Everything HR

Game of Phones - Tips for Providing Employee References

August 24, 2017

Recently, HRdownloads asked our clients about their experiences providing references for former employees. The poll results revealed some interesting insight. This information may help your organization decide how it will handle references, and what you need to do to better protect your organization against claims by former employees affected by negative references.

Sixty percent of the poll respondents said that they provide references beyond confirmation of employment. While there is a clear majority of employers who do give references, we cannot ignore the significant portion of employers who do not.

Among respondents who offer references, the most common method is by telephone (59 percent). Only 29 percent of those polled provide reference letters, and 12 percent will provide a reference through e-mail correspondence. While phone conversations may enable those conducting reference checks to more easily probe for information, if you are giving the reference, you should be careful about the information you reveal. Disclosing information on a former employee which touches upon a prohibited ground of discrimination could lead to serious consequences.

Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that 62 percent of respondents do not have a formal workplace policy on providing references. Having a policy can reduce the potential liability your organization faces from being sued by a former employee who was provided with a negative reference. This is especially important considering that 77 percent of participants said that they have felt the need to respond with an honest but negative answer to a recruiter’s question.

A good reference can do wonders to help a former employee land a new position, while a bad reference can significantly hurt their chances of getting a job. To protect organizations from legal liability, while also being fair to the relationship you have with your employees, be mindful when accepting requests to provide a reference. If needed, develop approved company practices and train management on how to effectively provide a reference, while being aware of the risks involved. When references are accurate and truthful, and supported with relevant documentation, you can provide them with the confidence that you are doing the right thing for everyone involved.

Examine the steps your organization can take to effectively provide references for former employees, while limiting liability. Download our FREE Reference Check Guidelines for helpful tips on controlling disclosure and providing effective feedback when contacted for an employee reference.

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