Firms Now Interviewing References in Much More Depth

Article excerpt

Managerial layoffs mean more competition for jobs. That, in turn, means companies can be choosier about hiring. Many firms now interview references in much more depth. Recruiters may spend an hour on the phone with just one reference.

Some companies, fearful of lawsuits by former employees blaming them for missing jobs, provide only dates of employment, position, and salary. But sometimes former colleagues spill the beans anyway. Some are malicious; others, well-meaning but "objective"; or the interviewer may trap them into revelations.

Bad references aren't always damaging. If there's only one bad out of the several that are checked, it's usually thrown out as showing bias. Even if there's a consistent negative thread, realistic employers know that nobody's perfect.

If you think some specific reference may keep you from a job, ask the company or recruiter about it. New York law says he has to show you your file. In other states you probably won't be told who bad-mouthed you, but you may be told what was said. If you can identify the person, talk with him calmly and ask him to soften his criticism.

Often a good offense is the best defense. If you think you may have bad references, tell the company or recruiter at the earliest tactful moment. People who admit mistakes and learn from them are admired. Be specific about what you learned.

One way to avoid bad references is to omit references from your resume but offer them "on request." Then, when requested, first have a friend pose as a recruiter and find out what your potential references will say. After he has identified the ones who will sing your praises the loudest, ask them if they will serve and at the same time remind them of your good points.

If you discover they'll also talk about your faults, discuss those with them and suggest that your weaknesses have silver linings. For instance, if they say you drive subordinates too hard, you canphrase that differently: "I set high goals for my staff."

You might think the best defense is not to have defects, but that's impossible. It's really true that nobody's perfect. For that reason, if employers find somebody with no negatives, they become suspicious.

QUESTION: With all the emphasis on hiring women and giving them equal pay, I've found a woman's productivity just isn't up to a man's because most of them need sick leave every month. Two daysa month adds up to a month a year. That's why I don't like to hire women and don't pay them as much as men when I do.

ANSWER: Studies show no differences between male and female productivity on the whole, though men excel at some tasks and women at others. (That's a statistical difference and doesn't predict the success of any individual at any task.) Obviously neither men nor women produce if they're absent. If your women employees take sick leave every month, the problem is probably primary dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps), from which more than half menstruating women suffer. …