Career Sabotage: The Influence of a Past
Allison, Managing Director,
The word was out on Jim Walters. Someone was telling
prospective employers that they shouldn't hire him. It cost him
at least twelve top job offers, kept him unemployed for over a
year, and more than $100,000 of his retirement fund.
Walters, not his real name, has since found work, but two years
later he is still angry at his former boss for nearly ruining
his life. Walters was able to stop his boss from spreading more
lies, but he wonders how many other job seekers are not so
"For months I suspected that my former boss was saying
something about me. The problem was I didn't know what he was
saying or how to prove it" said Walters, a former General
Manager for a Manufacturing Company.
Job seekers can now turn the tables on their former bosses.
Many are starting to check up on former bosses, colleagues and
even trusted friends, by using professional reference checking
firms. Let's face it. Companies have been checking out
potential employees' backgrounds for years.
"When you get right down to it, you just don't know for sure,
who you can trust. There is simply too much at stake - your
job, your income, your family's well being - to chance it that
your references are positive and accurate" said Heidi M.
Allison, Managing Director of Allison & Taylor, Inc., a
professional reference checking firm.
Allison & Taylor, Inc. has been checking reference since
1984 for a variety of clients from nurses and teachers to
senior managers and even presidents of companies. Allison &
Taylor's clients also include attorneys, professional
recruiters and companies who hire them to check out potential
Ms. Allison stated that about half of the references they
investigate are mediocre to down right negative - often to the
surprise of the client. "People they believe are giving them a
good reference are not" she said, "And just as many who have
assumed they are getting a bad reference are not."
Allison & Taylor, Inc. is up front with the people they
call to check a reference. "When we call a reference we simply
state that we are calling to do an employment verification and
reference check on (name of client). Typically the reference
assumes we are considering hiring that individual or we have
been hired to check them out for a company that is considering
hiring them. No matter what, we never disclosed who has
actually hired us to perform the reference check. This allows
our client complete confidentiality and the ability to use our
information in court should the need arise" stated Ms. Allison.
It is not uncommon for references to pass out inaccurate
information. Dates and title of employment, the reason for the
separation and salary information are typically mistaken and
unfortunately it is assumed by potential employers that the job
seeker is lying.
Sometimes information is subtle. For instance, if a reference
doesn't return two or three calls, that raises a red
such as, "Are you sure he listed me as a reference?" or "Well,
according to our agreement I can only confirm that she worked
here" offer additional clues that things are just not right.
Ms. Allison has also noticed that the higher the position, the
more freely references divulge damaging information. "Clients
often assume that company policies to only confirm limited
information are strictly followed. I usually ask them if they
are in a hurry and don't see a police officer if they tend to
push the speed limit. References are no different. If someone
really liked you and wants to help you land another job, or if
they had a problem with you and don't want to see you working,
they can and will break company policy."
In a slight turn of events, Ms. Allison stated that over the
last few years, her clients have used positive references to
assist them in their court cases. "In the case of wrongful
termination, a positive reference can be used as support of
litigation. In fact, our clients have been awarded settlements
in excess of $1 million."
The purpose of checking your references should not be to file a
lawsuit. However, a candidate does need to know the quality of
their references and whether former employers are passing on
personal opinions, conjecture, rumors or accurate legal facts.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR OWN REFERENCES
A poor or even luke warm reference can sometimes cost you the
job you want. If you are worried about what a former boss will
say to a prospective employer, consider using a reference
checking service as seen in the Wall Street Journal. The
industry's leading and oldest reference checking firm, Allison
& Taylor, Inc. provides reference checks for job seekers
that range from $69 for basic to $99 for executive level
reports. In business for 20 years, Allison & Taylor will
confidentially contact your references, inquiring about
performance - managerial skills, judgment, integrity,
productivity, technical skills - as well as employment dates,
job description and reason for departure. Within an average of
ten days, you will have a complete dossier on your reference,
including how long it took for a response, general tone and