Checking Your Employment Reference

You don't!

Unless of course you check your references from the old employer before using them as referees.

There are many firms that offer a reference checking service, relatively inexpensively.

Why do I need to check my references?

Sadly not all employers are honest when it comes to providing references. Some accidentally provide inaccurate information but others may deliberately seek to sabotage your future career success by putting false, negative or personal information in your reference.

Either way, this is not good!

At least if an old employer makes an honest mistake for whatever reason, having had your references checked before hand you can immediately identify this error and contact them about it.

Why would an old employer try to sabotage me?

An old employer may try to spoil your future career success because of some past personal history or conflict between the two. It may be because they simply resent you leaving them. Some employers are deeply resentful when any employee leaves them as they see it as being disloyal. They may take it personally or it may be about the cost involved in hiring your replacement. Either way, you wont know what you old employer will say unless you check your references.

What can I do if an ex employer writes me a bad reference

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If an employer is dishonest about you in a reference then depending on where you live in the world you may be able to take legal action against them.

Employers should not be including personal opinions, rumours or inaccurate facts in your reference, but it happens. Check yours!

What does a reference checking firm do?

Generally reference-checking firms will contact your previous employers stating that they are checking references.

The employer assumes that the letter/call is from a prospective employer so no questions are asked. The reference checking firm will check your references in complete confidence.

They may enquire about a range of things such as whether that firm would employ you again and if not why not. They may ask about your skills and experience, integrity, ability to work in a team, interpersonal skills etc. In additional they may check employment dates, job description and the reason you left them. They will then provide you with a report based upon all the information they managed to obtain.

Can I include these reference checks with my CV?

Yes you can, assuming they are great and will support your application.

Having references enclosed with a CV gives you an advantage over your peers. It saves the person wading through applications, some work if they already have a large proportion of that work done for them. Any doubts that may arise in your CV may be silenced by good feedback on the references that you enclose with that CV.

Can I get a reference in advance without paying for it?

You can ask your old employer to write a reference for you to take with you when you leave. This is one way of avoiding negative feedback! If the reference that you obtained directly differs to the one the new company obtained in confidence differ greatly at least they can note the difference and speak to you about those differences. Whereas if you only have the past employers reference as a guide, the new employer will just assume it is correct.

My references are great, I was mates with my old boss

This sounds ideal, but not necessarily. If an employer gives an overly glowing report and it is not justified then they can get into trouble. Just as they can if they say negative things which are not warranted.

I didnt get on with my employer, what do I do about my reference?

Ask someone else who you had a good relationship with at work for the reference. Put their contact details on the CV. If necessary at the interview you can explain that you did not have a very good working relationship with the actual employer. This could be one reason why you are seeking new employment. Be honest. No one is ever expected to get along with everyone in an organisation. The new employer should respect you being honest with them. Ask the alternative referee their permission to do this before going ahead. Build bridges not barriers when you leave a firm!

I was fired- I wont get a good reference

If you were fired, you need to explain the reasons for your dismissal to your future employer and hope that they offer you a chance based on what you can offer them. It really depends though why you were fired. Make sure whatever the reason, assuming it was justified, that you work hard to avoid it happening again and do not let past poor performance etc stand in the way of your future success.