Final Thoughts on Responding to a Reference Check Request
Few employees set a goal of failing at work. Yet, employees do fail and companies and employees do part ways. Keep in mind when you are asked for a reference that every former employee deserves the opportunity to start over.
Perhaps the former employee was ill suited to the position he held at your company. Your company culture may have been a complete mismatch with the employee's needs. The employee may have had a different "vision" for the requirements of his job from that of his boss. Maybe his personal life was unraveling during his tenure with your firm.
You never know all of the details and reasons about why an employee fails or moves on. It's easy with the high performing employee that you regret losing to a better job, a family move, or a dream opportunity. It's harder with the marginal performer.
Be honest or provide minimal information. Don't do crystal ball predictions of success nor provide numerical ratings and rankings for undefined terms. If necessary, provide the minimal information that describes the former employee's performance. Whenever possible, give the employee a break and talk with the prospective employer.
The last figures I saw relating to reference checking indicated that employers are taking reference checking very seriously these days. Over 90 percent of employers check references. Whenever possible, give your former employees a break - when you can do so conscientiously.