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What You Need to Know When A Potential Employer Calls Your References

5 Key Items On Which to Coach Your Reference

DETROIT (April 30, 2012) - Regardless of circumstance, job separation requires a little finesse, on both the part of the employee and the employer. Things are a bit easier and more in your control if you are leaving a job of your own volition, so make an effort to ensure the separation occurs on the best possible terms. The employment experts at Allison & Taylor recommend that you give proper notice, tie up loose ends, and depart with an employer that appreciates your efforts and is sorry to see you go.

If, on the other hand, your employment separation is due to a layoff or downsizing the employer often draws up a “separation agreement” which specifies the terms of your termination and severance package. These agreements are generally designed to protect the employer (so read the fine print carefully!) but can also serve as a safeguard to the employee when it includes language on how the employer will react to a request from a potential employer for reference information.

In either scenario, negotiating how your former employer will respond to a reference request is of critical importance to your future employment. Take the time to discuss with them exactly what information they will, and will not provide to prospective employers- before you leave the company- and get it in writing. (Need specific legal advice and direction here? Allison & Taylor can arrange for an attorney to write a custom clause for your particular situation.)

Following are some tips on what to request from your employer when it comes to providing references:

1. Correct substantiation of your title, salary and dates of employment - Both employer and employee should mutually coordinate these items and stick to them strictly when presenting the information to prospective employers. It's very important that a former employer's data matches what you've listed on your resume or application; otherwise it may look like you are providing false information.

2. Status of eligibility for rehire.“Is he/she eligible for rehire?” is a very commonly asked question, and also one that can be tricky for former employers. Some employers have a policy against providing rehirability status. Others have a “no rehire, regardless of circumstance” policy. It's best for such employers to specifically say, “Our company policy doesn't allow me to comment on anyone's rehire status.” or “Unfortunately, our company has a no re-hire policy.” These statements tell a potential employer it's not a personal issue.

3. A positive evaluation of strengths and weaknesses. Let's be honest, no one is perfect. The best thing to do here is speak honestly with your reference about what they see as your strong and weak points. This allows you to come to an agreement about how to address this type of inquiry- and even weaknesses can be commented upon in a positive manner. “What Bob lacks in experience, he sure makes up for in ingenuity!”

4. Their view of your ethics and integrity. Hopefully, these issues will not be in question, but it's still an area that needs to be addressed with your (almost former) employer. What are their impressions of you in this area? If they are favorable, put together some wording that reflects this. If not, your best course is to request that they don't comment on it. No negative sound bites. (See some of the unbelievable things former employers have said here.)

5. Reliability. This is a critical question for many employers. They want to know that you will show up to work, that you will complete projects on time, and that you can be relied upon to do the job for which you were hired. Your former employer cannot answer this one too emphatically, so make sure they understand it's important to you that they answer this in a positive way. When a potential employer asks “Is Susie reliable?” the proper response should be “Absolutely!” not “Oh, yeah, sure.”

Former employers should also be counseled to provide reference information on a timely basis, as their failure to respond (or to return messages about your employment) could be construed as a “negative” by a prospective new employer. Also, your former references should adopt an open and courteous tone when responding to reference inquiries.

The best reference will likely be one where you know exactly what the person will say about you, so be sure to negotiate your reference before you list the information on your application or resume. Taking the time to create a mutually acceptable reference may make a huge difference in your ability to get future employment.

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About Allison & Taylor:

Allison & Taylor and its principals have been in the business of checking references for corporations and individuals since 1984. Allison & Taylor is headquartered in Rochester, Mich. For further details on services and procedures please visit

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Media Contact:
Jeff Shane
800- 890-5645 toll-free USA/Canada
+1-248-672-4200 direct dial
Allison and Taylor, Inc.

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