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Question about having references when applying for jobs

I lost my job, in fact I was canned. The firm has a policy w notreallyalawyer08/31/17
In a desperate situation like this, I would contact the supe cranky08/31/17
Sorry to hear about your job loss. Agree with cranky abou wutwutwut08/31/17
How common is needing references to begin with? I'd rather n notreallyalawyer08/31/17
I'm just not sure. I was surprised to learn that we're not wutwutwut09/01/17
Most places you apply to will not ever call your references. fettywap08/31/17
How and Why did you get canned? Did u see it coming? Any se warfrat08/31/17
I didn't have a real job, so you don't have to worry.. Yes g notreallyalawyer09/01/17
In order of what I would do 1. Use anybody above you who kramer71608/31/17
My firm has a policy where they only give neutral evaluation notreallyalawyer09/01/17
I had an employer with a similar policy, but it's a pretty u onehell09/06/17
Some companies have been burned by giving references so they bittersweet09/06/17
Lad/lass you don't have a two friends who could answer the p prodigy09/06/17
notreallyalawyer (Aug 31, 2017 - 5:37 pm)

I lost my job, in fact I was canned. The firm has a policy where if someone contacts them about my work there, they will only state the dates I worked. I don't really feel comfortable contacting any past supervisors there, some liked me, some didn't. There were some coworkers I could list, but I don't think that's what they want. So in short, I don't really have references. My professors from law school doubtfully would remember me, past jobs I had, are 13+ years ago, doubt they would remember me so I'd feel like a fool even asking them to be references. What do you do if you don't have references?

edit: I could ask colleagues from law school who were my managing editors on law review, but that was 16 years ago. Would that even count?

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cranky (Aug 31, 2017 - 6:31 pm)

In a desperate situation like this, I would contact the supervisors who liked you and use them as references. A distant second choice would be contacting your old colleagues from law review, see if they still remember you and would say good things. Most people want to help others (or so I think) and wouldn't mind putting in a good word for people if asked. I have given glowing reviews to people I have worked with or supervised. Two of them have better jobs than I do now-- one in gov't and the other as in house counsel for a major financial co.

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wutwutwut (Aug 31, 2017 - 6:37 pm)

Sorry to hear about your job loss.

Agree with cranky about trying the supes who liked you. Hopefully they're unaware of the firm policy, or willing to cross it, anyway.

Ours is like that and it is chiseled in stone and repeated often enough that everyone's scared to run afoul of the policy. The flip side is, we also do not request and will not check references if they're presented to us.

My last employer had the same policy against giving out anything more than dates, so the last time I was in the market, I used three former colleagues who'd left the firm recently and knew my work. Not quite as good as having a direct supervisor attest your work, but they were all more experienced attorneys than me so that helped.

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notreallyalawyer (Aug 31, 2017 - 8:17 pm)

How common is needing references to begin with? I'd rather not ask these people. The supervisors who liked me, I hadn't worked for them in years anyways.

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wutwutwut (Sep 1, 2017 - 10:51 am)

I'm just not sure. I was surprised to learn that we're not supposed to ask for references here, and wonder if it's due to some local state law? Or some trend more widespread in the latest/greatest in HRThink?

I know we used to check refs because one of the guys I listed told me he had a lengthy discussion about me with the guy who hired me here. Serendipitously, they already knew each other and respected each others' opinions, so I was a shoo-in. Dumb luck, but I'll take it.

To the extent fettywap's suggestion just below may be read as an invitation to list the supes without their knowledge, I would not do that. Maybe that's not what she meant, though.

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fettywap (Aug 31, 2017 - 6:51 pm)

Most places you apply to will not ever call your references. Put down your supervisors.

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warfrat (Aug 31, 2017 - 8:25 pm)

How and Why did you get canned?
Did u see it coming? Any separation pay?
I feel like i'm seeing a few signs it could happen to me....

As far as, references, if you are light on them, I would just put down other attorneys outside your former firm that you know
personally that will vouch for you if called. Easy to extend facts that your relationship was professional/worked together/colloborated on legal issues.

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notreallyalawyer (Sep 1, 2017 - 12:08 pm)

I didn't have a real job, so you don't have to worry.. Yes got severance and unemployment, they didn't want to keep me around, as I'm not management material. They did imply I was overbilling by working too slowly, though I was the fastest person on my team. They said they knew I was listening to music/radio at work. It doesn't violate the rules, but apparently with me, I can't bill and listen to the radio, whereas people in more senior positions could watch youtube videos all day and bill at the same time.. A case of double standards, they wanted me gone, and I'm gone.

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kramer716 (Aug 31, 2017 - 9:04 pm)

In order of what I would do

1. Use anybody above you who liked you, and who you are sure you can trust, ideally use your supervisors

2. Use other attorneys from your office, or if your name is accurate then anyone who held your position or equivalent to vouch for you

3. Use staff from your office. I used the head of the investigation unit from my old office because an attorney wasn't around when I applied for a position.

I would assume they do check your references, but I have never been directly involved in hiring someone so don't really know

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notreallyalawyer (Sep 1, 2017 - 12:11 pm)

My firm has a policy where they only give neutral evaluations, just the dates I worked here. I don't know if that doesn't mean I can go around them and ask someone there, or I can only ask people who I used to work with there. I don't have any former supervisors who don't work there now, well none that would remember me. Some left years ago and I doubt they'd remember me or my work. I honestly wouldn't feel comfortable asking people still there for this. Maybe they didn't like me. I can't be certain.

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onehell (Sep 6, 2017 - 6:41 pm)

I had an employer with a similar policy, but it's a pretty universal norm that such a policy in practice only means that if someone contacts HR, they will only get the "official" answer verifying dates and title, which is really not a "reference" so much as an employment verification. And if someone emails an employee on work email or calls them on the desk phone, they're supposed to refer it to HR.

But people would give references "on their own time" all the time, using their personal cell phone/email. I never really got a clear sense of whether doing this was in contravention of HR policy, but it happened all the time.

The real reason for these policies is that employers are afraid of slander accusations. Even though statements made in the context of providing a reference are usually granted a qualified privilege, it's easier to just create a bright line. But such policies were only ever really meant for factory workers, not professionals, and it's a shame that hyper risk-averse HR is making it so much harder for their former employees to move on. But if it's clear that the reference is speaking for themselves and not the firm as a whole, that already rather absurd worry shouldn't apply.

I've also seen people offer to sign a release in exchange for allowing substantive references.

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bittersweet (Sep 6, 2017 - 7:50 pm)

Some companies have been burned by giving references so they make "no references" a policy. We would answer: 1) Whether and when X worked there? and 2) is X eligible for rehire?

Obviously #2 was the important question. But no details ever followed that.

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prodigy (Sep 6, 2017 - 8:29 pm)

Lad/lass you don't have a two friends who could answer the phone professional and give dates and title? Give two people the information that you need to be convey to the potential hiring company, tell them to expect a call from, XYZ. You have to know how to play the BS game and keep it moving. The references is the least of your worries. If you have a girlfriend wife etc, give their names.

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