Thursday, January 21, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #14 How do I prep my references?

A: By doing their homework for them

First off – let me start by saying I am big fan of taking a shower. I like to indulge in the heavenly waterfall at least once a day (especially on those days I go into the office – my coworkers seem to favor that plan).  Nothing quite like a good shower to reboot your day as either a transition from sleep to work or perhaps from cleaning your gutters to going out to Outback SteakHouse for some Bloomin’ Onions (although showers are optional at Outback from my experience with the clientele).  image

Anywho, I am frequently asked to give references for employment. That’s largely because (I think) I have had the pleasure of working with so many talented peers and clients over the years (and I just love the opportunity to shout that out to the world).

Back to our shower, one of the worst references I ever gave (from a presentation standpoint more than content) was nearly ten years ago. I had just stepped out of the shower (literally dripping wet). I was so caught off guard (because I did not know anyone had put forth my name), I didn’t think quick enough to tell the caller, “Hey, can I call you back in 15 minutes”?

So there I was - in a towel (sorry – don’t visualize) sitting on the futon in my home office talking about all the wonderful things I could say about (let’s call him) Derek (because that’s his real name and therefore easier for me to remember) off the top of my head. Not an atmosphere or state of mind conducive for such a phone call.

The good news is that Derek got the job (so either I was good enough or my scantily clad phone call was a non-factor). But since that incident, I have instituted The Derek Rules (because The Dripping Wet Just Out Of The Shower Rules is verbose and sounds icky unless it is Danica in that Go Daddy spot). I also rid myself of the futon (not part of The Derek Rules – but because  even more than Outback Steakhouse, I hate futons).

The Derek Rules

These rules are very simple and something everyone hears when they ask me to do a reference for them:

  1. Send me the resume you submitted for this job: We’ve talked about this before, in most cases you are going to alter a resume from job to job. Even if it is just a minor tweak (for some reason you decide to add youR education from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College ), you want to make sure the person that calls me and I are on the same page. Of course (if you make the proper inference here), that means you have to save a copy of each resume you send out (but you already do that, right).
  2. Give me a copy of the posting for the job: There are a lot of things I know about you. I assume that you want me to skip “Jenny is really crabby when she comes to work hung-over” let alone your Walk of Shame frequency. By providing the job posting, I can see what skills your potential employer is looking for so (just as you did with your cover letter and and resume) I can tailor my answers to fit it. Again (inference time), that means you have to save a copy of each posting you respond to (if you can).
  3. Is there anything about your experience you want me to highlight If there is something you stressed in your interview, or some important wants of the hiring manager you discovered during your research (she likes outgoing people), let me know that and I can also tweak my answers towards that. Get this straight, I will never lie for you. So – don’t tell me you told them you piloted a Space Shuttle mission (unless you did, obviously) or that you are an outgoing person (when you and I know you are not). If you are picking the right people to stand up for you – they should able to transpose your experience to fit these buckets.
  4. LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU SUBMIT MY NAME. Hello??!! Give me a heads up before you drop my name. That’s important if you don’t want me to have my pants on the ground when they call.  There are two other important reasons for this (as if the pants on were not enough):
    • Where is Waldo? You want to make sure I am not facedown at the blackjack table at The Luxor on a 3 week bender when they call (just using a for instance there – I’ve never been facedown at the Luxor – but we won’t talk about the Tropicana). Further, you want to make sure the fact that my cell phone was repo’d, and/or that I have a new email address does not prevent them from finding me.  So make sure to ask your reference where they would like to be called (or emailed if written) and what times are good for them.  Also – if your buddy gives you his address, you might want to ask him for one that is more generic (you know, first name/last name at
    • Thinking Time You want to give your reference some time to think of specific things about you (especially now that you have given them all the background downlo we just talked about) ahead of time. You don’t want them hanging up the phone with your new boss and say, “Dang! I forgot to tell them about the time he cured cancer. Oh well…”

The Big Easy

In addition to all the benefits and potential better results by following The Derek Rules, this also makes it easier for the person who is (after all) doing you a favor.  Also remember to “tip the dealer”.  If you get the job, a nice lunch on you is the least you can do.

p.s.  The person that emailed me today asking me to be a reference - that I replied back to you and let you know this post was coming, remember The Derek Rules when the time comes.

Up Next: I haven’t been able to even get an interview – what do I do?

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