How To Deal With Bad References That Cannot Be Avoided

Evil man with a banana

The best way to protect yourself from a bad reference

What can you do if you know a reference check is going to kill you?  Here is what happened to a candidate I placed.

He told me, “I only have 3 references from my previous job. That’s all the guys who worked there.  My 2 coworkers will tell you how well I worked.  The owner will only bad mouth me.  He’s mad that I am leaving after 3 years.”

I called, and the owner was a terrible reference.  Since I checked all the references I was able to prepare the hiring company for what I heard.  They wanted to call to verify what I said. I cautioned them to find out what really ticked off the old boss.  It was things like, “He only gave me 6 weeks notice before he left. I may not have given him a raise in 3 years, but he’s essential to the project.  He knows that, and he is leaving.  He’s a quitter. I hate him and would never recommend him to anybody.”

I had them really dig into performance. I gave them specific questions to ask. The boss couldn’t deny the candidate’s accomplishments.  His answers were, “Yes, he did that well, but you don’t understand.  I hate the guy because….”

That candidate was hired. He got a 50% raise at his new job.  No kidding.

The easiest way to deal with a bad reference is not to give out that name.  In some cases the company insists on a specific reference, and you know it will be bad. Tell them in advance what the complaints will be.  Tell them precisely what to ask and how to word it. What does the bad reference have to confirm you did well?

It’s an uphill climb, but you can often overcome a bad reference you can’t avoid. You just have to prepare the ground in advance.

Something To Do Today

Go back over that list of potential references.  Expand it again.  You will never be hurt by having too many good solid references to choose from.

Next I’ll talk about the references that you don’t know are killing your job opportunities.

————————–

Coming up:     References – phantom friends

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions

9 Job References Most People Overlook

be believable

Be believable with great references

Why do you have to have real job references? To be believable.

When you say it, it’s suspect selling.  When your old boss says it, it’s absolute proof.

When your friend puts your resume on the desk of her boss and says, “Jill is the best salesperson I’ve ever met,” that’s not a reference. She never worked with you. It is only a fantastic introduction.  So get your friend to do that, and also find real references.

The people you choose as references need to know how well you work.  If you provide your pastor, a bowling buddy and your son’s Scoutmaster as references, it will work against you.  People who check references want to know how well you work, not how well you sit in church, drink beer, or drop off hikers.

When you give people you have not worked with as all of your references, you wave a big red flag in front of your candidacy.  The hiring manager will wonder why you have no coworkers you can trust.  Isn’t there someone you worked with in the past who can say something nice about you?

Don’t limit yourself to coworkers and bosses.  Try these references:

  • A secretary or administrative assistant who you constantly worked with
  • Suppliers you dealt with extensively, more than just order takers
  • Contractors you worked with, supervised, or reported to
  • People you sold to
  • Salespeople you negotiated with
  • The person who always came to you with questions
  • A business rival you constantly competed with and sometimes beat
  • Someone from where you do a lot of real work as a volunteer – hours weekly
  • A teacher who supervised a big project (only if you are fresh out of school)

Your current job and previous jobs are your biggest assets in a job search.  Use your jobs to prove how well you will work for your new company.  The bad news is if you screwed up on two jobs in a row, you are going to have a hard time getting hired. The good news is if you impressed three people at your old jobs, those are the only three you have to give as references.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal list the people you impressed in the last 5 years.  Use the suggestions above to add people beyond your coworkers, bosses and subordinates.

————————–

Coming up:Bad references

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions

1 way to blow an interview, 10 ways to fix it

forehead-65059_640-pixabayPerfect candidates blow interviews like this every day.

Daryl comes out of another tense project meeting at work.  He’s late leaving for his job interview.  He guiltily leaves his jacket hanging in his cubicle so no one will suspect he is gone and sneaks out to his car.  He turns on talk radio where politicians are being called the biggest thieves and liars on earth. That gets him thinking about his hate for his current job.   He’s two minutes late.  No one will notice, but Daryl is still stressed.  The interview seems to go well, but it only lasts half an hour.  The next day a secretary calls and informs him that “He is not a fit.” He does not understand why.

