Am I entitled to see my references?

I
have had an interview recently and was turned down. The organisation has
offered me feedback but I want to know what was said in my references. Where do
I stand?

Jo
Selby, associate director, EJ Human Resources, writes:

You
are understandably frustrated that you did not get offered this position.
However there could be any number of reasons, and references are only one.  Seeing your references is not a
straightforward process and so I would recommend you rule out other reasons
first.

I
think it is important that you accept the organisation’s offer of feedback as
this will give you an indication of how they perceived your interview and other
possible reasons for you not having been successful.  It may also provide you with areas to focus on for the future.

Peter
Lewis, consultant, Chiumento Consulting Group, writes:

Getting
good feedback from a recruiting organisation is crucial for refining your job
search, so grasp the opportunity. Your approach should be along the lines of “I
particularly wish to move into this field; how can I improve the presentation
of my experience, or what further experience would improve my chances of doing
so?”. This is a marked improvement on “Why didn’t I get the job?” which can
sound like a disgruntled challenge to the decision.

Your
right to know the content of your reference is a grey area.. References are
normally asked for and given on a confidential basis, though case law (and the
Human Rights Act) imply that you may have a right to know if a reference is
derogatory, hence the increasing trend for bland written references, confined
to length of service and job title.

So
while you could ask whether the reference weighed significantly in the
decision, think about what signals you are sending if you start to insist on
details. Be aware, too, that some companies will ask for a standard written
reference but follow up with an informal telephone chat with the referee “off
the record”. So even if you saw the reference, there is no absolute guarantee
that it would tell you everything.

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