The Importance Of Requesting References From Previous Employers

Most employers I speak to ask new recruits to provide at least reference, but a large number don’t follow it up. Many of those say they hold no value, but I argue that they are your backup that the information provided during the recruitment process is factually correct. The importance of requesting references from previous employers is demonstrated in this case.

The Background

Mr McGann successfully gained employment with West Atlantic UK Limited as a Captain flying commercial airliners. Within his application McGann provided a false reference from a false email address which came from a referee called “Desilijic Tiure”. As avid Star Wars fans will realise Desilijic Tiure is, in fact, the Star Wars villain, Jabba the Hutt.

West Atlantic later realised the referee was fake and McGann eventually admitted to his wrong doing. In the circumstances West Atlantic offered McGann the chance to resign his position, which he chose to accept.

McGann then decided to pursue a claim against West Atlantic for his contractual entitlement to 3 months’ notice pay. West Atlantic in return made a counterclaim for repayment of training costs of £5,000, which it was entitled to do under the terms of the contract.

The Employment Tribunal Decision

The Employment Tribunal dismissed McGann’s claim but upheld the West Atlantic’s counterclaim. The ET stated that,

If there had been an incident, the consequences for West Atlantic, and others, could have been catastrophic. Even if no lives were lost, any enquiry would have discovered that he was inadequately trained for the position in which he flew. In those circumstances West Atlantic was well within [its] rights to treat the actions as gross misconduct.

Read my article The Three Most Common Lies Told By Candidates and download my Template Reference Request Form.


Regardless of the level of position you are recruiting for it is good practice to check the references are genuine. Simple checks I carry out are looking up the referee on their companies website and LinkedIn, where the referee is a Director a Companies House search will also confirm they are who they claim to be. I never call a mobile number, instead I look up the companies main phone number and call and ask to speak to the person named as the referee, similarly avoid using gmail and hotmail type email addresses, call the company and ask for a business email address for the person who will provide the reference.

It is always good practice to make offers subject to receipt of references that are satisfactory to you, such terms should also make it clear what the consequences will be if a reference does not prove to be satisfactory. This is particularly important when the candidate will commence employment before you’ve received the reference.

Case ref: McGann v West Atlantic UK Limited.

Read my Top Tips to Requeting References For A Potential Employee and download my Template Reference Request Form.

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