During the Q & A part of my Resume Revolution Webinar, a client asked me if she should ask a reference to rewrite a recommendation.
If you give your references the open-to-interpretation question “Would you write a recommendation for me?”, you might end up in a similar dilemma. My response might surprise you …
Job seeker D.M. asked:
”Would you ask someone to rewrite the recommendation they gave you if it had typo’s (sic) or grammatical errors?”
It’s a tricky question, and depends on your relationship with the reference. On one hand, typos and errors give the impression of authenticity in a recommendation. You’ll notice that I leave most typos and errors in the recommendations I’ve received – because they come from real people (complete with imperfections), just like you. Leaving these types of mistakes in a reference may be preferable for situations where realism is more important than detail.
However, there may be different ways to handle this situation, depending on the job you seek. For instance, if you are looking for a finance or accounting job that requires precision, your reference’s typos, spelling errors or grammatical mistakes may reflect poorly on you. A hiring manager might consider your reference’s mistakes as reflecting a non-detailed environment at your prior employer – They might also extrapolate a lack of precision in your own skills. In addition, if you seek a job in copywriting, marketing, journalism, publishing or other careers involving English skills, a hiring manager might consider your reference’s mistakes as indicative of your own competency.
In these cases, I would recommend editing a reference letter (or online reference) and politely asking your referral to make the changes you’ve outlined.
Why would you choose a reference if you aren’t 100% sure of what they will say?
It’s not just how your reference reflects upon you – what’s even more important is how well they provide social proof of your story. If you haven’t first coached your reference to reinforce the aspect of your experience you want to highlight, you leave it up to chance that your reference guesses correctly. So it comes down to … how well can your reference read your mind?
Additionally, you may have a different story to tell different hiring managers to support assertions that you have already solved an employer’s current problems and meet its specific needs. If you merely ask your references to “put in a good word for you”, you have no influence over what your reference actually says.
How well have you managed your references?
In order to have more control over your reference’s comments, choose some references by how close you are to them. While the Chairman of GE might seem to be a great reference, the former manager who is your biggest fan may be a better choice to support the details of how you can solve a hiring manager’s problems.
Finally, it’s wise to have enough references that you can pick and choose a few to utilize for each employer, based on the portion of your story they can support. For instance, you may have done an amazing job building revenue for one manager, but have done stellar job cutting costs for another. If your target company is in a growth mode, why would you want a former employer to tell them what a creative cost cutter you are?
You don’t have to give the hiring manager a list of ten references. I recommend giving a few who will each tell a customized version of your story, after you’ve had the chance to coach them which portion of your story you’d like them to support.
Readers – Can you share your success stories in how you’ve managed your references?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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