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Using References in Your Next Job Search

July 20, 2008
by Tim Tolan
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If you decide to make a change in your career make sure your references are better prepared the next time they receive a call from a future employer. And - make sure they understand it may NOT be a typical type of reference check. More and more employers are either outsourcing the reference checking process or they have adopted a much more stringent set of questions to ask your list of references.

Most candidates assume they can give the same list of “lay-up” references and everything will work our perfectly. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You go to your rolodex and call the same 3-4 people you used the last time you made a job change. Everything will be just fine. Right? Not so fast.

Many of my clients are growing tired of the perfect references they get because they sometimes view this part of the search process as a validation of what they already think about the finalist in the search. Each and every time they usually have to “listen to the same music” over and over regarding a candidate under consideration for a new position. All of the references are “perfect”. They sing like birds in perfect harmony every time the phone rings. They are NEVER out of tune because that's the way it was scripted. On the way home from the interview the candidate does a quick name search on their Blackberry and calls their standard list of references to let them know they will be getting a call from a future employer. Each reference will be excellent – right?

C'mon - today's hiring managers are much smarter that that - right?

More and more companies are asking plenty of non-traditional reference questions to find out something they don’t already know or have not heard about you. They are digging…Some even contact people that may know you - that are NOT on your reference list! It happens all of the time! Just read the book TopGrading by Brad Smart and you will earn some of the techniques some employers are using in the interview and reference checking process. It changes the game. It’s a very long book - it will take a while to read through the material in this book, but well worth the investment.

In summary – remember in the healthcare IT space there is no such thing as Six Degrees of Separation. In most cases, and depending on how long you have been a CIO, there may be only 2-3 degrees of separation (MAX) from you and your future employer. Always keep your network up-to-date and make sure they are prepared the next time you call on them as a reference.

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