Explain My Severance - Part 2: Neutral Reference

Explain my severance:  What is it?

The Neutral Reference is a promise by your employer that, if someone calls in for a reference, the employer will only provide certain information.  Typically, this information is limited to the term of your employment and positions held.  Sometimes, albeit rarely, a neutral reference will also include salary information.

Explain my severance:  Doesn't a neutral reference make me sound bad?

Probably not.  Neutral references are pretty commonplace.  Also, most companies that provide a neutral reference also say that the company policy is to only provide that information and that it never provides additional information.

Explain my severance: But what if someone calls my (jerk) boss?

There are basically two kinds of reference checks that employers do.  The first category is basically employment verification.  This is where your prospective employer makes sure you are not lying on your resume.  This is where the neutral reference kicks in.  The second category is a called a "professional reference," but is really a personal reference.  This is where you have to do your own work.  When you interview for a new job, be prepared to provide professional references.  This is a request for people who will vouch for you as an employee.  This is a personal thing.  Before you head out for interviews, reach out to people with whom you had a good working relationship and ask if they would serve as a reference.  Then that's the name you give.  Sure, a prospective employer might call your boss, but that usually takes a lot of diligence.  Offer up some names of people with whom you have/had a good working relationship for this category of reference.

Explain my severance: But I want a positive reference!

That is tougher.   Especially in situations where the decision to terminate was not amicable.  If you do want a positive reference, the best way to do it is usually an agreed-upon letter that the employer would send to anyone making an inquiry.

Explain my severance: The Upshot.

The neutral reference is pretty common.  Some employees are afraid that it makes them sound bad, but that is not usually the case.  In fact, many companies have a standard policy where it only gives neutral references.  The best thing an employee can do is reach out to people who he/she had a good relationship with and provide those names as professional references.

If you need help with your severance agreement, please feel free to contact us.  We charge a reasonable flat fee to review your severance agreement and offer same-day service.

Sample Neutral Reference (annotated)

Read More:

Explain My Severance - Part 1:  The Release

Explain My Severance - Part 3:  Non-Disparagement Clause

Explain My Severance - Part 4:  The Non-Admission Clause