How should I ask in an interview whether a company has a ‘No-Reference’ policy? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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How should I ask in an interview whether a company has a ‘No-Reference’ policy?

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Question: “Is it appropriate to ask during an interview what the company policy is regarding giving references? I worked for a company for two years, and then decided to move on. It was then that I learned about the company’s strict “no-reference” policy. It was not mentioned in the employee manual. Now I have a gap in my references that looks bad through no fault of my own.” — Donna Byerly


A company does not have to give a written reference. However, a company is required to at least let other employers know, if they inquire your beginning and ending hire dates and if you are you are re-hirable. Not all businesses give reference letters, so I guess I don't see where the problem is. You list the information on your resume or company application you are applying for and the company that is considering you will normally call the previous employers for information. I do not feel it would be a question I would ask in an interview, you'd be better off asking questions about a typical workday, not about references, sounds as if you are already looking for another job.

I would not ask about references on an interview. I think a question like this would make the interviewer unsure of your intentions. I also don't see why you would have a gap on your resume. Put your previous employer down as a reference and let the prospective employer call them. If they are told of a no reference policy at least you still put them down and is does not look like you are hiding something.

A lot of companies have a "no reference" policy in these litiginous days. Asking about references during an interview sounds like you plan to be a short timer and are already preparing for your NEXT job. It really sends a negative message to an interviewer! (and what if the policy changed after you were hired?) You don’t have a two year break in your resume - list that job the same as the others, and let the reference checker deal with what the company will or will not confirm.

I think that asking about that in an interview would be a very bad move. Here you are interviewing for a new job, and you are telling your interviewer that you are already planning for your leaving the company. You can still list the names and co-workers from a job that will not give references; it will be up to those people, not you, to tell prospective employers that they cannot give reference information.

I agree with the others - many companies (including my own) do not give references nowadays. It sets them up for potential lawsuits, depending on what is said. Part of my job is to work with Human Resources, and we have instructed all managers NOT to give references (it's a very serious breach of policy if they do give out any information except dates of employment).

I don't see a problem - with so many companies giving only the dates of employment for employees when contacted for employment information, it doesn't reflect badly on you.

Ditto to the comments above. My company only gives out employment dates. As an HR Administrative Assistant it's rare when I get any other info then dates when calling on a reference.

My company also will only verify employment. However, you might consider asking for personal character references from past employers with the understanding that you are not going to jeopardize your current job by asking anybody in your existing company to provide references for you while you look for another job. Since virtually everybody gives employment verification only, references should not be an issue for you.

Add a remark on your reference list stating that the particular employer has a "no reference" policy and offer to provide a co-worker's name and work number if the prospective employer desires it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike May 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Yeah but the stupid thing is all those companies with “no reference” policies, will also refuse to hire someone who doesn’t have positive references from their previous employer ! What a load of BS.


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