When it comes to job applications, having a solid reference can make a huge difference in whether or not you get hired. However, it’s not just about finding someone who will vouch for your skills and experience. You also need to make sure that your reference knows what not to say, as even a well-intentioned comment could end up sabotaging your chances of getting the job. In this article, we’ll explore some of the things you should avoid when choosing a job reference, as well as some common mistakes that references make when discussing their former colleagues.
I don’t really know them that well
As a job reference, one of the worst things you can say about a potential candidate is that you don’t really know them that well. Employers are looking for references who can speak confidently about a candidate’s abilities, work ethic, and character. If you can’t vouch for these things, your reference won’t carry much weight.
The problem with saying that you don’t know the person well is that it suggests that they didn’t make much of an impression on you. It might be true that you haven’t had much contact with them, but as their reference, you have a responsibility to provide as much useful information as possible. If you don’t have much to say, it might be best to decline the reference request.
What employers really want to know is whether the candidate is a good fit for the position they are applying for. They want to know if the person has the skills and experience to succeed in the role. They want to know if they will work well with others and be an asset to the team.
If you can’t provide this information, it’s best to be honest. You can say something like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I know them well enough to provide a meaningful reference.” This might not be the answer the candidate wants to hear, but it’s better than giving a lukewarm reference that won’t help them get the job.
On the other hand, if you do know the person but don’t feel comfortable providing a reference, you should also decline. Giving a negative reference can be just as damaging as giving no reference at all. If you have concerns about the person’s work ethic, character, or ability to do the job, it’s best to be honest and let them find another reference.
It’s also worth noting that if you don’t know the person well, it’s not fair to them to pretend that you do. If you give a reference without being able to vouch for their abilities, you could be setting them up for failure. They might get the job based on your reference, but if they’re not really qualified, they won’t be able to do the job well. This could reflect poorly on both the candidate and the reference.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that providing a reference is a serious responsibility. Employers are counting on you to provide accurate and honest information about a candidate. If you don’t feel like you can do that, it’s better to decline the request than to give a reference that won’t be helpful.
They had some attendance issues
When providing a job reference for a former employee, it can be tempting to gloss over any shortcomings and only focus on positive qualities. However, honesty is crucial when it comes to providing a job reference, and this includes addressing any concerns about attendance.
If the potential employer asks about attendance, it is important to answer truthfully. However, there are ways to do this without being overly negative or damaging the applicant’s chances of getting the job. Simply stating that the employee had some attendance issues is often enough, but it’s important to clarify the reasons behind those issues if possible.
For example, if the employee had to take time off due to a medical issue, it is important to mention that. This information can help the potential employer understand why the employee had attendance issues and can mitigate any negative impact on the employee’s chances of getting the job.
On the other hand, if the employee had attendance issues due to tardiness or simply not showing up, it is important to address this as well. However, it’s important to focus on the steps the employee took to improve their attendance and any progress they made. For instance, if the employee started coming in on time regularly after a warning or a reminder, it’s a good idea to mention that. This shows that the employee is dedicated to improving and willing to make changes when needed.
If the attendance issues were due to personal problems or stress, it’s important to mention that as well. However, it’s important to be respectful of the employee’s privacy and only share as much information as necessary. For example, stating that the employee had some personal issues that impacted their attendance is enough, without going into further details.
It’s also important to keep in mind that attendance issues alone do not define an employee’s worth or abilities. If the employee had other strengths that would make them a good fit for the job, it’s important to highlight those as well. For instance, if the employee was always punctual for meetings and had strong communication skills, it’s a good idea to mention that too.
Ultimately, the key to addressing attendance issues in a job reference is to be honest and balanced. It’s important to address any concerns, but also to highlight the employee’s strengths and any steps they took to improve their attendance. This can help provide a well-rounded view of the applicant and increase their chances of getting the job.
They had trouble working with others
When giving a job reference, it is essential not to make any negative comments about the candidate to avoid legal consequences. However, if a candidate had trouble working with others, there are some specific things you can and cannot say. Here are some points to consider:
What not to say
It is crucial to refrain from saying anything that may suggest the candidate is an uncooperative or difficult person. For instance, avoid using words like “unreliable,” “argumentative,” or “intolerant.” These characterizations could give a negative impression of the candidate to the potential employer. Also, avoid going into too much detail about the candidate’s conflicts with other employees, as this may open the door for further questioning that could reveal protected information.
What to say instead
While you should not make any negative remarks about the candidate, that does not mean you cannot provide honest feedback about their ability to work with others. You can emphasize that the candidate is capable of working independently and is an excellent problem-solver without explicitly saying they are problematic in working with others.
You can mention how the candidate handles conflicts and challenges while highlighting their strengths in the workplace. Perhaps the candidate works better as a leader than a team member, or they excel when working in a specific type of environment. These are all things that a potential employer would like to know.
Example of what to say
Suppose your former colleague, John, had difficulty working with others in your previous job, and he has asked you to be his job reference. You could say something like:
“John was an exceptional employee who was always committed to his work. He had great analytical skills, and when a problem arose, he would take the necessary steps to solve it. John is an independent worker and can work effectively under tight deadlines. He is skilled in his field and dedicated to his work.”
