R esumes W in I nterviews R eferences W in J ob O ffers W hy R eferences A re K ey to J ob O ffers
by Alexandra Allison & JB Shane
D ear Readers, What Will Your Former Boss Say About You To A Prospective Employer? This is a book about job reference checking results. Will they be in your favor? Or will a mediocre, poor or bad reference cause you to lose that perfect job offer? More specifically, it is about how you – a prospective job candidate at some point in your life – will go about verifying what your former employers will say about you to prospective new employers. It will also discuss why this is vitally important to you, and to any job seeker – for if you do have a “bad apple in your reference barrel,” you may go many years before you gain new employment. At Allison & Taylor, Inc. we know what we speak about in this book. Our organization has more than 36 years conducting reference checks on behalf of job seekers, more than any other comparable organization. While many job seekers take comfort in organizational policies/mantras stating that their former employer “will only confirm employment dates and title,” Allison & Taylor, Inc. has long since learned an uncomfortable truth. It is this: Countless organizations violate this policy daily. How do we know this? Because fully half of the thousands of reference checks conducted by our organization reveal some form of negative input offered by the references we contact. While former supervisors are the primary offenders, even Human Resources personnel frequently offer commentary that has been the “kiss of death” to many a job seeker. This book will tell you how to identify whether you have a toxic reference(s). Equally important, it will discuss the remedial actions you can take if an unfavorable reference is identified. So, read on – the knowledge you learn will be vital to ensuring that your promising career opportunities aren’t derailed by a past employer. The career you save may very well be your own!
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Table of Contents
Cease & Desist: Your Weapon Against Negative Job References
2. Workplace Bullying: Don’t Let It Destroy Your Current (and Future) Employment 3. Does Your Resume Make You Look Old? 4. Don’t Let Your References Cost You a Job Offer 5. Five Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette 6. How to Win the Battle Against Negative References 7. Reference Checking: 7 Reasons Not to Have a Friend Check Your References 8. What Information Can a Former Employer Legally Provide? 9. What Will Your Former Employer Say About You? 10. The Importance of Negotiating Your Professional references 11. Should you send your Boss a Holiday Card? 12. What’s Old is New and Technology is Crucial for Job Hunting in 2014 13. 5 Steps to Speed up your job prospects 14. A Bad Boss Often Makes for a Negative Employment Reference 15. 5 Simple (Yet Crucial) Steps to Manage Your References 16. Bad References: What to Do When They’re Not Illegal 17. 2013’s Top 6 emerging workplace trends for your employment-seeking readers 18. How do you make your references stand out from the job-seeking crowd? 19. Modernize Your Employment References: An Essential New Tool for Employment Seekers 20. New Format and Content for “Reference List” is Game Changer for Job Seekers 21. 5 Key Items on Which to Coach Your Reference 22. 6 Lines Your Boss Should Never Cross 23. 5 Tips to Creating a World-Class Employment Reference List 24. 5 Steps to Manage Your Job References in the Social Media Age 25. 5 Proactive Steps to Take When You Know Your Employment Reference is Negative 26. What to Do When Company Reference Policy Is Not Honored 27. Career Sabotage: Negative Influence from a Past Employer 28. What Will a Professional Background Check Tell an Employer About You? 29. Five Rules to Make Your Professional Employment Reference an Asset 30. Former Job References Who Over Share Information and Cost you the Job Offer 31. What is Your Former Employer Saying About You? 32. Good Prospects – Bad References? 33. Will Your Former Boss Sabotage Your Next Career? 34. How a Cease & Desist Letter Saved a Career 35. Spell Out Reference Details in Your Separation Agreement 36. The “Cease & Desist Letter”: AProven Tool for Dealing with Intimidation and Harassment in the Workplace and Beyond 37. The Top 7 Trends for Job References in 2012 38. Workplace Bullying: How to Deal with Intimidation or Harassment at Work 39. Job Seekers Mistakenly Believe Their Former Employer Can’t Bad-Mouth Them 40. Bad Boss – Bad Reference? 41. Did They Say That? Negative References Can Ruin Your Chance at a New Job 42. For the Boss: Handwritten Holiday Card, or E-Card? 43. Cease & Desist Letter is a Proven Tool to Counteract Bad Job References 44. Be Sure a Key Job Reference Isn’t Your “Weakest Link”
45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52.
