So yesterday I was called by an old friend. I missed her call and read the text she sent. It was a request for a reference check for a past employee. I sighed.
In recent times I have received reference requests on previous staff, professional colleagues, past bosses, friends, and even people I have no clue about but people just believe I may know them, know someone who does or just have valuable insight.
When I get such requests, I try my best to be as balanced and as honest as possible because I know how important my opinion weighs in determining the decisions taken. I do not take it forgranted at all.
If they underperformed while employed in my firm, I go as far as giving reasons why they may have fallen short, taking my fair share of blame if necessary and suggesting the circumstances required to improve that person’s performance. I also always believe that everyone I work with must have grown since they left and will be of better value to their next employer.
I had just finished giving a balanced view on this person’s behaviour when the conversation moved on to their performance and salary information.
Unfortunately, this is when the conversation took a turn, as the information the staff provided to the prospective employer was so exaggerated that we had to accept the evidence for what it was, a pack of lies.
The sad thing was that the conversation revealed to me suspicions I had on the staff’s integrity while they were employed by my firm.
I have given great references, where I just said ‘please hire’ but I am afraid a good number have been problematic, especially with staff, and the reason is simple, the employees are not truthful with the information they provide to prospective employers. In this case, it was about their performance and salary. Most times it’s about the circumstances surrounding how they left.
A lot of people, HR professionals inclusive shy away from being honest in reference requests, their excuse is they want to help the person secure a job.
My dear, you can’t help someone, who doesn’t want to help themselves.
I would not lie if a reference check is requested. I would give my objective, honest opinion based on verifiable facts.
Integrity is a non negotiable competence for any decent employer. If you choose to hire someone that you already know has integrity issues or you decide not to request a reference check from a previous employer, you are taking a big risk.
As an employee or job seeker, the truth won’t cost you anything, but a lie can cost you everything. Don’t lie.
It’s a small world. Honesty is really the best policy.