reference checks, or do them ineptly, and you’ve bungled your company’s future.

Reference checking is a community event

The reason — other than legal — that companies don’t do effective checks is that human resources (HR) departments simply don’t have the kinds of contacts in the professional community that could yield legitimate, credible references. And that brings into question HR’s entire role in the recruitment, selection and hiring process. If you don’t have good enough connections in the professional community to do that kind of reference check, how could you possibly recruit from that community? Both tasks require the exact same kind of contacts and relationships. It’s all about the employer’s network.

accountableJob hunters correctly worry that bad references might cost them a job. That’s a real problem. The question is, is the bad reference justified? If it is, then perhaps it should cost you a job. Don’t shoot the messenger. Take a good look at yourself, and recognize that the truth has consequences in your social and professional community. (But all is not lost. See How can you fight bad references?)

It should not be illegal to rely on credible opinions about you. By the same token, managers must be attuned to vengeful references, and take appropriate measures to verify them. But regulating candor is no solution. When we count on the law to protect us from all information, we must expect to get hurt by a lack of good information.

If I were to check your references, I’d get good, solid information about you. And I might not ever call anyone on the list you gave me. I’ll use my contacts to triangulate on your reputation. (You might be surprised at who I talk to. See The Ministry of Reference Checks.) Will someone try to torpedo you? Possibly, but it’s quite rare. More likely, I’ll turn something up that makes me want to get to know you better; to assess you more carefully.

The trouble is, good reference checks are rarely done. Hence, most reference information is pure garbage, as you suggest. And this hurts good workers just as it hurts good employers. In the end, all we have to go on is the opinion of our professional community. Stifle it, and the community suffers the consequences.


References are your competitive edge

References are such an important tool to help you land a job that I can’t emphasize enough that you must plan, prepare and use references to give you an edge. In Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition) I discuss just how strategic references are.

First, learn how to launch a reference:

“The best… reference is when a reputable person in your field refers you to an employer. In other words, the referrer ‘sends you’… to his peer and suggests she hire you.” (pp. 23-24)

Second, use preemptive references:

A “preemptive reference is one who, when the employer is ready to talk to references, calls the employer before being called. Such a call packs a powerful punch. It tells the employer that the reference isn’t just positive, it’s enthusiastic.” (p. 24)


The truth matters. Legislating against the opinions of others about us is, well, stupid. Far better to manage those opinions and to be responsible about them. If you’re a manager, it’s also far better to take responsibility and check applicants’ references yourself. Don’t let HR do it. What do references really mean?

: :

34 Comments
  1. Bravo. Totally agree.

    For what it’s worth, no law in the U.S. prohibits employers from giving truthful, detailed references.

    It’s true that some companies, in an effort to avoid the headache of nuisance lawsuits — or because they don’t trust their managers to avoid veering into illegal territory, like coming on disabilities — have implemented policies that they’ll only confirm dates of employment and title, rather than commenting on performance. That’s led a lot of people to interpret those policies as “bad references are illegal,” but they’re definitely not, as long as you’re not intentionally misrepresenting the facts.

  2. One issue with references is that some employees are good at their job but are not well liked. I have to disagree that all employees have to be energetic extroverts to be good at their job.
    For customer facing employees, such as marketing, you absolutely want someone with this skill set; however, if you hiring for accounting/finance/IT – not so important. You obviously want to hire someone who can along with others but this is really all you need.
    I form this opinion from years of conversations with HR managers who turn down qualified accounting/finance candidates because the candidate isn’t the “life of the party.” Meanwhile we need someone with technical skills who can slog through the increasingly complex world of finance and accounting. Overall I believe the overweight of “people skills” for technical positions is part of the reason we just can’t seem to find qualified candidates.

  3. I don’t disagree with the analysis here, but I sometimes feel that these best practices are a little utopian. When my dad was a young geologist in Houston in the 1960s, he was part of a community and took leadership roles in professional organizations. It was easy to meet people in the industry and find someone who knew your work. Now, for better or worse, we are more mobile and less locally oriented. In my own experience, I’ve had to find jobs in other states when family matters required me to move across the country. As a consultant, I’m fielding job opportunities from all over the country. Even considering 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon, it’s not always possible that an employer will even have a contact-of-a-contact-of-a-contact that knows my work intimately. There are 330 million people in my country, and we have the mobility to move around at will. Is it really feasible to expect employers to wind their way through those 7 degrees until they find someone who knows me?