Former Employees Take Steps to Combat Negative Employment References Bad Resume Data Means Bad Employment Prospects Employment Background Checks: Inquiring Minds Want to Know 5 Reference-Related Trends Stand Out in 2014 7 Reasons Not to Have a Friend Check Your References Do Holiday Greetings Endear You to the Boss, Former Boss & Colleagues? Five Critical Reference Trends for 2015: Advice from HR Professionals 5 Strategies for 2015 Job Hunting
53. How to Stop a Bully or Former Boss from Giving an Unwarranted Bad Job Reference 54. 3 Steps to Master the Interview Process & Receive That Job Offer 55. Five Reference Checking Myths That Can Cost You the Job 56. I Thought They Weren’t Allowed to Say That? Actual Quotes from Former Employers 57. Presenting a Wisely Chosen List of Employment References is Crucial – 5 Alternative References to a Bad Boss 58. Don’t Be Walked Off Your New Job When Your References or Background Check Fails to Pass Muster 59. 5 Things to Check Off the Your Job Search To-Do List Before Submitting Your Resume 60. Do Your References Truly “Have Your Back?” 61. How to Obtain a Reference from a Negative Employer 62. Will Sending a Holiday Greeting to Your Boss Guarantee Long Term a “Good” Reference? 63. 4 Powerful Trends That Will Help Define the Workplace Environment 2016 & Beyond 64. 7 Reasons Why Former Bosses Give Bad References to Former Employees 65. Inquiring Minds: 5 Things Your New Employer CAN Find Out About You 66. Are You Betting on the Wrong Job References? 67. Don’t Need to Check Your Own References? Better Think Again 68. My Reference Said WHAT? 69. The Five Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette 70. Your Reference List is the New “Power Resume” 71. Your Resignation Letter – What If You’re Leaving on Bad Terms? 72. Walked Off the Job? The Nightmare of Getting a Job, Then Losing It 73. Perfect Fit for a New Job? 4 Interviews Later, Why They Stop Communicating with You 74. Champion Yourself for That Job Promotion You Deserve – Increasing Your Lifetime Earnings Could Mean Millions More in Your Bank Account by Retirement 75. Resignation Letters and How They Will Affect Your Future CHAPTER 1 Cease & Desist: Your Weapon Against Negative Job References Put A Stop to a Former Boss Giving Career-Damaging Reference Feedback to Potential Employers Consider this scenario: You’ve gotten confirmation – perhaps through a reference-checking firm like Allison & Taylor Reference Checking – that a key reference is saying negative things about your employment history with them. Worse still, this reference is not one that can be easily excluded from consideration by a prospective new employer. How do you stop that reference from continuing to damage your prospects for future employment? One possibility is to serve notice to that reference – via a “Cease & Desist Letter” – that their continued negative comments may ultimately result in their (or their employer) being summoned to a court appearance. Few references will relish the prospect of their own boss, or their corporate management, receiving such a letter that will invariably reflect poorly on them, the reference. Rather than risk this alternative, the reference may well decide that it is in their own best interest to “cease and desist” offering any continued negative references about the former employee. Given this scenario, how do you find legal counsel familiar with issuing cease-and-desist letters? One option is to contact
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Allison & Taylor Reference Checking , the same company well known for its reference and background-checking services . The company works with attorneys well versed in employment law who will review a report from a negative reference and report back to the job seeker on their possible legal options. Following the review (fee is $150 & includes a secondary reference check after issuance of the letter) the attorney spells out possible “next steps” and the legal fees associated with each. While there are no assurances that legal action is, feasible or guaranteed, Allison & Taylor Reference Checking notes that over half of all the job references they conduct receive negative feedback, and that the input from many of these warrants careful legal assessment. CHAPTER 2 Bullying: at one time or another, most of us have felt the victim of someone’s unreasonably antagonistic behavior. It’s often viewed as a dynamic between young people, and conventional wisdom says that this type of conduct is left behind in childhood as we exit the schoolyard. Not so, “Bullying regularly occurs with adults, in the workplace. And it often continues even after someone has left a job, with the bully giving a potential employer an unwarranted bad reference,” says Jeff Shane, Vice President of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking , a firm that offers “Cease and Desist” letters to stop the bullying. Workplace bullying tactics can range from the covert (behind-the-back sniping) to the blatant (public humiliation or physical abuse), but they are unquestionably harmful in all forms, often with alarming consequences. Victims of bullying report decreased workplace productivity, loss of confidence, debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, clinical depression and even physical illnesses because of being bullied. And simply removing yourself from the job is not always the answer, as the abuse can continue during the reference checking process for a new position. “Many the references we check are in response to workplace bullying,” says Shane. “People are feeling traumatized and helpless in the face of persecution in the workplace. They’re also worried that the negative feedback they are receiving in their current job will adversely affect their ability to secure future employment in a more positive environment; an example being a bullying supervisor who offers negative references about them to a prospective employer.” At the crux of the problem: management or supervisors are the most common offenders, and their bullying actions leave the recipient in a precarious employment position. Since many bullies are operating within the realm of “standard practices” in their organizations, victims often speculate that they may deserve the criticisms, or are simply too embarrassed, hesitant or fearful to confront the harasser. What can be done to alleviate the problem? “If an honest, calm discussion with the person responsible does not resolve the issue, then an employee has to consider their options,” says Shane. “While a frank discussion is sometimes all that’s needed, such conversations sometimes result in an employee’s concerns being brushed aside or ignored completely. That’s when the victim needs to consider taking more assertive action.” CHAPTER 3 Does Your Resume Make You Look Old? 7 Resume Secrets for Job Seekers, From Hiring Managers It’s no secret that a mature candidate’s years of job experience can often be undervalued by prospective employers looking for “youth and enthusiasm” (and perhaps the lower wage scale that often accompanies it). Workplace Bullying: Don’t Let It Destroy Your Current (and Future) Employment How to Deal With Intimidation and Harassment from Co-workers and Supervisors
