In an article I read recently, an airline pilot had used a reference from ‘Jabba the Hutt’ to land a job as Captain at West Atlantic UK, and obviously, when found out that the reference was false and that he did not have the qualifications, was fired.

He’d used a reference from ‘Desilijic Tiure’ – an alternative name for the Star Wars character Jabba the Hutt – which claimed he previously worked as an airline captain.

West Atlantic offered Mc-Gann the opportunity to resign, which he did, but then he subsequently claimed 3 months’ notice pay, being his contractual entitlement had he resigned with notice.

West Atlantic launched a counterclaim, for recovery of the employee’s training costs, as he had signed an agreement stating these were repayable if he was terminated within the first six months of his employment.

The tribunal dismissed the pilot’s claim but allowed West Atlantic’s counterclaim. Mc-Gann was ordered to pay back £4,725 in training costs.

Obviously, in this case, it was really serious in that if there had been an incident like a plane crashing, the consequences for West Atlantic and others could have been catastrophic.

Although you’d expect an airline company to have more stringent background checks in place, this isn’t the first serious case where a candidate has fabricated their application and landed a top job for doing so.


The purpose of references

The purpose of references is to obtain information about a candidate’s employment history, qualifications, experience and/or an assessment of the candidate’s suitability for the post in question.

It is estimated that one in eight people exaggerate or falsify their qualifications!

References should only be relied upon to check factual (and not subjective) information, so you should only ask ‘factual’ questions to the referee and not go into detail e.g. about dismissal or resignation.


How Reliable are References?

Due to increasing litigation risks, bad references are becoming extremely rare. Remember that potential employees are likely to choose wherever possible, those who will provide references for them.

Previous employers may have gone out of business, be pleased to provide a favourable reference for a questionable employer, or simply have different expectations in terms of work performance. Where a reference appears inadequate or incomplete, then try where possible to follow up by telephone.

If there was the occasion where a poor reference is received, but an offer of employment has already been made – if at least one reference has been sought (as company standard) prior to the offer being made, then the offer can be withdrawn.

Company offers of employment state that ‘offer of employment is provisional subject to references satisfactory to the company being received’.


Hiring new staff can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s important to get it right. Get in touch if you’d like some support with this.

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