Employer References Questions you should ask.
Answers you shouldn't give!
HAVE CANDIDATES SIGN A WAIVER PROTECTING THOSE WHO GIVE JOB REFERENCES.
Former employers may be willing to speak more openly if you have the candidate sign a waiver releasing them from liability for damages arising from furnishing employment records and information. Consider adding the following wording to your job application form:
I authorize present and former employers, and individuals I have listed as personal references, to furnish information about my employment record, including a statement of the reason for the termination of my employment, work performance, abilities, and other qualities pertinent to my qualifications for employment, hereby releasing them from any and all liability for damages arising from furnishing the requested information.
Have the applicant sign a separate release for each reference listed on the application. This way, you can send it to the former employer prior to your telephone call, or as part of a written request.
WHAT TO ANSWER WHEN EMPLOYERS CALL YOU.
Say anything negative about a former employee — no matter how accurate — and that employee could file a defamation lawsuit against your company. The employee might ultimately lose, or the suit could be dismissed, but your company will still incur legal expenses.
So, unfortunately, the safest course of action is to say as little as possible when you are asked for job references. Limit your statements to facts regarding the position held, the duration of employment, and the final salary.
If the employee has signed a waiver releasing you from liability (see box), you should still limit your statements to documented facts, not opinions. Relate what the employee did and did not do, as recorded in his or her personnel file. Do NOT give personal opinions regarding the employee's integrity or competency.
In fact, your best bet is not to discuss the employee at all, but to send copies of relevant documents from the personnel file and let those documents speak for themselves.
NOT GETTING FRANK ANSWERS? TRY THE "5-SECOND RULE."
If the person giving a reference seems unwilling to speak frankly, listen between the lines and follow the 5-second rule. For example, if you ask, "Was the candidate reliable?" and the referral source says "Well – (long pause) – he did what we asked him to," that pause could be a warning that you're not getting the full story.
WHAT TO ASK WHEN CHECKING JOB REFERENCES
Find out as much as you can about the applicant's competence, character, and behavior. Recommended questions include:
- Confirm the employee's dates of employment at the previous company and final salary.
- What were the candidate's general duties?
- Why did the candidate leave?
- How well did the candidate get along with co-workers, superiors, and customers?
- Did the candidate have a positive work attitude?
- How would you rate the quality of candidate's work?
- How would you rate the candidate's productivity?
- What were the candidate's strengths and weaknesses?
- Was the candidate reliable?
- Did the candidate have any problems with tardiness?
- Did the candidate fail to meet commitments?
- Is the candidate honest and trustworthy?
- Do you have an opinion as to the kind of position or work environment in which the candidate would work best?
- Is the candidate eligible for re-employment at your company?
- Is there anything I have not asked, but that you would like to tell me about the candidate?
If the supervisor seems reluctant to speak about the applicant, at least verify the position held, the duration of employment, and the final salary.
YOUR COMPANY MUST THOROUGHLY CHECK A JOB APPLICANT'S REFERENCES.
Your company is expected to exercise reasonable care to diminish the risk of hiring an employee who could present a threat to co-workers, customers, or the general public. That includes verifying each applicant's personal information and checking his or her job references. The more you know about the applicant, the better.
BUT WATCH WHAT YOU SAY WHEN OTHER COMPANIES CALL YOU.
When you make negative comments to potential employers, a former employee could sue your company for maliciously injuring his or her reputation. You would then bear the burden of proving that your statements were accurate and given in good faith. So, in many cases, the less you say about the applicant, the better. How do you reconcile these conflicting interests? This guide recommends a prudent approach for each side of the reference checking dilemma. It also suggests measures that will facilitate better information sharing between hiring companies and previous employers.
Article by By Anne Fisher, FORTUNE senior writer from http://money.cnn.com/2005/10/18/news/economy/annie/fortune_annie101805/index.htm