Two things came together for me this week that reminded me of something I should have written about years ago.

The first was about someone I represented who received and accepted a job offer contingent upon successful completion of references.

The second was a statistic I saw . . . 70% of managers have changed their mind about a candidate based upon what they heard or didn’t hear when checking a reference.

I don’t believe the statistic. It seems like something a writer might use to make a point strongly. Let’s change the percentage to 5%.

One in 20 people lose out on an opportunity because their references were poor or mediocre.

It is should be obvious but you must interview and coach your references to speak positively and certainly about your strengths, abilities, accomplishments and attitude BEFORE you provide them to a potential employer as a reference.

Often, your references are busy men and women and will be distracted at the time they receive the call to provide the reference. Without some guidance, they may some foolish, dumb or outright critical things about you.

How do I know?

I’ve checked references for one of my clients for years. I have been stunned by some of the references I have heard.

1. Completely bad references

Don’t you know that your boss thinks you did a bad job? Being terminated from a consulting assignment with the original term of the assignment should be a tip off but one man gave out an executive at a former client who told me in no uncertain terms that this person stole money from him by not knowing what it was he claimed to know.

2. Mediocre references

They say things like, “She was OK, (Was she a great employee)” or, “I guess (Would you re-hire this person)” when answering questions. Maybe they were thinking of something else when they were being questioned but luke warm answers like these are as good as bad references.

3. No reference

A reference who says, “Our firm has a policy that prohibits us from providing a reference,” may be telegraphing that you were a problem employee.

Every reference you provide should be pre-screened before you give them to someone who may hire you AND should be alerted to the fact that they may receive a call about you before the call comes to them.

Not doing so is discourteous and just foolish on your part.

Don’t risk everything but having your references speak blindly about you.

Prepare them.

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