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What About References?

Published by Dove & Hawk -

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The multiple rounds of interviews have been completed, your chosen candidate has been offered and now it’s time for the easy part; contracts and the reference checking. It should be the simple part but it’s not always so easy: what if you get a dates only reference or no reference at all?

There are many reasons as to why a reference may never arrive:

  • The person you’ve offered may be a ‘first jobber’. They are fresh out of education and are entering the world of work for the first time.
  • The previous employer may no longer be in business. Not even a telephone number or email address exists for them.
  • The previous employer may be based overseas. Time zone differences can cause havoc with getting a response.
  • The previous employer does not see why they should have to give a reference. It is not a legal requirement to do so. 

Perhaps a reference has been provided but only contains factual information. If you were banking on a reference to establish a potential employee’s thought processes, drive, communication, ability to achieve targets, etc; you will be sorely disappointed as many employers have the policy to provide what’s referred to as a ‘basic reference’ or ‘dates only reference’ (containing employment dates and job title). 

The reasons for these policies in our opinion are twofold:

  1. HR Departments have access to specific factual documentation about an ex-employee rather than opinion. With larger firms; the multiple requests for references can be time-consuming and so adopting a ‘dates only’ reference policy allows to quickly adhere to the request rather than deny it.
  2. If the ex-employee thinks they've been given an unfair or misleading reference, they may be able to claim damages in court. That being the case; many firms provide ‘factual references’ to avoid any chance of future litigation.

So you needn’t worry. Where detailed references cannot be obtained; it’s vitally important to make sure your probing, questioning and skill testing is exemplary at the interview stage. Trust your judgement. We would advise a candidate to do their research on any company before going for an interview and advise our clients to do the same on potential interviewees; it’s amazing what you can find with a quick LinkedIn search. 

Happy referencing!


Matthew Squirrell

Strategic recruitment consultancy, for the real estate and construction sector.

Link to Dove & Hawk business profile

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