Customize Consent Preferences

We use cookies to help you navigate efficiently and perform certain functions. You will find detailed information about all cookies under each consent category below.

The cookies that are categorized as "Necessary" are stored on your browser as they are essential for enabling the basic functionalities of the site.

We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze how you use this website, store your preferences, and provide the content and advertisements that are relevant to you. These cookies will only be stored in your browser with your prior consent.

You can choose to enable or disable some or all of these cookies but disabling some of them may affect your browsing experience.

Currently Active

Necessary cookies are required to enable the basic features of this site, such as providing secure log-in or adjusting your consent preferences. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable data.

Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics such as the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.

Asking for referees from candidates applying for jobs is nothing new. Although pre-employment checks have extended to encompass everything from social media screening to credit checks, checking references is still as important as ever. There are a lot of myths around references, and what employers can and cannot do.

It’s Illegal To Give a Bad Reference

One of the biggest myths, but one which you’ll hear every day, is that it’s illegal to give a bad reference. This isn’t true, but it’s easy to see how the myth has arisen. Previous employers are not allowed to lie or say something inaccurate about a previous employee without the evidence to back it up. So, if you’ve been sacked, and your ex-employer has all the paperwork from disciplinary investigations, then they are absolutely to state the fact you were sacked. A reference making value judgements or giving negative opinions rather than facts could be challenged.

Many companies get around this tricky legal issue by only giving basic references. They will just confirm that a person of a certain name was employed between stated dates, in a named position. This doesn’t give much to go on from an employer’s point of view but should confirm the position the applicant has stated. There’s no legal requirement to give a reference at all. Most employers do, but as a matter or courtesy not because they are obliged to do so.

Off The Record References

If an employer has been unable to obtain references on an applicant, or if they’ve just had the standard confirmation reference with no detail, they might try another approach. Many recruiters have been known to call up and ask to speak to their applicant’s previous boss and get “off the record” comments about the candidate’s personality, honesty and integrity. Not all managers are prepared to do this but may be happier to have a frank conversation than to put anything in writing. From the new employer’s point of view, it’s worth trying to get a verbal reference, especially in situations where the recruitment decision is borderline.

Who Do I Give as a Referee?

In most cases, it’s best to give the name, phone number and email address of your immediate manager as a referee. If you know for a fact that your employer prefers to give out generic references only, then the contact details for the HR manager may be more appropriate. School leavers and students should list tutors as a referee if they don’t have work references.

It’s also important to remember that it’s never worth lying about your position or responsibilities. If you’ve said that you were a team leader in charge of 20 people, your prospective employer isn’t going to be impressed with a reference stating you didn’t manage anyone at all. Lying in CVs and on application forms is increasingly common, with exaggeration one of the main issues. Companies must check whether people have the experience they claim. Hiring someone very inexperienced, but claiming experience, can be disastrous for a business.