Aviation job hunting, like pretty much any other job search process can seem a real uphill struggle from time to time. However, if you’ve got yourself through the rounds of CV sifting, telephone or Skype interviews and finally a face-to-face interview, followed by a job offer, the last thing you need is a dark cloud hanging over you about references. However, lots of people find themselves experiencing a white-knuckle ride between the euphoria of receiving a job offer and the confirmation that their references are OK.
Generally speaking, while we’re not (of course) giving any sort of legal opinion here, most people don’t have much to worry about, particularly if they’ve simply left a job in a big company under a bit of a cloud. Needless to say, if you’ve been sacked for wrong-doing or for some major employment faux pas, then there’s no getting away from the fact that you would probably have been better being up front long before being offered the job, but that’s a subject for another article maybe?
In most cases, if you are working for or have previously worked for a big organisation, the likelihood is that it’ll be the HR department who will deal with your reference. In most instances these people won’t even know you and will only have something negative to say if it’s prominently noted on your file.
The information that is commonly asked for in standard interviews is the job title, dates of employment and whether or not things ended amicably. This type of reference is highly unlikely to do anything to risk scuppering your chances of bagging your new job. So, you probably have nothing whatsoever to worry about, even if things weren’t particularly great between you and your boss when you left.
What you need to remember is that when any employer provides a reference in the UK they are required to give information that’s true, accurate and not misleading. What this means is that if they are going to put anything in writing that isn’t accurate and might carry the risk of coming back to haunt them. Even when it comes to telephone references, if you previously worked for a big company, then your potential new employer is likely to be passed to the HR department who will either provide the information asked for during the call or will put something in writing. Once again, it’s unlikely that in this situation you have much to worry about if you’re concerned about a clash of personalities or a slightly disappointing performance.
However, where things can sometimes go a tiny bit awry is if you previously worked for a small company and the company offering you the job decides to phone your previous employer to get their point of view. Once again, your previous employer is still required to speak honestly about what happened. That said, it’s human nature to be tempted to say a bit more in a phone call than you might say in a written statement, particularly if you’re not accustomed to giving references. So if you are really concerned that a telephone call for a reference might be the approach of your new employer, then you need to decide what to do.
Like most things in life, if you think there is a chance of a real problem lurking in the background, the best line of attack is usually to face it head-on. As we’ve said already, ideally the potential issue would have been aired well before now, but if it has been dormant until the last moment, you can take one of three courses of action.
The first is to do nothing and hope for the best (often the best option). The second is to pluck up the courage to speak to your previous employer, or even better their HR department and the third is to have a casual chat with the HR department in your new company. If you’re sufficiently up front in any of these situations, you can probably minimise any potential damage. All of that said, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of doing anything at all before putting your foot forward.
In this situation, if you contact a previous employer it’s usually a good idea to be somewhat humble and explain that you’re in the process of trying to secure yourself another job and you would like reassurance about the type of reference they might provide. Most people don’t hold a grudge after the event and the majority of company policies would be to stick strictly to what can and should be said and not to guild the lily. If this does not reassure you, then the best course of action is probably to pick up the phone to the HR department in the company that’s offered you the job and explain to them that you and your old boss had a bit of an ongoing battle and that might come through in the reference.
And finally, it’s worth remembering that as long as wishy-washy or negative references aren’t the pattern throughout, they’ll probably over-look one and take your comments on board.
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