Our Connected World Has Drastically Changed the Importance of Great Job References

I have worked in search for 20 years. I have placed thousands of professionals, recruited for some of the best companies and recruited some of the best folks. My word to the wise: get some good references.

LinkedIn is powerful tool that connects everyone, both good and bad. Years ago, a professional could slide by with a couple of “okay” references—not today. Now more than ever, companies cannot afford to hire the wrong person.

References today mean more than the names and phone numbers you share with a hiring manager—they involve social media, where everyone has an opinion. When you enter the interview process, the LinkedIn engine starts. Daily, I am asked to share my opinion of someone with whom I am connected.

Usually, the conversation starts like this: “Robert, I notice you are connected to Joe Smith. What can you tell me about him?” I rarely share any opinions unless I have had a real interaction with that person, but this happens all the time. I presume it happens to most of us.

Candidates commonly accept counteroffers, turn down jobs, or remove themselves from the hiring process without even a courtesy note (also known as “ghosting”). Companies fail as well; they do not respond to candidates, they leave candidates without closure, or they treat candidates poorly in the interview process. It’s a two-way street.

My advice? Something we should have learned as children. Treat others how you would want to be treated. A reference—good or bad—is a click away, not a phone call. Candidates and clients lose opportunities based on a Google review. Trust me.

Companies that are hiring: Treat candidates well and provide closure. Finding a job is really stressful.

Professionals that are seeking a new role: Be honest, remove yourself appropriately if the role is not a fit, and never renege an accepted offer.

Today, we are all connected to someone. Minimize your risk by treating people like you would want to be treated. (And, yes, this goes for headhunters like me, too.)


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