No Job Reference

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 - career change, career transition, CV Tips, Employment, Job Advert, Job Application, job offers, recruitment

No Job Reference


Eric asks: I need some help on references for a job offer. I am currently employed, and applied for a better job with better pay. I have successfully negotiated the job application and interview stage, and now have a job offer subject to references. Both my current and former employers forbid job references from work colleagues or managers, and only permits the Human Resources team to provide dates of employment and reason for leaving/current status – but this job offer requires more. Could I use friends and family, and will employers be understanding?

In answer:
I always encourage people before writing something on their Professional CV, to have compiled a list of accomplishments and have thought where they will be able to gain a job reference for that accomplishment from. If you don’t, then you end up in the situation you are in now, Eric.

UK Employment Law on References

Their is one thing in your favour, and that’s associated with your new employers request for a reference which is beyond dates of employment. UK Employment Law doesn’t stop an employer giving more than dates of employment, but because of associated liable of an employee who is employed or not on the back of a full written reference, more employees and new employers are suing ex-employers if they find they are blocked into a new position/find the employee doesn’t quire come up to standard. It is a whole new area for the ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers to pursue, which has resulted in HR best practise coming down to:

  • Banning all employees giving references, except HR
  • HR only giving dates of employment, and leaving

The only difference to this policy is where there is a regulatory element to the job, such as Background Checks for teachers or Financial Services Authority records for IFA’s, where Employment case law compels the employer to provide a written reference confirming compliance with professional standards.

Informed employers and those who regularly hire staff will be aware of this trend toward strict policies on references, and you can hence expect most employers to be understanding. But those who don’t hire regularly won’t be, which is where I guess your new employer sits.

Job References

Your biggest issue here is that the job application process is one way in which employers vet and check future employees. So if they are asking for a full reference, and you go back explaining policy and that only a relative can act as a reference, then you stand a high chance of being excluded form the job. I hence have two suggestions for solving this:

  1. Much as though many employers have strict policies on job referencing, many will allow a telephone conversation with your line manager or HR person to chat through wider issues, subject to the signing of a non-formalisation agreement. Chat to your existing HR team, and find the person who will handle your referencing. Explain to them that you have applied for another job, and been succesful, but the new employer is unaware of current HR trends and wants a full job reference. Are they willing to take a telephone call from your prospective employer, during which could they both educate them on present HR policy, and what information could they provide on a non-formalised basis? This would then educate your new employer on current HR policy, and assure them that what they got was the maximum they were likely to get
  2. Use your formal Social Media references. No, not ones from Facebook or MySpace – unless they happen to be ex-bosses – but from business sites like LinkedIn. If someone has given you a written work-associated reference on LinkedIn, then they are probably more than happy to give you a telephone reference. Use this as a prompter, and go back and check with them if they would be happy to speak to a potential new employer for you?

At all points during your Job Search and Job Application, as the candidate you need to be one step ahead of the formal process to solve the social process solutions, if you are going to ensure a successful and employed outcome.

Good Luck!


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