Inside PR: Do you provide references?

In this week’s episode of Inside PR, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I discuss how we, as employers, tackle the challenge of providing references for former employees.

It seems to me that this is one of those areas in which legal liability forces us into a situation in which we are constrained in what we can do. That leads to conflicting impulses and emotions. We want to do the right thing. But are we allowed to?

Listen to this week’s episode to hear Martin, Gini and I discuss how we try to deal with this struggle. None of us claims to have the right answer, but we all think it’s something that we must come to grips with.

Would you?

If you are an employer, do you provide references for past employees? If you do, what practices and standards do you apply to ensure that you are fair and consistent? When you are hiring, do you rely on references?

If you are an employee, do you expect your employee to provide a reference for you?

  • Hey Joe — is this podcast available on iTunes?

    • Hi Frank, We just moved the videos from Brightcove to YouTube. I hope to have the iTunes feed set up today or tomorrow.

  • I’m surprised nobody mentioned the correlation between social media and a reference. In the day of social media, a recommendation is “everything”, good or bad. Ironic that the leaders in this industry are legally prevented from giving any type of reference, to what most companies would call their “best resource” (its people). – side note, managers at my last work are not allowed to give recommendations on linkedIn.

    This is a timely topic for me. For most of my adult life, I have owned my own business. And I was told by my lawyer very early on to never give a reference. Its against the law to say something negative, and by not saying anything you are implying negative, so best answer is just to say “I’m sorry cant give you a reference”
    Now I am looking for full time employment, I am sitting on a couple hundred people (former clients) who would be happy to give me glowing recommendations, but, legally, can’t really say anything. In fact I had one recruiters say not to bother getting references. A very frustrating situation for me.
    Good point on being a “bad fit” I’m sure everybody would agree (employee, and employer) that having a corporate superstar on the team, does not necessarily translate to having a healthy working environment.
    As an employer, I always thought it was ridiculous that I was not able to give a reference. In the end, if I had something positive to say, I always said “I was very sad to see that person go”. As an employee, its very frustrating that I cant have my resume corroborated up by a human. This is one more example of how the “good” are punished for the crimes of the “bad” #IMHO

    • David, Thanks for presenting the human side of this post. I just hate that I have to ask a lawyer what I can or cannot say. It completely runs in the face of my belief in authenticity and generosity.

  • Really interesting debate. If I was an employer, I think it would depend if I’d rely on the references or not. I mean, if the employee got fired from his previous job, how could the former employer write any reference? The same applies in the case of me writing the reference. If I were an employee, I wouldn’t expect my employer to provide a reference. I would be surprised if he did, even if we parted on amicable terms.

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