John O’Connor, a career coach, warns in a column for TheLadders Career Advice, How References Can Derail Your Career, of the dangers that lie beneath your references.
“Alex Partain” thought his resume and interviews went well with a Fortune 100 technology company. Even in a recession, he blew past most of his friends and secured seven interviews, including final-stage interviews at five companies. Information security positions pay well over $100,000, and with a solid background in the very latest in information security, why shouldn’t the offers flow? But what happened next left Alex in the lurch, confused and looking for answers.
“I honestly could not believe it,” Alex says now. “I got a serious wake-up call about references. It probably cost me thousands upon thousands of dollars in terms of months lost. I lost out on every single interview I had secured in a mere month. It wasn’t until a third-party recruiter ferreted out the facts about my references that I found out what was going on. What was happening was basically my own hand-picked references were not prepared properly, did not give me glowing reviews and hurt me. But all in all, it was more my fault then theirs. I did not prepare them or myself.”