For an older job seeker, this dilemma can be exacerbated by an ineffective resume. And in an ever-challenging job market, your resume will either be the tool to get you in the door, or ensure that your efforts fall by the wayside. Countless applicants – young and older alike – offer resumes that are best categorized as tired, lifeless or boring, says Allison & Taylor Reference Checking . An uninspired resume is a sure showstopper in the eyes of corporate reviewers, who are frequently inundated with an excess of employment candidates. How, then, does a seasoned professional (perhaps 40-60 years of age) craft a resume that stands out from the pack, 1. Trim your employment summary to reflect your past 10-15 years. If you have hard-hitting employment credentials beyond this period, summarize them in a section at the end of your employment history. But, don’t indicate specific dates for these earlier credentials. 2. Avoid leaving dates of education off your resume unless you have a strong strategic reason to do so. Leaving dates off may suggest to the employer that you are hiding your age and are older than your work experience might indicate. A rule of thumb is to omit college-graduation or other educational dates that are over 20 years old. 3. Ensure that your resume showcases valuable age-related attributes most likely to be valued by prospective employers; e.g., your judgment and decision-making abilities, your range of expertise, your reliability and dependable work ethic, and your commitment to corporate goals. 4. Highlight achievements that reflect strong technical or professional expertise , a high-energy level, and the ability to be flexible and adaptable. 5. Employment accomplishments need to be concise, but detailed. Employers want to know as specifically as possible what you will “bring to their party.” One benefit of (your) being a seasoned professional is that you will be more likely to bring a more specific level of expertise to any new assignment. However, be sure to articulate your accomplishments as concisely as possible – you want to keep your overall resume length to two pages if possible. 6. Leave off “references upon request” – this is a “given.” Instead, have your reference list available (using the same font/format as your resume) upon employer request. Similarly, omit reference to hobbies or other ancillary items. 7. Most importantly, have your resume critiqued. Hiring managers repeatedly emphasize the need for a second (professional) set of eyes to review your resume. Many companies like Allison & Taylor Reference Checking offer this service. Considering the possible stakes – namely, your gainful new employment sooner, than later – an investment in a world-class resume will surely be money well spent. Age discrimination can be a serious obstacle for older workers to overcome. Use your resume as the tool to get your foot in the employment door for that initial interview. Then, convey – with a sense of confidence and self-assurance – the value you offer that is likely unmatched by your younger competitors in the job market arena. Your experience is your strength; take advantage, and both you and your employer will reap the benefits. CHAPTER 4 They Can’t Say That, Can They? reflecting their experience, energy and attributes to best advantage? Here are 7 Resume Tips from recently surveyed hiring managers:
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Your Reference May Be Offering More Information Than You Think – Actual Quotes from Former Employers So, maybe the way you left your last job wasn’t ideal. Perhaps there were some personality, attendance or performance issues. You think: Don’t sweat it – your employer has a pre-established corporate reference policy. They will only provide your position title and dates of employment, not additional (perhaps potentially unflattering) information. Right? Not necessarily. While it’s true that many companies do have reference policies in place that prohibit them from giving out anything but limited, prescribed information, many do not, says Allison & Taylor Reference Checking . Additionally, even companies with reference policies in place cannot ensure that their employees will necessarily abide by such rules. As a consequence, while countless job hunters feel secure in the idea that a former employer will only provide their position title and dates of employment, there’s a very good chance that this is not the case. The “safe” references many job seekers provide to potential employers may be the very ones that are killing their chances of winning that sought-after new job. Here are some actual examples of questions and responses in references checked by Allison & Taylor Reference Checking : We would like to verify that (the candidate) held the position (title) from (dates), is this correct? • “He was an account executive, not a Senior V.P.” • “His name doesn’t ring a bell.” • “We do not have this person anywhere in our records.” • “I am not allowed to say anything about this person as they were fired.”
Some references will refuse to rank a past employee due to an unfavorable impression: • “No comment, they could not do anything correctly in the position they held with us.” • “Let’s save time. Basically, you could rank them inadequate in all areas.” When questioned about strengths and weaknesses: • “I cannot think of any strengths, only weaknesses.” • “I’m sure there must be some strengths but nothing jumps out at me.” • “Weaknesses seem to stick in my mind … I’d have to really think about any strengths.” • “I’d rather not comment – you can take that however you want.” Regarding Eligibility for re-hire: Is this person eligible for re-hire? • “He is not. I’m really not supposed to say much but he was unreliable and sick at lot.” • “Probably not – she had a hard time working in a team environment. • “No, but I can’t say why.” • “Probably not, but it’s just a suspicion of mine.” • “No, because he didn’t want to work here and made it clear he didn’t want to work here.” • “I wouldn’t re-hire him. He was disorganized and dishonest.”
