How To Get The Best References
Via Forbes : When Sarah Stamboulie worked in human resources at Morgan Stanley and then at Cantor Fitzgerald, she routinely checked job applicants’ references. They were not always positive. “You know it’s bad when you ask about the person, and then there’s that pause,” she says. “Or they might say, ‘Is attendance important to you?’” Or they claim that their company policy prevents them from talking about the person. “If you get three of those, you’re like, this person is not good,” says Stamboulie, who is now a career coach in New York.
Which leads to the first rule of references: Only use someone as a reference if you’re certain she will sing your praises. “Hiring managers expect a rave,” Stamboulie observes. When you approach someone to ask if she’ll be your reference, you can make light of the fact that you’re asking for a cheering section, but do ask. Stamboulie also advises giving the person an out, saying something like, “I know it takes time to be a reference, and I completely understand if you’re too busy.”
What if your immediate supervisor at your last job hated your guts? Try to find another reference who adores you, Stamboulie says, but if you know that boss is going to run around badmouthing you, take action. One of her clients had a job at an investment bank, where a boss asked him to do something he considered unethical. He left the company and started looking elsewhere. Through the grapevine, he heard that his old boss was blackballing him. So he went back to the boss and confronted him. Soon after he got a new job in an office that included a colleague who had also worked for the unethical boss. He wasn’t sure his strategy to silence that former boss had worked, Stamboulie says, but he did find employment.
Another essential for getting a strong reference: Help her prepare not only to rave about you, but also to offer specific examples of your brilliant accomplishments.
Marcie Schorr Hirsch, a consultant and coach in Belmont, MA, recommends that at the end of any job interview you ask the hiring manager about the strengths of the person who previously held the job. Then share that information with your reference. Help her come up with stories of how you demonstrated precisely those strengths.
Anita Attridge, a New York career coach, suggests sending your reference an e-mail with a bullet point list of achievements she can mention when a hiring manager calls.
Hirsch likes the idea of offering a “360-degree” set of references. That means including a superior, a colleague and someone who reported to you. That way the hiring manager can get a sense of your strengths from multiple perspectives.
Scott Robinson, a former partner at the executive search firm Kensington International, says headhunters routinely search for references beyond the ones a job seeker provides. “We’ll say to a reference, ‘Who else do you know who worked with Bob?’” he reports. Robinson, who has mostly recruited for senior-level positions, has sometimes grilled references for specifics. Which is why it’s a great idea to supply a ready list of anecdotes that illustrate your brilliance.
It’s also important never to burn bridges as you exit, even if you’re furious at your soon-to-be-former colleagues. Robinson worked with a candidate who felt he was unfairly fired. “He made a big brouhaha about it,” says Robinson. “He had worked at the company for a long time, but then his only base of references was tainted.” The candidate would have been much wiser to have walked out the door, calmed down and let some time pass before asking his old employer for a good word.
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