Keeping It Truthful in Employment References

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The issue of lying on a curriculum vitae or giving false information via an employment reference has heightened the interests of businesses and employers, especially in light of the allegations surrounding Andrew Flanagan. Mr Flanagan allegedly gained significant employment opportunities, dazzling those who interviewed him by being less than truthful. Allegedly his career path and experience wasn’t exactly as he professed it to be.


The question is how can a situation such as this affect you and your ability to accurately and truthfully represent your skills and experience on your resume, or when using past employers as references?


Initially, the truth is always your best choice. But there are those who tend to elongate the truth in an effort to make some aspect of their work experience and themselves appear more desirable to prospective employers. For many reasons, this is not a suggested option.


Repercussions of falsifying your CV


First, let’s look at the repercussions of falsifying of a CV.  The issues that can come back to haunt you include;

  • Falsifying your education – Of all the false statements a prospective employee can make, false claims regarding education is the most likely to result in legal action. The law prohibits claims of having obtained an education that was never conferred. In some areas of Australia, the government has allowed state and local governments to impose fines of up to $5,000.00 upon those who have made this false statement.
  • Claiming to have skills that you do not can be dangerous to those you will be working with. If you are not truthful about your abilities, the mistakes you might make could be legally actionable against your employer or even you personally.
  • Eventually, as your new position progresses you will not be able to hide the fact that you do not possess the necessary experience to do your job properly.
  • There is always a risk of being fired once your employer finds out that you do not have the skills to do your job.


Issues with references


Another one of the biggest issues facing employers and businesses alike is the trustworthiness of the references supplied by potential employees. While the majority of candidates will give reliable references, there are many who do not. This problem is made worse by companies that have popped up that assist those who wish to mislead their potential employer by creating false information.


Once such company is CareerExcuse, an American company looking to expand into Australia. CareerExcuse does just that; they create false references, even going so far as to offer to set up fake websites that job seekers can direct potential employers to view for information about their past work.


In addition, individuals looking for a job can ask friends, family or previous coworkers to act as a reference even though the person has never worked with, or supervised, the job seeker. As long as a friend, family member or prior coworker understands the type of job being applied for, and the nature of the information that needs to be presented, anyone can essentially give a believable reference.


Employers can combat some of these issues by;

  1. Asking detail-oriented questions to those who are giving references. If the information appears less than reliable, it is smart to re-contact the potential employee and make follow up inquiries, looking for discrepancies in the facts at hand.
  2. At the time of the interview ask the potential employee to perform a task that is particular to the job duties.
  3. Contact the name of the organization that the job seeker professes to have worked for, rather than contacting via the number they provided to you.
  4. Set a clear probationary period for watching the new employees work performance, making detailed notes about mistakes or shortcomings that are frequent and repeated.


Finally, it is imperative that when asked to give a job reference, you are honest with the person requesting your assistance. If they were a past employee that you have reservations about tell the individual that you have reservations and what they are concerning. Also, be prepared to explain the positives that you are willing to offer a prospective employer. Allow the person seeking the reference the opportunity to decide if they are comfortable with proceeding to use you for support.


It must be remembered that no previous employer is required to give a reference. If you cannot give a reasonably positive account of another’s work performance, it might be best to decline. Be particularly careful not to give a blatantly personal scathing report to any prospective employer. In the event that the information is shared with the job seeker, and they believe it to be untrue or defamatory in nature, legal consequences in the form of a defamation suit could ensue.


Instead of hastily agreeing to give a reference for a prior coworker, it is important for the previous employer to honestly assess the statements they are willing to make about a former coworker. If they are able to give an honest and positive account of the previous work done, then it is safe and helpful for a previous employer to agree to be contacted. However, if this is not the situation, then it is probably best to simply decline the invitation and suggest the job seeker use another source for support.


If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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