End of the employment relationship job reference: what lies behind the empty phrases

If an employee leaves his or her old company, he or she is entitled to a job reference – and this must be formulated positively. The phrases in the reference are however often ambiguous. Everything you should know about the job reference.

Many pitfalls can be hidden in an employer’s reference. Just a few misplaced phrases can cast the employee’s performance and conduct in a bad light. – © eccolo/Fotolia.com

  • Notice period in employment contract: most important questions and answers
  • Termination agreement: advantages and disadvantages at a glance
  • Why craftsmen need an interim reference

The Certificate claim arises with the termination of the employment relationship – regardless of whether it is a voluntary departure or termination by the employer. The Civil Code (BGB) obliges employers to write a detailed evaluation if the employee requests it. If a qualified job reference is not requested, a simple certificate with information about the person and the type and duration of the employment relationship is theoretically also sufficient. In practice, however, this hardly ever happens.

At the request of the employee, the reference must be issued immediately after the end of the employment relationship. Before this point in time, in justified cases, a Interim reference may be required, for example, if the supervisor or the area of responsibility changes. A trainee receives his employer’s reference after completion of training. He should ask for it in any case, even if he is taken on after the apprenticeship in the training company. A good reference is the ticket to any new job. Therefore, it is important that the form and content are correct.

Types of the employer’s reference

Simple reference

  • First name and surname
  • Date of birth
  • Home address
  • indication of the type of employment
  • Indication of the duration of employment
  • Reasons for termination or termination modalities

Qualified reference

  • First name and surname
  • Date of birth
  • Residential address
  • Indication of the type of employment
  • Indication of the duration of employment
  • In addition: description and assessment of leadership/behavior and performance

As a general rule:

  • The employer’s reference must clear and understandable formulates his.
  • The reference must true his.
  • It must contain all significant facts and evaluations that are important for the overall assessment of the employee and are of interest to future employers.
  • One-time incidents or circumstances that are not characteristic of the employee, his behavior and performance do not belong in the certificate.
  • Significant events, even if they are detrimental to the employee, must be included in the evaluation if they are essential for the overall evaluation.

What the trainer may not write in?

According to Termination of employment an employee is entitled to an employer’s reference that does not contain any coded formulations. The first paragraph of the job reference should describe the tasks performed in the company. Larger is the leeway of the employers with the evaluation of the achievement. But there are limits here as well: By law, the assessment must be formulated positively. Clearly negative formulations can be challenged in court. This is also the reason for the often encapsulated testimonial language – the actual message is between the lines.

In the case of a qualified reference, the employee has a right to a benevolent assessment of his or her performance that is in line with the facts. A clearly bad evaluation or the listing of errors and misconduct are not permitted. The Federal labor court has now in a judgement decided that, according to the current understanding, the formulation "to our full satisfaction" – i.e. a three – As an average evaluation applies. Workers who are rated this way, but want a better rating, have to prove they were better.

Hidden references or coded sentences, the so-called job reference language, are not permitted. Employers have, however, the possibility to express a graded evaluation in the reference.

Absences may only be included in the reference in exceptional cases

An employer’s reference must be accurate, but must not hinder employees in their job search. Therefore, references to longer periods of absence are only permitted in certain exceptional cases. The decisive factor is why the employee did not work.

References to frequent or longer absences have therefore lost nothing in the report. Unless they add up to a considerable part of the entire period of employment. In addition, it plays a role why employees have not worked.

Absences due to illness may only be mentioned in extreme cases, while the labor courts apply less stringent standards to absences due to parental leave.

Industry plays a role

For example, the Cologne Regional Labor Court recently ruled that a year of Parental leave may be noted in the reference for a total period of employment of a good five years. However, the judges took into account the fact that the employee had not even returned from parental leave and, moreover, worked in the software industry, where requirements for employees changed rapidly (case reference: 4 Sa 114/12).

However, the reference to parental leave in the reference may also be appropriate in less dynamic industries. If, in any case, a cook of four years with an employer actually works only one and a half years because of parental leave, the mention is permissible.

Without the reference to parental leave, other employers would get the wrong impression that they were hiring a cook with four years of work experience, the Federal Labor Court ruled (case number: 9 AZR 261/04).

Illnesses do not belong in the reference

Under which conditions absences because of an illness may stand in the reference, is so far not highest-judicially clarified. However, the Chemnitz Regional Labor Court ruled that the absences were in a clear Disproportion to the hours worked must stand.

According to the judge’s decision, this condition is met if employees are only able to work on about half of the working days (reference number: 5 Sa 996/95). Under no circumstances, however, should it be stated in the reference whether it is a chronic illness and whether the dismissal was possibly pronounced because of the illness. dhz

Phrases and their meaning

Performance appraisal – examples
"always fulfilled the assigned tasks to our complete satisfaction." Very good performance
"always fulfilled the assigned tasks to our full satisfaction." good performance
"fulfilled the assigned tasks to our full satisfaction." average performance
"Performed assigned duties to our satisfaction." below average, still sufficient performance
"fulfilled the assigned tasks overall to our satisfaction." inadequate performance
"made an effort to fulfill the assigned tasks." insufficient performance
Source: The Craftsman’s Primer, Holzmann Medien|Buchverlag
Behavioral evaluation – examples
"His behavior towards superiors, colleagues and customers was always exemplary." very good behavior
"his behavior towards superiors, colleagues and customers was exemplary." good behavior
"his behavior towards superiors, colleagues and customers was good." average behavior
"his behavior towards superiors, colleagues and customers gave no cause for complaint." below average behavior
Source: The craftsman’s primer, Holzmann Medien|Buchverlag

In the reference the achievements should be evaluated, which are relevant for the exercised job. If, instead, the assessment includes very minor characteristics and activities, this is an indication of a bad report card.

