Keep Your Enemies Close and Your References Closer

Keep Your Enemies Close and Your References Closer
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About the Author

Laura Machan

Laura Machan

Laura Machan is a Partner, Recruitment Solutions for a major human resources consulting firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Although she has been recruiting for quite a few years, she still gets a big thrill from calling someone to set up an interview and an even bigger thrill when she hears a happy dance as she tells them when their new job starts. Laura lives with her family in Oakville, where she has lived for over 25 years, and is a significant contributor to the Canadian Federation of University Women - Oakville and Women in Nuclear, Golden Horseshoe Chapter.

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If someone offered you a job tomorrow and asked for a couple of references, would you be ready?

Do you have a handful of people who have not only worked with you but are willing to verify that you are, in fact, pretty good at what you do?

You should.

It does not matter whether you graduated a year ago or 20 years ago, you need to maintain relationships with enough colleagues and managers who will step up and be willing to answer a few questions.

References are more tricky than they used to be. Many companies will not officially provide references anymore. They might verify your employment dates and title but not much more.

Frankly, that’s not really what a hiring manger wants to know. They want some comfort that the good things they see in you are really there. They want to know that you are consistent, helpful and generally a solid person to add to their team.


Most employers are pretty comfortable sussing out technical skills. They can recognize when someone is trying to bullshit their way into a positon.

Most of the time, you will need to provide two or three references and at least one should be a manager. You can use people who have left the company, or people at a company where you used to work. You can also use someone who has worked with you in a volunteer capacity.

You cannot use friends, relatives or neighbours. Not ever.

So stay in touch with folks. Use LinkedIn to keep track of people. Support people who have been outplaced. Make sure to shake hands and reconnect at conferences.

Keep those relationships warm – you never know when you might need them.



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