Reader Question: What type of information can I give out during a reference request?
– Manager, Administration – Public Relations Company
To start, the answer to this question is typically dictated by your company’s policy towards references, most of which insist that these requests get routed to whomever owns HR or, in cases where you are allowed to handle them, should result only in confirmation of title, employment dates and maybe compensation. Aside from that conventional wisdom is this day and age of lawsuits and claims with the DOL, the less shared the better. Oh, and there is nothing really “off the record” so saying something is before telling your caller the truth won’t cut it.
In a world where HR is under constant assault by the local lawyer the area of Reference Checking is rapidly becoming extinct, not because we are no longer asked but because most firms, seeing the writing on the wall (or in the form of a lawsuit filed) are establishing policies that forbid the delivery of a reference. I have to agree with that approach. More bad than good these days can come out of providing references, in part because of how inconsistent we are in what we say and what we don’t about good and bad employees. In short provide title, dates of employment and, if you choose, compensation. Nothing more.