Author Topic: Job Reference  (Read 5502 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

mvmendelson

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 7
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
Job Reference
« on: Mar 21, 2007, 03:38 pm »
It seems my former assistant has listed me as a reference for a summer gig.  I'm somewhat torn about what I should tell the theatre.  She's very nice and I think this might be a good experience for her.  Unfortunately, I had to tell her to do things several times before she would remember to do them.  She never wrote things down, even when I specifically told her to do so. 

On the plus side, she wanted to learn.  Even though she had studied stage management in college, she had never done a focus check.  We spent one dinner break finding the hot spots onstage.

This is the first time I've ever been asked to be a reference and I'm not sure what to say when the general manager calls me back.  Any suggestions?

thehayworth

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 82
  • Gender: Male
  • Uh oh.
    • View Profile
    • Propaganda Pipeline
  • Current Gig: Santaland Diaries
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #1 on: Mar 22, 2007, 08:07 am »
tell the truth
"This time for sure."

ReyYaySM

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 360
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: Freelance
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #2 on: Mar 22, 2007, 08:17 am »
Consider how much time has passed between the time that you worked with her and now.  A person can grow and change a lot by having just one or two more shows under his/her belt.  Start by telling the GM, "I worked with Jane on X production about Y months where she was my ASM.  When I worked with her I noticed <insert good qualities here.>  However, there are a couple of areas she needs work on, such as listening and focusing when asked to do a task and writing things down.  I think that working with your company would be a good experience for her and help her grow as a stage manager."  

Be honest.  If you give her a glowing recommendation and it's not the truth, that could come back to reflect poorly on you and hurt your chances of working with the company/the GM if you were ever interested in an opportunity that arose in the future.  And the GM will probably have a set of questions to ask you, so you most likely won't be expected to just talk and say everything you know about your assistant.  

On a side note, assuming that we are referring to the same thing when you say "focus check," I, as a stage manager, have never done a focus check.  That has always been performed by the ALD, ME, or light board op, depending on what crew I have working on my show.  

sievep

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 204
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AGMA
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #3 on: Apr 03, 2007, 03:33 pm »
This is a great question, and it can get you in a lot of trouble.

Legally, the whole reference thing is very dangerous.  While you can give someone a glowing recommendation, you can't give them a poor recommendation or you can be sued.  Instead, you give a neutral recommendation, stating when the person was hired, left, and if they left at the end of their contract or left early.  That's it.  "I don't feel confortable answering that question" is a great way to answer followup questions someone may have, and will tell them what they need to know without you actually saying anything that will get you into trouble.
"This lovely light, it lights not me" - Orson Welles

KMC

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 957
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: Project Manager, Systems Integration
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #4 on: Apr 03, 2007, 05:59 pm »
This is a great question, and it can get you in a lot of trouble.

Legally, the whole reference thing is very dangerous.  While you can give someone a glowing recommendation, you can't give them a poor recommendation or you can be sued.  Instead, you give a neutral recommendation, stating when the person was hired, left, and if they left at the end of their contract or left early.  That's it.  "I don't feel confortable answering that question" is a great way to answer followup questions someone may have, and will tell them what they need to know without you actually saying anything that will get you into trouble.

I really don't think there'd be any possible legal action as long as you tell the truth.  For someone to prove slander (verbally spoken defamation of character) they have to prove that what you said was a) false, and b) caused measurable damage to them.  Now the measurable damage would be easy, you prevented them from getting a job.  You also can't get sued for your opinion.  If you say "I think person A is terrible and you shouldn't hire them" that's not exactly good practice but it's not slander.  If you say "Person A quit without giving me notice, I wouldn't hire them" and that person did quit without giving notice, that's also not slander.  Now if you make up all kinds of bogus lies about the person and it prevents them from getting the job then you may be in trouble.
Get action. Do things; be sane; dont fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

loebtmc

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1556
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SAG, AFTRA, SMA
  • Current Gig: Caroling, caroling now we go and looking for my next gig!
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #5 on: Apr 03, 2007, 11:50 pm »
actually,

 "I think person A is terrible and you shouldn't hire them"

IS slander and/or libel - you are telling someone else how to hire (or not) and your opinion of their character is not the same as your opinion of their work

 "Person A quit without giving me notice, I wouldn't hire them"
is closer to a valid reference. You CAN say "person A quit without giving me notice" and as long as you stop there, you are fine.  Unless asked, I wouldn't volunteer that I wouldn't hire that person again.

