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How much time do you spend just thinking? If you’re like most people, most of your time is spent running from meeting to meeting, responding to urgent requests, urgent deadlines, and emergencies. When we’re relaxing, we’re checking our email, voicemail, or answering our cell phones. When we’re exercising, we’re either watching CNN or listening to our ipods. We’re great at multi-tasking (or so we think), and we’re great at making snap decisions (we hope), but what about those decisions and issues that require deeper reflection? By default or by design, most of us have little actual opportunity to sit and think.

Certainly in the area of career planning and work-life balance, there are many tough questions that are worthy of exploration:

  • What am I really good at professionally, and how can I do more of this type of work?
  • How can I step back on the learning curve?
  • What does the perfect work-life balance mean to me?
  • Am I happy with my personal relationships, and what can I do to improve them?
  • What community(s) am I part of? How can I make a bigger difference in my community?

Of course, there are dozens of other questions that you might consider, but start with these. Reflecting on these tougher questions gives us greater confidence when we’re forced to respond quickly on other issues. Some suggestions for productive thinking:

  • Choose a location that is free of distraction or interruption.
  • Schedule a specific time – perhaps each day, perhaps each week – to do nothing but think.
  • The act of writing your thoughts down often can clarify them.
  • Explain your thinking to a a trusted friend or spouse for perspective.

Thinking time gives us a break from the urgent, and an opportunity to recharge. It allows us to be creative, which can’t be done well under deadline. And of course, we benefit from the product of our thoughts.

This week’s action item: Schedule time in to think – that’s it. While it may seem obvious, thinking is a skill like any other – the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Reference Check Marks

by Randall Craig on September 18, 2007

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Promotion, Recruitment

Tagged as: ,

Reference checks are probably the most unknown – and sometimes scariest – part of the recruitment process. When someone checks your references, what do they ask? If you are asked to “call the applicant’s references”, what questions should you use?

Essentially, reference checks are used to verify resume and interview information, look for “red flags”, and rank close final candidates. They are used for new hires, and also internally for promotion candidates. Here is a list of typical questions:

  1. What is your relationship to the applicant (former colleague, manager, etc)?
  2. Are you related to the applicant?
  3. How many years have you known the applicant?/How long were they employed by you?
  4. How often do you have contact with the applicant?
  5. Where has the applicant been employed?
  6. What was their title? Can you describe the applicant’s responsibilities?
  7. On their resume one of their accomplishments is listed as ____; is this accurate?
  8. Strong points?
  9. Challenges?
  10. Is the applicant professional in manner and appearance?
  11. Are you aware of any history of inappropriate behavior?
  12. How would you rate the applicant’s communication skills; both verbal and written?
  13. How does the applicant handle stress and/or pressure?
  14. Any reason to question the applicant’s trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, or reliability?
  15. Would you recommend the applicant?
  16. Any additional comments?

Clearly, if a reference is going to say something negative, it’s best that you ‘fess up beforehand, complete with explanation. If you don’t come clean in the interview, you’ll be hurt twice: once for the negative issue, and a second time for attempting to “conceal” it.

If you are asked to call for references, don’t just limit yourself to these questions: if there was an area in the interviews that needs corroboration, ask the references about it.

This week’s action item: Go through each of these questions, and answer them in writing about yourself. If you can’t give yourself check marks for each one, don’t expect your references to.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)