  4. In my experience references are quite useful. We often get key information on things to focus on with a new employee. It is very useful for the manager to go into a new hire knowing they struggle with something and they need to mentor them in a specific area. That doesn’t mean we don’t hire them, it is just good information for a manager.

    One thing the original letter gets wrong (in my experience). It is not that unusual for a candidate to give us a name of a reference and then when we talk to the reference they don’t say good things about the candidate. I can’t understand how someone would let that happen, I think it is a sign of a lazy employee, but it happens pretty regularly.

  5. References from former employers can be of great value, in my opinion. I have worked for companies in the the EU where formal, written references from former employers are respected for the message they relate. Two of my references take up one and a half sheets of paper and are extremely thorough in their examination of my participation, my work ethic, and the value I gave to the company. I also know that in some cases, the use of key words or their omission, serve as flags to another employer. A reference is only worthless if the writer makes it so.

  6. Might be bit provocative, even for Nick…but, with a few exceptions…

    If I write something about you on LinkedIn – its because I want people I don’t know to know that I know something about this person I want you to know – and 99% of the time it isn’t good.

    I don’t bother writing good things about the good people I know – because they will have already asked me to talk to someone directly, not on LinkedIn

  7. Might be bit provocative, even for Nick…but, with a few exceptions…

    If I write something about you on LinkedIn – its because I want people I don’t know to know that I know something about this person I want you to know – and 99% of the time it isn’t good.

    I don’t bother writing good things about the good people I know – because they will have already asked me to talk to someone directly, not on LinkedIn

    ” Is it really feasible to expect employers to wind their way through those 7 degrees until they find someone who knows me?”

    It’s hard work, which is good news for me. 99% of my competitors aren’t up to the task, which means I get the good people and they get the dregs. Any hiring manager who won’t seek out people who know a prospect isn’t a hiring manager.

  8. @Anna Mouse: “HR managers who turn down qualified accounting/finance candidates because the candidate isn’t the “life of the party.””

    Yep. And that’s why it’s silly to have anyone but the hiring manager do the first cut of candidates, as well as make the final hiring decision. In most companies, HR does the first cut and loses great applicants. In too many companies, HR has veto power on the hire. What sense is that?

    @Ian: “Is it really feasible to expect employers to wind their way through those 7 degrees until they find someone who knows me?”

    It’s easier than you might think :-). Identifying a network of people who know you won’t take much time, if I know your line of work, where you work, where you live. Add your LinkedIn profile, and we’re off to the races.

    @Cynthia: “A reference is only worthless if the writer makes it so.”
    Now, that’s a very important thing to think about.

    @VP Sales: I don’t waste time with published LinkedIn references any more than I entertain claims about products in advertising. That doesn’t mean I won’t contact a reference listed on your LinkedIn page, but most likely I’d discount the person’s comments a bit (or, why did he post to begin with?). What I’d do is expand my phone chat with the person, and try to get one or two other mutual contacts out of it. Then I’d call them.

  9. When I was a hiring manager, the only real utility of references supplied by the applicant were red flags — meaning if I called one of their references and did NOT get a glowing reference, but either lukewarm or on rare occasions, negative, references, it told me something. At minimum it told me that the applicant was not good at judging how he/she was perceived by others!

    But I agree with Nick — the best references are those you dig up on your own with a bit of detective work. When I was hiring someone in an industry I knew well, that was easy. The challenge was when I would be hiring someone from an industry I did not know well, nor have strong relationships.

