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Former employer from over 5 years ago not responding to reference requests

  • 01-08-2022 5:17pm
    Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    Hi everyone, I posted previously my queries regarding a UK screening company that is carrying out a pre-employment screening:

    The screening company has contacted all my previous employers and places where I studied to collect references, and all places bar one have responded to their queries - a place I worked over 5 years ago. Now, my prospective future employer is threatening to withdraw their offer on the basis of incomplete references. The screening company explained that it is highly unusual for a company to fail to respond to a reference request within a 3 week period, and many companies take a negative inference from it. I am due to start the job on Monday the 8th, and if my past employer won't respond to them before Thursday I am doomed.

    My past employer is a small firm with no HR function. I called them on Friday and spoke to my old manager - he was genuinely surprised to have been contacted, as I had only worked there for a short period of time several years ago. He also said that due to annual leave and the workload they are under, they will not be able to respond to the reference request for some time. Also, they have a firm policy of getting their solicitors to review all references before they are sent out so realistically it could be up to a month before they respond.

    My old job is going to cease tomorrow, so my options as I see it are:

    1. Attempt to hold on to my current job for at least a little longer (as much as they like me, that is probably not going to work) and delay starting the new job.
    2. Try to convince my old manager to submit a basic reference before Thursday (which he already refused to do, so unlikely to work)
    3. Try to convince my prospective future employer to accept the references already provided (this goes against their HR policy, so unlikely to work).

    I'd appreciate any and all advice (including how to avoid this kind of dilemma in the future), as this situation is one which I am completely unfamiliar with and is causing me EXTREME distress.



  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    The team I am joining is great, and the manager seems to be quite a good person (he is looking forward to me starting and doesn't really care about the references). However, the company have very strict HR policies regarding background checks as they are operating in a regulated industry.

  • Moderators, Politics Moderators Posts: 36,275 Mod ✭✭✭✭Seth Brundle

    Can you contact the team manager and discuss with him? HR are being dicks and an internal manager should be able to get them to bend the rules in the companies interest.

  • Registered Users Posts: 218 ✭✭The Buster

    If you only worked there a short period (presume a few months) then your new employer are been dicks. If all other references are good then should just move on. Not everyone will reply to references. In a previous company if we got reference requests we had to send to HR and it could take them a while to reply so a delay is not that unusual. The reference was only a statement of fact. x worked here from mmm/yy to mmm/yy as ***. Not much more

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,539 ✭✭✭notAMember

    Lesson learned here is always clear your references in person before you provide them to a new employer. it’s a basic courtesy but on a practical side also allows them do this prep work in advance and be ready for the inquiry when it comes.

    I am regularly surprised when I check a reference that the prospective employee never told them they were going to be a reference in the first place. it sounds like you didn’t have a great relationship with this employer as they are unwilling to provide it when you need it.

    In this case, I would find another reference, asap, and let them know about it. Inform new employer that due to annual leave the written reference cannot be provided in the timelines needed, so here is an alternative.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 18,529 ✭✭✭✭Del2005

    Can your old company not give a standard reference saying "Sono Topolino worked for x date to y date"? I work for a large multi national and that's the references they give out, since the new company is anal about HR policies then they should know that lots of companies only give basic references.

  • Registered Users Posts: 512 ✭✭✭MakersMark

    Surely all you need is confirmation that you were employed?

  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    I did ask if they could serve as a reference years ago when I left, and listed them on my CV on that basis. I admit that I could have been more proactive in informing them on this occasion, but I assume that the old written reference would have been there on file. I worked with them for just over two years (considered "short" in my industry) and I left on good terms. The fact that they cannot provide a reference quickly seems largely due to:

    1. They are a small firm with no internal HR function
    2. Very busy at present with client work/annual leave (and supplying references takes time away from client work)
    3. Internal requirement to have every reference approved by their solicitor (I can only assume that they had a dispute with a former employee in the time since I left).

    But it would seem that the firm who offered me a job have inferred what you inferred - i.e. that I did not have a great relationship with them when I left.

    Additionally, the way the background screening company works is by contacting every employer you listed on your CV to confirm that you worked there. They do not ask you to provide contact details, in case you supply the name of your best friend who works there who will say whatever you want them to say. I cannot provide another person's name to them, and I would imagine that it would not change the fact that the team are up the walls busy and wouldn't be able to get to it any time soon.

  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    Yes, I confirmed that with the screening company and informed the old employer as such. That doesn't seem to change the fact that they're just too busy/short staffed to deal with it in time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 162 ✭✭Beatty69

    Find it hard to believe they don't have time to do a two line letter, something more going on here.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,493 ✭✭✭✭Strumms

    They are just being jackasses.

    from the HR person commencing the task it would take approximately 5 minutes out of the approximately 2100 minutes of their working week…

    they’d be glad enough to expect their own inward applicants to have verifiable references and contactable referees but not keen to provide the same courtesy to other businesses….bit dickheadish.

    get on to google and drop them a nice one star review as a thanks.

  • Registered Users Posts: 425 ✭✭ax530

    Did you explain to them it confirmation of employment not a character reference.

