AwesomeThinking about your prospects for landing that new job? You should think first about what your former boss and other referees will say about you. There is no doubt that for many job seekers, a person’s previous employers will have a direct bearing on their future. So what they will they say about you? 

Here are some dangerous myths on job references:


  • Companies are not allowed to say anything negative about a former employee.
  • Most corporations direct reference check requests to their Human Resources departments, and these people won’t say anything bad about me.
  • If I had any issues with my former boss, I can simply leave him or her off my reference list and nobody will ever know.

Does your former employer have to provide a reference?

Prior to making a job offer, a prospective employer is likely to want to perform an employment background check on you.  It could be for one of several reasons, or for government security clearances for public sector jobs. Make sure you are telling the truth and the facts match up; confirm your degree/university studied or that you worked at your previous employer(s) during the time stated on your CV and job application.  There is a good chance that they are likely to ask the job seeker for an ex-employer contact for the reference check.  Many employers won’t give out any more information than starting and ending dates of employment and salary information. Others may be willing to discuss your job performance, your work ethic, your attendance at work, your attitude and other criteria.  Therefore, it is for the job seeker to select referees who they think will be willing to provide them with a positive reference. It is common practice for the job seeker to check first that the people they choose are willing to act as a referee. Where the referee is someone from the job seeker’s current employment, they may hold off asking them to act as their referee until they have a definite offer of employment. 

You can’t control what your ex-employer will say about you, but you can coach your personal references to ensure their answers match yours and to ensure that you are both on the same page when it comes to your work history and abilities. Review these reference check question samples so you will know what to expect.  There is useful information on New Zealand law for reference checking too. 

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