This statement provides a neutral and positive assessment of John’s abilities without commenting on his difficulty working with others. Potential employers would appreciate this description because it emphasizes John’s strengths and problems-solving skills, which are essential attributes for any job.
In a job reference, it’s essential to provide an honest assessment of a candidate’s work experience and qualifications. However, when it comes to “trouble working with others,” one must exercise caution when providing feedback. Avoid making negative comments about a candidate’s ability to work with others and instead focus on their strengths and problem-solving abilities. Employers are looking at how a candidate can add value to their company and assessing their compatibility with the team. Therefore, provide honest, positive feedback that would help the employer make an informed hiring decision.
I would not rehire them
As a job reference, it’s important to choose your words carefully. One phrase that might seem innocent but can be damaging is “I would not rehire them.” While it might feel like a straightforward and honest assessment, it can come across as negative or unsupportive and stop an otherwise qualified candidate in their tracks. Here are some reasons why you should avoid using this phrase, and what to say instead.
It raises questions about their performance
When you say something like “I would not rehire them,” you’re suggesting that there were serious issues with the candidate’s performance. This can raise red flags for potential employers, who may wonder what the problems were and whether they’ll be an issue if they hire the candidate. It’s better to focus on the candidate’s strengths and successes, even if you have reservations about rehiring them.
It implies personal conflicts
If you wouldn’t rehire someone, it’s possible that there were personal or interpersonal conflicts at play. However, bringing up these conflicts can make it seem like you’re holding a grudge against the candidate or that you’re personally biased against them. Instead, try to focus on objective measures of performance or potential, and leave personal conflicts out of it.
It doesn’t give constructive feedback
When you say “I would not rehire them,” you’re not giving the candidate any guidance about what they could do differently in the future. This feedback is essential if someone wants to improve their skills or job performance. Instead of being negative, try to offer feedback that can help the candidate grow and improve, such as constructive criticism or areas for development.
It can hurt the candidate’s chances
Using negative language like “I would not rehire them” can ultimately hurt the candidate’s chances of getting the job. While you might think you’re being honest, the hiring manager may interpret your words as a sign that the candidate is not a good fit for the job. It’s important to remember that as a job reference, your primary role is to support the candidate and help them land the job.
What to say instead
Instead of using negative language that could hurt the candidate’s chances, try to focus on objective measures of performance or potential. Here are some examples:
- While they may have some areas for improvement, I believe that they have the potential to excel in this role.
- They consistently met or exceeded their individual and team goals, and I believe they have the skills to succeed in this position.
- While we had some challenges when they worked here, I believe they have matured and developed since then and could be a valuable asset to your team.
Overall, it’s important to remember that as a job reference, your words carry weight and can have a major impact on the candidate’s job prospects. Avoid using negative language like “I would not rehire them” and focus on providing constructive feedback and objective assessments of the candidate’s potential.
They struggled with meeting deadlines
One of the most significant aspects of working in any organization is meeting deadlines. In any job reference, it can be tempting to highlight an individual’s incapacity to meet deadlines. However, it is crucial not to point out such a weakness in a job reference. Here are some reasons why:
1. It is an essential skill in almost every job: In almost every job, meeting deadlines is critical. If an individual cannot meet deadlines, it could jeopardize the work progress of the entire team. Highlighting an individual’s weakness can make them less likely to be hired, and it can hurt their chances of being considered for future opportunities.
2. It could showcase poor management skills: When you mention that an individual struggles with meeting deadlines, it could be a reflection of the management skills of their previous manager. Highlighting this weakness could make the manager or organization look bad. It could also reflect poorly on you as a reference.
3. It is not a constructive criticism: When providing a job reference, it is essential to provide constructive criticism that highlights an individual’s strengths and areas of improvement. Highlighting the inability to meet deadlines without providing constructive feedback could come across as a personal attack, which can be detrimental to the person’s chances of getting hired.
4. It could reveal confidential information: Highlighting an individual’s inability to meet deadlines could reveal confidential information about their previous job. It could reveal the specific projects they were working on and how they failed to meet critical deadlines. It is essential to avoid revealing such confidential information in a job reference.
5. It could be subjective: Claiming that someone struggled to meet deadlines could be a subjective observation that is not backed up by facts. It is crucial not to base a job reference on subjective observations, as it can be misleading and unfair to the individual.
So, what should you do instead?
Instead of highlighting an individual’s inability to meet deadlines, provide specific examples of their strengths and accomplishments. Discuss how they were able to handle challenging situations, how they helped the team succeed, and how they contributed to the organization’s growth.
For instance, if an individual struggled to meet a specific deadline, discuss how they were able to overcome that challenge and what they learned from the experience. This not only highlights their ability to handle difficult situations but also shows that they have a growth mindset.
In summary, it is not advisable to point out an individual’s inability to meet deadlines in a job reference. Doing so could jeopardize their chances of being hired and could reflect poorly on the organization or the previous manager. Instead, provide constructive feedback that highlights their strengths and accomplishments.