The established German literature on employment references lists up to 6 grades, which reflect the German school system: from 1 = very good to 6 = inadequate.
Regarding the creation of employment references, most authors narrow this down to grades 1 to 5 – and an (as of yet) small number have dispensed with grade 5 and work with grade 4 as worst grade in employment references.
We align ourselves with reference writers of the latter group. Why?
Ask several experts: a lawyer, a recruiter, a staff manager, an executive, an employee representative, the author of a specialist book – you will get a very diverse set of opinions! Ask two experts – and you will receive three answers!
Grade 2 is the experienced average – more than three quarters of all German employment references are formulated in grade 2 or better. Some sources are even speaking of percentages of more than 85%!
We are facing a challenge, in particular with employees evaluated as average or less.
At this point, the discrepancy between jurisdiction and practice solidifies most notably.
We orient ourselves closer to reality and develop a fair and appreciative solution in each individual case. Optimal results will be possible, if the executive fills in the assessment sheet as thoroughly as possible.
Juxtaposition of the recorded grades and the observed contemporary practice by the example of the universally known formulation „stets zur vollsten Zufriedenheit“ (“always to our fullest
Please consider: In English, the lived practice can only be compared to a limited extent with the German one, as we do not have any traditional/recognized standard wordings here.
|stets zu unserer vollsten Zufriedenheit||Grade 1 (= very good)||Grade 1 (top performer)|
|stets zu unserer vollen Zufriedenheit||Grade 2 (= good)||Grade 2 (good employee)|
stets zu unserer Zufriedenheit oder
zu unserer vollen Zufriedenheit
|Grade 3 (= satisfactory, average grade)||Grade 3 (below-average employee)|
|zu unserer Zufriedenheit||Grade 4 (= adequate)||
Grade 4 (malperformer, not satisfactory, corresponds to the former Grade 5)
|im Großen und Ganzen zu unserer Zufriedenheit||
Grade 5 (= inadequate, not satisfactory)
|(see above "Grade 4")|
*) For more than ten years, formulations in Grade 5 have not been observed in the Zeugnisfabrik in employment references sent to us for assessment. We
classify a lot of these formulations as contradictory to the dictate of benevolence and, as a matter of principle, will not employ them in our work.
**) We usually represent grade 4 by applying the technique of „loud silence“. Grade 4 is only formulated upon express request, after we have pointed out to the client the necessity of the existence of legally justifiable facts.
The overall impression of a reference always matters first…
…before it is examined more carefully!