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Reference and Recommendations

by Randall Craig on May 13, 2009

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, New Job, Recruitment

Tagged as: , ,

Whenever you are considered for a new relationship – as a supplier, customer or investor – the “buyer” needs to check you out. This is especially true when it comes to applying for a new role. The dreaded reference check (or background check) need not be that stressful, if only you considered a few simple points:

  1. The value of preemptive disclosure: Background checks can be as simple as a few calls to your references, or a detailed investigation by an independent professional. It’s important for you to understand that the more critical your role, the more important it is for them to identify any risk you might represent. It is naive to assume that there will be no background check of any type.

    Recommendation: If there is a “red flag” to be found, then it is better to disclose it yourself during earlier discussions, where the issue can be put into context. Discovering it by surprise in a background check will usually lead to your disqualification.

  2. A clean slate is best: For a no-surprise background check, resolve any outstanding third-party disputes or pending items. Two simple things that can be done would include reviewing credit reports for discrepancies and ensuring any legal actions are settled. If you are being considered for a senior role in a large organization, you may even wish to pay to get a background check done on yourself, just to ensure that you find any discrepencies first. (A background check can sometimes expose situations where someone else with the same name as you has a red flag; nothing you can do about it, except let them know that something might come up, and it’s not you…)

  3. Social Media profile review: With Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, ZoomInfo, etc, much of our private lives have moved into the public domain. Since reference-checkers will be looking for you on these sites, spend time “looking at how you look”, removing questionable content, adding appropriate (and consistent) professional information, etc.

  4. Google review: Periodically do a “Google Search” on your name, to see how (and where) it appears. The more senior you are, the greater the number of references there will be – and not all of them positive. Armed with this information, you can address any issues during the interview process beforehand. Google even has a free service called Google Alerts that can be set up so that every time your name is newly mentioned online, the link to it is emailed to you.

  5. Prep your references: While your career history and your job responsibilities might be clear to you, they are not likely top-of-mind with your references. Spend time maintaining and improving your relationships with your references. When it is time to use the references, provide details of the new position, reminders from your time working together, and any other important details. (And afterwards, of course, send a thank-you note.)

This week’s action item: Make a list of your top five references, then consider what they will think when they see your profile on Social Media sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo. If your references don’t think positively about you when they see your profile, what do you think their reference will sound like? This week, make your profiles positive, at least to the references. And if you haven’t yet done so, ask them for a public recommendation.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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