Over the years I have regularly witnessed HR departments and managers moaning about the “pointless” process of getting references for new staff, they regularly complain that its an administrative burden and they never get a useful response.
This last month though I’ve had a couple of experiences that have made me think that they may not be all that bad. In one case the references were for a new homecare assistant, both referees were quite neutral about this former employee but both said they would not re-employ him. My client decided to employ him anyway, within two weeks they are dismissing him because he spends all his time trying to appear helpful and as though nothing is too much trouble and then going behind my clients back to wind up his colleagues. So although he didn’t do anything wrong with the people he cared for he could start a fight in an empty room with his colleagues. Its a costly mistake they won’t repeat.
The other reference concerned someone who applied for a job front-of-house in a restaurant. On the surface it was a glowing testimony to the woman’s kindness, character and integrity, but contained a “slight” concern about cash handling!!
I know in some cases the references can be wrong but most business owners I know don’t have the time to get to the bottom of these things and also don’t want to risk the success of my business, by employing someone who could cause me problems.
When I seek references for my clients we get about 60% return on the requests and it is only rarely that they contain anything that would stop us employing our preferred candidate. However when they do contain a negative comment its best not to ignore them..