A reference check can help you find your most positive references, and make sure that your potential employers never have a conversation like the ones below.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You interview for a position that fits you perfectly. During the third meeting, you are asked for a list of your references and told the company will be back in touch very soon. Not only does nobody call you again, but they no longer take your calls.
There is a good chance a reference influenced them negatively, and once it’s happened, it is too late to try and resolve the situation. Don’t wait until this happens to you. Check in advance to ensure your reference will produce a positive response. If they don’t, then your job search may go on for a very long time.
The Following Are Examples Of Real Cases And Actual Responses From Former Employers:
Oftentimes, the employment information a reference provides is very different than what our client has provided. For example:
We would like to verify that ______held the position (title) from (dates), is this correct?
“He was an account executive, not a Senior V.P.”
“His name doesn’t ring a bell.”
“We do not have this person anywhere in our records.”
“I am not allowed to say anything about this person as they were fired.”
Comments regarding performance evaluations:
References are asked to rank skills on a scale from 1 (inadequate) to 5 (outstanding) :
Oral Communications: “Can I give a negative number … -1”?
Financial Skills: “Well, that’s why our company had a major layoff – left her in charge of finances!”
Written Communications: “You mean when she finally turned in the reports due a week earlier??
Technical Skills: “Is zero in your rating scale?”
Interpersonal Relations: “One. He had a problem with a few of the people. I should have ended the relationship just after he started.”
Productivity: “Is there a rating less than inadequate?
Employee Relations: “There was a lot of he said/ she said happening with other employees. And other than her leaving, nothing else has changed. We haven’t had any problems since then, so we know she was the source of the problem.”
Decision Making: “He couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it!”
Leadership: “He had no leadership skills.”
Crisis Management: “He [fireman] totally ignored the emergency call when it came in. He said he didn’t hear it!”
Short Term Planning: “Lousy, can’t remember something that was completed on time!”
Personal Integrity: “I don’t think she had any integrity.”
Long Term Planning: “He wasn’t here long enough to rate him.”
Overall Performance: “Inadequate would be a positive word for him!”
Managerial Skills: “He couldn’t manage a group of children!”
Some references will refuse to rank a past employee due to an unfavorable impression:
“No comment, they could not do anything correctly in the position they held with us”
“Let’s save time. Basically, you could rank them inadequate in all areas”
Regarding Strengths and Weaknesses
“I cannot think of any strengths, only weaknesses”
“I’m sure there must be some strengths but nothing jumps out at me.”
“Weaknesses seem to stick in my mind … I’d have to really think about any strengths”
“I’d rather not comment – you can take that however you want”
Regarding Eligibility for Re-hire:
Is this person eligible for re-hire within your organization?
“He is not. I’m really not supposed to say much but he was unreliable and sick at lot.”
“Probably not – she had a hard time working in a team environment.
“No, but I can’t say why.”
“Probably not, but it’s just a suspicion of mine.”
“No, because he didn’t want to work here and made it clear he didn’t want to work here.”
“I wouldn’t re-hire him. He was disorganized and dishonest.”
“No, it was the departure – kind of burned his bridges when he left.”
“No, she stole from the company. We have an investigation pending.”
Regarding Reason for Separation:
Could you fully describe the circumstances and reason for the separation?
“She was fired.”
“She was let go – she didn’t do her part as expected.”
“He was let go … there was a conflict with the children – he didn’t follow safety standards and guidelines.”
“I fired him! He and his buddy had some illegal things going.”
“She had been written up and she walked out on work … because she was upset.”
“It was a rather delicate and awkward situation. You should call her other past employers. I made the mistake of
not doing that.”
“She was terminated in an investigation…” He then got very quiet and said he had General Council in his office and couldn’t say anything more.
Regarding Tone of Voice:
It is not uncommon for us to contact a reference and find them: hesitant, evasive or annoyed by the call. Many express:
Anger, shock, unhappiness and disbelief that they have been called regarding the employee. Some examples include:
We are calling you as a reference regarding ________.
“I do not care to comment at all. I let him go and that’s all I care to say!”
“Are you certain he gave you my name?”
“I cannot believe you were given my name as a reference”
“Hold on, let me get the legal file to see what I am allowed to say”
“Never heard of him!”
“I’m surprised she even listed us on her work history.”