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Why bother with references?

I was delighted to read a reference on our system the other day that went something along the lines of "XX XX is a fantastic person who is so multi talented that I’m sure an audible sigh of disappointment was heard when they left our shores to head your way." It gives you a nice warm feeling inside to know that someone is so highly thought of and valued. Compare this to the soul-destroying HR references that are the norm these days – confirming only job title, salary and number of sick days taken. Are companies so afraid of backlash that they won’t say anything at all? This could work in favour of the person who muddles through but does it mean potential employers are missing out on shining stars such as the person I mentioned?

3 comments to this post

  •  :  I've always thought that managers should be required to complete a 'proper' reference (ie one containing actual comments, rather than just the standard guff about sick days etc) as soon as someone in their team leaves. This would then be filed with HR to be sent on as and when - even if the manager then also leaves. Everything about the person would still be fresh in their manager's mind (for better or worse) and the reference would be available as soon as it's needed - saving time and effort all round. I've been exasperated myself when on the receiving end of a 'reference' from an organisation I spent seven years at - filled out by someone I'd never met, let alone worked with - where they'd simply ticked the 'satisfactory' box for every skill or competency, in order to complete the form. Infuriating - and of little use to any prospective employer, I would have thought!
  •  :  What is surprising is that the HR 'default' would appear to be satisfactory, if your manager and peers are no long around to offer true assessments. Given that many organisations have development plans and regular assessments, surely HR can review the last assessment and use that as the basis of any reference. By dumbing down to a default does not do justice to employees. The alumni group often become a buyer of their former company's services... so being mindful of that could spur HR to do a little more homework.
  •  :  My worry is that someon receiving this typical flat plain reference with no detail will think that the person is no good! maybe they are great but the hr department does not know them. or is company policy to write this refernce like that. i once had a boss who told employees to write their reference themselves and then he signed it!

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