  10. As a manager I was a big believer in references, and reference letters. There’s no perfect hire, and you are dealing with numbers of “unknowns”, things you don’t know about a person and to extent they may not know about themselves. unknowns present risk…and opportunity.
    When I became an agency recruiter the firms I worked for were bigger believers and we couldn’t submit anyone to a client we didn’t personally reference check.
    I found it to be a great tool, something that helped manage the unknowns and reduce the risk..or strengthen a candidate.
    When I became an inhouse recruiter I introduced reference checking. But I found that the managers weren’t that interested in it, primarily because of the mistaken belief that references given would naturally gush all over the candidate.
    Mistaken belief because most references were in my view honest. In spite of reminders to the applicant to get a reference’s blessing to be a reference, it wasn’t unusual to find they didn’t, usually to their disadvantage. I’ll always remember one reference’s 1st words “I can’t believe he used me as a reference!”
    Conversely I also serve as a reference. And I don’t BS people. I ask the person who wants to use me as a reference for who and for what and tell them what I’ll say. I don’t lie because I’m not wired to lie and 2nd when you serve as a reference…your credibility is on the table as well, and in business it’s a small world. And I believe that’s why references I’ve talked to have been equally honest, and hence the feedback is of value.
    @len as to getting references from a corporation…I don’t get references from corporations…I get them from you. from someone who knows your work. I always ask for 3…a prior supervisor (if current great but I know that’s often career limiting..and ideally from your current corporation), a peer, and if applicable a client or customer (recognizing the concept of internal customers).
    Nick’s point is the core point. To me, a reference check is an interview, an extension of the interviews with an applicant. I’d have a few core questions so I could get some sense of an apples/to apples comparison between references..but my real objective was to have a conversation, to get to know them as much as I can, their values. I have zero interest in reference checking via 3rd parties. I want to hear the words myself, get a sense of feelings and sincerity and hopefully enthusiasm about the applicant.
    Yeah at times I did get a reference who was doing due diligence, being careful, guarded etc, but in most cases people provided good feedback, advice, and observations.
    Good reference checking takes time, calendar time to fit into busy schedules, and time to talk with them.

  11. Some years ago, as I was waiting, in my empty house, for my ride to go to the airport (to my new job in a different state), the phone rang. Someone at the new company(?) was asking me for the phone number(s) of a reference. I told the person that the movers had come and taken away my belongings and therefore I did not have my records at hand; in fact I was about to leave for the airport. I was astounded by this last-minute phone call! I had been offered the job about 6-8 weeks before and had completed a skills test and a lab test and had been flown at the company’s expense to their city for an interview (by several managers). Now someone, maybe in HR or a reference-check company, was asking me for the phone number of one of my references? After I returned to my home state after a couple of years, I had the occasion to have lunch with a former manager at one of my previous jobs in my home state. He was surprised to hear that I had been working out of state. He said that he had never received a call from the company out of state, even though he was one of my best references (because I had worked with him for 10 years)! What a fiasco!
    Had someone failed to finish checking my references–only one day before I was to arrive for orientation? I guess I’ll never know exactly what happened; I still wonder….

  12. @Sandy. While I’d always get references, I didn’t always call. Because I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. This was when the Hiring Manager had already decided to extend an offer & wasn’t interested in more information..or really wait anymore to make an offer.

    And you raise a point I forgot to mention, when you do make contact with a reference a high degree of professionalism serves your company well. I’ve several former references for applicants in my network. A quick call from someone who is obviously just reading questions, or can’t converse about the job, the references job/profession is underwhelming.
    I expect references to get back to the applicant and give them feedback on “how it went” and one part of the feedback would be how they were treated, including informing them of the outcome.

  13. @Don: “when you serve as a reference…your credibility is on the table as well”

    Bingo! That’s why we should take them seriously.

    “Nick’s point is the core point. To me, a reference check is an interview, an extension of the interviews with an applicant.”

    It’s also how recruiting should start. Good recruiting starts as reference checking, after all – right? I don’t mean that you should recruit references. I mean that if you recruit right, you’re getting references while you’re considering recruiting someone.

  14. As a headhunter with 20 plus years experience, I treat reference seeking very seriously. Getting accurate references is a real skill, involving in depth interviews with referees lasting 45 mins to 1 hour.

    I agree many companies don’t treat them seriously, with often negative results. The practise of sending out a pro forma questionnaire is short sighted and lazy. Many hiring managers have no understanding of the cost of a failed hire.

  15. I understand the value of a reference and I tend to protect them as best I can. It has been my policy not to give out their names until an interview has been performed. To me, the interview is proof that the client has some interest in my abilities. Most recruiters will respect my wishes and honor my request.

