EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

So, you have actually done it. A company has put you through the wringer and forced you to interview with just about everyone at the firm. You have beaten the competition to a pulp. You are standing all alone in your victory.

Now comes the moment of truth. They ask you for references. Like you didn’t know this was coming.

Let’s start with the idea that it is a commonly held belief that no one gives references that will say anything bad about them. This is the high standard to which you are going to be held. So, choose your references carefully.

The rub comes in when they ask you for specific kinds of references. So, in the hopes that each of you reaches this wonderful situation where you have the job almost within your grasp, let me make a few suggestions.

Normally companies ask for 3-5 references. The best companies ask you to provide someone to whom you directly reported, a peer and finally someone who reported to you. Just like Santa Claus, you need to make your list and check it twice.

Now that you have your list pulled together, you need to prepare your references. Again, everyone is expecting that you have only given them people who will say nice things. Before you have the need, provide these very kind individuals with a copy of your resume and go over it with them. I know this can be a delicate situation, especially with people you have worked with recently, but if they are going to say the RIGHT nice things about you, they have to know what you feel is important about your background, and hopefully that information is on your resume. When it gets down to the “short strokes” where they are going to actually be speaking with someone, you will want to provide them with another copy of your resume and perhaps the job description for that potential job.

The really difficult part of providing references is that all of us are so modest that often times the people around us, other than knowing we are hard working and honest, really don’t know what we do and how wonderful we are. This is why your preparation of references is so important.

When asked for someone you reported to recently, there is the possibility that you didn’t leave on good terms, or that you didn’t work for this individual long enough for them to really appreciate your fine qualities. I suppose there is also the possibility that they might have been the reason you left the company, even if you didn’t tell them they were. Still, you have to put them down or your reference list will look suspect.

Here is where our financial training pays off. We live by the rule of no surprises. The approach you have to take when you are required to provide as references individuals who might say the wrong thing is to prepare the person who will be calling your references.

I know there is the possibility that the evil or very grumpy person you worked for or with at the last job will rise to the occasion, but there is the more likely possibility that they may very well rain on your parade. So, make sure you annotate these folks in the most polite way possible so your potential employer will hear what they expect to hear.

If your old boss is likely to be of a mind to damn you with faint praise, find a polite way to make that the expected answer.

Perhaps you are aware that the rules at your old firm prevent those giving references from saying much of anything out of fear of getting sued. You might want to mention that so it isn’t taken the wrong way.

This is a very dangerous time when the job is as good as yours and yet, it can slip from your grasp because some idiot doesn’t know what a great job you did. Don’t let it happen. We need you to get that job!

Those having additional suggestion on this perilous part of the employment process should send them to Leads@TheFENG.org for publication in our Notes from Members section.

Regards, Matt

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