The BBC expend considerable effort in collecting references on people working for them; curious in an industry where most people either pick up the phone and call a common chum, or got in touch that way in the first place. No, Auntie’s HR flacks invariably call, their tone varying on a scale from charming to abrupt, to request an email address so they can send a ‘very simple’ ‘one-page’ form that will ‘take moments’ to complete.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no objection to giving references. However, there are a few things I’ve added to my ‘given the chance, do this better’ rolling list:
- Don’t pretend it’s urgent to collect a reference when I’m quite likely to know the person in question has been in post for a good while already.
- …especially when I’m likely to know that the contract is only a couple of weeks long. That’s just rude.
- If you’re going to send a form out via email and expect it to be returned as such, please make sure it works in that context. Word table cells with seemingly-random and certainly inconsistent formatting, for example, are confusing. ‘Signature’, in this context, means what, precisely? Do you really want a PGP hex key?
Small mercies, however: the most recent HR bod to call was polite, and has filled in the personal details bit of the form, which is the most confusingly-set part of Word template. It’s just that I can’t help thinking that the whole thing would be more worthwhile if somebody picked up the phone and called me for five minutes. Unless it’s just an exercise in paper pushing, of course. Ahem.