Negotiating a fair severance package is common when a person involuntarily leaves a hospitality company. What many people fail to realize, however, is that it’s just as important to negotiate a fair professional references for use in landing one’s next position at a luxury hotel, cruise line, or five-star restaurant.

Failure to do is one of the biggest blunders people make when they lose a job. No matter how you leave a company, you need to know what your immediate past employer is going to say about you to prospective new ones. Many people mistakenly believe that all employers will simply verify your past employment, but this couldn’t be further from reality. In many cases, people will talk more than they should when providing a reference.

When negotiating a professional reference, a person needs to confirm if he or she is eligible for rehiring, the specific reason for losing the job and – if the employer will provide a reference – what is going to be said. Getting the answers to these questions in writing is a highly recommended.

Job seekers also need to know who is going to be providing the professional reference, as it is not just what is said but how it is said. A reference’s voice inflection can tell prospective employers’ volumes about a person’s true feelings. In many instances, it’s best for a human resources executive without emotional ties to a former employee to provide the reference. The worst case is an emotional boss who one day may provide a favorable reference and the next day the opposite just because he or she may be having a bad day.

If there is a concern that a former boss may say something derogatory or untrue about a former employee when asked for a professional reference, the human resources department should be contacted to clarify the company’s reference policy. Many managers don’t know the official reference policy of a company and inadvertently say too much. In these instances, someone in human resources needs to remind them of the rules, which forces former bosses to temper their comments.

In some cases, prospective employers who cannot reach a candidate’s professional references simply eliminate that person from contention.

So, what is a job seeker to do if a former employer drops the ball? The candidate might have to hire an attorney to prompt the company to cooperate. A letter is sent on one’s behalf to the company, explaining that the candidate needs a job and asking them to provide a professional reference following set policies.

Most companies are sympathetic to a candidate’s efforts to find another position and then return the call from the prospective employer.

Note that an “official” letter of recommendation never replaces a professional reference verbally provided to a hiring manager. “Letters of recommendation really aren’t effective in today’s job market,” Allison says. “A candidate can work with the letter provider to assure the letter says all the right things so, in the minds of many hiring managers, they have little credibility no matter who it comes from.” In summary, it’s critical that a job seeker carefully perform their “due diligence” in predetermining and managing – where possible – the input previous employers will offer to prospective new ones.

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About Allison

Allison & Taylor Inc. and its principals have been in the business of checking references for individuals and corporate accounts since 1984. We have successfully built our brand and corporate recognition and have been recommended by industry specialists such as The New York Times award-winning author Martin Yate (“Knock ‘Em Dead Résumés”). Numerous articles have been published about our business in newspapers and magazines including The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour Magazine, New Woman, Worth, National Business Employment Weekly, The Detroit News, and The St. Petersburg Times.