    The trouble that I run into is with a recruiter and/or agency who will insist that I give them my references before they submit me to the client.

    Well, what if the client isn’t interested in me? My reference has just wasted his/her time.

  16. @ Dorothy. Yes, and when you’re on the inside of a company that hasn’t used reference checks you have to start with the basics…and drive home these points.
    * treat reference feed back as proprietary information,
    * don’t ever say these words…”according to one of your references or worse yet. according to Joe Smith… come up with an objective question. There’s no need to mess with other people’s network, contacts etc.
    * in my case I paid attention to timing. I never made a reference check as the last step. I’d invest in the time as soon as I got a firm signal the hiring manager was serious. So there was no inference that a reference derailed a candidate.

  17. I believe reference checks are a waste of time because:

    1) while it’s not illegal to say something negative if it’s true, would you like to justify your choice of words to a jury? and

    2) real reference checking takes time and effort, and there’s no time for effort in today’s hiring industry, only keyword collection machines.

    If employers check references today, it’s because it’s customary, not because it’s valuable.

  18. Many companies impose a policy requiring that reference checks be referred to HR, and corporate policy limits comment to dates of employment.

    It’s a litigous world, and negative comments about someone…particularly someone terminated…could result in a lawsuit.

    In industries which are consolidating, simple acquisition tubulence can eliminate jobs. Often, local ‘politics’ determine the survivors, and they aren’t necessarily the high performers. Rightly or wrongly, these are the folks that superficial investigating will wind up contacting.

    In short, unless you have personal knowledge of a professional contact, the nature of the feedback you get must be suspect. This is far too complex and subtle to outsource; and very likely far too time consuming for a hiring manager to undertake.

  19. Agree on the value of good reference calls. Even for my best hires, I learn something about them that helps us jump-start our relationship.

    I’ll probably be lambasted here, but here goes: a number of years ago, a client required that I use an automated reference checking survey tool. I went in thinking it would be horrible and I came out respecting it. At least for the tool that I used, I gained very helpful insights.

    Since then, I’ve provided a reference for several job seekers who also needed to use that tool. It was convenient – I could complete it outside of business hours – and I felt the questions were fair. In no way was I offended or felt it was an odd process.

    Nick – I love your articles and I think they’re very helpful. I agree that hiring managers *should* conduct their own reference checks in a thoughtful manner. Practically speaking, though, it doesn’t happen and I wouldn’t advise people to *never* subject their references to an automated reference tool. Some people need a job and, of all the things to negotiate when looking for a job, this strikes me as a silly sword to fall on.

  20. Reference-cking is yet another process that has been “clerkified” of late. Also, the motivation appears to be pursuing something negative to eliminate another candidate. That becomes very easy when looking at candidates w/more than 5 yrs. of experience.

  21. Nick,
    I have to agree with @Ian. Though managers should have very good networks, in my experience few do, partially because they are kept so busy they don’t have time to make them and partially because their company does not find it useful for them to have a life outside – after all, they might get recruited away.
    I know just about every professor in my field, so I check with them about their students. But there is another danger – you need to know the reference well. Is this a person who gushes about everyone, or is this a person who thinks everyone is an idiot? And it helps to have a personal relationship with the reference to get the kind of information he or she would not give to some stranger. Professors are not going to be competing with their students so it is a best case situation, but no one else around here is going to be able to get this info very reliably after I leave.
    That goes double for industry references who are constrained by HR rules for anyone who has ever worked for them. A candidate can get around this if she has contacts with well known people in professional associations. But that is frowned upon also. Don’t waste time in professional activities, get to work!
    So I don’t think your system will work very well in the real world. Not in a way that doesn’t hurt good candidates who have not had the chance to build up the contact list.

  22. On more than one occasion I’ve encountered companies that demand to check your references before even giving you an interview (I find this offensive as hell and I withdrew my interest each time).

  23. @Scott: “managers should have very good networks, in my experience few do, partially because they are kept so busy they don’t have time to make them and partially because their company does not find it useful for them to have a life outside – after all, they might get recruited away”

    “Don’t waste time in professional activities, get to work!”

