Friday, February 28, 2014

Reference Ruckus

Well, one recruiter woke up on the wrong side of the bed when she wrote this post. But it’s fun to read. And it’s got some good insight.

In college, you’ve got FERPA. That’s the policy that prohibits your professors from saying anything about your performance in the classroom, good or bad, unless and until you explicitly authorize us to say something. Not even your mom can pry it out of us. At least  you have a chance to know about the policy; you have to sign off, opt in or out.

In the World of Work, there’s a similar gag-order. Many employers will not give references about your performance on the job—not even if they are hung in the air by their thumbs and the soles of their feet are tickled.

Why? Because employers are afraid of getting sued by former employees who believe that a reference was slanderous. Yup: the employer definitely should have said “he did an excellent job” rather than “a great job.”

The lesson(s)?
  • Be aware that a former employer may have such a policy, and may not be willing to say anything about your work.
  • Prepare alternate sources for recommendations: church, recent educational experience, volunteer work.
  • The article suggests that you ask whether an employer has such a policy or not before you agree to take a job. If not, don't work there.
  • If someone calls you to give a reference on another person who worked with you, know whether your company has such a policy in place. Yes, if you’re still early in your career, you may feel flattered you’ve been called to assess someone else. But you may be dealing with a sneaky person trying to avoid the run-around higher up the food chain.

Thanks to Joyce Tesar for suggesting this article!

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