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Do you have to put references on a job application?

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by impossibility, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. impossibility

    impossibility New commenter

    Hi all,

    I filled out a job application recently for a secondary school pastoral post. I put my two references down - one of which was my curent employer and I selected that I wished my current employer to not be contacted prior to interview. I also noted this below the box AND I mentioned it on the e-mail when I sent the form.

    I got an interview and today got a message from my employer that they've received a reference request. I'm really angry as I absolutely did not want them to know I was job searching. I could not have made it clearer that I didn't want them to be contacted.

    So now I find myself doubting every application in terms of the opt out of contacting box. I'd rather not put any details down then they can't ignore me and contact them anyway! Am I allowed to do this? I'm happy to give them other references that that can contact prior to interview if they want but I don't want my current employer contacting. How on earth do I emphasise it more on a form/email?

    Are they even allowed to ignore me? I emailed them a pretty annoyed email and also withdrew my attendance.
  2. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    With Safeguarding, the vast majority of schools will request references before interviews. Standard practice. You can request on the form not to contact, but this will leads HTs to wonder why.

    If you put no references at all, or state you do not want anyone contacted, the place you are applying to will really wonder why - what's happened that's so bad you don't want people contacted? I know that sounds melodramatic, but no refs and people tend to assume the worst. Capability? Disciplinary? Dismissed?

    Yes, it was wrong of the school to contact your current place if you requested refs not to be taken up.yet. But not telling your current employer you were job hunting might have slightly soured things. (I said might.) You are completely allowed to not put down refs - Just expect a lot of curious emails as to why.
  3. impossibility

    impossibility New commenter

    I think it's extremely unfair for it to be suspicious as to why you wouldn't want your current employer to not know you were job searching. A lot of people find it awkward. I know at my last interview a lot of the other candidates had to call in sick just to come to the interview because they couldn't tell their employer they were looking for other work.

    If they were going to send the reference request anyway at least tell me before hand that they absolutely have to. Then I'd consider or withdraw. Or don't include an opt out box if you're going to just contact them anyway. As someone in a job where an extension of my fixed term contract is being dangled over me like a carrot I really don't appreciate my current employers now thinking I'm not enjoying my job so looking elsewhere.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  4. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    But by not telling your current employer you are going to make them wonder why you don't want to tell them!

    Yes, you can claim how unfair it is- but you are applying for a job in a school. Safeguarding is paramount, and by not wanting to give a reference you are going to make people wonder whether something has gone wrong. You are applying for a pastoral role in a school - the school has to find out if you're a "safe" candidate. TBH, by emailing them not to take up refs, you might have made them wonder why it mattered. Your current employers now know you're applying elsewhere- a face to face conversation about it might smooth the situation over.
    agathamorse and Pomza like this.
  5. NQT08

    NQT08 Occasional commenter

    How were you going to go to interview without telling your employer?
  6. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I assume this wasn't a school based post, where almost everyone does tell their employer they are looking for work.

    Calling in sick, when you aren't sick, is gross misconduct and could lead to dismissal.

    If you are successful in getting another post in schools, then the moment you tell your employer you have been successful they will know you have lied about being absent. They will almost certainly take disciplinary action and will likely let your new school know, who could withdraw their offer of employment.
    As @NQT08 has said, how were you expecting to go to interview without your school knowing?
    Lara mfl 05, agathamorse and CWadd like this.
  7. impossibility

    impossibility New commenter

    I'd go to interview using my flexitime or annual leave. I'd already booked half a day. I work in education but not in a school.

    And regarding by emailing them not to take up refs, you might have made them wonder why it mattered" - I ticked their own box on the form to opt out! When I emailed I explained to them that although I'd ticked their box for my current employer to not be contacted prior to interview I only mean my full time role (I have two current jobs one full and one part time). I told them I don't mind them contacting my other employer as they are aware I am job searching unlike the other.

    I'll ask again, if they find this suspicious then why bother inviting me to interview then?

    It's amazing how different the responses are on here to a non-education based forum I also asked on.

    - it is not okay to contact references without your consent

    - there is no need, safeguarding or no safeguarding, to contact references prior to interview. All relevant checks would still be done before a role and not all school based roles do check prior to interview. If it was that important literally all of them would.

    - if they were insistent that they wanted to contact references before interview then don't include an opt out of contact box on your own application form!

    - just because it's "normal" in the school world to tell your employer you're job seeking doesn't mean it shouldn't be respected that it's not normal in all industries. It's certainly taboo in my department.

    Also I never I said I'd called in sick to go to a job interview. I said I'd been at interviews where others have told me that's what they had to do. I don't need to be told it's wrong to do.
  8. impossibility

    impossibility New commenter

    It is not strange to not want to share the fact you are job searching with your employer! I used to teach and I'm aware that in teaching it is normal. My old HoD used to help me with my applications. But I've since done various non-teaching jobs and it's not as standard practice.

