From Chicago

Take Aways

  • Select a sufficient number of references to avoid wearing them out
  • Be sure they can speak knowledgeably of your accomplishments 
  • Ask your references for their insight on your weaknesses, strengths, etc. Use that information to craft your answers
  • Alert your references before they are called. Brief them on the job

Sometimes the little things can derail your job search, like your references.

I have seen more executives with good credentials, a career progression that satisfies conventional wisdom, a clean background investigation and a series of accomplishment that, on the surface, would impress most boards, but then come the reference checks and suddenly what seems so certain becomes less so.   The problems cover the gamut — the referees no longer work where you said they would be or the contact information you provided is wrong, their  answers to questions regarding your performance damn with faint praise, they are unable answer two or more of the critical questions, or they do not return calls from the recruiter or employer.   Any of these issues are potentially disqualifying.  

Finding a new job is really hard work so to get this far in a search and then drop the ball with your references is mystifying, but it happens all the time.  Recruiters might say that you lack attention to detail or a seriousness about the opportunity.  Whatever the cause, poor reference management is the last reason your are eliminated from further consideration.

Here are six guidelines to help you avoid a reference disaster:

  1. Pick a sufficient number to ensure they will not experience “reference fatigue”
  2. Select superiors, peers and subordinates. We recommend su
  3. Ensure that your references can speak to your style, skills, interpersonal relationship skills and performance
  4. When you ask a colleague to be a reference, ask what they see as your weaknesses, strengths, relationships with colleagues, etc.  Leverage that information as you develop responses to some of the most commonly asked interview questions
  5. When you think your references are going to be checked, alert the individuals you submitted to the search firm or prospective employer.  Tell your references the job you are pursuing, what the key issues seem to be and tactfully remind them of your relevant accomplishments in those areas
  6. If you mention the names of other colleagues during the course of an interview be advised that they could become what recruiters call “secondary references.”   Recruiters/prospective employers are NOT limited to speaking only with the names you provide.