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  • #2189231

    What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?


    by why me worry? ·

    I’m in a situation in which I am seeking work, but my former employer, a large law firm, does not provide references due to the legal issues that can arise for defamation of character/libel/slander/etc. if the wrong things are said. The most they can do is verify employment dates and will not disclose salary history or work performance. Their policy regarding reference requests is to contact HR, which will pretty much restate their no reference policy to the person asking. How do I get around this situation if potential new employers want professional references, but the former company’s policy dictates otherwise? I don’t want to get any of my former colleagues in trouble, or worst, fired, for providing me with references, but how can this obstacle be overcome when the HR dept of most companies starts demanding this? Also, I am not in the position to ask for references from my former managers, not that they would give me any due to company policy, because I did not leave on very good terms with them and do not trust them to say good things about me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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    • #3060060

      Not unusual

      by stress junkie ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      First, shouldn’t your alias be “What? Me Worry?”? The alias Why Me Worry doesn’t make sense. What Me Worry is from Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine fame.

      Second many businesses have the same policy about employment references.

      Third, I have found that very very few businesses actually call for references.

      So, no worries mate.

      • #3060056

        IT Recruiters want this stuff

        by why me worry? ·

        In reply to Not unusual

        It’s virtually impossible to know who is and isn’t hiring without going through some IT recruiting agency these days, and they are the ones who want references to make sure they are not placing a complete f**k up in a company. I can understand their position on this, but if the company refuses it, then what do you do?

        • #3070590


          by john.a.wills ·

          In reply to IT Recruiters want this stuff

          One of my former managers once refused to give an agent a reference and she did not read his refusal and thoiught it was a good reference and recommended me to an employer on the strength of it.

        • #3058164

          other sources for references

          by dearmoree ·

          In reply to IT Recruiters want this stuff

          I worked for a large computer manufacturer in Texas for several years. They had the same policy regarding references. I contacted several of the managers I had worked for and asked them directly if they would be a reference for me. They all said they would and gave me home phone or cell phone numbers to use on my reference lists. Thanks to their input I now work for the largest community college in Michigan.

    • #3060025

      Common Practice

      by thechas ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      Not providing references is becoming common practice in the US.

      For your former employers, it is a loose – loose situation.

      If the reference is bad, the former employee sues them.

      If the reference is too good, and the employee is a dud in the new job, the new employer sues them.

      You need to develop some personal professional references outside of your management and HR chain.

      Be it a former instructor, a friend who also works in IT, even a coworker.

      The most important thing is to use home addresses and make SURE that you have permission from your reference for people to contact them.


    • #3070738

      This is pretty standard.

      by fooser dan the network man ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending up on your point of view), this is pretty typical. Most of the companies I have worked for have had this type of policy in place. You might want to ask some of your former co-workers if they would be willing to give you a reference. Heck, I even had a former manager who told me to give prospective employers his home number so that he could “technically” be a personal reference, but he also brought up the fact that I worked for him (I was subsequently hired based upon his feedback).

      • #3070579

        Thats the ticket…while employed gather references

        by beoweolf ·

        In reply to This is pretty standard.

        This is an insidious, progressive problem. Its almost like sports professionals prior to free agency and players unions. Meritocracy in IT is great, but all the cards are in the hands of the corps at the high end.

        Your solution is to ask for, printout recomendations from staff, co-workers and customers while they bask in the glow of some phomenal rescue you provided or assisted in. It may seem mercenary, but it helps whne you eventually move on.

    • #3053363

      Friends are the best way…

      by mikebertie ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      Almost regardless of the way in which you leave a company, getting your friends “in the trenches” to vouch for you is the best way in my opinion. There is nothing that the company can do to keep one of their employees from sharing their job experiences where you are concerned with anyone they like…the company just doesn’t want that information to come from an “official channel”. I would ask a couple of my ex-coworkers for a glowing reference and use them…someday they will need one as well, and you can be there for them !!

