Thursday, July 19, 2007

LinkedIn--Swinging the Pendulum Back on Employment References?

When I first started my adult career, in 1987, employment references were quite routine. It was automatic that if you were applying for a job, the prospective employer was going to ask you for 3 references. Then along came a lawsuit, in which an employee who had received a very negative reference from his former supervisor, won a substantial settlement. In little more than an eyeblink, corporate America switched to a "no references" policy.

That was over a decade ago. The sad part is that the case in question (I'm too lazy to find and reference it) involved a deliberately defamatory reference. A good former employee, a spiteful former supervisor, lies and a lawsuit. There is little to no case law, AFAIK, for a good-faith reference causing a lawsuit. Nevertheless, the No References practice has become common policy.

It does seem like the actual observance has been weakening in recent years. People have figured out that former colleagues and even supervisors will typically give positive references, and may even give some degree of negative reference, perhaps in "code". I see LinkedIn accelerating this work-around, since it makes it SOOO much easier to find "backdoor references".

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