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Filling the References Void

At Counsel to Counsel blog, Stephen Seckler points to two pieces -- one recent, one older -- that address an often vexing question for job seekers: What to do when you don't have a reference, either because you've had only one job or because you've left a job on unfavorable terms?

The first situation -- where the job seeker's current employer is his or her first -- is addressed this week by legal recruiter Ann Israel in her New York Law Journal column, Advice for the Lawlorn. Israel's advice turns on whether a recruiter is involved.

"If so, the recruiter should explain to the prospective employer that you will be more than happy to give references as soon as an offer has been extended, accepted and you have given notice. That is normal procedure and how 99.9 percent of the law firms operate."

If no recruiter is involved, the job seeker should directly ask the same of the firm. Rarely, a firm will say that it cannot extend an offer until it checks references, Israel says, but this is "utter nonsense." Still, a candidate can always dig deeper for references -- law school professors and internship supervisors, for example.

The second situation -- where one has been fired from a job or quit on shaky terms -- was addressed in an August 2006 column by Dana Mattioli. First off, writes Mattioli, don't assume that your firing necessarily means you can't get a good reference. "It isn't unusual for managers to put in a good word for employees whom they have dismissed." Second, contact former bosses and use them as references. Third, find other managers from within your former workplace who may be sympathetic to your situation and solicit references from them. Fourth, use former clients or vendors as references. Last, verify your former employment through the HR department, not through your former boss, lest the former boss say something negative.

As Ann Israel sums it up: "Not to worry -- every problem has a solution."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 22, 2007 at 05:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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