This is how Daryl blew it

You have to prepare for your interview emotionally and mentally.  Daryl did neither.  He really did everything he could to assure he interviewed poorly.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.  (Seneca)

Here are 10 things to do on your way to an interview:

  1. Get mentally out of your office an hour early. Shut your office door or leave the building. At the very least, prepare the evening before.
  2. Reread the descriptions you have of the job you are applying for.
  3. Jot down a quick list of how you have triumphed in the kinds of projects that you would see on that job. Writing the list cements it in your mind.
  4. Describe those triumphs out loud while you watch a clock. Keep each description under 2 minutes.
  5. Answer aloud a few test questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Why do you want this job?” Time your answers. Keep them under 2 minutes.
  6. Leave early enough to arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the interview starts.
  7. Listen to soothing music or a motivational CD as you drive.
  8. Use your drive time to think about what you have accomplished in previous jobs. Talk out loud about each accomplishment while you watch the clock. Keep each description under 2 minutes.
  9. After you stop in the parking lot, read the job descriptions one more time. You need to keep in mind what the company says it is looking for.
  10. Time to shine. Remember to smile as you walk in the door and greet each person.  Have fun.  Remember, they invited you in.  They want to see you.

If you have a bad interview, you won’t get the job.  If you have a great interview, you not only get the job, you get more money.

Interview preparation is not difficult.  It requires time and concentration. Give it the time and the effort it deserves.  You’ll see the difference.

One critical thing I mentioned that people forget

Collect job descriptions of every job you are going to interview for.  That’s often the key missing link in preparation.  If you rely only on your memory, you may forget a few essential points that you should emphasize in your interview.

————————–

 

Coming up:           References

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions

Your New Career Is Only 3 or 4 Steps Away

target-success-try-755802_640-pixabayThere are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. (Powell)

Gary, a client of mine, decided the world needed a better way to pay insurance claims in 1996. He made a plan and took a step. It didn’t go quite like he expected.  Then he planned and took the next step which didn’t quite work out.  He missed his goal over and over.

Gary found out he could make money some ways he never dreamed of. Along the way he picked up investors, technicians, sales people and managers.   The company changed into a stored value credit card company.  A few years ago he sold his company for over $200,000,000.

Did you notice that his company is not the same as it started out in 1996?  There was a problem with the payment method they wanted to use.  When they solved that problem, they found the possibilities in the payment solution were greater than in their original plan.

There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. (Powell)

Let’s not concentrate on Gary.  Let’s concentrate on the people who work for him, the people who do what you do.  He has accountants, programmers, lawyers, salespeople, managers and secretaries who all took a chance.  They found someone who could daydream.  It was Gary.  They believed in his daydream.  They hitched their careers to his star and away the whole team went.

If you are doing exactly what you like, stay there.  If you want to do something else, look for someone who can help you achieve that dream.  You may first have to hitch your career to a place that will help you pay for the school education you need.  The time will come when you are too constricted there.  You will have the school education.  Next you need hands on experience.  First try to grow where you are.  If you can’t grow, start looking for the next place you can grow.

Your career will be a set of steps.  Your initial plan will undoubtedly change.  Plan three or four steps out and execute the next step.  Then when you accomplish that first step, re-plan.

The world changes incredibly quickly.  Plan to change your plans.  Now, work the next step and cause your future to change.

Something To Do Today

Write out your plan.  What do you want to do?  Then plan 4 major steps to get where you want to be.

Being a business owner, consultant programmer or the number one salesperson in your field may be right for you…today.   Or you may find that being a great mother or father is even more important.

Make sure your plan gets you to what will really make you happy, not just to where other people will worship you.

————————–

Next up:     One hour interview prep

References

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

8 signs you will be laid off

Another person just told me they think they will be laid off, they aren’t sure. Some layoffs and firings you just can’t avoid.  One smart guy said,

Getting fired is nature’s way of telling you that you had the wrong job in the first place. (Lancaster)

laid off?

Are you going to be laid off?

There are always hints that you are going to be laid off. They are obvious after the fact.

