Reference Checks

Suppose that you and another person have worked together for the last five years or so. Let’s also suppose that the two of you are good friends, not just at work, but socially as well. One day your friend comes to you and says, “I just had a great call from the XYZ Company, and they’re considering me for a job that would mean more money and a promotion. They told me they check references, so I would like your permission to give them your name and contact information.” You know there’s a strict company policy barring employees from giving out any information about current or former employees. What do you do? Do you refuse to serve as a reference for your friend and perhaps cost him/her the chance to advance his/her career? Do you violate company policy and run the risk of being fired if you’re caught? Do you agree but duck the call from the prospective employer? Or do you refer the whole matter to HR?

We already know that many people who are asked to serve as references ignore company policy. But, if you find yourself in this sort of quandary, here’s what you can do: Ask the prospective employer to call you at home, and make it is very clear that you are not speaking on behalf of the company, only on your own behalf. Being called at home tends to make the call take on a more personal character that should put you at ease in terms of helping a friend and not overtly violating company policy. After all, calls you receive at home aren’t anybody else’s business.