• “No, it was the departure – kind of burned his bridges when he left.” • “No, she stole from the company. We have an investigation pending.” When asked about the reason for employment separation: Could you fully describe the circumstances and reason for the separation? • “She was fired.” • “She was let go – she didn’t do her part as expected.” • “He was let go … there was a conflict with the children – he didn’t follow safety standards and guidelines.” • “I fired him! He and his buddy had some illegal things going.” • “She had been written up and she walked out on work … because she was upset.” • “It was a rather delicate and awkward situation. You should call her other past employers. I made the mistake of not doing that.”
• “She was terminated in an investigation...” (The reference then got very quiet and said he had General Council in his office and couldn’t say anything more.) Responses to questions about performance: References are asked to rank skills on a scale from 1(inadequate) to 5 (outstanding): • Oral Communications: “Can I give a negative number … -1”? • Financial Skills: “Well, that’s why our company had a major layoff – left her in charge of finances!” • Written Communications: “You mean when she finally turned in the reports due a week earlier?” • Technical Skills: “Is zero in your rating scale?” • Interpersonal Relations: “One. He had a problem with a few of the people. I should have ended the relationship just after he started.” • Productivity: “Is there a rating less than inadequate? • Employee Relations: “There was a lot of he said/ she said happening with other employees. And other than her leaving, nothing else has changed. We haven’t had any problems since then, so we know she was the source of the problem.” • Decision Making: “He couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it!” • Leadership: “He had no leadership skills.” • Crisis Management: “He [fireman] totally ignored the emergency call when it came in. He said he didn’t hear it!” • Short Term Planning: “Lousy, can’t remember something that was completed on time!” • Personal Integrity: “I don’t think she had any integrity.” It is not uncommon to contact a reference and find them hesitant, evasive or annoyed by the call. Sometimes tone of voice and inflection speak volumes – many express anger, shock, unhappiness or disbelief that they have been called regarding the employee. We are calling you as a reference regarding (the candidate). • “I do not care to comment at all. I let him go and that’s all I care to say!” • “Are you certain he gave you my name?” Allison & Taylor Reference Checking estimates that 50% of their references come back as “lukewarm” or “negative.” Don’t allow yourself to be surprised and sabotaged by an unfavorable reference. A simple reference check, conducted by a professional agency such as Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, can tell you definitively whether a reference is providing a positive, professional response to inquiries made about you. If they are not, you can take proactive steps to prevent this continued spread of negative information, and you may even have legal recourse. CHAPTER 5 Five Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette It makes good business sense – and respectful professional etiquette – to stay in touch with your former bosses, as your efforts to stay connected with past employers could pay dividends many times over when they provide you with favorable professional references. Given the ongoing upheaval in the nation’s job market, this timely advice comes from Heidi Allison, Managing Director of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking , the nation’s oldest professional reference checking firm. “If you were planning to hire someone and his or her former boss did not return your call looking for a professional reference, what message • Long Term Planning: “He wasn’t here long enough to rate him.” • Overall Performance: “Inadequate would be a positive word for him!” • Managerial Skills: “He couldn’t manage a group of children!” • “I cannot believe you were given my name as a reference.” • “Hold on, let me get the legal file to see what I can say.” • “Never heard of him!” • “I’m surprised she even listed us on her work references.”