      • #3058112

        You bet they are

        by blueknight ·

        In reply to Friends are the best way…

        I found myself in a similar situation back in the late ’70’s. Since around 1975 companies have been reluctant to give references for former employees because of the potential legal ramifications should they say something negative. To avoid the problem, they have opted to say nothing other than to confirm that you worked there.

        I my situation, none of my coworkers knew I had been terminated (on a Friday). The following Monday morning, when word got around as to my whereabouts, my phone began ringing. I received two calls from project managers saying that they would have been glad to have me on their team had they only known someone took exception to my work, and if I needed a reference feel free to use them. Those calls were followed by several calls from peers and fellow team members offering support and help with references if needed.

        References from these people are worth much more than one from an employer, because these folks are most familiar with your work, after all, they were “in the trenches” with you.

        As JamesDKing mentioned in his response, keep copies of your performance reviews also. You can provide those for reference should it be necessary.

    • #3058187

      Letter of Rec

      by regloff8 ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      Well – considering the fact you didn’t leave on very good terms with them – It’s probably best they won’t give out any information other than work dates.

      Have a friend call – preferably a friend who’s done reference checks before, and see what they say. I’m sure you can find a list of questions asked in reference checks on the web.

      I currently work for a law firm myself, and I’d have to say – it will be my last as well. They are a bit too arrogant for me, and way too demanding. I’m by no means lazy, but they can be unreasonable with their demands at times. We had some problems with our ISP for a while – the problems are all fixed, but this place keeps riding my back to “see what the problem was”. Well, it’s fixed, so why’s it still an issue? They act like they want guarantees nothing will ever break down again – like a bunch of spoiled babies, really.

      Oh well, no matter – I got a phone interview tomorrow anyway 🙂

    • #3058172

      reason to always get copies of reviews

      by mango_grower ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      As soon as a performance review is signed, insist on
      a copy. They would not have a legal leg to stand on
      to refuse.
      Your bank statements should show your Direct Deposit / check deposits and you should have your W2 forms.

      If you get to the ‘check references’ step, this should be enough.

    • #3057973

      I’ll give you a reference

      by jctagg ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m in a similar situation (not quite in that I haven’t left yet) but it won’t be long because the guys I work for at present are totally inflexible, apply company policy to people they don’t like and let those they do like get away with ‘blue murder’ etc. etc.

      Anyway, I remember asking one of my former lecturers if he would supply me a reference for jobs and he actually gave me a written reference I could present to employers. (Obviously this may not meet the format that employers will be looking for and they may well want more specific information), but how about this? It’s nice and short, but says everything it needs to to get the job.

      I suggest you edit as appropriate, print it out and show it to any of your colleagues and ask them to sign it if they agree with the statements made about you. Hope this helps:

      To whom it may concern: I am happy to provide a reference for (your name). He/she has been working with me for (period of time worked together).

      He/she is diligent and hard-working. I have found him/her to be absolutely reliable in meeting deadlines and his/her record of attendance is outstanding. His/her punctuality is excellent and I have always found him/her to be trustworthy. Consequently I recommend him/her to you with all enthusiam.

      Signed (contact signature)
      Position in company

    • #3057934

      Here’s a workaround

      by midweststeve ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      One tactic I’ve seen is to get references from people who you worked with in the past, but are no longer employed by the company with the restrictive policy. That may provide the opportunity to “work around” the restriction and provide the information that’s needed.

    • #3057915

      Personnel Reference

      by ken.farley ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      I also use to work for a company that had the same policy. I was able to ask my manager to provide a verbal personal reference that was not directly comming from the company but rather it was his opinion of my work performance and character.

      This was ok and while I don’t know what was said in that conversation I was told later that the reference was more than sufficient for me to get the job.

      Hope this helps.

      • #3072342

        What employers really want

        by andrew.berkinshaw_smith ·

        In reply to Personnel Reference

        As an employer, I got fed up with detailed reference requests from firms about my current / former staff. I have a simple policy about references.

