New job - getting a reference from a recalcitrant ex-employer
December 13, 2016 4:56 AM   Subscribe

I've got a conditional offer on a new job and have had for some time now. The new employer requires two references, from my two most recent employers. My most recent employer provided a good reference within hours, but the employer before that is being incredibly slow. What can I do?

I left my last-but-one job (we'll call them Employer P) on good terms and had a good reference from them to get my most recent job. There's no reason for them to provide no reference. My former line manager is still there. I have repeatedly called and emailed Employer P, but they simply insist that they have not received a reference request by email from New Job. New Job insists that the request has been sent repeatedly. Employer P is a small non-profit with an office staff of less than 10, so it's unlikely that I'm getting lost in a giant organisation.

Part of the blame for this has to go onto my new employer, as I've been able to provide good references from both my most recent job and a 3+ year job prior to Employer P. They are, however, insisting that I continue to chase Employer P for a reference and won't give me an offer and start date without one. New Job is a large public-sector organisation with processes cast in tablets of stone, hence the inflexibility.

It's been about a month since my successful interview and I'm sitting at home, spending my savings, getting progressively bored with the increasing prospect of Christmas getting in the way of a start date. The inflexibility of New Job on this matter is a bit of a concern, and I've started applying for other jobs in the meantime because I can't sit on my arse indefinitely. (On the plus side, the house is spotless!) I'm also concerned because New Job will want someone doing the job, so it's increasingly likely they'll move on and offer it to someone else.

Has anyone else been in this situation, and what did you do to resolve it? I'm in regular contact with Employer P but they aren't budging and continue to say they simply haven't received a reference request. I've double-triple-checked correct email addresses and spellings with both Employer P and my HR contact at New Job, and I can't see any issues there. Am I simply going to have to chalk this one up to experience and get back on the job-search treadmill, or is there a way forward from this apparent impasse?
posted by winterhill to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you have the personal contact info for anyone at the company? What about HR? If you can't get in touch with your boss at the old job at least you could have HR verify your employment and that you were in good standing with the company. That might be good enough for them.
posted by deathpanels at 5:04 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Have you tried sending an email to both parties at once, confirming the request? Or send a registered letter to old employer with a written request from new employer.
posted by saucysault at 5:06 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can NewJob email you the reference request so you can forward directly to your contact at Employer P?
posted by lovelygirl at 5:07 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Get in touch with your HR contact at new job and tell them that employer P has told you that they haven't received the reference request. Let them walk you through the process of getting it resolved. Even if New Job has the right information, they may be outsourcing this to another organization that doesn't care about resolving whether they have a typo, or didn't get a call back, etc. At this point in the process, New Job HR are almost certainly just looking for confirmation of employment so let them know your old employer is trying to provide it to them and ask what you can do to make it happen.
posted by sputzie at 5:10 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do you have the personal contact info for anyone at the company? What about HR? If you can't get in touch with your boss at the old job at least you could have HR verify your employment and that you were in good standing with the company. That might be good enough for them.
They're a tiny operation, with fewer than 10 office staff and no actual HR department whose job it is to deal with this stuff. My former line manager is the boss of the entire outfit. When I was there, it was my job to deal with reference requests - nothing was outsourced to an external HR agency or anything.

I've thought of maybe literally driving up to the office of Employer P and speaking to them in person because I think a lot of stuff gets lost in translation with phone calls and emails, but I don't know if that would lead to a bad reference!
posted by winterhill at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2016


Do you have any former colleagues you can contact, even if they were a peer rather than a line manager?
posted by wingless_angel at 5:41 AM on December 13, 2016


I think Employer P is small enough that, if you get on well enough with them, it would be reasonable to go up and chat to them. I don't see why it would net you a bad reference (and telling any falsehoods would be a mistake on their part anyway). Is it possible that, as former reference request person, no one's taken the mantle?

Id also be tempted to ask public sector organisation for a copy of the email sent to your former employer.
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:53 AM on December 13, 2016


New Job is a large public-sector organisation with processes cast in tablets of stone, hence the inflexibility.

Step 1:
"Who can approve an exception to this policy?"

Step 2a:
If they tell you who can approve the exception:
"Would you like to initiate the conversation with that person, or shall I?"

Step 2b:
If they tell you that no one can approve the exception:
"Who is your boss?"
Return to Step 1.

There is always someone who can recarve those stone tablets.
posted by Etrigan at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


New Job sounds both inflexible and incompetent. I realize being unemployed is no joke, but I would seriously keep pushing toward another job, no matter how this resolves.

I think I'd be contacting someone at New Job and asking for a hard copy of the form to hand-deliver to Employer P. Fill out whatever you can fill out without committing fraud and bring to Employer P to complete and sign. Hand-deliver back to New Job.

I'm also on board with "pushing for an exception." I mean, hell, what if you had worked for a company that went out of business? It happens.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:47 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've been in touch with New Job to ask for a copy of the form, but they're such a big organisation, everything is done online through their dedicated jobs portal.

The way it works is that they contact Employer P via the portal, and Employer P then receives a request to fill out a reference form online. This is then marked as completed on the portal and an offer is sent out. It all seems a bit convoluted, but it's a case of 'computer says no' at present.

Employer P has been uncontactable by phone today - no one in the office. I presume they are having staffing issues generally, as they're the kind of organisation that really should have someone present in the office all day to deal with service users and their families.
posted by winterhill at 7:20 AM on December 13, 2016


Going in person is almost always the answer to an otherwise unsolvable bureaucratic problem. You can couch it as "I know the portal isn't the easiest thing to manage, it's not really fair to ask you to have to navigate it, and I appreciate you doing it so much, so if we can just do it now, I'll show you how to do it..."
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:40 AM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


If the email is coming from the portal, seems like there's a decent chance it could get caught up in a spam filter (and I believe some institutional mail servers have a spam bucket that filters some things out before they even hit your spam folder). Can you ask employer P to whitelist the email address it'd come from, or give you a non-official email address elsewhere (gmail or whatever), and then try again?
posted by R a c h e l at 8:12 AM on December 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Employer P claims to have not received the request for a reference. Perhaps a formal request from you would be sufficient?

Dear Employer P, (cc: HR@newjob.com)
Please provide a letter of recommendation to NewHRmanager at HR@newjob.com at your earliest convenience. I am not requesting a cc on that email, but please inform me when the letter has been sent.
Kind regards,
winterhill
posted by aimedwander at 10:57 AM on December 13, 2016


The way it works is that they contact Employer P via the portal, and Employer P then receives a request to fill out a reference form online.

The most likely scenario is that the email from the portal isn't getting through. There's no point chasing Employer P, until they get that email with the link there's nothing they can do. You need to chase New Job to resend, preferably to multiple email addresses until one gets through. Asking Employer P to look in the spam folder and try whitewashing the relevant address is probably also worthwhile. But it's on New Job to get the request where it should go.

I've given references using these kinds of systems. Without that emailed link nothing is possible.
posted by shelleycat at 11:19 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've managed to get this sorted. Employer P went into liquidation late last week - they have been having all sorts of operational issues over the last few weeks related to the fact that they were going out of business. Obviously, they weren't going to say "we're going under" on the phone to an ex-employee.

With evidence from the Companies House website stating that Employer P was in liquidation, I was able to get New Job to accept satisfactory references from two other former employers. Thanks, all!
posted by winterhill at 4:10 AM on December 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's like I'm a prophet... glad it got worked out!
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:50 AM on December 14, 2016


« Older Affordable ways to add chat to an iOS app   |   How to combine two "nearly good" photos Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.