I always take a good one with a large pinch of salt but for one candidate I have received an incredibly bad reference. It basically says he's rubbish at his job and I'd be mad to employ him. He's just finishing a fixed term contract and they won't be renewing it because of concerns about his ability and performance.
You don't often see references like that. Usually if people can't say something nice, they say something neutral or decline to respond.
His other reference is one of those neutral ones.
However, two different people who work with him at his current position have contacted me separately to tell me how lucky I'd be to get him and how brilliant he is at his job as well as how good a person he is to have around the place. These are people I know well and respect both professionally and personally.
We haven't interviewed yet and I have no idea if he'll turn out to be the strongest candidate but what would you make of the reference?
These are people I know well and respect both professionally and personally.
This makes quite a difference in my view. I assume that you don't know the person who wrote the bad reference?
I don't put much emphasis on references tbh. Even less so on such a negative write-up, because it actually sounds quite vindictive! As a manager, I would either decline to provide a reference at all or, if that wasn't an option, just confirm job title and dates worked. I think a really negative reference says more about the person who wrote it than it does about the individual in question.
Can you ask the candidate to provide an alternative reference?
Actually I do know the person who wrote the reference, kind of. He once interviewed me for a job which I was offered but didn't accept as during the negotiation process I decided he would be a vile man to work for. Decision well made I think
Even so I can't see anyone writing a reference like that without some cause? I thought that, it sounds spiteful.
It does sound spiteful. And in my view, there is no place for spite in a professional working relationship.
I agree that you wouldn't write such a bad reference for no reason. The working relationship between your candidate and the referee clearly wasn't a happy one, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was the candidate's fault.
Given your own experience of the referee, and the nature of the reference itself, I'd be inclined to think that the fault is on his side.
I have managed some truly awful employees in my time, including some who I've had to manage out of the organisation. Relationships have become strained at times, but my focus has always been professional. I would never be vindictive towards them, or wish to sabotage their chances of future employment.
Can you do a telephone follow up to someone above Mr Spiteful? You might have the bad reference confirmed or hear something completely different. And if it is a deliberately bad reference out of spite then at least someone in the same company will be aware that he's doing it.
Did Mr Spiteful give a balanced reference, or was it a complete diatribe with nothing good to say.
If the latter, it sounds more like a personal vendetta not a professional balanced evaluation of the person's performance. I don't envy you the task of trying to sift out the wheat from the chaff on that one!
Provided no safeguarding issues via security checks, I would tend to take your candidate's face-value performance at interview as being an important contribution towards your total evaluation of them - ie if they come across as "knowing their stuff" and you have 2 quality character/professional references, that would trump Mr. Spiteful.
Did your candidate actually give you Mr Spiteful as one of his references? That would be remarkable, surely he would know what an utter arse awful person he is and not touch him with a ten foot barge pole as a referee
You don't get much choice on who to give as referees if you want a job in school. It has to be your current employer and it has to be the headteacher because there could be safeguarding issues that other school staff would know nothing about.
However, there is a specific question about whether the candidate is suitable to work with children and that has been answered yes. Everything else is very negative, no attempt to soften it at all.