For various reasons, employers should minimize their reliance on applicants’ references. First, many prior employers are reluctant to give any references at all for fear that the applicant might bring a lawsuit if unfavorable comments are made about the applicant. Second, even if a reference is inclined to provide more substantive comments, applicants obviously tend to list references that will provide the most favorable comments about the applicant, so it is nearly impossible for a potential employer to obtain a truly objective assessment of a candidate.
Despite these drawbacks to references, there are a few steps employers can take to obtain helpful references concerning a job applicant. First, to the extent possible, the employer should contact individuals in its own network that might know the applicant. Second, the employer should ask applicants for very specific types of references and define what those references can be. For example, the employer could ask the applicant to include one or more of the following in the applicant’s list of references: direct supervisors, substantial clients or customers, direct reportees, professors (for entry-level applicants), or some other specific type of colleague. Finally, all job applicants should be asked to sign a waiver and release of liability form authorizing prior employers to release requested information to the company and relieving both the prior employer and the company of all liability in the connection with the release and use of information.
*Autum Flores has substantial experience in a variety of complex civil litigation matters with a particular emphasis on labor and employment, commercial litigation, regulatory, antitrust, and securities.