Legality Of Bad Job References And How to Overcome Them

Job seekers searching for a new job will have no choice but to go through a reference and background check. Today, employers choose to not only speak with your former employers, but also verify your credit, and conduct a criminal background check depending on the position for which you apply.

When it comes to checking your job references, employers will want to speak with two groups within your previous employer’s organization. First is Human Resources where they can find out about your employment dates, job title, salary, and your attendance.  Second are people who have first hand knowledge of your actual job performance, your ability to communicate, meet deadlines and your interpersonal and leadership skills. Typically, the best people to address these types of qualities are those who have worked with you directly – supervisors, peers and subordinates. But, what are these individuals legally allowed to say?

Legal Reference vs. Slander

According to the Webster Dictionary, slander is also known as “oral defamation,” or telling one or more persons an untruth that will harm someone’s reputation. When one person slanders another, there may be legal consequences. However, a  employer saying “he would not re-hire that person, or declare the said person is ineligible for re-hire” is not an attempt to harm someone’s reputation, it’s legal for an employer to provide such a negative reference of a current or past employee as long as the information is factually accurate

Because many companies are concerned about being dragged into a lawsuit, many employers choose to implement job reference-checking policies, which state that callers must be referred to human resources and that only limited information, such as dates of employment and job titles, will be verified.

How to Get the Job References You Want

The entire concept behind building job references is to provide a list of individuals that can attest to your character and job performance. So, your first step should be to create a list of past supervisors, peers and subordinates who can provide a job reference for you.

When you provide contact information, make sure to include each person’s proper name, job title, organization, and a phone number where they can be reached. E-mail address is another huge plus since many employers find it easier to communicate and get a higher response than by phone. E-mail request for references also provides the perspective employer a more detailed record.

How to Deal With Bad Job References

Most employers want to seek out information from past supervisors. So if your reference list includes your mom and some buddies, and maybe a fellow co-worker, understand that most employment verification forms request the supervisors name, title and a contact number to be reached.  After all, everyone knows that the average job seeker is going to provide the names and numbers of those willing to endorse them. So, if you have skeletons in your closet, deal with them before your begin compiling job references.

According to an article by Alison Green, chief of staff for a medium-size nonprofit, you have three options:

  • Call your bad reference giving ex-boss and negotiate what he or she will say.
  • If you’re concerned your ex-boss is spreading misinformation, go straight to human resources and explain the situation.
  • Advise prospective employers in advance that the reference won’t be flatering, then be prepared to spend half the interview explaining why that is.

The whole concept of good job references is to present yourself in the best light possible. If you can’t offer up a long list of people who are willing to endorse you and all else has failed, you may wish to research some online job reference providers who may be able to help you.