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Interview— How to Pick the Best References

Interview— How to Pick the Best References


Before the most recent Great Recession, the average USA worker changed jobs about every 7 years.  I have not seen data and research for what the current data is for this topic.  My observation is that people, especially people younger than 35, are changing jobs more frequently. From my personal observation, people younger than 35 are making job changes both by personal choice to move over and up to a better position or because of “position elimination.”

According to Wikipedia, this Great Recession in our lifetime officially lasted from 2007 to 2008.   However, based on my observations (and the observations of our current USA presidential candidates) that is not the experience of the general USA population.

Put most simply, it seems to me and to many others that on this very day and likely into the future beyond, workers are seeing the results of this Great Recession.

People even today (and probably tomorrow) are falling in the category of “Position Elimination.”

In other words, persons who are high (and not so high) salary are having their position eliminated for the purpose of saving their organization a bucket full of money.

An organization can save a bucket full of money by eliminating long-standing workers (3 years, 5, 7, 21…).

Or an organization can save a bucket full of money by eliminating the position of bunches of lower-income persons ($15.00 an hour, $12.00 an hour, or minimum wage persons).

Organizations as businesses need to survive.

Organizations usually want to grow.

Individual workers need to survive (pay rent/mortgage, educate their children, pay medical insurance and bills).

Individual workers usually want their income and career to grow.

Soooo, no matter who you are, it is likely that at some point you will be doing interviews and seeking another job.

Now—Keep these tips in mind—How to Pick the Best References.

These days, organizations are asking for potential hires to provide references, usually three persons, on the initial application.

So, what characteristics should you be looking for when choosing your references?

Here’s how to choose the ideal references:

  • You must be certain they
    1. Think highly of you
    2. Will take the reference request seriously
    3. Will respond quickly… ideally
    4. Be thoughtful in their answers—even if you don’t have time to brief or inform them beforehand
      1. Your taking the time for a thorough briefing is an excellent idea (but not always doable for you)
  • Your potential reference person must understand the context in which the reference is being given (for a job in marketing or food service management or academia or research, for example).
  • They will know, intuitively or in their “gut”, how to present any of your potential weaknesses as strengths. This is important that they can do this. Or alternatively, they will outright state that you have improved on your weaknesses.
    1. What are common potential weaknesses?
      • Most common potential weaknesses include punctuality, time management, taking on too much (more jobs, too many extracurricular activities or hobbies), independence, teamwork, taking criticism, self-reflection, attention to detail
  • They know how to express themselves well, either verbally or in writing, or both, depending on which type of reference they will be asked for
    1. Your reference is direct and to the point (ideally) in verbal or written communication.  However, being verbose and using lots of words rather than a few words works…
  • A final consideration.
    1. A fancy title or prestigious organization is great in a reference
    2. But don’t choose those things unless all the other qualities are also present
    3. The worst possible reference you can get is a person with a great reputation or affiliation who is not able to convey high praise for you and your abilities

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Rerun from Aug 10, 2016

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