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An employment reference must always be worded positively. The employee should not have to make it unnecessarily difficult to take up another job because of an unpleasant-sounding job reference. However, subtle nuances in the choice of words provide a future employer with crucial information about the quality of the tasks carried out. “To our complete satisfaction” describes a higher rating than “to our satisfaction”. Criticism of the employee should always be packaged positively in the job reference. Here we decipher the most important messages and give valuable tips on how to defend yourself against an unjustified job reference.

Know and decipher standard wordings in job references

Expressed in school grades, the well-sounding standard clauses could be translated something like this:

  • Grade 1 very good “… always
    completed all tasks to complete satisfaction…”
  • Grade 2 good
    “.. to the fullest…”, or: “… always to complete satisfaction…”
  • Grade 3 satisfactory
    “… always satisfactory…”, or “… met expectations in every respect…”
  • Grade 4 sufficient
    “… to satisfaction…”
  • Grade 5 unsatisfactory
    “…total satisfaction…”, or “…largely satisfactory…”
  • Grade 6 unsatisfactory
    “… tried hard to fulfill the tasks assigned to him…”

Constantly late, often sick or drinking alcohol during working hours

This information must not appear in the job reference, but must be nicely packaged. If an employer wishes something like “… get well soon for the future…” in the employment reference, this is an indication that the employee was often absent due to illness.

Information about punctuality generally does not appear in the employment reference. If there is a corresponding note, such as “… was always on time,” this means the exact opposite, namely that the employee was often late for work.

“… was always cheerful and well-liked by his colleagues…” sounds like a nice employee at first glance. But in reality that means that he was a real chatterbox and also liked to consume alcohol during working hours becomes.

If there is a note about honesty, or a formulation like “… the employment relationship ends immediately on … we were convinced of his trustworthiness (or honesty, or integrity) until the termination (or termination of the employment relationship)…” like this It can be assumed that the employee stole something from the company.

What to do if you have an incorrect job reference?

You can have an employment reference checked free of charge by the labor court if there are indications of incorrect assessments. In such a case, it is also common practice to contact the employer and ask to change the wording. Often the boss does not write the job reference himself. If the creation of an appraisal is done by unqualified employees, for example from accounting, errors can creep in unintentionally.

If it is not possible to reach an agreement and re-issue a job reference, we recommend going to the labor court. Employees can enforce their claims against employers here free of charge.

If incorrect assessments have only crept in accidentally, out of ignorance, this measure is usually not necessary. However, if the relationship with the former boss is very strained and communication is difficult, employees can also find support from so-called arbitration boards. In this way, an unpleasant and usually lengthy legal dispute can be avoided.

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