Editor’s Note: John is taking some time away from the blog and hosting the podcast in August. While he works on other projects, we have selected some of his more popular posts from our searchable archive of more than 1,000 blogs (www.johngself.com). Some executives argue that mismanaging the reference component of the search is a rookie mistake. If only that were true. You might be surprised at how many senior executives stumble with this.
Reference management. This is a difficult issue for more executive candidates than most people realize. Candidates assemble a panel of references. They talk to their references once, maybe twice, and then push the autopilot button.
Surprisingly, candidates rarely ask their references what they might say regarding questions concerning “leadership strengths” or “weaknesses.” On autopilot, they just assume their reference contact will say the right thing.
Most executives engaged in an active job search, will identify 3 to five trusted colleagues as references. They submit those same references to five or six recruiters. If they end up as finalists in more than one search, those references may be called four or five times. At some point they will suffer from reference burnout. In the end, their comments will begin to drift to the realm of “damning by faint praise.”
For many candidates, reference management is hit or miss, and reference management seems to be an annoying necessity of the search process.
Here are some things to consider:
In trial law, young attorneys are taught never ask a question of a witness to which they
do not know the answer in advance.
The same principle applies to reference management.
Candidates who do not manage the reference phase of the search process are seen by recruiters and employers as being sloppy because they are responsible for giving names of people who can vouch for their abilities in a positive way. In this competitive job search environment, the lack of attention to the very people who can help you could spell rejection.
Candidates cannot control their competition but they can be better prepared than anyone else.
© 2020 John Gregory Self