This is one of the most perplexing problems faced by people responsible for hiring others.  Many companies, by policy, place restrictions on what their employees may say about a former employee.  Typically, employees are instructed to refer all calls to HR, which, or course, defeats the whole purpose of providing references.

How could anyone in the HR Department, for example, know anything about the former employee’s management style?  They don’t; and, even if they could, they’re probably not going to tell you!  In most cases all they will do is confirm employment dates and possibly a job title.  How much help is that?  This is precisely why the burden of providing references who will talk should be placed on the candidate for employment.

From the standpoint of the prospective employer, here are some useful suggestions to help the candidate come up with references who will talk:

  • Find out if the reference would be willing to accept a call at home, or over the weekend, instead of at the office or workplace.
  • Remind the reference that he’s not being asked to speak on behalf of the company, but only to provide his own honestly held opinions or to state documented facts.
  • Since references should include people with whom the candidate has worked within the last five to seven years, it’s entirely possible to find excellent references among people who have recently retired, taken other jobs, or moved to other locations within the organizations.
  • Ultimately, the point is people who have worked together for any length of time and also who have become friends will ordinarily be willing to serve as a reference, in spite of company policy restricting it. The foregoing suggestions should help!