Wisdom is Better Than Folly When it Comes to Reference Checking

Being wise is an extremely underrated tool in your personal kit! It means thinking things through before acting and the greatest example of this is reference checking. This means that BEFORE you send your references to a company you must send them to us. Especially if it has been some time since you have spoken with or had any interaction with the person you would be offering as your spokesperson.

There have been many times when I have called a reference for a candidate only to find that this particular person had nothing much to say about my candidate either good or bad. While this may not sound terrible it is awkward at best and deadly at worst.

If it becomes apparent that the candidate has not taken the time to diligently follow up on
who they have chosen as references then this raises a concern as to how they conduct themselves as managers or contributors.

Thankfully, there have been very few instances where the reference is downright negative. But it has Happened! This is the worst case scenario… to be avoided at any cost.

When you ask someone to act as a reference for you there is increased discomfort in asking the second more important question which is “Are you comfortable giving me a good reference?” What you may be more comfortable asking is this “Please be honest with me and let me know if you are comfortable speaking positively about me to others as it is extremely important for me to know.”

You may still not feel comfortable asking this and even if you do ask you may still not get a clear answer. The best way to approach this is intuitively. Before you even ask this individual reflect back on your relationship and how this person has reviewed or treated you in the past. Do not choose a person because they are the biggest name in the industry but perhaps will only have superficial comments about you. No, instead choose the person who knows you the best and will be over the top enthusiastic about your abilities.

The number one reason why we, personally, like to check all references prior to sending them to clients is because of pure, innocent ignorance.

Many people are not aware of how their words may sound. We at Steele Executive Search are highly attuned to the inflections and tones of comments and lack therein. Many people have been surprised by hearing their own response repeated back to them and being asked “Is this what you meant?”. More often than not they will be unaware that their words actually came across as negative and potentially damaging. We have been able to help people say the same thing in ways that are not controversial to communicate the actual intent of their thoughts.

I’ll wrap up by saying that being wise with your references is as, or more, important than any other aspect of a job search. Take it seriously and remember…

No one will value your life and your career as much as you.

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