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Asking to see a Reference

(13 Posts)
FifiForgot Thu 25-Aug-11 12:43:13

I wonder if anyone can offer some advice. I have been applying for jobs and getting interviews, but have, so far been unsuccessful.

I am in dispute with my former employers, but have to use them as a reference (I worked there for a very long time). I have been given general feedback about my performance, but I have a nagging concern that the references from my previous employers will have been less than enthusiastic. I know they can't give a bad reference, but I am still concerned about what they are saying. Can I ask to see the references provided for me to prospective employers? I am not in contact with my previous employer other than through solicitors and I don't want to start something there if its just me being rubbish at interview.

Many thanks

flowery Thu 25-Aug-11 12:48:21

Why are people taking up references before making offers? I would always suggest you only provide details of referees once you have an offer.

It's a myth that employers can't give a bad reference. They can. What they can't do is give an inaccurate or misleading one.

If you are in dispute with your employer it will be in their interests for you to get another job, so if they have any sense at all they won't be providing unnecessarily negative references if asked.

If you are only in touch with them through solicitors and are not prepared to (for example) contact HR and ask what's happening about your references, get your solicitor to ask.

I have to say it would be surprising (assuming you are giving HR details to future employers rather than a named manager who you are in dispute with) for an HR dept to allow negative references to be given about an employee currently in dispute with the company.

nocake Thu 25-Aug-11 12:53:34

You could make a request under the data protection act for copies of the references. I think (and I'm prepared to be corrected on this) your ex-employer wouldn't have to provide them even under a dpa request because they are confidential information but a prospective employer would be obliged to provide you with copies.

If you think the references are unfair (either saying things that are untrue or overly emphasising negatives without mentioning positives) then you would have grounds to sue your ex-employer.

gaaagh Thu 25-Aug-11 13:11:31

"Why are people taking up references before making offers? I would always suggest you only provide details of referees once you have an offer."

That's always been my experience too. If i recall correctly, most of the jobs offered have been "subject to satisfactory references"... it's only when they make the offer that they go and chase references. Otherwise they'd be doing it to so many people it wouldn't be efficient (i.e. asking for references for all potential short listed candidates - that's quite a few requests!).

Also, on your CV, you might want to take out any mention of references or just write "supplied on request" - don't just write the name and contact details of your supervisor there. because then you gain control about when they're asking for reference details (and knowledge that they're doing it full stop).

My sister once put reference details for her boss when she applied to another role via an agency - attended the interview but heard nothing back for weeks - assumed it had gone to someone else - then the agency phoned up her boss asking for confirmation of dates she worked there, etc but my sister was still employed there. In the end it created such a bad atmosphere she ended up leaving shortly after anyway (and not even to the job she'd speculatively applied for, ironically). That taught me a valuable lesson about supplying too much information before you even know if they're interested - why would you give them that much information for so little in return?

FifiForgot Thu 25-Aug-11 13:17:49

Thank you both for your quick replies.

flowery in the last 3 cases, references have been taken up before interview. It is a long and complicated story, but HR form part of the dispute with my employers which makes the whole thing tricky. I have found out today that I haven't got the latest job, so I was wondering if it would be appropriate for me to ask about references alongside general feedback? If not, all I can do is ask my solicitor to request them.

FifiForgot Thu 25-Aug-11 13:23:45

gaaagh it has been clearly stated on the last 3 application forms that references will be taken up before interview. I was surprised too, but if thats what they want to do...... I don't have reference information on my CV, but I'm not sure quite what to do when an application form asks and clearly states that they want references before interview.

nocake Thu 25-Aug-11 13:26:45

You don't need to get your solicitor to ask for the references. Either ask the new company for copies or sumbit a dpa request to them.

flowery Thu 25-Aug-11 14:01:02

nocake - The OP doesn't need to get her solicitor to ask, no. But if she isn't comfortable communicating directly with her ex-employers, that's really the only option.

Yes, she could submit a DPA to new employers but that could take ages. She needs to get to the source of what information is being provided and get an agreement for an appropriate reference to be given, rather than asking new employers after they've already had it.

OP - yes you can ask about references alongside general feedback - hopefully employers will be prepared to say if a reference has put them off, even if they are not prepared to literally give you a copy without a DPA request.

23balloons Thu 25-Aug-11 20:09:38

OP surely if they are checking references before the interview and you are getting interviews then the references must be OK, otherwise why would they bother to interview you?

It is a really tough job market out there. I have been looking for a job since January, in the past I have practically gotten every job I have ever been interviewed for, including a term time part time school job after 8 years of looking after the children. Since January I have had approx 9 interviews and have applied for many more jobs that I didn't even get an interview for. I got 1 short term mat cover role and have just recently been offered a permanent part time job.

Just keep trying, I have started to check the do not check refs before interview box as I didn't want my referees getting fed up with giving me references. I have never filled in a form that didn't give you the option of not requesting a ref before interview although of course many would prefer to.

Good luck & hope it works out for you soon.

KatieMiddleton Thu 25-Aug-11 20:23:44

What everyone else has said but just wanted to make a point re data protection act: you're entitled to request to see copies of all information relating to you from any organisation who have data relating to you subject to a data subject access request and possibly paying a small fee (not more than £10) so you can ask your former employer or new company.

Tbh in this scenario I would just add it to the tasks for your solicitor to do. If you're in dispute and likely to go down a compromise agreement route it's common to add an agreed reference as part of the settlement.

Putthatbookdown Mon 29-Aug-11 10:10:37

I am sure the above posters are giving good advice but as far as I am aware a reference which you do not see is the best you can have .It is not a genuine one if you have had a say in it, if you seewhat I mean.Remeber the new employers may have questions they wish to ask your old employer eg was x always on time for work etc

KatieMiddleton Mon 29-Aug-11 11:06:08

Sorry I don't understand your post Putthatbookdown. You do realise she is in dispute with her previous employer?

flowery Mon 29-Aug-11 11:15:12

putthatbookdown no one is saying she should have a say in it. She wants to see what's being said about her and potentially to address that if what's being said is inaccurate.

Nothing 'best you can have' about a reference you haven't seen if it's full of crap about how rubbish you are unjustifiably

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