Human Resources News & Insights

One bad reference shouldn’t automatically disqualify an applicant

You and your hiring managers are likely so busy that if you catch even a whiff that a candidate isn’t what you think he is, he’s tossed on the reject pile. But some workplace experts say you should reconsider. 

Yes, reference checks are a great defense against bad hires. But automatically canning an applicant with a bad reference isn’t always the best idea.

Not necessarily bad

A disappointed former boss is of course a warning sign, but it shouldn’t be the sole reason not to hire someone.

Here are six reasons to shrug off a bad reference, courtesy of Suzanne Lucas at Inc.com:

1. You found a reference the applicant didn’t mention.

An applicant didn’t list a past boss as a reference but you found him online. And unlike the listed references, this boss didn’t provide a glowing review.

What to do? Toss the bad reference – it could be the boss just had it in for his or her former staffer.

2. The candidate was a bad fit for his old job.

If you’re listening to a bad reference, ask yourself: Would any of these negatives affect my business?

After all, a bad trait in one position can be a positive in another.

3. You don’t know the person giving the reference.

If all other signs are indicating you’ve got a great applicant on your hands, should you really give much sway to someone you don’t know?

4. The complaints aren’t negative.

Listen to the language. If a former boss says something like “She made the rest of us look bad by taking on new projects,” you could be dealing with a bitter manager.

5. The candidate was within his or her rights.

Make sure none of the negatives were actually protected by law, like taking legitimate FMLA leave.

6. An incident occurred long ago.

We’ve all made mistakes. If someone got fired for throwing a milkshake at a customer when she was 18, let it slide.

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Comments

  1. Hallelujah, an article that uses much common sense to give individuals the benefit of the doubt. Love it!

  2. 1. You found a reference the applicant didn’t mention.
    An applicant didn’t list a past boss as a reference but you found him online. And unlike the listed references, this boss didn’t provide a glowing review…and the recommendation is to toss this reference??? Absurd! Why was this employer omitted from the application?? This may prove to be the single most valuable reference secured on this prospect!

    • Maybe, just maybe the applicant left this one out due to the fact that he/she knew would give them a bad reference and cost them a job. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be cost a job due to a single former employer who may have it in for me for no good reason. This would equate to that employer having control even after the employment relationship ended. Now if it were two or three left out, I would definitely be concerned.

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