True stories:

Susan is going to be fired. She appears to be clueless. She is a great person but is not getting the job done. She’s in a genteel company where people are expected to take hints. She has not taken the hints. She has been all but told to find a new job. She refuses to accept that. We’ve even read the tea leaves for her after her boss asked us to help get her out of the company. She refuses to accept it. Susan is going to be fired for not being above average. It just makes no sense to her.

My old friend Larry was at a major computer company. Every year his reviews were stellar. Then one year his review changed from “superior” to “needs improvement”. Larry asked, “Is this a hint?” The reply was, “It is what it is. You’ll need to figure that out.” Two weeks later Larry had a new job with a 25% pay raise. He’s still at that new company and still getting superior performance appraisals. Larry was being pushed out because his salary was too high, even though he was worth every penny of it.

The two main reasons for firing or laying off people are that they are not good enough, or they are too expensive. For either problem, some of the signs are the same, such as:

  • Pay raises less than the rate of inflation – particularly NO raise
  • A job review with average or lower ratings
  • Reduction in responsibilities or some of your duties given to others
  • Being on probation (some people actually miss this one!)
  • You are asked to relocate to a place you won’t go
  • Your company, division or location is losing money
  • A competitor just won a big contract you should have won
  • A new boss promises to “revitalize” your group, division or company

If you are wondering about your own situation, take the bull by the horns. Ask your boss two questions:

  1. Are there going to be layoffs?
  2. Should I start looking for a new job?

If you have the guts to ask, he just might tell you the truth. It’s better to know for sure if your boss will tell you. If your boss lies, you’ll still get a feeling for the truth. Find out. It’s better to look for a job while you are still employed rather than when you are jobless.

Do you have even one of the 8 signs in your job? Go talk to your boss. Do you have three or more of the symptoms? Look for a job no matter what the boss says.

Don’t be powerless at an interview 

weak helpless powerless insecure man

Do you feel powerless at some point in your job search?

The job interview was at 2:00 pm.  The candidate, Bill, called at 1:45 pm.  He was in their parking lot.  Showtime.  That great candidate was going to shine. He told the receptionist he was there and sat down to wait.

At 3:15 pm the VP of HR called to apologize.  Bill finally came in for the interview.  This well qualified candidate sat in the lobby for 1 ½ hours.

Don’t just sit there

The receptionist didn’t do her job right. It wasn’t Bill’s fault, but he could have done something about it.  He could have asked the receptionist to double check that the right person knew he was there.  He could have asked to speak to the administrative assistant of the person he was there to see.  It wasn’t Bill’s fault, but he wasn’t powerless.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. (Shaw)

Don’t be abused by accident

People don’t want to be rude to you.  People you work for don’t want to waste your time.  The receptionist doesn’t want to stand in the way of your goals and ambitions.  It is not human nature to wish the worst on strangers.  Most often they are in your way through ignorance, incompetence or fear.

Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway

The best solution is to swallow your own fear of making waves.  Sure, you are afraid.  They probably are too.  It is time to step up to the person in your way and work with them to clear the roadblocks.  Your boss or coworker, the receptionist or police officer all want to help.  Give them a chance.  Patiently work with them to get what you need.

I am always asked by candidates, “Why didn’t I get the job?”  I answer with what I’ve been told, and that is helpful.

A great question to follow up with is, “Can the person who rejected me, help me in my next job application?”  You may get a great boost from calling the person who rejected you and asking for specific help.  You can ask them if they see a way to improve your resume or interview.  Enlist them to help you with your NEXT interview.

It’s scary to ask for more help from a receptionist who just told you to wait.  It’s hard to call back someone who told you they do not want to hire you and ask for help.  If you feel the fear, work your way through it, and do it anyway then you’ll get what you want and need a lot more quickly.

Something To Do Today

Read the book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. It can help you take control of your situation.  It gives you tools to stop letting the world get in your way and step on your dreams. The cheapest place to get it is still your library.

————————–

Coming up:     Signs that you will be laid off or fired

Creating reality – what to do with those dreams

One hour interview prep

References

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Down by 20 at halftime in your job search

Overwhelming football tackle

You can recover from a bad interview, or 20 of them, if you go at it right.

