Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and job search 32 – references and recommendations

Posted in job search and career development, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on January 10, 2010

When we write about what we have done and the effectiveness of our efforts, that does provide helpful information for a hiring manager, but it is our own opinion and a statement of our own word on this. Most hiring managers seek third party evaluations and validation as to what we do, how well we do it, and what it is like working with us. That is where references and recommendations come in.

I would start this posting by pointing out what should be absolutely obvious to all, but that can still get overlooked in a job search.

• You always want to find your references and get their approval to cite them as such in advance of when you need them so you have all of their necessary contact information ready, and right away when you do need them.

This means taking care of several important tasks in sequence.

• You need to have a focused idea as to what you are looking for in a next position, and the types of issues for which reference validation would help you. So of you are looking for a position requiring specific types of technical skills you need references who can vouch for your skills and professionalism in that area. If you are looking for a position where really strong interpersonal and communications skills are vital, you want a reference or two who can cite you effectively on that.
• You need to know where your references are now and what they are doing, and not just so you can find them when you need to. It is important to get and stay connected with these people so you do not simply come across as asking them to do something for you just to forget them again.
• You need to let them know what you are doing and what types of position you are looking for. First, potential references can also be great people for helping you with your networking. Second, you need to know if your potential references might see conflicts of interest or other problems sending a recommendation to any of your particular target companies. Third, they have to be able to prepare what they are going to say or write.
• Send the people who are going to give you recommendations copies of the job description they are giving you a reference for, your resume as sent to that business and your covering letter and give yourself enough time in doing this so you do not rush them. Give your references enough time to not feel harried or rushed.
• You need to have a larger list of potential references than you will actually need with backups in case one or more of your primary choices is unavailable or too busy.

I will add that this process does not end with your first interview for a position and when you share your references contact information with a prospective employer.

• Always follow through and let your references know what happened, and to thank them for their effort on your behalf.

Developing a references list is an area of social networking, and it should always be viewed as developing and cultivating a networking group – a small but select networking community. All of the basic laws and principles of social networking apply and if you forget that you risk burning bridges and getting disconnected, ineffectual recommendations as the people providing them will not enough about what you are applying for to target it effectively in their note about you.

• Alw ays find out the name of the hiring manager in advance and share that with your references so they can personalize what they send, and not simply write a “to whom this may concern” note.

Details count here, and both for securing really good recommendations and for making sure your references know you appreciate them and that you take their time and effort seriously.

As a final thought here, always

• Be willing to take that extra effort to provide recommendations to others too, just as you would have others provide recommendations for you. Do not lie or fabricate, but present the candidate in their best light and according the best you know they can and do deliver.
• Ask for that level of candor from your references too and never, ever ask anyone to give you a recommendation that might come back to reflect poorly on their judgment. That means not telling a reference who has found value in working with you that you know some specific skill or technology that is required for this job that you have not yet mastered.

The next posting in this series is going to be on search buddies and working with a partner to develop and maintain search momentum.

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  1. […] candid feedback on how effectively it conveys who you are and what you seek in a next job. • Read References and Recommendations too, as you want to start building your list of potential references as soon as possible while your […]


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