    Scott, I don’t agree with either of your contentions. Any manager who doesn’t have time to make networks isn’t a good manager. Professional networks are key to success both on and in between jobs. Just consider the issue at hand: references. A manager who doesn’t have a good network so he or she can check references isn’t doing their job, are they?

    @sighmaster: What you’re describing is part of the automation and dumbing down of the hiring process. HR is just trying to check off another box. But consider: How do you know what questions to ask a reference, if you haven’t yet met the subject???

  24. Okay, I just saw the most stupid thing ever and immediately said I gotta share it here, take a look…
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-organizations-should-charge-fee-accept-employment-john

  25. @sighmaster: Thanks for sharing that. It’s precious. I posted a reply:

    That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. in fact, I think just the opposite. Employers should PAY APPLICANTS to do interviews because employers waste massive amounts of time advertising to get the WRONG kinds of candidates to begin with, then employers are CLUELESS about how to evaluate applicants.

    http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/6321/why-employers-should-pay-to-interview-you

  26. @sighmaster: that has to be one of the dumbest articles I’ve ever read on job hunting. Now I know that I’ve entered the twilight zone.

    @Nick: excellent q&a again this week. I, too, have been “required” to provide the names, titles, addresses, and contact information for references before I’ve even had an interview, and which I’ve refused (took me out of contention). My references are busy people who are still kind enough to be willing to provide references for me, and the last thing I want to do is burn them. I’ve told companies that I will provide references only after there is an offer on the table and we’re negotiating salary, benefits, and start time.

    References are tough. While I think it is always good to TALK (not fill out bubble sheets or answer questionnaires to be submitted to third parties) to others who know the candidate well, I get that employers are suspicious of the references candidates provide. Naturally, they’re not going to list the names of those who hate them, so they fear the references are skewed. But the flip side is that if the employer doesn’t have a good network, doesn’t know the candidate’s references or former/current employer well, going outside of the listed references could cost a candidate a good job and a prospective employer a great employee.

    At my last job (at a large state university), one of my colleagues had made arrangements with our mutual boss to work two days per week from home (his girlfriend finished school and got a job in Pittsfield, so they moved to be closer to her new employer). His daily commute would be about 3 hours round-trip, and hence his decision to convince the boss to let him work from home (and do more recruiting in those communities) two days per week. The boss was best buddies with the dean, so his request went through. Then the business office manager got wind of it, pitched a fit, took it to the union, and raised such a stink that the dean and the boss reneged on the arrangement. The business office manager, “Amy”, didn’t work with my colleague, didn’t supervise him or have anything to do with him. She dealt solely with the dean and ignored the poor peons and faculty. But the nature of her job precluded her from working from home, and she was upset that an employee was given permission to do this when she couldn’t. So my colleague decided to look for another job (that was the catalyst, but there were other, big, serious issues as well), and asked me and a couple of other people if we would be references for him. He interviewed at one place, and months later, I got a call from someone there asking me about him. I wondered why it was so late, and lightly commented that I had expected a phone call earlier. She hesitated, and said that she wasn’t going to call me because I was his listed reference, but that she had been going through the School of Nursing (my colleague worked for a dual degree program with Nursing and Public Health; I was on the public health side) and had not been able to reach any of the faculty (they’re not always the best references unless you work directly under one them, and even then she may not know your name or care). She’d gone online, started with nursing staff in alphabetical order, and reached Amy. She said that Amy completed trashed my colleague, said he was incompetent, stupid, entitled, lazy, etc. My jaw hit the floor, and I told her that my colleague did not and never worked with Amy; their jobs were totally different, and in fact that they didn’t even interact, and that Amy doesn’t know what he does on a day to day basis, much less whether he does his job well, how he gets along with others, with students and faculty, etc.

    Amy was still mad at him despite her success, and the last thing she wanted was for him to be able to leave. She was a mean, vindictive, arrogant person (other staff avoided her as much as possible). I had to be careful, lest anything I said about Amy get back to her. At that time, her dean was still PH’s interim dean, and I’d have been in very hot water. I asked the woman who called me if he had mentioned why he was looking for a job, and she confirmed that the commute was the reason. I suggested a couple of other nursing staff members she could call who actually work with him and who could provide her with far better insights into him, his work ethic, his abilities, etc. than Amy. I then did my best to assure her that he wasn’t the screw up Amy made him out to be.

