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Don't Let Your Contacts Let Your Down

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Don't Let Your Contacts Let Your Down

19 March 2009 - An Auckland recruitment specialist is warning job seekers to pay more attention to their references if they want to land new jobs - and avoid embarrassment. Steve McGowan, division manager for Robert Half Technology, says job seekers should pay as much attention to their references as they do to their CV if they want to be successful in job hunting in a tough market.

A survey by Robert Half in the United States shows that many candidates ruin their chances of landing a new job simply by not taking enough care when choosing their referees, he says. "One candidate used her mother as a referee - but she had never worked for her mother. Another referee said a candidate didn't even like the industry she was applying for a job in. In another instance, the referee said the candidate had a lot of difficulty turning up on time."

The survey reveals other examples, including a referee who laughed in disbelief when he found out the candidate had nominated him, and one who had never heard of the candidate. McGowan has similar tales to tell of local candidates who have sabotaged their own chances by not thinking carefully about what their nominated referees might say. "One candidate for a job was from Christchurch, and interviewed over the phone really well," he says.

"The company flew him up to Auckland to interview him face-to-face and was really impressed.

"But one of his referees from Christchurch said he was technically capable, but he had real time-keeping troubles and was frequently late for work. "Needless to say, he did not get the job he had applied for.

"What your nominated referees say about you is often the deciding factor in whether you get the job or not, so you must choose them carefully, and make it easy for them to be enthusiastic about your skills and abilities," says McGowan. Candidates should take several steps to ensure their referees help them get their desired job, rather than ruining their chances. Identify your biggest fans.

Always ask permission before nominating someone to provide a reference. Pay attention to how quickly and enthusiastically people respond to your request. If they sound less than enthusiastic, they may not be the best choice. Be ready to offer a few extras. When short-staffed, many hiring managers have to move quickly, and if your contacts are unavailable, you may miss out on the job. Consider providing more names than you are asked for.

Make it easy on the employer. Provide clear contact information, including names, titles, daytime telephone numbers and email addresses for your referees, along with a brief explanation of the nature of your relationship with each person. It's also helpful to note the best times to reach each of your contacts. Give referees a "heads up". Each time you submit a reference list to a prospective employer, let your contacts know so they are well-prepared.

Provide them with an updated copy of your CV, and describe the company and position you have applied for, as well as the name of the person who might be calling them. Express appreciation. Always thank those who agree to speak on your behalf - even if the hiring managers don't contact them. Also, keep them updated on the status of your job search. Be prepared.

If you are approaching a recruitment consultant, be prepared to offer a reference list even before you are offered any jobs to consider. If the consultant can check your references early on, they will be more confident about nominating you for new jobs as they become available. And McGowan says candidates should also not limit their referees simply to previous bosses - clients or colleagues they have worked well with in the past can also provide useful information that prospective employers want to hear.

"Anyone you encounter in your professional life could potentially be tapped as a referee," he says. "And keeping in touch with former bosses, clients and co-workers is always a wise career move."

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