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would that convey? In today’s highly competitive job market, people pay so much attention to their resumes and interview skills but, unfortunately, many fail to nurture their professional references that can make or break a successful job search.” To enhance the chances of always landing the next job one wants, Allison suggests job seekers of all professional backgrounds follow these “Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette”: 1. Call your former bosses and ask them if they are willing to provide favorable job references on your behalf. As an additional courtesy, offer them an update on your career. 2. Let your references know each time you give out their contact information and thank them for their efforts. 3. Keep your positive references informed of your career and educational progress. They will be more inclined to see you in a stronger light as you progress. 4. Note that spending time communicating with your prospective employer takes valuable time from your references’ workdays. If you plan to use these positive references over the years, you need to give something back. For instance, each time your reference supports you with a new prospective employer, send them a personal thank-you letter or (at a minimum) an email. Better still, send a thank-you note with a gift card for Starbucks, or offer to take your former boss to lunch/dinner. 5. If you win the new position, call or email your former boss and thank them again for their support. Also, let them know your new contact information. The most important rule for job seekers is to never leave your professional references to chance. If you are not 100 percent convinced that your professional references and past employers will relay positive comments about you to prospective employers, consider having them checked out. A professional reference-checking firm can either put your mind at ease, or supply you with the critical information and evidence that may be blocking your job search efforts. So, what happens if a professional reference is indeed providing unfavorable or inaccurate information on a candidate to a prospective employer? Note there are indeed available remedies for such situations. “Our firm hears poor to bad references daily,” says Allison. “We work with clients to explore the options available to them to assure their professional references portray them in the best light possible. The key is to first know what people are saying about them and then proactively addressing the situation as necessary.” CHAPTER 6 Good News for Bad References – How to Neutralize Negative Input Picture this scenario: you’ve been seeking new employment, but without success. Your employment credentials are excellent, and while you’ve been able to land the interviews – sometimes more than one with a prospective employer – that job for which you’re well qualified continues to elude you. Even more ominous, you may have been assured that the job is virtually yours and that completing the hiring process is a mere formality, and then … the trail goes cold, and the call-backs cease. Sound familiar? If it does, reference checking company Allison & Taylor Reference Checking says you likely have a negative reference that is limiting your chances for employment. What can you do about it? The first step is to confirm that you do indeed have a problem with at least one of your references. Do an honest self- assessment of your references that are most likely to be called by prospective employers. Did you depart on good terms with them? Is there anything unflattering that may have made its way into your personnel file, accessible by an HR
representative? You may already have a good idea of who may be making your employment search a miserable one, and while you might be able to keep some former associates off a prospective employer’s radar, it is unlikely that a former supervisor or HR department will be overlooked. The HR department is a traditional venue for reference checks, and HR reps of your most recent employers are almost certain to get a call from potential employers. Your former supervisors will also be high on an employer’s call list, as they know you better than HR, and may also be willing to offer a more revealing profile about you. If you sense there’s a potential problem, consider having a reference check conducted on select business associates from your past. But avoid the temptation to have a friend or associate call and pose as a prospective employer – this attempt could backfire, and any unfavorable input obtained in this manner would be inadmissible for legal purposes. Instead, have a reputable third party like Allison & Taylor Reference Checking conduct these reference interviews on your behalf to best ensure that any negative input obtained can be legally addressed and neutralized. If negative input from a reference is uncovered, what steps can you take? Your options will depend on the nature of the negative input. Where your reference’s communication was inaccurate, malicious, or wrongful you may have the ability – through an attorney – to pursue legal recourse. When a reference’s negative input is not unlawful but is nonetheless restricting your ability to secure future employment, it can sometimes be addressed through a Cease & Desist letter. These letters are issued by an attorney and sent to the senior management of the company, alerting them to the negative reference’s identity and actions. (Oftentimes, the very act of offering a negative reference is against corporate guidelines, as typical policy is that only a former employee’s title/dates of employment should be confirmed.) In the interest of self-protection, the company will usually caution the negative reference not to offer additional comments or negative commentary again. When handled correctly, the prospects for neutralizing further negative input from a reference are excellent. If concern about your references is causing you some sleepless nights, it’s never too soon to document – and address – what your references are saying about you. CHAPTER 7 Reference Checking: 7 Reasons Not to Have a Friend Check Your References Does this scenario sound familiar? In your search for new employment, you’ve done your homework in refining your resume and presentation skills and have perhaps even “aced” an interview (or two) in spades. A prospective job offer is within reach; one of the last hurdles remaining, the reference checking process. Realizing that your career may rest in a reference’s hands, you consider using a friend (or relative) – posing as a potential employer – to see what a reference will say about you to a prospective employer. While this tactic may be tempting, there are a number of reasons why this is a bad idea: 1. Most friends, however well intended, are not reference checking professionals. They may act in an unprofessional manner, ask inappropriate or illegal questions, or allow something to slip that could compromise your position. 2. Some states impose limitations or restrictions on impersonation. A good reference-checking enterprise knows the legal limitations of reference checking and does not cross those lines. 3. Your reference may convey subtle verbal nuances that a friend may not pick up on. Intonation, wording, and hesitations in responses can be “red flags” to a professional reference checker that may not be picked up by an unseasoned ear. 4. A reference checked by a friend is not legally supportable. If a friend calls and confirms that your reference is providing career-damaging input, you will have no recourse to use this hearsay report for legal or remedial action. A
