What Does it Mean to Get a Neutral Reference Check?

In the world of staffing and human resources, a neutral reference check is a bit tricky. A neutral reference can indicate a variety of things depending on the company, the source within the company and other factors. As a job candidate, you probably won’t have control over one of your references giving a neutral response when they’re contacted by your potential employer — that being said, it’s up to you to make the best of it.

What is a Neutral Reference Check?

A neutral reference check means a reference you’ve listed on your job application, when contacted by your potential employer, gives a neutral answer when asked about your past employment. Rather than giving praise or bad-mouthing you, the reference will simply give neutral information. Typically, a neutral reference will involve offering dates of employment, the job title and perhaps a final salary or pay rate.

Neutral references might be given for a number of reasons. First, it may simply be your past company’s policy to give a neutral response. (Some organizations do this in order to avoid any legal ramifications.) Second, neutral feedback might occur because the source wasn’t familiar with you; this could happen when a head supervisor or CEO is contacted and didn’t have much direct work experience with a low- or mid-level employee.

The final possibility, and the worst-case scenario, is your previous employer only has negative feedback on your employment and has decided to say nothing instead of dragging your name through the mud.

How Can It Affect My Application?

This will depend on how the hiring manager handles the neutral reference. With luck, they’ll ask the reference if their neutral response is because of company policy. If the answer is yes, the neutral reference shouldn’t affect your job chances. Of course, if your reference admits they’re providing neutral information because they only have negative feedback, your chances of getting the job have decreased significantly.

How Can I Make the Most of a Neutral Reference Check?

If you know your previous employer has a policy requiring them to only provide neutral reference information, let the hiring manager know ahead of time. If a former employer gives neutral feedback and you weren’t expecting it, your best course of action is to explain things to the hiring manager as best as you can; let them know you didn’t leave on the best of terms, and you and your reference didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything.

Neutral reference checks are never as desirable as a glowing recommendation — by playing your cards right, however, you’ll stand the best chance of landing the job. For more help navigating the job market and getting your resume in front of the area’s top recruiters, call High Profile at 972-991-7900 or contact us online.