Every job seeker has a bad interview occasionally.  Often you will have a great interview and NOT get the job.  Your resume may be perfect for a lot of jobs, but you get no call backs.

Here is how a football coach handles a problem like that.

At halftime the team is down by 20 points.  In the locker room the coach says: “Yes, we got beat in that game we just played. Now we are going to play a new game.  It’s time for payback.  A new game starts when you step out on that field. You’ve got to adjust the score in your mind.  It is 0 to 0 now.  It’s a new game. Let’s go out and give that other team the beating of their lifetime.  We owe it to them.”

Remember, every time you apply for a job, it is a new game.  The person seeing your resume doesn’t know or care that the last 74 people who saw it didn’t even acknowledge getting it.  The person calling you on the phone can’t tell that you’ve only had 3 callbacks and not one in-person interview.

Get coaching to improve your resume, phone interview and in-person interview skills.  Find out what works.  If you need a certification so that your resume stands out, get it.  If you get phone interviews, but no in-person interviews, find out why.  Give some of those interviewers a call back and ask for their help.  Half of them will give it to you.

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in.  This is too much of a temptation to the editor.  (Lardner)

Go out and actively look for successful people to coach you.  Asking a person for help can be a form of networking.  The secret is to ask for help with one particular thing.  Ask for help making the first job listed on your resume more attractive. Pick a small part of the job application process and ask for help.  It lets the person know you are trainable, eager and looking for a job.

There are cycles people go through when they are unemployed or looking for a new job.  The important thing is to accept that you will lose more often than you win.  If you approach each resume submission, phone interview and in-person interview as a fresh start, a new game, you’ll quickly become the winner.

Something To Do Today

Your attitude can be adjusted.  Engage your mind. Lift your spirits.  Listen to books, music and shows that get your spirit soaring while you drive or exercise.  Start fresh for every job application.

————————–

Later:  Feel the fear, and¼.

Signs you will be laid off or fired

Creating reality – what to do with those dreams

One hour interview prep

References

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

How to read while you are driving

child reading

You can read while driving a car.

I love talk radio, but it doesn’t lift my spirits. It gets me perturbed.  Music on the radio doesn’t engage my mind as I drive.  I listen to books instead.  I love books that teach me and help me get a better attitude every minute.

The best source of books to listen to may be your public library.  Our main library has hundreds of books and college courses available on audio tape and CD. And all my favorites are available for free through interlibrary loans.

MIT has the vast majority of its courses available for free online.  Yes, free.  In most cases the lectures, notes, and everything you need to learn is available online and free.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.  (Toffler)

Audible.com is a great place to get books on MP3 inexpensively. I use my phone.  You can use any MP3 player.  I like the quality, selection, and prices.  Getting a monthly subscription is the way to go. And if I am reading a book on my Kindle, the audio version and the Kindle reader sync with each other.

The books on my listening list include: Man’s Search For Meaning (Frankl), Theodore Rex (Morris), Love is the Killer App (Sanders), Networking With Millionaires (Stanley), First Things First (Roger), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey), The One Minute Millionaire (Hansen), The Millionaire Mind (Thomas), and The Millionaire Next Door (Thomas).  I didn’t realize I am so fixated on the word “millionaire”.  These books have great “can do” themes.

Some books I love, but can’t get at Audible yet are The Power of Positive Thinking (Peale), How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (Carnegie), and Think and Grow Rich (Hill). And don’t forget to check out your library and interlibrary loans.

Something To Do Today

Engage your mind. Lift your spirits.  Listen to books that get your spirit soaring while you drive or exercise.  You’ll love it.

————————–

Later:   Down by 20 at halftime

Feel the fear, and¼

Signs you will be laid off or fired

Creating reality – what to do with those dreams

How to become a visionary leader – 2 things

eye undergoing laser surgery

You can improve your vision in a much more important and powerful way than laser surgery.

You may be more prepared to be a visionary leader than you think.  That depends on what you see, and what you do with what you see.

One employee of mine refused to talk to me unless I was looking her in the eye and following her movements. I am a champion daydreamer.  If I were in school today I would be given drugs to make me pay attention.