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professional reference checking company provides a legally supportable report and may even offer services to help you neutralize a bad reference. 5. A friend might not answer your reference’s return call in a professional manner. Your friend might not be able to take a reference’s return call, if it is necessary. There is also the possibility that someone else would take a return call instead of your friend. Also, a suspicious reference might check their Caller ID and perceive what you are up to – not a situation your want with your all-important reference. 6. A friend might “sugar coat” negative information about you. It’s hard to be the bearer of bad news, especially to a friend who may not be receptive to hearing some unflattering information. 7. If suspicious of the interviewer, a formerly good reference may become a bad one. If your reference suspects they are being manipulated, you could lose their trust and willingness to act as a favorable future reference. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a casual call from a friend takes the place of a check by a professional reference checking organization such as Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, who confirm that approximately 50% of all reference checks they conduct reveal negative information. Good references are one of your greatest assets when looking for a job, and employers take them very seriously. Make sure yours measure up. CHAPTER 8 What Information Can a Former Employer Legally Provide? You’ve come through the job application process with flying colors and your prospective employer has told you they need only confirm your job references before making you that offer. You’ve heard that your references can only (legally) confirm your former title/dates of employment; you’re almost home free, right? Not so, says Allison & Taylor Reference Checking . While legal and/or corporate guidelines may indeed state that only your employment dates/titles can be confirmed, countless job candidates have learned, to their dismay that this policy is not always adhered to. Despite the fact that the topic of job references is frequently addressed by state law, many references can – and very frequently do – offer considerably more commentary to a prospective employer than simply verifying your employment dates/title. As a result, many job-seeking candidates who expected a favorable (or at least neutral) assessment from their references unknowingly lose out on employment opportunities that are “torpedoed” because of a negative reference (s). How do you know if one of your references is offering negative, wrongful, perhaps unlawful input about you to a prospective employer? Once identified, how can this negative input be addressed? First, understand that any negative input a reference offers about you is not wrongful or unlawful per se. Negative input may be illegal – some categories include discrimination, defamation, retaliation, disparagement or sexual harassment . If a third party can document that a reference’s communication was wrongful, inaccurate, malicious and/or may fall under one of these categories, you may indeed have the ability – through an attorney – to pursue legal recourse. In situations where a reference’s negative input is or is not unlawful but is restricting your ability to secure future employment, it can typically be addressed through the generation and transmittal of a Cease-&-Desist letter (again, through an attorney). Remember, unless required by law (and most states do not require that a former employer disclose information about your prior employment), former employers are not required to even respond to a reference request. Cease-and-Desist letters are typically issued by the attorney retained to represent you, to the senior management of the company where the negative reference originated, alerting the management of the negative reference’s identity and actions. Typically, the very act of offering a negative reference is against corporate guidelines, which normally state that only a former employee’s title/dates of employment can be confirmed. The negative reference is cautioned by
management not to offer additional comments and – out of self-interest – will usually not offer negative commentary again. If you’re unsure as to whether a negative reference is impacting your job seeking efforts, whom can you contact? Allison & Taylor Reference Checking , Inc., a reference checking service in business since 1984, will interview your reference(s) and document their input word-for-word. Approximately 50% of all reference checks conducted by Allison & Taylor Reference Checking uncover negative input from the reference; their report can be used for legal purposes or for the Cease-&-Desist letter described above. A negative reference is likely to continue offering the same input to every prospective employer that calls unless you detect it and take steps to stop it. Job seekers can lose many opportunities before they realize what is happening. It’s never too early to identify – and address – a negative job reference. CHAPTER 9 What Will A Past Employer Tell A Prospective Employer? Manage Your References – and Your Job Prospects – With These 10 Simple Steps So, you’ve completed the first round of interviews – and perhaps the second – with flying colors towards that cherished new job. At this point, a prospective employer will begin to check the quality of your references and recommendations from previous employers, and these recommendations can make or break your prospects. Have you done your due diligence in ensuring that they will be an asset, not an albatross, to your job application? Allison & Taylor Reference Checking Inc. , a professional reference-checking firm , reports that approximately 50% of the references they check receive an assessment of ‘mediocre’ to ‘poor’. This surprising statistic shows that it’s very possible that the great job you lost out on at the last moment had nothing to do with your lack of skills or being overqualified. it could have had more to do with what one of your references or past employers said about you. If you are concerned that someone, somewhere, might be giving you a less-than-stellar review, there’s a one-in-two chance that you’re right. That’s a frightening percentage when your livelihood is at stake. It’s in your best interest, therefore, to take control of your career momentum by finding out precisely what each of your potential references will say about you; then you can pass on your best references with greater confidence. Reference checking also provides the opportunity to prevent your negative references from offering up negative commentary about you. Here are ten winning ways to utilize your references: 1. Make a list of all your prospective references. Begin with the first job that is relevant in management of your career today; select those who have carefully observed your job performance. Your references need to have seen you in action, hopefully performing well in adverse conditions. But beware: whether you list them or not, many (if not all) of your past employers will be contacted. Be sure to gather all-important contact data about every potential reference, including: name, title, company, address, telephone/fax number, and e-mail address. (You may be asked to provide this data by a prospective employer.) Other individuals that may make useful references include colleagues, subordinates, suppliers and clients. 2. Narrow the list. After you have made your list of references, select those that you feel will be most willing to give you an excellent report. A typical list of references should include five to10 names, depending on the amount of experience a candidate has accumulated. 3. Contact each reference personally. Send each reference a note (visiting them personally, if possible, is even better) stating that you are seeking new employment and that you would like to use them as a reference. Be sure to share with them your current resume and let them know of the position you are applying for, as well as the type of qualities the
