I will tell you why silence is not golden when it comes to responding to reference requests.
Many employers who know me and my company do not call for references because they are happy when they see my company’s name on CVs. They feel that have gotten a decent staff. They feel if nothing else, the staff would have learned high quality work standards from working in my firm. They forget that it’s always wise to seek references.
The only ex-staff that don’t include the firm in their CVs are the ones that feel too smart, because they know what they did and how they left. The interesting thing is that somehow, I still get asked about them, it’s a very small world.
Former employees use the brand equity to their advantage and they are more than welcome to. It’s interesting that I even get called for references of people who come for Kendor Consulting training courses. They are hoping I can give them insight to the character of the person. There are employers see Kendor Consulting on CVs as part of training attended, and they are happy to give them a job on that basis.
I consider it a privilege that the Kendor brand is respected and that HR professionals and MDs seek my opinion on important matters like recruiting key staff. I am not just asked about staff recruitment, I am called for reference checks on CEOs and senior executive positions for both organisations, institutes and associations.
So, when a professional colleague, usually an HR Director or MD goes through the trouble of calling me on a fact finding mission, the least I can do is provide them with the facts. I try my best to be as balanced as possible, even telling them where we may have gone wrong with the staff and how they could be managed better. As long as the staff in question was honest I believe they are already an asset and I state so. I also clarify the basis of their resignation, if they resigned without notice, that information will be provided.
I will also appreciate anyone to do the same if I called. It will be unfortunate if anyone I know withheld the truth about someone from me just to help them get a job. Needless to say, if I find out, I will not trust them again with something so crucial.
A bad reference is one thing, but keeping mute or not providing the fact about a staff’s start and end date is unprofessional. If I am asked directly over the phone how long the staff spent in my firm, I will provide that information. Honesty begins from stating the facts of employment as they occured. Any staff already distorting those facts has no one but themselves to blame.
In addition, it is already a bad reference to not respond to a reference request. Most professional firms will not confirm a staff if they do not receive a reference back. So, not replying is a bold statement already hindering the chances of their employment.
We must also remember that as HR professionals we are to give references as part of our duties. The least we can do is fill the other parts of the form and not write anything in the statement part and like I said, that is already a bad reference.
I have never given a negative written reference personally but filled forms have been returned with the facts stated. However, I always respond genuinely to calls and I try to be as balanced as I can, so as not to misrepresent the facts.
Funny thing is that the last person who called for a reference said if she hired the staff and the staff messed up she would begin to wonder why I referred them🤷♀️. Clearly, my personal brand is at stake. Thus, I have to protect it.
I must be honest, these days, once I hear ‘reference’, I cringe because references are seeking the truth and sadly a lot of people are not truthful.
There is a place for empathy and we all have it. I personally feel sad whenever these reference requests come but I cannot help them as they have already damaged their chances themselves.
I love giving good references but my hands are tied if people decide to play the system and it backfires.
This is the problem with Nigeria, we always feel we are helping people to the detriment of ourselves, society and country.
Think again. Silence is not always golden.
God help us as we help ourselves.