July 29, 2016

What do you know about References?

This post was written by: Susan Clements

Applying for a new job can be tiring and stressful especially when employers do not reply back whether or not you have been successful for an interview or not. CVs require your personal details, about you as a person, what you’re hoping to achieve/become, education, dates and work experience background. But what about your references?

Most people at the end of their CV would write ‘references available on request’, which is absolutely fine because some employers don’t always ask for references, but when they do, it can be a tricky one. People tend to believe that ‘employers cannot give you a bad reference; it’s illegal’. This isn’t the case. Many people don’t know where they stand legally when it comes to references. Here are the most common questions asked about references.

Does my boss/company have to give me a reference?
No they don’t. Your current/previous employer is under no legal obligation to give you a reference.

Can my employer give me a bad reference?
Yes and no. As said before, numerous people believe that your boss cannot give you a bad reference by law, but that’s not entirely true. References have to be accurate and truthful. This means if you had a discipline in your previous job or have had multiple written warnings then your boss has every right to write this in your reference. However, most employers are afraid to give negative references in case they are sued. It has now become increasingly common for employers to refuse to state anything more than job role/title and employment dates. This is known as a factual reference – essentially giving nothing more than the bare facts.

Can I see what is written in my reference?
When you start working for your new employer, you can ask them for a copy of your reference that has been given to them by your previous employers. This comes under the Data Protection Act which states that you have every right to any information held about you. Your previous employer however is under no duty to show you a copy prior to sending it out to a new employer.

How do I make sure my reference is good?
You can never be 100% sure that your reference will be good. Just make sure when leaving your job to leave on a good terms with your boss. They don’t legally have to tell you what they have written in your reference but you can always ask! If you think there may be a problem, it is always best to speak to your boss directly rather than avoiding the issue.

What if this is my first job?
If you don’t have a previous employer, you can use two personal references. To get the best of using two personal references, choose someone that you know is reliable and that you have known them for at least five years. Ideally, they will also be a “professional” –for instance a doctor, lawyer, accountant etc. You could also use your teacher or a lecturer at university/school.

It’s no wonder why people get so confused about references . Hopefully, our short guide has now put your mind to rest!

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