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company is likely seeking. Give them the impression that their reference is critical to your obtaining the job. 4. Confirm your personal information. Refresh your reference’s memory regarding the position you held while working with them. Also, it is a good idea to check with the HR department and verify that all information in your personnel file is correct. 5. Conduct a personal exit interview with your references. Review your past responsibilities and remind them of tangible successes you achieved with them/the company. Review with each reference what they will say in response to questions regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Try to learn what your references are going to say about you. Do not take any criticism personally, or become defensive. If they feel you are receptive to their comments regarding self- improvement, it may lead them to say you are open-minded and that you strive to grow professionally. To sum up, one of the key skills in the workplace is effective communication. Your reference will feel comfortable stating you are a good communicator if you have filled them in on the “who, what, why, when and where” and have appeared receptive to their comments. 6. Be prepared ahead of time. It pays to take the time early in your job search to identify and prepare your references. The last thing you want is to lose out on a good position because you did not have your references organized, validated and prioritized. You can even use your references as effective networking tools in asking them to keep your name out in front of those with whom they associate. Again, tell your references what you have been doing since the last time you worked with them. Not only is this the courteous thing to do, it also keeps them updated on your career. Any reference that is well informed about the progression of your career will be a much better reference. Last, but not least, ask them if they know of any current job openings in your field. 7. Pay attention to detail. Always check to be sure of the correct area code and telephone number as well as company name when giving out references. With today’s mergers and technology changes, things can change daily. Should you list an incorrect telephone number, or if a reference has taken a position elsewhere, it will appear as though you are out of touch with your references. 8. Communicate with your references at “crunch time. ” When a specific offer is on the horizon let, your references know the company involved and that you are using them as a reference. They will feel more comfortable giving out information about you or to return a prospective employer’s call in a more timely fashion if you have communicated with them ahead of time. 9. Follow-up with your references. When you get your new position, make sure you call each reference and thank them for the role they played. Going forward, keep them posted about your career. They will appreciate your staying in touch and will be more likely to serve as a reference once again later. 10. Check your references professionally. Don’t leave the impact of your references to chance. If you are not 100% convinced that your references and past employers will relay positive comments about you to prospective employers, have them checked out. A professional employment verification and reference-checking firm can either put your mind at ease, or supply you with the critical information and evidence that has been blocking your job searching efforts.
Having your references checked before you pass them along to a potential employer is a positive, proactive step to assist in your career advancement. Don’t miss the opportunity to put your best foot forward in the search for a new position! CHAPTER 10 THE IMPORTANCE OF NEGOTIATING YOUR PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES Negotiating a fair severance package is common when a person involuntarily leaves a hospitality company. What many people fail to realize, however, is that it’s just as important to negotiate a fair professional reference for use in landing one’s next position at a luxury hotel, cruise line, or five-star restaurant. Failure to do is one of the biggest blunders people make when they lose a job. No matter how you leave a company, you need to know what your immediate past employer is going to say about you to prospective new ones. Many people mistakenly believe that all employers will simply verify your past employment, but this couldn’t be further from reality. In many cases, people will talk more than they should when providing a reference. When negotiating a professional reference, a person needs to confirm if he or she is eligible for rehiring, the specific reason for losing the job and - if the employer will provide a reference - what is going to be said. Getting the answers to these questions in writing is a highly recommended. Job seekers also need to know who is going to be providing the professional reference, as it is not just what is said but how it is said. A reference’s voice inflection can tell prospective employers volumes about a person’s true feelings. In many instances, it’s best for a human resources executive without emotional ties to a former employee to provide the reference. The worst case is an emotional boss who one day may provide a favorable reference and the next day the opposite just because he or she may be having a bad day. If there is a concern that a former boss may say something derogatory or untrue about a former employee when asked for a professional reference, the human resources department should be contacted to clarify the company’s reference policy. Many managers don’t know the official reference policy of a company and inadvertently say too much. In these instances, someone in human resources needs to remind them of the rules, which forces former bosses to temper their comments. In some cases, prospective employers who cannot reach a candidate’s professional references simply eliminate that person from contention. “The interviewing and reference-checking process is all about impressions,” states Heidi Allison, CEO of reference checking firm Allison & Taylor Reference Checking . “What kind of impression do you think a candidate provides if a so- called professional reference refuses to acknowledge a candidate worked for them? Not good.” So, what is a job seeker to do if a former employer drops the ball? The candidate might have to hire an attorney to prompt the company to cooperate. A letter is sent on one’s behalf to the company, explaining that the candidate needs a job and asking them to provide a professional reference following set policies. Most companies are sympathetic to a candidate’s efforts to find another position and then return the call from the prospective employer. Note that an “official” letter of recommendation never replaces a professional reference verbally provided to a hiring manager. “Letters of recommendation really aren’t effective in today’s job market,” Allison says. “A candidate can work with the letter provider to assure the letter says all the right things so, in the minds of many hiring managers, they have little credibility no matter who it comes from.” In summary, it’s critical that a job seeker carefully perform their “due diligence” in predetermining and managing – where possible – the input previous employers will offer to prospective new ones.
