• United States

A point of reference

May 27, 20042 mins
Data Center

* Workforce Management offers some suggestions for obtaining candid references

Candid references are difficult to obtain these days, making the hiring process all the more challenging. Many companies such as my own have policies that prohibit employees from giving references for current or previous staffers. While HR departments are usually willing to at least confirm name, rank and serial number, this information isn’t very helpful in assessing whether or not a candidate would be a good hire.

The reason for the zipped lips is our litigious society. People who blame a previous employer for giving them a bad reference may sue for defamation, and few companies want to risk a lawsuit. So what’s a hiring manager to do?

I found some great suggestions for countering this resistance to comment on job performance at the Workforce Management site at In an article called “Cracking the Ex-Files,” writer Joe Mullich offers these suggestions: ask someone to rate the candidate on a 1-to-10 scale, expect cooperation, and fax copies of state laws that protect employers from being sued for telling the truth. According to some employment experts, those who are reluctant to talk feel more at ease when asked to rate an employee on an objective 1-to-10 scale.

If those techniques still aren’t helpful in getting a company to be forthcoming, consider at least asking one simple question: Would the employer rehire the candidate? That’s a simple yes- or no- question many feel comfortable answering, according to the folks at Employment Screening Resources. That firm offers another tip on obtaining references: engage in professional networking to obtain this information. For more guidance on the topic, see