A couple of my former coworkers are in the middle of job interviews and the job offer process. Both listed me as references. As expected, recruiters and human resources representatives have been contacting me to provide character references.
I’ve been thinking about the referral process and its importance. When I provide a reference for someone who is great to work with and presents exemplary skills, it’s easy to do so. But what if the person who asked you to provide a reference isn’t a strong candidate?
It doesn’t matter. You should always give positive referrals. Providing a reference for someone is not an opportunity for you to speak negatively about the person. You were listed as a reference because the person trusts you. Even though you may not have anything particularly positive to speak about, stick with what you know about the person regarding tasks and projects he or she worked on. Just because you don’t think the person you are referencing performed well in the prior position, doesn’t mean he or she can’t thrive in the new one. I have seen examples of people who excelled at their prior jobs, only to fail at their new ones. The thing is, you’ll never know, and everyone should have a chance to prove themselves.
On a side note, if you are pursuing a new position elsewhere and are listing referrals, it’s important to give the people you listed notice. I can’t tell you the number of times I ignored phone calls from a recruiter or HR person because I wasn’t expecting calls. I don’t answer phone calls from unfamiliar numbers since I get a lot of spam calls. Also, let your referrers know what type position you applied for so they can understand the role better. For example, my former co-worker applied for a director-level position, so I focused on his people, management, and leadership skills when speaking to the company’s corporate recruiter.