Do you ask your new hires for references?

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog on DO NOT Make This Costly Mistake When Checking References but one thing I didn’t touch on was what you should do if you get a bad reference.  Can you just dismiss someone?  Should you?


Here are our top tips on dealing with bad references

Mismatched Information

There are many different ways in which you may interpret a bad reference.  For example what if the dates the candidate has given you that they worked for Company x doesn’t correspond with the dates give back to you by Company X?

First things first – don’t always assume the worst – as you know what assuming does.  It could be a genuine mistake or Company X has got a new employee and they missed something in the personnel file, always double-check before talking to the candidate.

When you speak to the candidate don’t go on the attack as you will only get the defence back – it is not always deliberate it could have been an honest mistake.


Reference Containing Negative Information

If the reference contains negative information about the applicant, then consider the following:

  • If the information is of a factual nature, for example, that the candidate failed to meet sales targets, you should consider whether or not it is relevant and, if it is, whether or not it is sufficient to render the individual unsuitable for the role.
  • Bear in mind that, just because someone is having a problem in their current role, it does not necessarily mean they will be unsuitable for the new post.
  • Where a reference contains adverse comments based on opinion rather than fact, for example, that the candidate lacks enthusiasm, consider the accuracy of the information and compare it to what you know about the candidate. The information may have been influenced by personal dislike and maybe irrelevant.

What do I do if they are under offer?

If you receive the reference and the candidate is under offer then you might consider another interview either by phone or online – rather than face to face as it will be quick to discuss the information that you have received and get their take on it before making a decision.


What do you do if the employee has already started working for you?

Most offer letters are conditional on at least having 2 satisfactory references. 

You may want to extend their probationary period to make sure you have made the right hire.

If you feel as an employer that the information that you have received and investigated with the employee is something that you cannot allow them to continue employment that you could terminate their employment.  Make sure you make the decision based on the facts and make sure you investigate first.

If an employer fails to give a reference do you automatically take that as a bad reference?

You should note that employers are not, in most circumstances, under a legal duty to provide a reference and that many employers adopt a policy of not giving references or giving only minimum information. Therefore, a failure to provide a reference or provision of a sparse reference is not an indication that the employee is not good at their job. In such circumstances, you may ask the referee to explain their organisation’s policy on giving references.

Not sure what to put in an offer letter?

Why not take a look at our webinar all about offer letters to make sure you are protecting you and your business – just fill in the information below and grab a cuppa and maybe a sweet treat and find out more in our 20-minute webinar.



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