After your training, you have the right to a written training reference from your employer or training provider (see §16 of the Occupational Training Act BBiG). You will need your training reference for future applications with other companies.
The “simple reference” includes information about the nature, duration and aim of your occupational training, as well as the skills and knowledge you gained. A “qualified reference” includes evaluations as well: information about your behaviour, performance and special skills relevant for your career. Your employer is obliged to provide a simple reference. You have to request a qualified reference (see §16 of the BBiG) – and you should. It is more detailed and more useful. It is also standard practice to include a “qualified reference” with an application. Even if you are taken on as an employee by your company after your training, it is still a good idea to request a reference! It’s very important for future applications.
References should be formulated favourably, and help trainees to advance within their careers. References should use positive language. However, not everything that looks good at first glance is actually positive. “Reference code” is used to say something else than what seems obvious:
Here is an overview of some performance review statements with the corresponding “grades”:
- “She always completed each of her tasks to our utmost satisfaction” means “very good”.
- “Mr XY always completed each of his tasks to our satisfaction” means “good”.
- “Ms A completed each of her tasks to our satisfaction and met our expectations” means “satisfactory”.
- “He generally completed each of his tasks to our satisfaction” means “unsatisfactory”.
- “Mr B always tried to meet our challenges” means “insufficient”.
Examples of hidden negative statements:
- “He completed all tasks to the letter” means that he does what he’s told but shows no initiative.
- “She showed interest in her tasks” means she has no negative points but also no positive points.
- “He contributed to a good working atmosphere” means he was lazy and would rather chat with colleagues than work.
Even leaving out important aspects can be a negative assessment. If the reference does not mention, for example, your behaviour towards superiors, colleagues and customers (if applicable), it could mean that your behaviour was bad. Sometimes a certain topic is genuinely forgotten without any negative intent – you should insist that any missing topics are added.
You can request a new reference if your reference includes false information and/or assessments. It’s a good idea to give your reference to someone that understands reference code so that they can check it. If you have any problems: contact your union.