A recent article on the front page of the April 11 edition of The Indianapolis Star’s classified section entitled References are golden – Make yours shine, caught my attention. It’s actually a good piece, but it leaves out some important points.
It correctly suggests that job seekers should ask the people with whom they’ve actually worked to be references for them. If they agree, it will certainly help insure that when a prospective employer calls the reference will be willing to respond since they’ve already agreed to be a reference.
What is left out, however, is the vitally important tip that a job seeker should ask references to just give honest answers to the questions that are asked. Why? Well, because nobody’s perfect. Job seekers really don’t want their references to overstate their accomplishments or suggest they have skills they really don’t. If references offer praise for skills or talents the job seeker doesn’t have, a disastrous outcome could be the result – which could be a serious career-damaging blow.
On the other hand, job seekers don’t want references to understate their overall job performance either. If the job seeker really was outstanding in the supervision of others, the job seeker doesn’t want references saying their supervisory skills were only mediocre.
The point being: overstatement can be just as damaging to your career as understatement! That’s why asking prospective references to give honest answers to a prospective employer is so important. The idea is making the best job-match possible in terms of hiring a candidate whose qualifications for the job are the best fit for the requirements of the job.
Finally, if the job seeker really doesn’t have much experience doing X, most employers would rather know about an area which needs improvement going into a relationship, rather than find out later.
Ultimately, the goal is to make sure the job is right for the candidate and that the candidate is right for the job. So remember: references can be golden; be careful not to make them fools gold!