When you’re looking for a new job, most people will ask previous employers for a reference. If your current employer or previous employer agrees to give you a reference, this can be as long or as short as they wish. With many references including what your job was, what your strengths were, and maybe what your weaknesses are. A reference should be fair, but it should also be accurate, and honest. But do you have the right to ask to view their reference?
Choosing who to ask for a reference
Some people may consciously decide to not ask certain employers. This could be because they didn’t leave the job on great terms, or because they believe an employer will give them a bad reference. Therefore, some people may choose to not use previous employers as a reference, but someone with who they have not worked for. But, it’s important to check whether the company that has asked for a reference will accept this.
If you are asking a previous employer for a reference, a senior member of staff or management is a great option. But consider whether they know you well enough to give you a good reference that is relevant and true to your previous role.
But what if you think they have given you a bad reference?
You may not have gotten the job you applied for, and everything may have seemed like it was going well until they received a reference from your previous employer. But can you ask to see your reference?
Yes, of course, you can ask. But they do not have to give you a copy of the reference. If they do give you a copy, it would be worth reading this thoroughly and understanding what the potential implication of this is. If they have stated something which is not true, ask them to change it.
If you have not seen the reference, you could consider holding off on applying for other jobs and using this reference as you do not know what it contains.
Asking your old employer for a fair and accurate reference
If you would like your previous employer to give you an accurate reference, or amend the reference that they previously supplied, consider this. Alternatively, you could speak to a member of the HR team or another manager regarding this. Explain what you would like the outcome to be, and focus on the facts. (Be aware of your emotions within the situation, and consider whether the reference was accurate and if your feelings are because of the outcome rather than the unfair reference).
Explain that a job offer was retracted because of a bad reference, ask another member of staff to review the reference, and ask if they can provide you with an accurate reference in the future.