Can recruiters or agencies give references or blacklist you?

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:

  1. They have been found to be dishonest and lied about their qualifications or skills or about previous jobs they have held.
  2. They have hugely exaggerated their previous experiences, claiming to have done things that are found to be untrue.
  3. They prove to be unreliable and miss scheduled interviews or calls.
  4. They come across as unprofessional or rude.
  5. They use multiple recruitment agencies to apply for the same job (when more than one agency is employed to find candidates for a company).
  6. 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.


Alex Smith

Recruitment Specialist

I’ve worked in recruitment for the same agency for over 12 years, covering finance, office support, construction, and engineering. Temp and perm. Previously, my line of work was within banking and estate agency.
Favourite food: “Curry (Hot)”
Favourite film: “Heat”

Outside of work

“Gym 5 days a week. Home life consists mostly of entertaining a 3 year old! (for clarification – my son)”

Alex on ACR

“Very refreshing to work for a recruitment agency that genuinely care for their candidates and clients”

T: 01733 235298

Sarah-Jane Bond

Recruitment Specialist

I have spent the majority of my career working in Operational and Project Management roles. I first worked with ACR about 25 years ago as a candidate. ACR secured me a role at RNIB, where I stayed for 15 years, finishing as Head of Operations. Recruitment has always been a big part of the roles I have undertaken and is something that I really enjoy. When you match a fantastic candidate with the right client there is no better feeling!
Favourite food: “Has to be any dish from the Mediterranean”
Favourite film: “There are many, love a chick flick, especially ‘The Holiday at Christmas”

Outside of work

“I love socialising with friends, can always squeeze a bit of retail therapy in around volunteering at Deeping Rangers FC, running their hospitality on match days.”

Sarah-Jane on ACR

“I couldn’t have been more delighted when Nel asked me to join the company and have felt at home since day one. They really do care about providing the best service for their clients and candidates, building genuine relationships with both. The team culture is second to none, everyone supporting and looking out for each other. It is a pleasure to come to work every day.”

T: 01733 235298

Emily Roach

Recruitment Specialist

Emily was a Primary School Teacher for 10 years, before moving into the EdTech space, as a Relationship Specialist for MATs. She joined ACR in July 2023 and particularly thrives when recruiting for Account Management, Customer Service and Sales roles.
Favourite food:
“Spag bol or pizza”
Favourite film:
“The Notebook – or any romantic chick flick really!”
Outside of work
“I have a 1-year-old, so love fun family weekends with my fiancé and son more than anything. Time socialising with friends and family is where I’m happiest.”
Emily on ACR
“The unique culture, values, and style at ACR is polar opposite to other recruitment agencies and what I believed recruitment was. Having previously been a Relationship Specialist, I feel I’m doing the same thing! No hard sell, we truly care about our candidates and clients, and the team culture is 2nd to none!”
T: 01733 235298

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