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My husband recently had an interview with a company. They obviously liked what they saw as they sent him an offer and a contract containing a start date. He signed the contract and handed in his notice at his current job, in order to meet the start date in the contract. He has been going through the motions with the new company, sorting out a company car and other associated admin tasks. He then had a message (around 1-2 weeks after signing the contract) from an old colleague to say that he had just been asked for a reference from the new company.

We thought references were usually done in the space between the interview and an offer being extended - the company has decided they liked you and want to know a bit more. What benefit do the company get from asking for references after extending an offer, which has been accepted? And what would they do in the case of a bad reference (not going to be an issue for us!), given the new employee has signed the contract already?

  • It's not uncommon to sign up an employee on the condition that they will pass referencing. What happens if they fail it really depends. It's done because usually references are considered formality (aka would have to be something really egregious for them to fail) and can take substantial amount of time. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 11 at 9:27
  • I have had this happen many times over the course of my career. Not exactly the smartest thing for the company to do if it really mattered. Most likely its just a formality. – Neo Mar 11 at 11:45
  • He then had a message (around 1-2 weeks after signing the contract) from an old colleague to say that he had been asked for a reference from the new company - How do you know when the company reached out to the old colleague? Did the colleague say when the company reached out? If your husband has the job offer and contract why does it even matter? – joeqwerty Mar 11 at 11:54
  • @joeqwerty The colleague messaged my husband 1-2 weeks after the offer had been sent, saying he had just had a request for a reference. This colleague knew that my husband had accepted the offer so he was equally as confused as to why they were approaching him now. I asked the question because it felt like they were doing things backwards and I wanted to know if that was a standard thing as this is the first time we have gone through the process of moving jobs (as opposed to starting a first job) – lioness99a Mar 11 at 12:13
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Possibly this has no benefit for the company at all.

It could be that someone in the company was supposed to get references, they neglected to do this, the company hired you, somebody found out, and that person is told "we need references!".

In case of a bad reference, the company would be in an interesting situation. As a company you want to avoid "interesting" situations. I would think that a bad reference can be a reason not to hire you, but not a reason to fire you. You would probably have a talk with a manager who will tell you specifically not to repeat any of the things that caused the bad reference.

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    Yes, probably just a formality. – Kilisi Mar 11 at 9:38
  • It sounds like this s probably quite likely, it just confused us as this is the first time either of us have moved jobs since we left university so we didn't know what the process looked like – lioness99a Mar 11 at 12:12
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    @lioness99a It's obviously not supposed to work like that, but things happen. – gnasher729 Mar 11 at 12:28
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This has happened a few times for me, they're just one of the admin boxes that need to be checked when setting up a new employee. Sometimes an offer is subject to good references, so they could in theory rescind it later on if a reference comes back with warning flags.

They should ask you for references rather than randomly contacting old employers, that is a bit naughty that they just phoned up his old place of work.

I would make sure that it actually was your new company that phoned them though.

Agencies shakedown people for references all the time, to get new business. In my experience, they will then phone the reference and lie to them to get new business.

Usually they'll ask them for a reference, have a chat, build rapport, and then say that's great by the way since he's left perhaps you'd like a replacement, we have loads of candidates etc.

Or they'll say that they're a friend of the guy, and he spoke highly of them, so he wanted to offer his exclusive candidates forward to them etc.

Usually they want a name so they can lie to get past reception who often screen calls from agencies. I've seen agencies pretend to be calling from the Bank of England looking for Mr [reference] so that they can get connected, then launch into their sales pitch.

Long story short, be careful who you give permission to and maybe double-check because you don't want the people giving you references to resent having done so.

You could find it was an agency that placed him at the new job pretending to get a reference to build business at the old job. If you think I am skeptical, this is just the tip of the iceberg for sketchy recruiter practices, which involve fake jobs to get competition off the market, chucking CVs in the bin, lying about salary until the last second, and much more.

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  • They contacted someone who my husband had given as a reference, it wasn't out of the blue, and it was by email but thank you for that information – lioness99a Mar 11 at 12:11
  • Offers can be rescinded due to a bad reference, but if both sides signed a contract it's more difficult. – gnasher729 Mar 11 at 12:30
  • Oh. In that case, I expect the contract simply said 'subject to reference checks' then. – NibblyPig Mar 11 at 12:34

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