With an increasing number of organisations confirming that they are only able to provide a standard reference for past employees, could this be seen to hinder the offer process when recruiting? And what do these standard references actually provide us that we didn’t know already?

A reference should be a fair and accurate record of an employee’s performance. So just being informed of the role they did, the location they worked at and the dates they were there, just doesn’t suffice. What we need to know is: what were their specific responsibilities? How did they perform? How did they integrate with the team? What was their management style, absence, etc?

Historically it was certain employers within the Financial Services sector who didn’t give out more detailed references, but now it seems there is a growing trend for a number of organisations to opt for the ‘ we only provide standard references’ option.

It is obvious clients are more concerned with the legal implications of providing a bad reference and that providing a basic option is seen as a far safer option. This is not surprising when past employees can claim for defamation, so to protect themselves employers are now limiting the information provided.

So what happens when a candidate is at offer stage and this offer is based on providing satisfactory references? Do these standard references suffice in these instances?

If an employee has only ever worked for an organisation that gives out standard references and you are unable to contact line managers directly, how does this affect a candidate’s offer of employment?

Candidates are now also requesting written references prior to leaving employers, due to the difficulty in obtaining more detailed references at a later date. But how do these references fair if it has been written a number of years ago?

Thankfully we have a large number of organisations still happy to give out detailed references and managers who are willing to give these references on or off the record. However, there is always going to be a question of reading between the lines with any reference.