How do I keep my recommenders happy and responding?
December 19, 2011 7:42 PM   Subscribe

How do I keep asking for work references for difference jobs without pissing my references off?

I'm still new out of school (grad 2010) and moving between many difference job opportunities. I am currently working (and hope to continue working in) education which at this point means my summers are free. In addition, my employment is solid for this school year, but I'm likely to move out of the area next year. I work different jobs in the summer (like camp counselor) than during the school year (tutoring).

Between moving locations, needing to back up proof of language skills, references for working with children and the different timelines of applications, this requires a lot of references and applications.

My questions are as follows:

1. If you're a supervisor in a job where people move around a lot (camp director, summer employment, "programs" for recent grads- I did TAPIF) for how long afterwards do you expect people to contact you as a reference? How many times are you willing to be contacted?

2. Oftentimes I don't know if a request for a reference means "We'll call them up and make sure that you've never molested someone" or it means that they want them to write a 5 paragraph essay about me. How do I make the process as easy as possible for my references (and piss them off the least?)

3. Past (and future) jobs include a more professional adult (like formal classroom teaching) to life guarding to jobs where the crazier the better (camp). References on linked in (which not all my former bosses use) seem inadequate given the different criteria. As part of a hiring committee would you accept a linked in reference as a substitute?

4. Sometime's I'm caught off guard in that I didn't expect a place to really contact my references and then they do- so my references don't know what's coming. How do I minimize damage afterwards?

Note: I try to space things out, giving long reasonable deadlines and be as honest /informative for my references as possible. I choose people who are suited to speak to certain ares, not just because they are recent supervisors. When requesting information I provide examples of past work and let them know qualities I have and the position requires. I have a few general recommendations, but oftentimes a specific one is required (though I send along the general one as well). I always send thank you's.

If I've missed a good past thread, please let me know. I tried to look through as many tags as I could.
posted by raccoon409 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if your job applications are different from mine, but I tend to ask people if they will serve as references generally, as opposed to asking if they will do so for a specific application. If a job application I am particularly attached to comes up I will tell them about it, otherwise I assume if someone contacts them about me, they'll know what to do. I am in touch with these references fairly regularly (someone at my current job, at a couple of freelance jobs, and at the place where I volunteer) so I know I am at least somewhat on their minds; your mileage may vary.

Also, you may be hearing back from more places than I have, but I haven't found that most places ask for paragraphs--even when I got hired by a prosecutor's office, all they did was call and ask a few questions.

I am not entirely sure what you mean about references on LinkedIn; I know they exist but have never used them and assume a regular-style reference would work better.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:52 PM on December 19, 2011

Best answer: When I have had people ask me if they could use me for a reference, my assumption has been that they are asking generally, not for a specific job. It is a courtesy, however, to tell the people you list as a reference when you have applied for a particular job, in case they are contacted.
posted by dfriedman at 7:54 PM on December 19, 2011

Best answer: I've supervised summer student (between 4th and 5th year of college) interns and had them contact me to be a reference for them as many as three or four years later. I let them know that they don't need to ask prior to each interview, but a call is appreciated if they are going to dust off my name on an old list. That is mostly for their sake. It wouldn't look good to the prospective employer if I took 30 seconds to remember who the person is since I hadn't talked to them in over a year.

Mostly from this I've learned how poor most employers are about checking references.
posted by meinvt at 8:12 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, ask them to be a reference generally; add specifics when necessary.

"How do I make the process as easy as possible for my references (and piss them off the least?)"

Include your most recent resume, any sort of cover letter/whatever you sent for the position, the position listing, any other supporting documentation (transcript? paper you wrote for that prof?), and a brief statement (in the e-mail you send) about what the job is and why you're interested and what you think they're looking for, or such among these items as seems appropriate. If I am WRITING a reference or recommendation, personally what I want from my students is their resume, the position listing, and their e-mail to me about why they're applying ... I use the position listing to make sure I highlight the student's specific skills as listed in the job listing, and if they particularly mention they're excited about doing X or in their cover letter talk about how great they are at Y, I try to work that in.

A lot of places my students apply to for academic-credit internships or similar have forms and ask for my rating of the student on a scale of 1 to 5, one or two sentences on each topic (and give hardly any space so you can't go farther). So sometimes "written" is really minimal.

But yes, even when asking for a general reference, your up-to-date resume and some verbiage about what, generally, you're after and how you're selling yourself is helpful.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:26 PM on December 19, 2011

Best answer: I have recently had a situation where too many employment agencies ( head hunters) were calling my references. Note that the agencies were not working with me at the time on any specific job. Naturally I do not want to abuse my references, so when the next agency asked for them I told him I would give them to him when we were working on a job that required them. He was taken aback, and I explained the abuse. He seemed sympathetic, and told me he wanted to meet, saying he would send an email with details...never did.

To heck with that agency if they don't understand the potential for reference burnout. I am asking a favor of my references. It is and should be at my request only. I always let my references know that they will be receiving a call. ( I usually email them, but I am in close enough contact that that is OK.)
posted by Gungho at 6:04 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was a volunteer director of a volunteer organization back in the early 2000s and I still get calls/emails to be references for prior volunteers. I personally don't get annoyed by the contacts-- I would not have agreed to be a reference if I didn't like the person and think they deserved to have what they wanted out of life.

I totally second Eyebrows McGee's idea: definitely keep your referees up on what kinds of jobs you're applying for now, and what skills/talents you want to play up, so they can provide a relevant reference.
posted by holyrood at 11:00 AM on December 20, 2011

When I apply, I usually put "References available upon request." Then when the references are requested, I can contact my references to give them a heads up and furnish them with any information they might need/want about the job. Being in government, our reference checks are usually fairly in depth (several questions are asked), and I know that they won't be called unless I've already passed the interview stage. When I've been involved in hiring, we only call when we're really certain we want to offer the candidate in question a job.
posted by Kurichina at 1:14 PM on December 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone. In the past I've asked when I've had a specific need, and it's only now that the more general ones have come up (with the company contacting them, rather than me contacting them).

What I'm learning (and didn't really do this time around) is to give my references better heads up, and also not be so nervous about just shooting off an email saying that I've put their names down (in the case of already established relationships).

@Eyebrows: I do provide that information to my references, I'm glad that I'm doing that part right.

Thanks for all the points of view- they help calm me in nerve wracking application process.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:08 PM on December 20, 2011

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