Special formulations

Deliberately ambiguous formulations: If the reference says that someone got along well with colleagues, this sounds positive at first. However, such a formulation can mean that the employee was talkative or was active in the works council. " However, such statements are put into perspective if it is also emphasized that the employee’s conduct was always impeccable", Huber explains. Employees who only "always behaved impeccably towards colleagues" have behaved, should not be happy about this assessment. What about behavior towards superiors and business customers??

Important final sentence

What the Final sentence means: A missing thank-you formula at the end can devalue the testimonial’s. Does it say at the end "We wish Mr. Schmidt every success for the future"?, this sounds good. However, it would be better if the supervisor wished Mr. Schmidt "continued success" for the issuing company would like. In the closing phrase also belongs a sentence about the way of leaving. If the employee has left the company at his or her own request? Then this must be mentioned.

Ideally, the reference is handed over to the employee in person on the day he or she leaves the company. But in practice that does not always work out. In such a case, the reference should first be requested in writing. If nothing is done, the reference can also be sued for. However, employees should not allow too much time to elapse. Because Entitlement to an evaluation expires after three years at the latest. dan/dpa

Checklist: This is what you should pay attention to when writing a reference

  • Check the reference for common wording.
  • All important projects fully listed, in which one was involved.
  • Final sentence should contain all three important parts: Regret, thanks and future wishes.
  • Who is now still unsure about the evaluation: for little money online employment lawyers look over it.
  • If the reference is in fact hidden in negative wording, a discussion with the employer can usually help. If the reference is not adjusted, then legal action can be taken against it. After all, success in the job search often stands and falls with the reference.

Draw up job references: What to look out for

The quality of a reference depends not only on its structure and wording. Individuality, credibility, expressiveness and substance also play a major role. What else you should pay attention to when writing a reference.

Testimonials significantly influence the future career path of employees. But also for the issuing company they have a high value, as they can affect its Competence and professionalism disclose. It is not easy to write an employer’s reference correctly. Frequently arise Questions and uncertainties. These can concern the structure or, for example, the wording of problematic performance and behavioral assessments.

Final editors should check the reference again

In addition to the formalities, there are Many quality factors, which influence the image of a professional and at the same time individual reference. Newspapers use an evaluation before publication Final editing, ensuring that spelling, standards and other factors meet the quality standard. Exactly in such a way the enterprise should proceed also with a reference, because it plays for all involved ones plays a major role – for the issuer, the employee concerned and the later reader, who makes an important decision on the basis of the reference.

Checklist for a correct reference

With the following overview can be checked by the company, whether the reference contains all important points. Above all, what its Individuality, credibility and expressiveness Concerns.

A reference should contain the following points

  • Individuality of performance, skills and behavior
  • Substantial statements and judgments
  • Concrete Performance examples and representative successes
  • Complete and appropriate to the position
  • Understandable and Meaningful description of tasks
  • Clear, orderly and logical testimonial structure
  • Individual attention to professional competencies
  • Individual approach on social competencies
  • Showing the development and career
  • Reference to uncoded reference, if applicable
  • Linguistic quality, Clarity and correctness
  • Provide credible and balanced overall evaluation
  • Addressing leadership style and personality
  • Statements about Employee management and management span
  • Addressing individual strengths and talents
  • Any Mention of further training and potential
  • Correct and unambiguous closing formula
  • Matching competencies and activities
  • Clarification of Position and function and its purpose
  • Contribution to the company, department and employee team
  • Contribution to value creation and achievement of goals

results and outcomes are particularly important

When looking for qualified managers, companies want to know in particular whether future employees will have have already worked successfully, Which results they have achieved; and whether they help them to solve their problems may be. It is the results, especially if they can be quantified, such as through turnover, fluctuation reductions, customer portfolio improvements or scrap reductions, that make a Authentic expressiveness have. You should therefore in a job reference for managers necessarily include its.

Give concrete examples

But also concrete examples of achieved goals, Projects completed and outstanding achievements give an employer’s reference essential credibility and expressiveness. Focus on the following questions:

  • What strengths and skills did the employee use profitably?
  • What benefit did the company achieve?
  • What concrete improvements and optimizations have been achieved?
  • With which competencies did the employee achieve results and success? Are there concrete results?
  • What did the employee contribute to the company as a whole?
  • Are there contributions to goal achievement and strategy implementation?
  • What are core competencies and success factors in particular achievements?

Book tips

  • The perfect job reference: Correctly formulate, understand, negotiate, Jurgen Hesse and Hans Christian Schrader, Stark-Verlagsgesellschaft, 2011, 164 pages, 9,95 Euro, ISBN: 978-3866684768.
  • The book "Zeugniserstellung fur Fuhrungskrafte helps with examples, Provide timely, individualized, and meaningful job references. The reader learns what distinguishes a credible reference and which formulations are particularly effective. Read more about the book here .

You are using a free offer of the Deutsche Handwerks Zeitung. The information provided here has been researched and compiled with the utmost care. However, they are no substitute for professional advice. Please note that this may also be information from our archives that has become outdated over time. The topicality of an article is always displayed above the headline on our website.

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