Fired For Your Reference?!

July 24, 2015

Have you ever thought of how important a reference is or which references are relevent? Last year August Ruth Mantell wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal called “Make References Work for You”. Although published last year, this is a topic that is unchanging in its relevance and when it comes to crunch time and you are competing with another candidate for the same position, a reference can be pivotal to leveraging you above the competition.

Mantell begins the piece with a nightmare scenario:

“Tammi Pirri, human-resources vice president for Burlington, Mass.-based Black Duck Software, recently called references for a software developer. One reference was the applicant’s then-current and unsuspecting supervisor. The manager was shocked, to say the least, that the person I was calling about was looking to leave their company., Ms. Pirri says. “We did not hire that individual and he was fired.”

Navigating the waters of a new job search can be tough, but don’t let the stress overwhelm you to the point that the basic rules of the game are forgotten; always ask consent when requesting someone to be your reference, do not let them be caught of guard with a phone call. Was it ethical that the above mentioned person was fired from their current job for daring to seek out new position? Of course not. But unfortunately that is sometimes the harsh reality. With some careful strategizing, messes like this can easily be avoided.

Other common mistakes people often overlook, according to Mantel, is seeking out references that are too negative. Again, much like asking a persons consent, this is one of those things that seems obvious but gets overlooked. Oftentimes people misread what a colleague might have to say about them. Before asking, be sure you’re not putting anybody in a compromising position.

Mantel writes:

But people should avoid a reference with a too-negative view. Deborah Keary, vice president of human resources at the Society for Human Resource Management, an Alexandria, Va., professional group, says a former co-worker who had been fired recently asked her to be a reference. The person was “let go for breaking a company rule that was fairly serious. I said ‘I can’t provide a reference, I know that you did not leave in good standing,’ ” Ms. Keary says. “I wish she had known to not ask me.”

Navigating the job market while juggling the stress of interviews, resume send-outs, and scheduling is tough so don’t let a simple mistake evaporate all your hard work.

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