MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

July 5, 2008

The rouse of references (or, how stupid is this?!)

References. Can't live with them, can't function without them.

At times it seems the world is all about who knows you, who will say something nice about you.

Job interviewers just looooove references. You pretty much can't get a professional job today without at least 3 professional references. Even for renting an apartment, getting a business loan, even some kinds of licenses and certifications all require a reference.

But think about how utterly stupid and useless references are.

The person asking you - a stranger - for the name of another stranger who will confirm you're all right and not an axe murderer or wack job. How insane is that?!

I suppose if you gave the name of someone well known like a politician, author, actor, etc. that might be better. But that also assumes (and you know what happens when you assume) the name of the reference is a positive on you. If someone I was interviewing for a job gave Bill Clinton as a reference, that's not a plus to them in my opinion.

I think much of it is based on the very false belief that all managers and people in superior positions in life are created equal. That a manager at company A is the same as a manager at company B, which of course is far from true. Reminds me of a story I once heard about Japanese POW's in WW2. Some American officers ordered their enlisted to give salutes to the Japanese POW officers on the belief that an officer was an officer regardless of who's side he was on. As you can imagine, this didn't sit will with American GI's.

Besides, how is the person taking the reference really to know who they are speaking to? Over my career I've had friends and family give professional references for me instead of co-workers. My brother-in-law is an M.D. Looks great to have a professional reference from a doctor! Even amoung co-workers , at one company I shared an office with someone else. I gave him as a reference. The interviewer called him for a reference on me while I was there. I was standing over his shoulder passing him notes what to say!

You know the old saying "Don't believe anything you see"? Well, on those infomercials many of the testimonial people are in fact relatives of the product/service producer. Some big names in the no-money-down real estate gimmic have been caught doing that. While not exactly illegal, it's certainly unethical to have your uncle or sister give a reference as though they were satisfied customers.

I could go on but you should get the message by now.

There's nothing we can do about it unfortunately. If you want the job (need the job) you have to play that gave. But if you're ever on the other side of the table getting a reference on someone keep all this in mind. You just don't know who is really on the other end of the phone.

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