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Re: Letters of Reference Dan Lester (27 Feb 2004 18:28 UTC)

Re: Letters of Reference Dan Lester 27 Feb 2004 18:28 UTC

Thursday, February 26, 2004, 1:25:07 PM, you wrote:

GC> What about a library director who on interviewing a
GC> prospective librarian asked about a
GC> previous position? The candidate explained that it was an
GC> awkward situation that she was glad
GC> to be away from, and let it go at that. She did not list that place as a reference or give
GC> any contact numbers for that place.

GC> The library director, after the candidate left, without
GC> telling the candidate, went on the
GC> web, sought out contact numbers for staff at that library,
GC> and asked about the candidate. Of
GC> course he was not given positive information by that library, and the candidate had no
GC> opportunity to respond, and the job offer was rescinded.

GC> The point is, is this unethical, and is contacting  a prior employer against the
GC> interviewee's wishes legal?

Yes, I'm not a lawyer.  Yes, it is legal.  It is also ethical. I've
done it, and would do it again.  I've never felt ANY reason to limit
my research to the "standard sources", whether at the reference desk
or regarding candidates.  It is normal for people to give "good
references".  Would you ask someone who hates you to give you a
reference?  Of course not.

Being on the other end, as one who has been asked to provide
references, on two occasions in the last thirty years I've suggested
to people that they "find someone else to give you a reference". One
of them understood and was relieved, the other one required me to draw
him a picture, but then accepted what I meant.

Of course as one who has done a zillion reference checks over the
years, I also know to interpret both the good and bad with a grain of
salt.  I once worked in a job where it would have been an honor to get
fired.  Fortunately, I found another job first.  But many would have
known that it wouldn't have been a black mark to get fired by that

Finally, I don't think the candidate ever "has a chance to respond".
We're not talking about a court of law, but about a subjective
process, that gets even more subjective when the usual "search
committee" gets involved.  Even elaborate scoring sheets can't make it
totally objective.  I can't imagine ever disclosing to a candidate on
an interview the details of what I was told by any references.


Dan Lester, Data Wrangler 208-283-7711
3577 East Pecan, Boise, Idaho  83716-7115 USA  Have you forgotten 9/11?