The Truth Behind Reference Myths

There has been a shift in recent years as to the type of reference employers provide. Recently, references seem to only consist of a person’s name, their length of employment and their job role. Where once employers would have painstakingly composed carefully drafted references, they now shy away from doing so. This change has prompted speculation that employers are afraid they’ll face legal action for providing anything but fact-only references. However, recruitment myth-busters affirm employers should not fear retaliation for completing a reference but are they in the right?

Myth 1 – Employers can be sued for telling the truth about an employee

This is not necessarily a true statement. If employers share information in a reference that is true, they cannot be sued for their feedback and should feel free to provide helpful constructive criticism. This was affirmed recently in Xref research, with 38% of respondents confirming they would avoid answering questions negatively when providing a reference for a colleague. When seeking guidance on the matter, ensure the advice applies to our legal system.

Myth 2 – Checking references is a hassle

This can be true. The method of checking references is an admin-heavy task that can increase the workload of busy HR professionals. It can be incredibly vexing and time-consuming. However, a solution to the problem is using automated services and organizations that can carry out reference checks in a quick and accurate manner, while saving valuable time for the HR department.

Checking references has dropped in importance for employers, owing to the growing number of employees now subject to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, including health care professionals, employees who work in education, and some employees who work for voluntary or charitable organizations. A problem arises if an employer provides a glowing reference but the DBS check shows a conviction, what would they do? For more information on DBS checks consult a company such as

Myth 3 – References are unrealistically positive

This can also be true to a degree. Employers will, of course, be careful as to how they respond to questions on a reference. However, employers can use clever reference checking methods that offer security for both employers and the candidates. Such references cover the strengths and weaknesses of the referee, offering the new employer the chance to make an informed decision.

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