In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, your employer is obliged by law to write you (the employee) a reference letter ("Arbeitszeugnis" in German) when you leave. In some cases you can even ask for it in the middle of your employment but I don't feel like researching which cases these are.
For instance, here in Germany the law is as follows:
§ 109 Gewerbeordnung
(1) Der Arbeitnehmer hat bei Beendigung eines Arbeitsverhältnisses Anspruch auf ein schriftliches Zeugnis. Das Zeugnis muss mindestens Angaben zu Art und Dauer der Tätigkeit (einfaches Zeugnis) enthalten. Der Arbeitnehmer kann verlangen, dass sich die Angaben darüber hinaus auf Leistung und Verhalten im Arbeitsverhältnis (qualifiziertes Zeugnis) erstrecken.
It is becoming increasingly common that employers ask you to draft your own reference letter. Some people consider this practice ethically wrong, some consider it illegal. I usually agree to draft my own letter, on company time because it's the company's responsibility to produce the letter. Then I get my boss to edit and sign it. For jobs that play no significant role on my CV, I tend to just go without the letter.
For various reasons a prospective employer might ask if I wrote my own reference letter. Maybe it's something about the style, I slipped in details the employer wouldn't emphasize (or even know of), or the letter is too good, or too bad, or matches my self-image too closely, or I don't know what. Definitely a reasonable scenario.
How do I deal with this scenario in an interview?
- Is there any scenario where it could reflect positive on me to mention this fact without prompt? E.g. as an example that my employer trusts me a lot or is lazy or both?
- Is it sensible to be upfront that I wrote my own reference letter whenever the interviewer has detailed questions about the content of the reference letter?
- Should I bring it up as soon as I get a hint that the interviewer is suspicious about contents of the letter?
- Should I only bring it up when asked point blank, "Did you write this yourself?"?
- Is it better to deny at all costs?
Tags are for Austria, Switzerland, and Germany because I think the culture is similar and I may very well apply for jobs in either of those countries in the future. Feel free to differentiate your answer by country if you deem it necessary. Please indicate your country if you don't have any knowledge of the others. Other context such as the industry might be helpful too.