    She did what Nick suggested–went outside the listed references, but approached it in a totally random way (alphabetical order is logical in its own way), but unless you personally knew the politics and the dynamics of the school of Nursing at that time, there was no way to know that Amy wasn’t being honest and in fact was doing her best to sabotage his efforts.

    So you can have the best candidate and still blow it if you call someone who doesn’t know the candidate and if she wants to hurt him.

  27. The comments to the article about charging to apply for employment were far smarter than the article. By clearly illustrating how money can’t fix a fundamentally screwed up hiring system.

  28. “Okay, I just saw the most stupid thing ever and immediately said I gotta share it here, take a look…
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-organizations-should-charge-fee-accept-employment-john

    I just invoiced them 500 USD to read their blog. If they want me to pay for an interview, why should I help their business for free??

    Another “thought leader” no doubt….

  29. Im still trying to get my hands around hiring managers being too busy to check references.

    What work is more important than the people you hire?

  30. @VP Sales: I agree with you, and at one time, managers did something shocking–telephoned and spoke to references themselves!

    For one of my first post-college jobs, I remember being asked for the names and contact information of three references. I hadn’t put this info. on my résumé nor on the application I was asked to fill out, so I had that info. with me when I went for my interview (neatly typed up on a piece of paper). The dept. head (hiring manager) told me later that she called my first reference, spoke to him at length, and didn’t bother to call the others (she said that my first reference was that good). That’s the power of an excellent reference, and of the power of talking to someone personally. Of course, this was in the late 1980’s, before this task would be automated and outsourced, and she made the call, didn’t dump it on HR, who wouldn’t know what kinds of questions to ask.

    I’m not a Luddite, but at times I think less technology is better, as in checking references.

  31. I prefer the lawyers and judges make the true or false bad reference is illegal. Why? Because the third person is not able to know the true story between the job seeker and the former boss. Today, 90% bosses are mean, greedy, and selfish. Bosses and job seekers are also humans. The higher social status a person has, the worse behavior a person has. If my candidate has a bad reference, I will have the second thought, “What is the true story behind since I am not in the story.” Today rich people stand for rich ones. The poor people are suffering. Bosses forget about their karma. Bosses create hatred to employees. That’s why the human world is filled with hatred and enemies. We – humans – do not know what our future will be like. It’s better there is no bad reference even if it is true or false. I knew a story like this. After the employee helped her boss’s personal stuff, and the boss made so many promises. The boss also has a good connection with the employee’s family members. At the end, the boss turned her back on the employee. Of course, the boss terribly told lies about the employee. The employee worked hard and had a good performance. Even on the social media, the employee also has a good reputation. After the boss let the employee go, the employee is suffering the emotional distress. And the employee is becoming a nun.

    So I do not trust any bosses. I prefer to train and to teach my employees to become better. I prefer not to create bad karma. Our life is very short. Today we are bosses, but tomorrow we do not know what our future is like. Human world is created on the human karma. Hatred is created. Violence is created because of the previous life’s karma. Today we are friends, tomorrow we are enemies. That’s how human world is created.

  32. And also I am upset at the HR department as well. They never want to believe in contractors and employees, they just stand for managers and bosses. They create the ethical behavior law, but they do not comply with the ethical behavior law. Bosses are so arrogant, greedy, selfish and mean. They think the company always stand for them, but they do not know bosses told lies and took advantages of the employees. Like my above story, the let go employee is becoming a nun because her boss told lies and took advantages of her. The boss accused the former employee of deleting the code after the former employee left. But how could the former employee delete the code when she had no laptop for 2+ hours on bus and train? And there is no internet on bus and train either.

    You see this boss told lies, caused the emotional distress, and had unethical behavior?

    I prefer no reference check at all because today we do not know the true story behind the bad reference. It can be personal hatred. Who knows what the story behind it?

    And I want the true or false bad reference to be illegal. To do this, we will not hatred among humans. Humans will keep their tongue.

Leave a Reply