References: Truth or Fiction

By Chris O’Leary, Loss Prevention Recruiters
Published in LP Magazine Newsletter October 6, 2011

A reference is just as much about the person providing it as it is for whom it is about, especially if you were a direct or indirect supervisor. Needless to say I have conducted countless references over the past 20 plus years as a Career Advisor and these are some of my observations…
As a supervisor, reviewing an individual’s strengths is the easy part, but what about the developmental side? Many would prefer not to talk about this area and promote only the positives, but self reflection just might reveal that you could have done a better job of working with the employee to correct or to improve their developmental opportunities or ‘weaknesses’. If that was the case then use it as a learning experience for yourself. As a leader you not only have to ask the tough questions but you have to answer them as well.
Sometimes it is difficult to provide an un-biased reference, especially when the relationship between the supervisor and employee ends on a sour note. And often I have seen an individual’s body of work broad brushed away in a heap of cheap shots with only one objective in mind. A true leader has the ability to separate the personal from the individual’s actual and real contributions to the organization and provide an accurate reference. Misleading and inaccurate type references are easily detected when references are thoroughly conducted. However, if only one or two people are contacted then the entire picture is not revealed. Thorough references will include not only speaking with former supervisor’s and peers but also the just as important internal business partners. Just remember, at some point and time in your career someone will be calling to conduct a reference on you and there is no doubt that you would want that reference to be a true picture of your entire body of work.
And finally, life changing events happen to us all. Anyone of us could easily lose focus on our careers, especially when our families become the only priority. After all we are not robots. It is not fair or right to damage anyone’s career with a ‘bad’ reference that could haunt them because they unfortunately took their eye off the ball. It is not always black and white or right or wrong. It is the body of the work that should be revealed when providing a reference each and every time.

O’Leary is the principal of Loss Prevention Recruiters a leading national Retail Loss Prevention Recruiting Solutions Provider. He is a former Loss Prevention Executive who has provided Loss Prevention Career Advice for over 20 years and can be reached at 440-210-1867 or chriso@lprecruiters.com.

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