During the recruitment process there’s a time and a place to ask for job application references. There are also some fundamental dos and don’ts.

When to Ask for Job Application References

Ideally, you should take up references before a job offer is made. This will allow you to avoid problems in withdrawing an offer if an unsatisfactory reference is subsequently received.

In reality, many applicants will not want you to approach their current employer until you have made a job offer. They will not wish their current employer to know that they are looking for a new position.

Job References – DO

It is therefore advisable to seek job references from previous employers only, before you make any offer of employment. Then, you can make the job offer subject to a satisfactory reference from their current employer.

Job References – DON’T

You should never seek references without the applicant’s consent. This can be covered by a note on the application form to the effect that signing the form allows you (the prospective employer) to approach any or all previous employers for a job reference. You can stipulate that this will be done at an appropriate time in the recruitment process.

Detailed guidance on confidentiality when giving and receiving job application references may be found in the Employment Records section of Employment Practices Data Protection Code. This is available of the Information Commissioner website, www.ico.gov.uk.

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(Main image from HJi)