Reference Checks


One of the more frequently asked questions by people who have worked at the same place for an extended period of time is how to come up with references, especially if they don’t particularly want anyone to know they’re planning a job change.  This can be a problem, but it’s not an unsolvable problem – if careful thought is given to the solution.

Part of the solution is based upon the assumption that anyone who has worked at the same place for a long time will have made several good friends.  If a career change is contemplated, the first step is to identify a list of coworkers who are also good friends – good enough, at least, to be trusted!  The next step is to ask at least three friends and coworkers privately if they would be willing to serve as references.  It might even be a good idea to ask references if they could mind being called at home or during a weekend.  The only reason for this is if the situation on the job precludes a reference from being able to respond to questions without being overheard by someone else.

Another source of references can include people with whom the candidate has worked within the last three to five years who have taken other jobs, retired, or moved on to another division of the company at another location.  The point is it’s almost inconceivable that anyone could work at the same place for five or more years without having made several close friends willing to serve as references.

One flaw in the foregoing assumption is that many companies have a policy against anyone giving reference information about a current employee.  My thirty-three years of experience tell me, however, that a good friend, who is also a coworker, will agree to be a reference in spite of company policy to the contrary.  Some may prefer to be called at home by a prospective employer rather than at work.  It’s also important for prospective references to understand that they’re not being asked to speak on behalf of the company, but just to provide their own opinions about various aspects of their friend and coworker’s job performance.  People who are good friends – and coworkers – normally will serve as references if some accommodation is made so they can speak freely and clearly and understand that their comments will be considered strictly confidential and that they are not being asked to speak on the company’s behalf, but merely to provide facts and honestly held opinions about someone planning a career change.

Now, from the prospective employer’s point-of-view, if a potential job seeker says he or she can’t come up with any references from a place he/she has worked for years, it might be just as well to continue the search for an appropriate candidate for employment.  “Gee, I’ve worked there for the last ten years, but I really don’t have any close friends I would ask to be references for me” would be enough for most prospective employers to simply keep looking!