A New Approach To References

I am updating the ol’ resume/CV because it just feels like it is time for that and also because I will completely forget about the things I have worked on if I don’t remember them. Those work things come and go so fast these days that they’ve gotta be captured or they are gone forever.

Everything to do with resumes, CVs, references, and the general interview process feels super boring, stale, and way out of touch with what is actually needed when hiring someone these days. I think about this all of the time, and especially now when I myself have done a lot of hiring over the past 1.5 years. I see some really well put together resumes that just don’t translate when it comes to real life. I’ve had some interviews that just don’t really do anything but create an awkward atmosphere for everyone involved. I’ve called references only for those people to forget about the person that listed them as a reference. But in most cases I get the cookie cutter response that references like to give: here’s all of the great things about that person, let me sprinkle in one growth opportunity that the person may need to go through, and cap it all off with “why yes I think this person should get the job in your organization that I know nothing about” talk. It’s tiring and it doesn’t work. I don’t have the answers but I know that I can make strides in my own life to fix what I see is a problem, so I am doing that with this idea…


Right now I am thinking about my references section. For my last big resume update I listed three people from my past work lives: a Library board member which I reported to, a person who I worked with on a lot of projects during my time at the Chattanooga Public Library, and a person who worked for an outside organization that I collaborated with on a few community projects. I thought this was a good mix of people who represent all of the library work I’ve done up to this date. It must have worked, as here I am now in New Zealand thanks to the kind & honest words of those people. But upon thinking about it more I came to the conclusion that it really didn’t give the full picture of my work in libraries. What was missing? For someone like me in a management position shouldn’t I be thinking differently? And then it hit me…In addition to these fine folks, shouldn’t I be listing the people that I’ve managed?

It makes sense: if someone was wanting to hire me for a management or leadership position wouldn’t they want to hear from people that I’ve actually managed and led? Wouldn’t those folks be able to tell you things about me as a leader & manager that matter the most? Honesty is one of the the most important things we have in this world. Let’s start giving each other that honesty at all times.

As I update my resume/CV over the next month or so, it will have a section for the people I’ve managed. I want any future employers to hear from those people in addition to my more traditional references. I want honesty to be one of the most important things in any future work that I do, so why not go to the source?

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