References: Preparing Your References to Be Checked |

Getting your references ready to be checked (including questions that someone who is up for a C-level position would want someone prepared to answer).

Cover Letters That Stand Out

I thought I would do a video today that’s designed to talk with you about getting your references prepared prior to a firm calling them to

do the check. Now you may think your references all say wonderful things about you and most of the time they will. But every once in a while there are situations where people just don’t say it right.


I remember a time when I was doing a reference check for one of my clients. They always had me do the

background check for them for the folks they planned to hire from me.  I did an honest job for them. I

was asked to pose a number of questions to rate people on a 1 to 10 scale– 10 being the best.

One being the worst. And a lot of this one person’s answer were seven

or eight which were fine but not great. And. I asked them, “let me ask a dumb question.

Do you tend to think of yourself as being a tough grader. They paused for

a second and I could hear the smile break out on their face because I was

doing this by phone They said “Yeah, you’re right,” and suddenly all these 7s and eights

became eight pluses and nine pluses because they realized for whatever the reason

was they had it kicked in. They started to talk more normally once I asked the question.


But you don’t know if this is how they’re going to behave. So, a quick phone call to your references

makes a lot of sense just to encourage them to say positive things and give a

good ranking to you. “I want to walk you through a couple of possible questions that, particularly for individuals in the C-suite, your

references might be asked. Here are a couple of them that come to mind as I think about it.

Why Does Branding Make a Difference to You?

The first one is when you think of this person, what words come to mind. This is like a word association game.

How would you describe your relationship with them? They’re not looking for “my best friend.” What they’re looking for is what the professional relationship is between you and your reference. 

How would you describe this person as a leader?

How would you describe them as an innovator?

How would you describe their strengths as a strategist and as a technician?

How would you describe their ability to manage up, down and across the organization?

Can you describe a time when they were asked to handle an execution for a major change or a turnaround? How was it done what kind of environment or culture would they fit into best? 

How do they respond to extreme pressure?

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Now, there are a lot of individuals who can be explored in the course of references. It could be C-suite colleagues or board members, managers, employees, direct reports, vendor leaders, association executives, opinion leaders. So, lots of different people that references could be done with at the more senior levels.

But basically, you want to make sure that they’re prepared to answer questions like this, hear what they have to say. Most of the time,  it’s not going to be an issue but you just want to put these questions in their mind so that on the subconscious level, they’re starting to ruminate about them and they know, “Okay, I’m going to get a reference check call and I need to sound great.”




Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1800 episodes and “The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast” and is a former member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS Job Search Advice Radio” was named a Top 10 podcast for job search. is also a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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