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    Mum’s the word: What you can do about a restricted reference policy in your job search.

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    It’s an intense and exciting time during a job search when the employer wants to invite you to the “next step in the process.”

    Usually that means they are interested in making a job offer, but they need to complete their due diligence before they can do so. This is what many of my executive clients call the “wait and worry” period.


    In a recent blog entry “6 critical reasons hiring you is a corporate risk”, I claim that the hiring process is risky for the employer. The more senior the role is in an organization, the higher the risk, especially in certain industries.

    With the rise of white collar crime, boards of directors are ensuring that their CEOs are carefully vetting candidates. According to a Forbes article on the topic not checking references can cost millions.

    In a recent article published by the Society of Human Resource Professionals [Conducting Background Investigations and Reference Checks, October 4, 2016]:

    “Surveys conducted by SHRM and other organizations reveal a trend toward greater use of background investigations and reference checks in employment. This trend is driven by several factors, including:

    • Security issues in a post-Sept. 11 world.
    • New legislation, particularly in the area of immigration law enforcement.
    • Technological advances that make background investigations faster and more economical.
    • Increased awareness of the various risks of failure to conduct adequate background checks.
    • A rise in the willingness of applicants to misrepresent their credentials.
    • Increasing competition among applicants due to the dearth of new jobs in a post-recession environment.”

    According to the same article, in a 2014 CareerBuilder.com survey, industries that appear to encounter fraudulent resumes most often are:

    • Financial services (73%).
    • Leisure & Hospitality (71%).
    • Health Care (63%).
    • Information technology (63%).
    • Retail (59%).”

    The cost of a bad hire can be astronomical and organizations are investing in tools to protect their assets. They also want to avoid litigation from unhappy candidates who are not happy about what they might hear in a less-than-stellar professional reference.

    With a verification of employment dates and positions only, it can feel hopeless.

    One effective strategy that I’ve been coaching my clients on is the often forgotten-about-and-ignored  performance review. Performance reviews signed by your manager serve as an excellent proxy as a de facto professional reference. The more recent the review, the better.

    Ensure that you always file a signed copy of your performance review in your personal files, preferably dated with the manager’s job title. his will assure the Chief HR Officer or the In-House Counsel that you are the real thing and a low risk to their organization.

    Although it may not be a perfect strategy, in certain situations it can be effective and serve as the tipping point in a decision to make you the job offer.

    Dig out your performance reviews…just in case.

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