        I won’t give any written references. If anyone insists on these, I refer them to HR.

        Instead, I say to the prospective new employer something like, “if you want to know whether I would like to keep this person, the answer is ‘yes’. Now what else do you want to know?”

        No prospective employer so far has ever asked a supplementary question.

    • #3072547

      There’s a reason they won’t provide reference

      by donstrayer ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      Unfortunately, in our overly litigious society employers must protect themselves from potential lawsuit. Several bad things could happen if a former employer (including any current employees or agents, or any former employees of either who are bound by explicit or implied agreements)acted as a reference.

      If they gave a bad reference and you found out about the details (unlikely though that may be) and you had reason to believe it was unfair, you might have legal recourse. If they gave a good reference, your next employer hired you partly on the basis of that reference, and you turned out to be a disaster… There is at least one case where an employee with a history of mental health problems was hired based on a former employer’s glowing recommendation, he went on a workplace shooting spree, and the former employer who gave the glowing reference was successfully sued.

      Rightly or wrongly, you should not expect any former employer to provide much more than dates of employment, positions held, and other non confidential records — even with your signed approval.

      So what can we do? It’s all about networking. Build and continually cultivate a pool of potential references through your business/professional contacts outside of your current employer. If you didn’t consciously do that you can still probably think of some people — customers, suppliers, contractors, consultants, professional associations — with whom you’ve had a good working relationship.

      Fortunately most HR departments, hiring managers, and headhunters are well aware of the prevalence of “no reference” policies. And if you can get a few people outside of your previous employers to speak well of your abilities and accomplishments, that’s a powerful endorsement.

      Think hard. You can probably come up with a few people with whom you’ve had good professional relations. First step is to get back in touch with them. You aren’t looking to ask them for anything in particular — You just want to find out how they’ve been doing and to talk about things of mutual interest. Networking. Unless things click right away, don’t talk about your job hunt or need for references. Look instead for opportunities to share information or to help your contact with some particular problem. If you establish/reestablish a good professional relationship, start talking about your problem during your second or third conversation. Don’t ask directly for a reference. Ask for advice. If he’s willing to give you a good reference, he’ll offer to do it.

    • #3072526

      I am a victim of dirty corporate politics

      by why me worry? ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      One reason why I don’t want my former managers talking about me is because they took advantage of the corporate HR policy and pushed me out by giving me 2 consecutive years of crappy work performance reviews, followed by 3 written warning from HR, then finally termination which occured on the 11th of this month. Basically, the first 2 years of employment were the best for me and I was getting excellent performance reviews and was highly respected for my role as a Senior Network engineer supporting the company’s Novell Netware/GroupWise system. Then in the second year in 2002 following 9/11 and a huge systems consolidation project which I oversaw, there was a major company restructuring in the 1st quarter of 2002 in which a former Arthur Anderson guy(Enron’s Accountants) guy was hired by a senior managing partner of the law firm to be our new IT department’s Director. Needless to say, this guy was a pompous moron who never greeted anyone, was always bitter, and then brought in his own cronies to manage us, the engineers and admins. Anyhow, this new director brings in his own guy who used to work for AOL Moviefone’s Telecom devision to be our new technology operations manager. At first, we thought nothing of it when he was introduced to us, but as he acquired more power and control over our department and our daily tasks, he became the ball busting boss from hell. He demanded rediculous working hours from all of us, unrealistic project timelines and worst of all, unrealistic expectations of our positions. Some people faired well with him because they became buddies with him and started kissing his ass, but I am not like that. I did the best possible job that I could, but nevertheless, my performance reviews started go downhill from that point on and for more that one reason. Rumors started flying around that the company (read new IT manager) was looking to dump our Novell GroupWise system in favor of Microsoft Exchange because everyone else was doing it. With that said, there would be no more need for Netware file/print servers or GroupWise servers and no more need for my position or me. Finally, in 2002, the decision was made to switch and that’s when I started seeing my annual reviews looking more like malicuous acts of slander instead of fair reviews because they were going to get rid of me because my position would become obsolete. The new operations manager called me into his office a few times to tell me that “I was not meeting his expectations as a network engineer and other obvious political B.S.” and that he expected more out of me. I don’t know what else I could have done more, considering I was on call 24/7 and was always available if there was a system outage and have worked on weekends and crazy hours (3am-6am) to bring the system back online. I did my best, did my projects on time, got along with almost everyone, but the second review stated that I did not getting along with my peers and other obvious bullcrap like that. At that point, it was clear they were looking to get rid of me by portraying me as an incompetent and arrogant employee who does not get along with people. I guess my refusal to kiss corporate ass and adhere to the “I will get on my knees and suck the manager’s **** to keep my job” policy and not adhere to the status quo is what did me in. I was raised to be a person with pride and not to let others belittle or patronize me in any way and thus will never be anyone’s puppet or slave. In other words, they played the HR system until the day they decided I should be terminated. I have been aggresively looking for work, but due to my Novell background and training, there isn’t much work in a world favoring Microsoft products.

