Three Things to Improve in Employee References

One of the tasks you might need to handle as a small business owner is to provide references for employees. Studies show that as many as one third of all job applications contain facts that are dishonest, according to Los Angeles District Community College District. Because of this, employee references are important tools for managers in charge of hiring.

Get the Details

Providing a reference that uses generic, vague language provides little benefit to the employee. It’s the same with form letters. They make a good starting point for writing your own reference letter, but that’s about all they’re good for. When an employee asks to list you as a reference, or wants a letter of recommendation, ask him what the new position entails and what traits and skills the new company needs. If the employee asks you for a reference letter for another reason other than employment, get the specifics so you know what the letter is meant to achieve and what’s required to make a difference in final decision.

What to Say

Offering examples of a person’s positive traits and characteristics goes far in persuading an employer or school admissions officer that the candidate is worthy for the next step. Use stories that explain how the employee handled her job, worked with customers and other employees, and improved your company. Prepare to answer questions about the candidate’s skills, punctuality and reliability along with her ability to work with others and handle conflict.

Negative Reviews

Sometimes employee references are less than stellar. Although the reference checker realizes you’re under no obligation to disclose problems with your employee, he wants an honest evaluation. After all, you’d want that, too, when hiring a new employee. When such an employee requests a verbal or written reference from you, rather than agreeing to do it in order just to get it out of the way, tell the employee why you're hesitant to give a good reference. The employee may still want the reference, but at least she knows what to expect. When the reference checker calls you, carefully but honestly explain your observations of your employee.

More Tips

When you honor a request for a reference, give both the positive and negative facts about a candidate to provide the full picture. If you need time to prepare for a phone interview as part of giving a reference, tell the caller you need to call him back. Avoid providing information that does not relate to the employee’s performance on the job, such as family or monetary issues. Conversations between you and the reference checker are not limited in any way except that you should tell the truth.