The reason that job seekers are asked to provide references is so that their credentials – such as their education, job title, and dates of employment – can be verified. References also help to determine the suitability of a job seeker for the job for which they have applied. A reference from a previous employer will often satisfy these requirements, if the job seeker has solid tenure in the same industry.
However, a problem can arise when this isn’t possible, such as when a job seeker has only worked for one employer or they have been with their current employer for an extended amount of time. However, we are seeing an increase in prospective employers requesting that job seekers obtain a reference from their current employer, even if an alternative is on offer.
There are several issues that prospective employers should keep in mind when requesting a job seeker to obtain a reference from their current employer, not least of which is prejudicing their current role with their current employer. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining a reference from a current employer.
- The referee can have up to date information about the current skillset of the job seekers
- They have recent examples of a job seeker’s behavioural characteristics, areas of strength and room for improvement.
- Counter offers
Requesting a job seeker obtain a reference from their current employer alerts their employer that the job seekers is considering a change of employer. That affords them the chance to make a counter-offer and tempt the employees to remain. Counter offers could be a new promotion, a lateral move in the company, or a pay rise. Even if the promotion is rejected, you could still find yourself caught up in a bidding war to obtain that ideal talent.
- Misleading References
If an employer gets upset that their employee wants to leave, and they don’t want them to, they could provide a deliberately bad reference so that their chances of finding a new job are compromised. On the other hand, employers that aren’t happy with how their employees have performed and don’t wish to engage in a performance management process, may offer a falsely positive reference, as a way out.
- Peer References
When a prospective employee is required to obtain a reference from their employer, they may choose to ask someone who is a peer to provide the reference. This reduces the overall value of the reference, as this person might not have the hands-on experience required to properly comment on the capabilities of the job seeker.
We’ve seen some excellent references from current employers which fully support their employee’s decision to make a move. This is the best scenario of course, but the reality is that this doesn’t happen often. When dealing with our current talent short market in particular, the risk of counter offers and the reduced value of peer references outweigh any potential benefits of obtaining a reference from a job seeker’s current employer, compared to that of their previous employer.