Having had to deal w this more than a few times - with actors and crew members - the rule of thumb is as much what you DON'T say as what you do. A neutral or lukewarm reference says much more about the person than an outright blast. Also, your ability to give a calm and unbiased report says a great deal about your professionalism and hence the validity of your opinion.  If you phrase as dramachic5191 did, the interviewer knows you saw that person as a student who was in the growth process, you fully expect them to learn from their mistakes and you might hire w them again once they have some experiences under their respective belts. 

The libel issue is about you affecting their long-term ability to work. Everyone has a bad match, a bad day, a bad show. Does that mean he or she is a terrible person or a nonprofessional? Even if you think the answer is "yes" we have to do a reality check and separate the subjective from the objective.  I have worked w folks I won't again - but it isn't my place to talk about it. Someone else may be a bettter match and get work from them I couldn't, just as I have created crack teams out of people who (I was told later) no one believed would ever accomplish anything constructive.

That said, if someone I don't think is capable is obtuse enough to list me as a reference, I will be honest in the nicest way - and any good professional will respect my tact and professionalism and as well be able to clearly read between the lines.

KMC

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 957
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: Project Manager, Systems Integration
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #6 on: Apr 04, 2007, 12:00 am »
actually,

 "I think person A is terrible and you shouldn't hire them"

IS slander and/or libel - you are telling someone else how to hire (or not) and your opinion of their character is not the same as your opinion of their work


No, sorry to say it's not slander.  For something to be slander there has to be factual (something that can definitively be proven true or false) information.  An opinion is not a fact.  Saying "I think person A is terrible" is not a fact, there is no way to prove that true or false.  Saying 2+2=3 is a definitive fact that can be proven wrong. 

Of course it's not good business practice, especially in such a close-knit industry, to do any of what I said - but legally you're fine.
Get action. Do things; be sane; dont fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

MatthewShiner

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 2477
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SMA
  • Current Gig: PSM THE LION KING NORTH AMERICAN TOUR; Assc Director and Production Supervisor HUNCHBACK International
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #7 on: Apr 04, 2007, 01:23 am »
I have three teirs of responses to references.

1) Level One.  I will just let them know I worked with them, in what position they filled, and the size of the show; and let them know if they were hired again.  (by not saying anything but the simple facts, most people will read that as a non-recommendation, and thus avoid any tricky legal background.

2) Level Two:  I will ask about the position they are applying for, and then compare that with the work they did on my show.

3) Level Three:  I will give a glowing recommendation.

I am one person who actually sued a formal employer about something in my personnel record.  I left the job for family leave, taking off three months.  One month into, I decided not to return; thus giving two months notice.  Although my entire tenure in the position I was reviewed at 90% or above, and had glowing inter-departmental notices, I was marked down as "do not rehire".  I didnt know this, as was getting turned down for other jobs based on that one box checked on my resume.  (There was not one valid reason in any job evaluation to mark as such.)  A couple of letters from a lawyer, I was clear, my legal fees paid, and a small settlement.  Just be careful what you are saying.

In the end, you do have to be careful with references; both from giving a negative as well as giving a false positive.  (I hate these according to every resume and letter of reference I get for internships, most young SMs out there should be stage managing on Broadway.)

I just wish people would be a little more realistic in references so they carried more weight and meaning, rather then just be a glowing reference.

This is why I am much more likely to contact a non-listed reference off you resume if I know them personally.

My 2 cents.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

Balletdork

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 210
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: PSM, The Human Race Theatre Company
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #8 on: Apr 04, 2007, 10:05 am »
I totally feel you!  :P  :P  :P

I'v definately gotten reference check calls where my internal response is "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!"  ::)

My actual response is of the yes they were employed here, no I have not rehired them.

Plus a quick email to the former employee reccomending that they ask me before listing me as a reference.  :-X


ReyYaySM

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 360
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: Freelance
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #9 on: Apr 04, 2007, 10:15 am »
In the end, you do have to be careful with references; both from giving a negative as well as giving a false positive.  (I hate these according to every resume and letter of reference I get for internships, most young SMs out there should be stage managing on Broadway.)

LOL.  I know exactly what you mean.  I see this all the time with the applications that come through my theatre.

This is why I am much more likely to contact a non-listed reference off you resume if I know them personally.

My 2 cents.

