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References: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

You know it’s coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. You’ve come to that almost dreaded step in the recruitment process. They’ve asked for your (gulp) references. No matter how stellar your performance has been, you can’t help but feel your knees begin to quake. Don’t worry, we’ll get through this together with a few little tips about the good, the bad and the ugly of this interviewing essential.

But let’s get the ugly out of the way first.

The Ugly

The good news about the “ugly” side of reference sharing is that it’s completely avoidable: just don’t lie. No truth is worse than being caught in a lie, and then you’ll have lost your chance to tell your side of whatever it is you felt the need to hide. Because you can’t hide, not in an industry like this, where everyone knows each other. And once you are caught, all trust is lost. The relationship (with your recruiter, with the employer) is damaged beyond repair. Don’t let it get ugly.

The Bad

It’s OK to let us know you fear a bad reference. We understand. Less-than-stellar performance may simply be a symptom of needing a new career. And anyone can be let go from a company—this is a volatile industry. Just share the whole story and we’ll not only help you figure out how to talk about it during an interview, but we will also look at how that “bad” experience can actually help set you on a better career path. Don’t worry about the gaps in your resume—tell us about them and we can figure out how to turn them into a win!

We recently interviewed a strong candidate who had spent only a few months in his last position. This could have been a tricky situation with respect to references, but it wasn’t. He candidly shared the short duration of his tenure on his CV, which allowed us to start a conversation about it—and we learned that his values just didn’t align with the company’s. By the end of this conversation, not only did we have more respect for the candidate, but we were more motivated to help him. We also knew better HOW to help him find the right next step in his career, where his values would align, leaving him more fulfilled. The outcome? We found him a new position!

The Good

The references process should be the opposite of painful, at least if you handle them the way we do here at Seuss. For example, Seuss recently hired new recruiters to join the team. All the new hires are, to put it mildly, completely awesome. We did still need to ask for references as part of the interview process, of course.

We found that, across the board, people were excited to give references for these super stars; some even went out of their way to talk with us, during family vacations for example, to share their impressions. Clearly these were positive reviews, but they were not perfect. Nor would a perfect review have given us the whole picture—we hire people, not impossible (and impossible-to-believe) ideals. And our clients do, too!

Honesty is the answer, and openness the best way to find your perfect career match.