How to get a supervisor recommendation when policy says I can't.
March 5, 2012 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I am currently wanting to apply for some job openings within my field (library) and external. Per the norm, the employer wants at least one current work recommendation from a supervisor. The problem: at my workplace no employees are allowed to give work recommendations based on issues of legality that would make the library liable. How in the hell do I then put down a recommendation from a boss who likes me but will not do a recommendation? My previous job experience though not spotty was in retail with no promotion to speak of. I have been also using my professor(s) from grad school 6 years ago who happily remembers my scholastic performance. What would you do? Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by snap_dragon to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Do you need one recommendation or one reference? Usually for job applications, they just need the name and phone number of someone. Your supervisor can tell them that she's not allowed to give details. Or she may decide to give some detail anyway. I worked for a large library with this same policy and I just gave the requisite names and never had a problem.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:11 AM on March 5, 2012

Ooops. Reference. I talked with my supervisor in the past and she won't won't say a word. It insn't personal to me but she's said that to others. I don't want Human Resources person to know I am looking though my boss is ok with it (though will not lend herself as a reference).
posted by snap_dragon at 10:13 AM on March 5, 2012

This is not at all unusual, and, at least where I have some hiring responsibility, we fully expect to hear, "So-and-so did in fact work here at [Dates listed on resume]" and nothing further. So many places have the same policy these days that it's totally normal and people with hiring responsibility will be used to it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:19 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

What Eyebrows McGee said. References are about whether you've done the job, and if you can wrangle a recommendation from it, that's icing. HR departments write the "snap_dragon has been employed by my company from January 2010 through the present" script, so they're well aware that other places are working from the same book.
posted by Etrigan at 10:24 AM on March 5, 2012

When I worked at a large, publicly-traded corp, this was the policy. When I needed a rec for Grad School from my boss, I asked and he wrote one for me but had to state right at the beginning that it was his personal opinion and in no-way the opinion of BigOldSmellyCorp.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:39 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say something like 'My current supervisor is Firstname Lastname, and it is the institutional policy that the only thing supervisors are allowed to do is confirm the dates of employment. If you would like a more thorough reference, let me suggest you talk with Professor So-and-So, who knows me well.'
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:44 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, in the library field I would expect more from a reference to be honest than what people are giving as ok and acceptable for the corporate world. Typically (and I'm an academic librarian so ymmv if you are not and especially if you work in a special library), I would expect a reference to be able to talk about the candidate in some detail. Like, ten minutes on the phone some detail.

I would suggest that you talk to your supervisor and ask them to clearly state the HR policy when they talk to the hiring committee/person. That way, it'd be more obvious that it's not a you-problem it's a your-employer-problem.
posted by librarylis at 12:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

We have work policies regarding the same thing but I have seen forms floating around on the company intraweb where employees can sign a waiver granting the reference permission to give information to prospective employers. Would your HR folks be open to that? Or do they have anything like this?
posted by loquat at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2012

Inform them of the policy and then attach a copy of your most recent performance evaluation?
posted by vitabellosi at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2012

If you have a really fantastic relationship with your boss, could you ask him/her to serve as a "personal" reference? That would get around the corporate liability and would essentially serve the same purpose.

However, the "we're not allowed to give references" line is often-- though by all means not always-- code for "there's no way I'd give you a positive reference." So think hard before you go that route.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:36 PM on March 5, 2012

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