If you list references from a former company in your resume, you can pretty much expect that all a prospective employer will get out of them is your name and years of employment. More and more companies are adopting a strict reference policy to protect themselves from legal action. These types of policies may say that:
- Only HR departments can give a reference—not line supervisors or managers
- The employer (through HR) will only confirm inclusive dates of employment, title, and last rate of pay (with some adding the ability to answer "yes" or "no" to the question, "Is she/he available for rehire?")
In some states, such a reference policy is law. It became the law in California when a school district gave only the "good" part of a reference for a departing teacher, and didn't tell the new employer about allegations of improprieties with a minor student. When the teacher did the same thing in his next school, the prior employer was sued for giving only "half the story in the reference." A case in Florida involved a situation in which four people were killed by a relatively new employee about whom a prior employer failed to disclose, during a reference check, a threatening incident that had occurred previously.
Of course, strict reference policies can penalize an outstanding former employee. So what recourse do you have? In this discussion, some TechRepublic members helped another member with this problem. Take a look at their suggestions for getting around strict reference policies.
If you decide to use professional and personal references who are not stymied by corporate regulations, you should also make sure you have your bases covered. This piece from monster.com shows you how to help your references help you.