I flunked first grade–flat out flunked it.  That takes a lot of doing. I was brought in to see a psychologist who did all kinds of tests with me.  She told my mom and the school that I was a pretty bright kid.  I just hadn’t figured out what school was about yet.  So they sent me on to second grade.  My mom once told me that the first level I really passed was fifth grade.  I’m not sure I passed then.

Life without dreams is a prison of quiet desperation.  A slim giant of a man I know was in the Bataan death march and then spent all of WWII in a Japanese coal mine.  I believe the only thing that kept him alive was his dreams.  They tortured his body, but he lived in his mind.  In hell he was free in a way many people never are.  He lived.

Take the time to dream.  Please, dream of your family’s future.  Dream of what you can become.  Take the time to explore in your mind what just might be.  The future is not a series of decisions we make about pathways presented before us.  We build our own future from the vision we have of where we can go.

Some men can see the future more clearly than their own reflection in a mirror.  They think about that future.  They live in that future.  Somehow the world molds itself to their vision.  That vision changes a little with every twist of circumstance, but the dream’s architecture, the purpose and meaning do not change.  For a man of great vision, life is revealed and changed as he passes through it to the future. He acts on his great visions.

A vision without action is called a daydream, but then again, action without a vision is called a nightmare.  (Sorenson)

The only thing keeping you from being a visionary is your ability to truly believe in your dreams and then act on them.  See the future as you would like it to be.  Take a few minutes every single day to purposely dream about the future, about a greater future.  Dreaming every single day is the key.  This is where a visionary’s transformational power comes from: daily dreams, then living according to those dreams.  As you dream every day, watch the world shift around you and accommodates itself to your vision as you act.

Something To Do Today

Set aside time in your schedule every single day for dreaming.  Take a week and decide what the future should hold.  Make sure that your relationships and family are primary in that dream.  Write it down.  Refer to it regularly.  It will change your life.

————————–

Next:     Audible

Down by 20 at halftime

Feel the fear, and……

Signs you will be laid off or fired

Creating reality – what to do with those dreams

How fast can you find a new job and get your career back on track?

steam engine crashed out of a building

Getting your career back on track? It depends on where you are right now.

How fast can you find a new job?  Let’s talk about the Beatles.  They were an overnight sensation….except for the years they spent playing clubs in Germany and England.  Years lost to the world.

I bet you know a guy who quit and had a new job a week later.  He wasn’t even looking when he quit.  He told you so, and he wouldn’t exaggerate.  So how long will it take you to get a new job? No one knows.

The best way to find a job (It actually speeds things up)

The best thing to do is keep your current job and start looking.  Use your network.  The first thing to ask them is not, “Find me a job,” but, “How’s the job market?”  Get the people you know to tell you how long it took for their acquaintances to find a job.  This will tell your network to keep their eyes open.

Be careful how widely you let it be known you are looking for a job.  If you are employed, use your network, recruiters and respond to ads.  LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, and others are great places to put your resume. You have to understand that you will be getting calls for a year or two if you put your resume on the internet.

How long will it take?

Executives often look a month for every $10,000 in income they want.  If they are earning $120,000 then they may search for a year.  Technical experts are often either hired within days of their search beginning, or they take 12 months and then get 3 job offers at once.  Why?  They may have critical skills, but there is no job until someone else quits or a project starts. Then openings pop up as a mass of people all change jobs at once.

Your job search will be over much more quickly if you will commute a long distance or relocate.

The modern steam locomotive can cross the plains at the lightning speed of 15 mile per hour.  The only thing faster is a telegraph. (circa 1870)

Let’s get serious about money.  Are you overpaid?  Do you have golden handcuffs that will keep you from leaving?  Then you may never find another job without taking a pay cut.  If you are underpaid, you’ll get a new job quickly.  That’s just a fact.

How fast will you get a new job?  No one knows.  So it is probably best to start looking while you are still employed.

Again, here is the first step to finding out how fast you can find a job.

Don’t just ask your network to help you find a job.  Ask people how long it took for folks they know to find a job.  Search for stories of quick searches and also ask for horror stories.

————————–

Next:      Daydream

Audible

Down by 20 at halftime

Feel the fear, and¼

Signs you will be laid off or fired