20 February 2017

The vexed issue of Swiss Reference Letters

Today’s blog article deals with the issue what Swiss Reference Letters have to include, because very often many organisations and companies act quite arbitrarily, when it comes to this topic. The Reference Letter often colloquially called evidence of incapacity is a form of payback when two different worlds collide. Especially in tense employment relationships the good performance of an employee are presented worse by the employer. The mutual respect is very often missing. But how can this happen? You can read more about it in our last blog article about conflicts at work.

Respectful interaction is important, Source: Pixabay.com

What should be included in a Swiss Reference Letter?

The following elements should be included within a Reference Letter:

  • Name of the issuing company
  • Title “Reference Letter” or “Interim Letter”
  • First Name, Family Name, Birth Date as well as possibly the home town or the nationality
  • Function and level of employment
  • Duration of the employment (Entry and Exit Date)
  • Important fields of work activity and specific projects
  • A qualified evaluation of your performance, abilities and your behaviour
  • The reason for issuing the Reference Letter
  • Concluding remarks with gratitude and wishes for the future and possible special clauses, e.g. confidentiality or non-competition
  • Date of issue
  • Signature of the direct Line Manager respectively Head of Human Resources or General Manager, depending on the customs of the company

This list is taken from Manpower.ch. In this interesting article you will find also information about topics like information that can harm you as well as ambiguous wording. If you have the suspicion that some evaluations were omitted and you feel malicious intentions, then you should discuss this with your employer. This in the context of the situation you are in, because if you are already in the development phase of a conflict, then your employer won’t show you any goodwill out of principle. If it turns out like that you have no other choice and should take the legal steps, then a mischievous Reference Letter can put obstacles into your career.

The most common Swiss Reference Letter wordings

You can find some useful help about the so-called Reference Letter terminology and its special formulations on the following websites:

Here you can find some advice that can be helpful for you. For instance if you discover certain formulations that make you perplex or if you have certain questions to the wording in general.

Absolute No Go’s during the creation of Reference Letters

Here is a short overview about the No Go’s that are unfortunately often common practice and still applied from certain employers. We have heard from such methods and we advice you not to apply them at all:

  • Employees do not receive an Interim Letter, although they have requested it long time ago. The reasons can be different; mostly the employer doesn’t want to hand out the Interim Letter, because he or she is afraid that the employee will leave.
  • Reference Letters are used as tit-for-tat response, especially to show the employee who is the boss (this happens often in the context of conflicts).
  • The performance of the employee is presented worse than it actually was.
  • Certain elements of the Reference Letter are missing (e.g. overall evaluation performance / overall evaluation behaviour).
  • Employers threatening the employee that the Reference Letter formulations will be worse if he or she is not quitting the job on his or her own.

Which Software Providers are there that support the creation of Reference Letter?

The creation of Reference Letter is nowadays much easier as it used to be. Especially in the context of multiple languages you can choose between the following providers:

Unfortunately all of them only have German websites for their products. However in the context of Switzerland that are the most common providers in terms of supporting the creating of Reference Letters based on the Swiss employment law.

Conclusion – Reference Letters are utmost tricky

Reference Letters are very tricky and particularly people who work in Human Resources Management should have a good sense, what certain formulations can cause to people’s life. It is important to evaluate how the wording for behaviour and performance is used, especially if conflicts have existed. In the context of the humanity the Human Resources Departments are asked to always keep the overview and to reflect about certain situations. Furthermore HR should always use Reference Letter advisor, Software tools and the newest insights during the creation of Reference Letters.


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