As someone looking for a new job, you may be wondering whether a recruiter or recruitment agency could provide you with a reference or even blacklist you.
As experts in recruitment here at Anne Corder Recruitment (ACR), we talk to candidates every day and are often asked whether an agency like ours could provide a reference or prevent an applicant from being considered for a role.
So, we’re going to explain here the rules and practices around references and blacklisting from an industry insider’s perspective.
When interested in taking on a new member of staff, most businesses ask for references from a candidate’s previous employers – usually their last employer and at least one other.
These provide evidence and guidance to the new employer on whether the candidate will be a good fit for their organisation and has the skills and experience they need.
Employers should ask the candidate’s permission to request references themselves from their current and former employers, as this is much quicker and easier than asking a recruitment agency to do this for them.
What’s more, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules mean that increasingly larger employers are using online self-serve portals to obtain references, which ensure that the candidate and the referees (the reference providers) give permission for them to be shared and securely stored digitally.
Recruitment agencies will rarely apply for references themselves, except for workers that are joining their company on a temporary or permanent basis. In these cases, the references will need to satisfy the company reference policy, and the candidate will need to explain any gaps in their employment history.
And whether they are applying to work directly for the agency or for one of their clients, all candidates will have to prove their right to work in the UK as part of the agency’s due diligence process.
Agencies do, of course, provide references for staff that have been directly employed by them or who were engaged as a temporary worker on a contract for services, but it would be unethical for them to provide a reference for someone they had no in-depth experience of, regardless of how impressive their CV was.
And whilst they can be asked to act as a referee for candidates who worked for them on a temporary contract basis, it is usual in these cases for the agency just to confirm their employment start and end dates.
However, recruiters and recruitment agencies can and do make recommendations to their clients about the suitability of candidates. Many agencies simply use candidates’ CVs to assess whether they have the skills, talents, and experiences needed for the new role, with the ones that best meet the job specifications recommended to the client.
Others such as ACR adopt a different approach and as well as carefully reviewing CVs, take the time to interview candidates to ensure they fully understand their strengths and weaknesses, motivations, and career aspirations and goals (amongst other things). This allows them to share insights and recommendations with their clients for the candidates that meet the job specification and will be a good cultural fit for the organisation.
Ultimately, however, it is the employer (the client) who decides who they will interview and who they will hire, based on their CV, their interview performance, any recommendation they have received from a recruitment agency, and of course, their references from previous employers.
Blacklisting is in essence the practice of compiling a list of people who are to be excluded or avoided and using this to filter out individuals for a particular activity or event, whatever that may be.
In relation to employment, a blacklist could be used to exclude someone from applying or being considered for a new role, as was found to be the case in 2009 when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) discovered that more than 40 companies had been paying to access a list of over 3,000 blacklisted construction workers.
In response to this, the government brought in the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010 that makes it illegal for anyone to create a list of people who are prohibited from employment opportunities or are discriminated against because of their trade union membership or activism.
However, blacklisting individuals for other reasons happens across many industry sectors despite it being considered highly unethical by many.
As you may expect, ethical high quality recruitment agencies don’t like the terms ‘blacklist’ or ‘blacklisting’ and reject the idea of having a list of ‘prohibited’ candidates.
The best agencies will always consider every application on its merits and give candidates every opportunity to honestly discuss their motivations, skills, and past experience.
But like any business they can choose not to work with a candidate for reasons including those below:
- They have been found to be dishonest and lied about their qualifications or skills or about previous jobs they have held.
- They have hugely exaggerated their previous experiences, claiming to have done things that are found to be untrue.
- They prove to be unreliable and miss scheduled interviews or calls.
- They come across as unprofessional or rude.
- They use multiple recruitment agencies to apply for the same job (when more than one agency is employed to find candidates for a company).
- They have poor references from previous employers.
It is important to remember that a recruitment agency’s key purpose is to find employers high quality staff who become valuable additions to their business.
It is not in their interests, or that of their clients, to put forward candidates who have proven to be dishonest, unreliable, or lack the skills and experience to do the job.
The best agencies will want to match exactly the right people with exactly the right companies, so will spend the time getting to know candidates well before putting them forward for a position.
And it is in the candidate’s best interests to be open and honest with the agency and understand that although they may not secure the job they applied for, building trusting relationships with recruiters means they will consider them for other vacancies in the future.