How do I check my references?
June 27, 2005 3:34 PM   Subscribe

How do I check my references? Are services like DRC a scam? Could anyone recommend a legitimate service and/or share your experiences/offer advice?

Six years ago I was involved in a nasty lawsuit at work (a county government agency). I testified on behalf of a co-worker and my immediate supervisors were angry at me for doing so. I resigned shortly after. I have since been hired at two other jobs.

In the last 9 months I have failed to recieve a job offer with three different companies after completing multiple interviews and demonstrations. I sought feedback from one of the people I interviewed with and that person let me know in a subtle yet conclusive way that there is a problem with one of my references from one of the three jobs I have held in the last six years.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
I'm not sure what your field of employment is, but typically, when I apply for new jobs, I am asked for 3 references where one needs to be a former boss. I hand-pick the people that I give as references from various previous companies. In fact, I usually email them ahead of time and ask them if they wouldn't mind being a reference (and that I wouldn't be offended or slighted if they turned me down for any reason). This works extremely well for me.
I suspect, though, that you might be in a situation where you have to give your previous supervisior's contact info. I would think about supplementing that with other former supervisors you may have had or other co-workers from that workplace that could help explain the lawsuit situation on your behalf (perhaps the co-worker that you testified for?)
posted by j at 4:24 PM on June 27, 2005

You should contact a labor/employment lawyer.
posted by reverendX at 4:39 PM on June 27, 2005

IANAL but an ex-employer giving a bad reference, especially a government agency with a lawsuit involved, is leaving themselves wide open to another lawsuit. It should be simple to stop this once you determine this is what is going on. The HR department at the county is not going to be stupid enough to do anything other confirm dates of employment so I assume the problem is with an ex-supervisor.
posted by rdr at 4:45 PM on June 27, 2005

reverendX and rdr, anonymous is not asking how to launch a lawsuit.

Like j, I always call references before I give them out: to let them know, to check for signs of ill will and to be sure they haven't died/moved on/been fired. Usually, I'll call them again after the interview too, to let them know how it went.

Hmm. Maybe you have a friend (who the reference doesn't know is a friend) who owns a business of some kind? Go through the whole procedure: call them before you give it out and make like you're applying there for a job. Get the friend to call the reference and let you know what they said.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 5:25 PM on June 27, 2005

I'm sorry. I wasn't telling anonymous to start a lawsuit. I was just pointing out that it's pretty easy to stop the negative references once he's certain where they are coming from.
posted by rdr at 5:52 PM on June 27, 2005

Get a friend to call (they don't have to have a business, just pretend) pretend they are checking reference. Feel free to use call number blocking as any business isn't going block private numbers.

If you don't have anyone you want to trust with this information you can often hire admin assistants by the hour, check your phone book.
posted by Mitheral at 6:00 PM on June 27, 2005

I've spoken to folks and there is a general fear of giving bad references because of potential lawsuits. From what I've heard, the best policy when you are asked for your opinions about a person who gave you as a reference is simply to say that the person worked for/with you and leave it at that. Any negative that you may say or can be interpreted as negative may lead to you being sued by that person for limiting their future money making opportunities or some such gobblydygook.

Because of this, many references may simply state that you worked for/with them and leave it at that. But... this may lead the person asking for the reference with a negative connotation from this non-answer. So, I don't know anything about the various reference services, but I would strongly advise that you contact your references before you put them down like others have suggested. Ask them if they are cool with it and tell them that they should say whatever they want. If you aren't sure that these folks are going to give you a good reference, reconsider strongly putting them down. Also, be sure that the person still works there. A HR person saying- "yes, they worked here from X to Y", is not a good reference.

I've had "reference" calls from random companies about past people that have worked for me and it is a little disconcerting if you aren't ready for it. Some of the companies just read off a list of questions, some of which you wonder really why they are asking them and if you actually should respond. Prepping your references is the best practice. Since you worked for me and didn't give me the benefit of knowing that I'd be recieving a call asking a lot of pointed questions leads me to close up quite a bit.
posted by superchris at 6:18 PM on June 27, 2005

Sure seems like there's a lot of anonymous questions these days...

If you're sure it's this one job of three maybe it's time you start making a point of commenting on this once you're in the interview stage. Something along the lines of "as you check my references, you might get some negative information from certain people at X. I was subponeaed as a witness in a lawsuit by a coworker while I was there and while the organization was completely above-board and understood I didn't have a choice, a few supervisors were angry I wouldn't commit purgery. I'm happy to give you the names of a few people there who didn't have that problem and can talk about my performance objectively and HR will confirm my dates of employment and that we parted on good terms."

Obviously there will be some people who are c***suckers of the same caliber as your former supervisors who think employment means never having to tell the truth on the stand and will think less of you, but there's little you can do about that.

In the bigger picture if you have some idea who the offenders are you can write/have a lawyer write a letter to these jerkoffs spelling out for them your state's whistleblower protection laws which may apply and that while you would prefer not to enter into litigation you will certainly act to protect your reputation and ability to earn a living as well as pursue restitution for any already existing financial damages. Won't get you any checks but depending on the twitchyness of the legal department there it might get some people reminded of reference policy.

Or just make a call to their legal/HR department, tell them you have heard unconfirmed rumblings and if it persists you will confirm it, at which point you'll feel like you'll have to continue to explore your options. And admit you don't know exactly what that means, but you're not going to be torpedoed because you obeyed the law and wouldn't it be best if everyone just stuck to the confirm-dates-only thing?
posted by phearlez at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2005

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