In today’s workplace, it has become standard for companies to respond to reference checks by sending the reference requester over to HR where they inevitably hear the standard: “We can only provide dates of employment and position title.” How often have you reached out to candidate references, in hopes to receive some valid feedback, only to be crushed with this standard response?
The reasoning behind this response is due to legal implications. I certainly understand the reasoning for not providing a reference on a previous employee who was an under-performer or was let go due to a sensitive situation. However, I also find it strange that many managers will take it so far as to not even provide a reference for previous top performers who left the company on good terms.
There are 2 key reasons why you should consider providing a reference on any previous top performers.
1. Return the favor to past top performers
Your top performers are your key players. Without them, your business would not be successful. Top performers are the employees who come in each day with a positive attitude, ready to tackle the job and get it done to best of their ability. These employees quite often work additional hours, focused more on completing the job versus being concerned about overtime hours and pay.
We all want to hang on to our top performers, but sometimes that’s not always an option. Some top performers outgrow their current position, while others move away, or have other circumstances that prevent you from being able to continue their employment.
When these top performers are in line for a position somewhere else and they have reached out to you in order to include your information on their reference list, you should feel great that one of your past top performers had a good experience while working with you and trusts you to speak with any potential future employers.
Why would you NOT want to provide a reference beyond dates of employment and position title for an employee who did such a great job for you? Isn’t it worth your time to repay that previous employee’s dedication and hard work in order to help them out?
Always keep in good standing with any top performers who have worked for you in the past. Maintaining strong relationships with them can help you in the long run when it comes to any job search or recommendations that you are looking for in order to make a change to your career in the future.
2. Develop relationships with other hiring managers
One excellent thing about providing recommendations is that it allows you to build and maintain relationships with other hiring managers. Let’s face it, management can be a beast at times and isn’t it a bit helpful to know other professionals in the field in order to bounce ideas off of?
Also, when speaking with managers of other companies, you may receive referrals from them for any openings you have and vice versa. On the other hand, there must be a reason that your previous top performer wants to work for this company. Perhaps you are opening the door to a future opportunity for yourself.
The most important thing to remember when providing a reference is to give helpful information without putting yourself or your company at risk, legally. If you are contacted to provide a reference on an employee who you are unable to provide a good reference on, your best bet is to send them to HR, where they will receive only dates of employment and position title, etc. On the other hand, if you are contacted to provide a reference on a top performer, there is no reason why you should not be happy to help the previous employee and their potential employer out with your feedback.
How do you handle the situation when you are contacted for a reference on a previous employee? Please share your experiences below in the comments.