    If they find it suspicious, fine, I wouldn't want to work at a place that doesn't understand the simplicity of wanting to keep your job search quiet for now. But don't invite me to interview then!
  9. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    It was wrong of the potential employer to contact for references beforehand, when you asked them not to do so. I imagine it is an error on their part. I don't think the "pretty annoyed email" was necessarily the way to go - a polite enquiry might have been better and left the door open for you to go to interview.
    But I have to say that you are not coming over very well - quite aggressive and ungracious. I'm not sure what you gain by withdrawing from this application process - your current employer now knows you are looking elsewhere, which you didn't want, and you don't have any applications pending. Seems bad on so many levels.
  10. impossibility

    impossibility New commenter

    I was annoyed when I emailed but it isn't worded like that. I said I was "disappointed" they had contacted them. I didn't go in all guns blazing. Because I'm ranting on here doesn't mean I'm not professional.

    Well I was on the fence about the job in general, genuinely. They changed it to part time hours when it was advertised as full. If it was something I really wanted it would be different.

    I do have some interviews lined up, I've just got paranoid now about my references being contacted all the time because I've applied for a lot of jobs. I know my employer now knows but I still want to select no contact on application forms due to the amount I've been going for. Not all of them are in schools though and in my experience FE don't contact before interview so maybe that will be okay.

    I wouldn't be as bothered if I was permanent even though that might sound odd. I don't want them to think I'm not interested in my contract being extended or that they won't bother because I'm looking so intensely elsewhere. I'm just trying to make the best impression as I find fixed term contracts sensitive - like for the whole thing you are trying to impress.

    Aggressive and ungracious you may think, I am not like this in real life. It's the internet. Because I make some comments as I am annoyed at what the school did (and how stupid it is to be suspicious about not contacting a current employer) doesn't mean I'm sat in an interview acting the same. I perform well in interviews and at my jobs, aggressive is probably the last word my colleagues would use to describe me. I keep that side for internet forums...
  11. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    We wouldn’t interview someone who we couldn’t get references for before the job interview. We would totally discount someone who categorically told us not to.

    Why do people keep persisting with this ‘well they don’t in other jobs’ thing. You do in education. For safeguarding. Whether you think it’s right or not is an irrelevance.

    Count yourself lucky here. Most schools that’d mean no interview.
  12. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    If I was a head and was going to ask applicants to teach a lesson, or meet with pupils/students, or be unsupervised in my school/college, I'd certainly want to have taken up references beforehand.

    Like @DYNAMO67 we'd discount anyone who specifically asked us not to.
  13. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Occasional commenter

    You’re in the wrong here I’m afraid- you should have told your HT that you are looking at new roles and ask for a reference- it’s standard protocol irrespective of if you ticked a box or not. As a HT myself, alarm bells would definitely ring if I had a candidate who insisted that they didn’t contact their current employer for a reference.
    border_walker and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  14. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    My understanding is that it is illegal for a prospective employer to contact your previous one without your permission. I remember seeing this somewhere official, but can't recall where. Outside teaching, references are usually taken after appointment and people don't want their current employer to know they are looking elsewhere. Indeed, sometimes they ask for references after a provisional appointment is made. So, unless the form said that references would be taken before interview, which it obviously didn't, you were right to expect your current employer not to be asked. What you can do about it I am not sure. If you want to take it further, speak to your union.

    However, the issue of your interview is a real one. Did you attend during working time? If so, and you did not get permission, this could be a serious disciplinary offence. But perhaps it was during a time you would not usually be at work. A colleague at a place I worked at before teaching phoned in sick, but was then spotted arriving at a station in London. The person who spotted her knew nothing of the supposed illness, and said "I wonder what has happened to xxx. I saw her at the station an hour ago." When she resigned, it became easy to work out what had happened. The result was that she was fired and the new employer withdrew her offer.
    agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  15. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    The reason given was GDPR presumably. Your current employer must not release any information about you without your permission, it would be a serious data protection law breach to do so.

    The problem of references being asked for when people outside schools apply for jobs in schools has been around for a very long time. At the root of it is the major difference between schools and just about every other employer in how references are used. In school references are part of the decision-making process, the opinion of your current employer on your capability is used to decide whether to offer you a job. Outside schools no-one is interested in what your current employer thinks when deciding whether to offer you the job (broadly speaking). References are only used to confirm factual stuff after a job offer is made and accepted.
    agathamorse, Lara mfl 05 and Pomza like this.
  16. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Yes, I thought this might be the case. The question I would ask is "can somebody in the OP's position make use of this?". Not an expert here, but would somebody who suffered, say being fired for being at an interview in work time (or even just for looking for another job) be able to sue for damages?
  17. Sundaytrekker

    Sundaytrekker Star commenter

    When I was a headteacher, I sometimes had the problem of candidates not wanting references to be called. Our LA insisted that for safeguarding reasons, as many here have said, references must be taken before interview. And rightly so. They also had the opt out box on the standard application forms we had to use. As a consequence we were advised to contact any short listed candidate who had ticked that box. I would tell them that I wanted to short list them for interview but couldn’t unless they gave me permission to contact their current headteacher for the reference. Most agreed, just saying they didn’t want them to know until it was necessary. One or two said that they would withdraw at that point and did. However, courtesy and protocol means that they should have informed their referees that they were putting their names on the application form before it went in. Sometimes people didn’t tell me until the last minute but I don’t think I had anybody attend an interview after calling in sick. I always gave permission for the interview attendance.

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