Employment references are par for the recruitment course, but it’s not always simple. You should be careful about the information you disclose about former staff to potential employers, warns senior associate for Harmers Workplace Lawyers, Peter Ferraro.
“Reference checking provides a potential employer with valuable information when it comes to assessing whether or not a candidate is suitable for a role, yet there is a fine line between providing too much or not enough information about a candidate’s skills, previous experience and their ability to do the job,” he said.
Sticking to the basic facts is sometimes the better option. Many organisations, he said, now have a ‘no written reference’ policy, instead providing a statement of employment certificate.
Advice for employers asked to be a referee:
- Provide factual and truthful information and avoid disclosing personal details about the candidate that may hinder the chances of securing a role. • Don’t talk up a poor performer for the sake of placing him or her elsewhere.
- If you can’t answer the questions honestly, or you don’t want to be negative, don’t answer the questions.
- Offer something such as, “I know Sharon in a professional capacity and to my knowledge she did her job properly” instead of providing a character reference.
Advice for hiring managers and recruiters:
- Treat feedback received about any potential employee as only a component of the assessment process and ensure that you verify factual information such as education qualifi cations.
- Resist the urge to ask around about a potential employee — it could be seen as an invasion of his or her privacy.
- Ensure the candidate’s approval before proceeding with reference checking.
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