The Job Reference: Is it still relevant?

Job Reference
The Job Reference: Is it still relevant?
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About the Author

Laura Machan

Laura Machan

Laura Machan is a Partner, Recruitment Solutions for Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge based in Toronto, Ontario. Although she has been recruiting for quite a few years, she still gets a big thrill from calling someone to set up an interview and an even bigger thrill when she hears a happy dance as she tells them when their new job starts. Laura lives with her family in Oakville, where she has lived for over 25 years, and is a significant contributor to the Canadian Federation of University Women - Oakville and Women in Nuclear, Golden Horseshoe Chapter.

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A job reference has been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are.

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad job reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing a job reference, only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, there was a workaround. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.

Employers started to question the validity of a job reference. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like.

Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.

I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.

What’s your point of view on job references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?

Are job references relevant?

For more career advise check out Laura Machan’s other articles.

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