    Hopefully he could then reply to the email with dates you worked there.

    Good luck sounds very frustrating

  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    Yeah they understand what is required but they don't have a HR person to do it. I'll follow up with them tomorrow to ask if they can make an exception.

  • Registered Users Posts: 15 igluandhartly

    This is a weird scenario , why would they need a solicitor involved when its literally just dates of employment thats needed. Anyway i agree with another poster , if the new job doesnt budge on a short period yrs ago i probably wouldnt. work for them

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,241 ✭✭✭✭Fr Tod Umptious

    People have mentioned the new company/screening agency being "dicks".

    I don't think they are.

    As the OP said it's a regulated industry and the HR department are working to a strict policy, and I'm going to assume that strict policy is there for a reason.

    Your best option OP is to convey the reasons for the delay to your new manager, make sure he makes it clear to HR and whomever is is in the chain that this is the case and keep the pressure on your old company for a quicker turnaround for the reference.

    It may end up in a delayed start date but if your new manager is that enthusiastic about you joining they are not going to drop you over it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,259 ✭✭✭Count Dracula

    I don't believe for a second that your new employer is going to remove an offer of employment based on one company not bothering to give a reference? If they really wanted you to start with them they would find time to overlook it.

    I also think that it indicates that you were irresponsible in including your former employer as a reference, whereas it doesn't actually exist?

    If they don't finalise your position, it won't be as a result of your former employers intransigence, it will be because you did not take proper care prior to your CV submission that all your references were valid. It indicates that you lack competency with your preparation skills.

    Do you think they might be doubting your credibility ... or actually want you to start work?

  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    My former employer gave me permission to list them as an employment reference when I resigned. How is the reference not valid??

    As discussed above, they are in a regulated industry and HR require a comprehensive background check.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,259 ✭✭✭Count Dracula

    It is not valid because they are no longer honouring that agreement surely?

    To reiterate, the fact that you did not verify your references prior to your application could be indicative of you not being thorough enough, or even worse, struggling with your attention to detail?

  • Registered Users Posts: 15 igluandhartly

    I think this is pretty unfair in the extreme to be honest. Im sure op thought there would be no problem getting a reference. If it didnt end in a bad way , a reference is obtained in 99.9% of cases unless the company is gone which isnt the case here.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,081 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    In a regulated industry, all previous jobs likely have to be listed. If the OP left the job out, they would need to provide proof of whatever else they were doing at the time.

    OP either try go get the old job to extend you a bit and try to resolve - or just look for a new job with less stringent checking.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    I didn't realise I should manually re-verify each entry on my CV before applying for a job, but I will consider doing it from now on.

    Problem here is that until the reference is obtained the screening company cannot clear me, so HR have no choice but to withdraw the offer. However, I'll definitely see if the start date can be deferred.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,265 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    The OP said it a regulated, so no HR are not being dicks and there is nothing the internal manager can do because neither wil have the authority to flaunt the regulations.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,885 ✭✭✭Former Former Former

    In fairness to your new employer, if a new employee's former boss won't even acknowledge that he worked there, that's ringing alarm bells for me. It's literally a thirty second phone call. Not a huge leap to think it might be more sinister.

    It sounds like your former boss is being a prat but how is your new job supposed to know that?

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,265 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    Did you ask the former employer to give the reference before you listed them? If so, perhaps you can put a bit of pressure on them to honor their commitments.

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,265 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    That is as goog as a bad reference in a regulated industry!

  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators Posts: 9,265 Mod ✭✭✭✭Jim2007

    All you can do is inform the background checking firm and your future employer of circumstances and see if they would be willing to postpone the start date. Would your former manager be willing to confirm the situation to them?

    I can’t think of anything else. I worked in a regulated area for over 30 years and they are very black and white about it. Nobody is willing to take a chance on someone that does not meet all the criteria as there are usually serious consequences if they get it wrong.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,081 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    No, it's not a 30 second phone call. It's a written statement, which the former employer is only willing to do if their solicitor checks it. Irksome, but understandable.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,885 ✭✭✭Former Former Former

    I've had lots of screening companies contact me about former employees and it's always been over the phone.

    Either way, this would be setting off major alarm bells for the new employer.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 455 ✭✭Sono Topolino

    Update: I finished my old job yesterday, they were not willing to entertain keeping me for a longer period and advised me to reapply to my current position if I want to stay in the firm. I don't think that's viable, since I would probably leave again in the not too distant future anyway.

    I called my former employer and begged and pleaded with them to action it, explaining the personak consequences I will face of failing to act. They told me in no certain terms to get stuffed. I no longer work there and they have no duty of care towards me etc. They confirmed that are not refusing to issue a reference and that I left on good terms. But I no longer work there, and this isn't a current priority. They will get to it when they get to it- they have their process and my problem is not their problem. I fear my anxiety is making the situation worse.

    The good news is that my new manager is super supportive and trying to get my start date deferred until the reference is obtained. Fingers crossed it will not take too long until the former employer actions it.