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CHAPTER 11 DECIDING WHETHER TO SEND THE BOSS A HOLIDAY CARD Thinking about sending the boss (or a “Boss of Christmas Past”) a holiday card? You probably have a good idea: a 2008 survey quoted 50% of holiday card recipients as indicating they were more likely to do future business with a company (or individual) that sends holiday greeting cards. And with your co-workers vying with you for the boss’s favor, your holiday card might prove to be a small, but decisive, differentiator. Here are some reasons why your greeting card is a good idea: 1. Connecting with your boss (or former boss) will help keep you top-of-mind in their awareness, translating to possible future support or opportunity. 2. Sending your boss (also former bosses, colleagues, suppliers, etc.) a card demonstrates a personal touch to accompany your business relationship. 3. Staying in touch with bosses and colleagues via a holiday card is a subtle yet highly effective form of networking. (It’s also less expensive than taking them to lunch, and won’t violate corporate edicts if sent via personal mail.) 4. Staying in the favor of your prospective employment references (particularly former bosses) is critical to your future employment success. The reference-checking firm of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking notes that approximately half of all reference checks they conduct reveal negative input from the references. Consider that a greeting card could prove to be a small, but critical, investment in your professional future. 5. Developing and maintaining positive relationships with your boss, co-workers and former bosses will ultimately be a cornerstone of success in your career. Besides the use of greeting cards, there are several effective etiquette tips that may be appropriate for those who may ultimately become your professional references . While sending out holiday cards is almost certainly a good idea, even this generous gesture can backfire if the proper protocols aren’t observed. Here are some additional guidelines to ensure your card is well received: 1. Choose a high-quality holiday card that allows no possibility of offending its recipient. Remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas – be mindful of religious and cultural nuances, particularly with your international recipients. 2. Choose a design that is appropriate for your business associates. 3. Include one of your business cards inside the greeting card. This small insertion ensures that your recipients have your most current contact information and will reinforce your name with the card’s recipient. 4. Be sure that your inscriptions on the outside of the card are both legible and attractive. Consider using a form of calligraphy to make your recipient’s name and address visibly pleasing. Also, be sure to include your return address on the mailing envelope. 5. Sign each card personally. It only takes a moment to sign your name and write a short greeting, and your business
associates will notice and appreciate this more personal gesture. 6. Check the spelling of your contacts and their corporate name. Any good points you’ll score with a holiday card will be lost if you misspell your contact’s name or corporate information. 7. Keep your contact list accurate and up-to-date. Make sure you’re not sending a card to someone who has left the department or the company. 8. Don’t be late. In life and in business, timing is everything. Remember that many companies close during the holidays and people take vacation to be with family, so send your cards early. Also, note the possibility that a recipient of your card may want (out of consideration or guilt) to respond with a card back to you prior to the holidays. Aim to have all your corporate holiday cards in the mail no later than December 15 if you’re sending them within the U.S., or earlier if you’re sending them via international mail. In short, a professional greeting card can go a long way in making a good impression on all your business contacts. Cultivating good relationships this holiday season will help ensure your professional success tomorrow. CHAPTER 12 What’s Old is New and Technology is Crucial for Job Hunting Allison & Taylor Reference Checking Reveals 11 Game Changing Job Hunting Trends for 2014 One of the many resolutions people make for the New Year is to find that perfect job. In fact, a recent study by Right Management, the talent and career management folks, indicates approximately 83% of the North American population may be searching for a new job in 2014. With that staggering number in mind, Allison & Taylor Reference Checking has identified the top 11 employment trends that job seekers should keep in mind when beginning the hunt for that new position in the New Year. 1. Technology plays an even bigger role in the hiring process . Continuing trend, job seekers will see an online application process for most mid to large size companies. One of the reasons this is so popular is that most companies are now using applicant-tracking software - the computer simply sifts through information in the system for résumés whose contents meet the current job opening’s criteria. Look for online applications to replace papers completely in the very near future - this application process is gaining momentum. As an example, LinkedIn recently integrated an “apply now” option into their job listings; you simply 2. What’s Old is New. Yes, technology rules. You may be able to counteract this to some degree. When you do not have a job, sitting at your computer all alone for 8 hours may become very depressing. There is an old-fashioned way to get that job. Target where you want to work, dress in your finest clothing, print out on linen that résumé and visit that company, plus go door to door to other companies where you may wish to work. That receptionist may take pity on you, and hand deliver your résumé the old-fashioned way to the hiring manager. (Yes, 3 of our clients recently told us they found the job of their dreams this way and although they had applied online no one ever responded that way). So, pound the pavement - it’s invigorating and who knows you will meet along the way. 3. More consumers are finding assistance from employment-related organizations like Workplace Fairness . Workplace Fairness creates and maintains the most comprehensive, online one-stop-shop for free information about workers’ rights. Resources on the site capture the power of technology to educate workers, employers, legal services and community organizations; foster a community of advocates who believe that fairness works; and promote the fair click the button and the system sends your profile to a potential employer. Your electronic résumé is about to become more important than ever.
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