This gets into trickier territory (and was discussed at length on this thread).  I suppose we should all remember that theatre is a very small world and anything listed on our resume becomes fair game in the hiring process.  You really never know who knows and/or has worked with whom... 

loebtmc

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1556
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SAG, AFTRA, SMA
  • Current Gig: Caroling, caroling now we go and looking for my next gig!
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #10 on: Apr 04, 2007, 01:54 pm »
actually,

 "I think person A is terrible and you shouldn't hire them"

IS slander and/or libel - you are telling someone else how to hire (or not) and your opinion of their character is not the same as your opinion of their work


No, sorry to say it's not slander.  .

Just to be clear, yes it IS slander. The minute you say "you shouldn't hire them" you have overstepped your bounds. Saying the person is terrible can be construed as slander without anything backing it up, and beyond being a bad way to chat abt someone, suggests that your opinion is colored by an emotional reponse that has nothing to do with their job capabilities, since it is a subjective statement and not substantiated.

To say "this person did not show up on time despite multiple warnings" or "this actor refused to try anything the director asked" is different because you are giving clear examples of what caused you to give a less-than-glowing review. But even that is tempered by circumstance. The actor who wouldn't take direction may, in fact, be a terrific director - or I may think that in fact, (altho he certainly was wrong to not trying the director's ideas) this actor was frustrated because the director was an idiot or didn't know how to explain what he wanted or that the actor's ideas were great ones and showed his strength lay in a different arena. Similarly, the techie who never came on time may be a fabulous designer - and heaven knows there's one I've worked with several times whose call is always backed up so he will be there when we need him instead of an hour later - but call times are less of an issue with a designer. So a reference is colored by the job for which they are applying

I agree with and follow Matthew's model. You can't get into trouble for what you don't say, and your word is weighted by the professionalism with which you give it. What is left out, what is read between the lines, is easy to make clear.

KMC

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 957
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: Project Manager, Systems Integration
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #11 on: Apr 04, 2007, 06:23 pm »
actually,

 "I think person A is terrible and you shouldn't hire them"

IS slander and/or libel - you are telling someone else how to hire (or not) and your opinion of their character is not the same as your opinion of their work


No, sorry to say it's not slander.  .

Just to be clear, yes it IS slander. The minute you say "you shouldn't hire them" you have overstepped your bounds. Saying the person is terrible can be construed as slander without anything backing it up, and beyond being a bad way to chat abt someone, suggests that your opinion is colored by an emotional reponse that has nothing to do with their job capabilities, since it is a subjective statement and not substantiated.


Perhaps we should visit the definition of "Slander" as per webster's dictionary.

Slander:
"a false and defamatory oral statement about a person"

The use of the conjunction "and" implies that for something to be slanderous it must be:
a) false
b) defamatory
If either of these are criteria are not met, it's not possible for a statement to be slanderous.

Saying "You shouldn't hire this person" is not false at all, it's not even a fact that can be proven false and therefore is not slanderous.

It's unfortunate that you fail to understand the definition of slander.

Get action. Do things; be sane; dont fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

loebtmc

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1556
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SAG, AFTRA, SMA
  • Current Gig: Caroling, caroling now we go and looking for my next gig!
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #12 on: Apr 05, 2007, 12:31 am »
no reason to get nasty - just explaining that you telling someone else who they should and shouldn't hire by saying that is considered slander since it is opinion and therefore defamatory - and is in answer to the qq abt slander and libel in the legal sense. Saying "you shouldn't hire tham" can be considered the type of phrasing that could support a lawsuit. Trust me, this is info I wish I didn't know, but I do, and have watched fellow artists dig holes for themselves that cost them big to get out of. It is not our place to tell someone else how to hire. Being careful with language is part of the job, and knowing stuff like this can save you a world of hurt on the flip.


ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Job Reference
« Reply #13 on: Apr 05, 2007, 09:17 am »
Strange as it may seem, often legal definitions are different from literal/dictionary definintions. Legal definitions also have a reputation for being built out of silly putty. As we've seen in this discussion, slander is a slippery and volatile issue. In these choppy waters, it is always best to play it safe! I think some of the members who (unfortunatley) have experience dealing with slander have offered some great advice about how to handle yourself when asked to comment on a tricky reference. Tell the truth and when in doubt, it's probably best to say as little as possible.

Tags:
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
30 Replies
14819 Views
Last post Mar 20, 2008, 12:46 am
by loebtmc
5 Replies
2057 Views
Last post Mar 18, 2013, 01:43 pm
by Bwoodbury
4 Replies
1590 Views
Last post Mar 10, 2017, 09:59 am
by LexieTaylor

riotous