      • #2585940

        Can happen in the best of places

        by cmc ·

        In reply to I am a victim of dirty corporate politics

        I work in the health care system – same type of situation only it was with one of the partners of the company, who has now resigned, by the way. It was her problem and tried to make it mine. I had the most uncomfortable year and a half because of her bullxxxx – she was unhappy. Now that SHE is gone – the office is a whole new place. No more petty crap. At least not until the other partner wants to retire !! hahah. Good luck to you and believe that something better WILL come along.

    • #3072212

      Previous employer references

      by gnx ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      I think that all former employers are only required to say he worked from date to date. They are not supposed to say he was a good / bad employee. The best reference is a first impression. There are a lot of companies that don’t check references. Best of luck.

      • #3071068

        I’m already getting calls from headhunters

        by why me worry? ·

        In reply to Previous employer references

        My resume has been on Monster & Hotjobs for quite some time, and headhunters are calling me non-stop. So far, they like my resume and can tell that I can talk the talk and walk the walk from speaking to me. If they do ask for references, I will tell them that the best I can do is give them professional references from trusted former coworkers. I’ll be back on my feet soon, as the IT market is definitely gaining ground and the amount of positions to be filled is overwhelming.

        • #2583430

          Glad to hear it’s turning out OK!

          by minda1 ·

          In reply to I’m already getting calls from headhunters

          I’m not surprised your story seems to be headed for a happy ending. It’s certainly not an all-Microsoft world out there.

          It seems to me your company’s no-detailed-references policy works to your advantage in this case. They won’t say anything bad about you, and you don’t need to tell anyone at your new employer about leaving on bad terms either. The real reason you left is that the company made a strategic decision to switch to a different technology so your skills were no longer needed. If I were hiring, this would sound like a very good reason for you not to be there anymore, and if I couldn’t get any more details from the company, I’d still be satisfied.

          It’s wisest in the corporate world to keep negative events, conflicts and bad feelings as quiet as possible.

          Best of luck,

          Minda Zetlin
          The Geek Gap

    • #3043548

      reviews and personal references

      by bloomy ·

      In reply to What to do if former employer’s policy is to not provide references?

      The first thing you can get is a certificate of service, which simply state how long you were with the company, the last poisition you held.

      As for detail, you should be able to ask for personal references from your coworkers or managers.

      If you left on bad terms then there isnt much you can do here really. It seems there is a lack of trust so I wouldnt bother.

      The alternative in this case is to get hold of any performance reviews that you had. Hopefully your company has a formal process and this is all documented. If they were good reviews or at least objectively fair and unbiased then these can be used.

      Other things that can prove your achievements are also useful whether they are through documentation of some kind or even emails that show evidence of good work or conduct whilst working.

      Regards Steve B!

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