No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Value of References


I have just received a reference from a large multinational company for a potential employee which gives no other information than:

X was employed as a XXXX from start date to finish date. Final salary was £XXX.

X resigned from their position.

If this is all the information that can be given out then what is the point?

For the record when we request references we have a proforma that covers all the usual stuff e.g sickness, discilpinary action, etc

I understand about data protection/legal implications but really wouldn't it be nice if a little more information could be given.

Thoughts anyone?
Tracy Murray

4 Responses

  1. It depends on policy
    A lot of large organisations and some smaller have taken the line that in order to protect themselves from being sued for giving misleading references the best way forward is to give minimal references like the one you’ve described.

    However, you can often find that phoning a referee rather than writing to them can bring out a substantially more complete reference than policy dictates.

    It depends on what you want the reference for, if you need it in writing to show a client you may have to accept that some referees will give you not a lot to go on, if it’s for your own QA purposes it’s always worth calling the referee to see if they’ll expand on the reference off the record, as it were.

    The biggest problem of all though is determining the referee’s worth to you in the first place, as recruiters will tell you there are (unfortunately) a substantial number of people who get their references filled by people who don’t really know them or by people who aren’t what they say they are.

    So references are probably only worth the paper they are written on and it’s best to incorporate stringent checks into the quality of the individual during the first few months of their association with you.

    Hope that helps.


  2. referee as representative of their employer or as a human being
    I agree with Nik regarding phoning rather than writing…also be aware that if the referee is approached as a representative of the organisation they have to abide by the data protection/legal advice/cover your back policy of their employer. If howver you can contact them at home as a person who knows XXX then they are free to be somewhat more forthcoming.
    Bearing in mind that no one will give a referee’s name for someone who isn’t going to give them a half decent report don’t expect “warts and all” honesty!

  3. Political correctness has intervened
    A few years back, I worked for a public sector college. Every request for a reference had to be sent to the HR department who would provide no more information than the bare, quantifiable facts you have indicated, in order to avoid litigation. No opinions would be voiced, under any circumstances. Every staff member was also strictly instructed that phone calls for references were to be similarly directed, with the same outcome. It would have been a disciplinary offence to do otherwise.

    I guess it’s the backlash of a litigious age.

  4. Protect yourself
    With regards to the comments about possible claims against referees we had a clause in our reference form the applicant signed stating that they accepted that they could not take action against us or the referee for any comments made as part of the reference process.

    In my last organisation my Payroll Manager ripped us of for some £50K and then made an official complaint against me for telling the agency that supplied her about the theft and conviction. I also told prospective employers that contacted me.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!