Did They Really Just Say That? Actual Responses From Former Employers During a Reference Check

For Immediate Release

Did They Really Just Say That? Actual Responses From Former Employers During a Reference Check

Allison & Taylor Discusses What Your References Might Really Be Saying About You

DETROIT (March 29, 2017) – Do you know what your references are saying about you when a potential employer contacts them for your employment information?  Oftentimes, the information a reference provides is very different than what a former employee believes is being said.

A bad- or even lukewarm- reference can spell disaster for your professional career. That’s why it’s best to be proactive; a professional reference check can not only determine which people are your most positive references, it can also help make sure that a potential employer never has a conversation like the ones below.

The following are actual responses to reference-checking questions posed by Allison & Taylor Inc.:

We would like to verify that ______held the position (title) from (dates), is this correct?

  • “He was an account executive, not a Senior V.P.”
  • “His name doesn’t ring a bell.”
  • “We do not have this person anywhere in our records.”
  • “I am not allowed to say anything about this person as they were fired.”

Is this person eligible for re-hire?

  • “He is not.  I’m really not supposed to say much but he was unreliable and sick at lot.”
  • “Probably not – she had a hard time working in a team environment.
  • “No, but I can’t say why.”
  • “Probably not, but it’s just a suspicion of mine.”
  • “No, because he didn’t want to work here and made it clear he didn’t want to work here.”
  • “I wouldn’t re-hire him.  He was disorganized and dishonest.”
  • “No, it was the departure – kind of burned his bridges when he left.”
  • “No, she stole from the company.  We have an investigation pending.”

Could you fully describe the circumstances and reason for the separation?

  • “She was fired.”
  • “She was let go – she didn’t do her part as expected.”
  • “He was let go … there was a conflict with the children – he didn’t follow safety standards and guidelines.”
  • “I fired him! He and his buddy had some illegal things going.”
  • “She had been written up and she walked out on work… because she was upset.”
  • “It was a rather delicate and awkward situation. You should call her other past employers. I made the mistake of not doing that.”
  • “She was terminated in an investigation…” He then got very quiet and said he had General Council in his office and couldn’t say anything more.

Things can go from bad to worse when employers volunteer comments regarding performance (References are asked to rank a prior employee’s skills from 1 (inadequate) to 5 (outstanding):

  • Oral Communications: “Can I give a negative number?  Negative one?”
  • Financial Skills: “Well, that’s why our company had a major layoff – left her in charge of finances!”
  • Written Communications: “You mean when she finally turned in the reports due a week earlier?”
  • Technical Skills: “Is zero in your rating scale?”
  • Interpersonal Relations: “One.  He had a problem with a few of the people. I should have ended the relationship just after he started.”
  • Productivity: “Is there a rating less than inadequate?
  • Employee Relations: “There was a lot of he said/ she said happening with other employees. And other than her leaving, nothing else has changed.  We haven’t had any problems since then, so we know she was the source of the problem.”
  • Decision Making: “He couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it!”
  • Leadership: “He had no leadership skills.”
  • Crisis Management: “He [fireman] totally ignored the emergency call when it came in.  He said he didn’t hear it!”
  • Short Term Planning: “Lousy, can’t remember something that was completed on time!”
  • Personal Integrity: “I don’t think she had any integrity.”
  • Long Term Planning: “He wasn’t here long enough to rate him.”
  • Overall Performance: “Inadequate would be a positive word for him!”
  • Managerial Skills: “He couldn’t manage a group of children!”

In some cases, employers will refuse to rank a past employee due to an unfavorable impression:

  • “No comment, they could not do anything correctly in the position they held with us.”
  • “Let’s save time.  Basically, you could rank them inadequate in all areas.”

A lack of information can be just as damaging as too much, especially when it comes to strengths and weaknesses.

  • “I cannot think of any strengths, only weaknesses”
  • “I’m sure there must be some strengths but nothing jumps out at me.”
  • “Weaknesses seem to stick in my mind … I’d have to really think about any strengths”
  • “I’d rather not comment – you can take that however you want”

Many former employers express anger, shock, unhappiness or disbelief that they have been contacted regarding the employee. 

  • “I do not care to comment at all.  I let him go and that’s all I care to say!”
  • “Are you certain he gave you my name?”
  • “I cannot believe you were given my name as a reference.”
  • “Hold on, let me get the legal file to see what I am allowed to say”
  • “Never heard of him!”
  • “I’m surprised she even listed us on her work history.”

Allison & Taylor Inc. estimates that approximately 50% of all reference checks they conduct reflect some degree of employer negativity.  The best way to combat this type of career sabotage is to have written documentation of its existence.  Visit www.AllisonTaylor.com for more information on reference checks, and remedies such as a Cease & Desist letter, which has an extremely high rate of success.

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About AllisonTaylor

AllisonTaylor and its principals have been in the business of checking references for corporations and individuals since 1984. AllisonTaylor  is headquartered in Rochester, Mich. For further details on services and procedures please visit http://www.allisontaylor.com/.

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