Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bum References – Physicians Beware

Most of us take for granted that if we provide the names and contact information of colleagues to prospective employers that the colleagues or attending physicians recommending us will be objective, fair and supportive of our professionalism in their comments.

I recently had a candidate who was very forthright about sharing reference letters. He easily forwarded letters written on his behalf early in the recruitment process. Because of his “up front” management of that issue, I suspect many prospective employers didn’t actually call the references for more background but relied instead on the letter exclusively as the reference check.

Beware to the practice that hires going only on a written letter of reference AND beware to the job seeking physician who thinks that his references won’t be contacted directly.

In the example above, one of the practices where this candidate was seeking employment actually called one of the references instead of simply relying on the letter. What the hiring practice heard from the reference wasn’t flattering to the job seeking physician candidate. In fact it was so poor that the group decided not to issue an offer and called another practice where the candidate was interviewing in the same community to share what they learned. The second practice verified the info and actually withdrew their offer before it was accepted. The job seeking physician was left wondering why and what happened.

As a candidate, you shouldn’t be left wondering why. When you ask someone to be a reference for you, also ask how they handle references and if they will speak fairly of your skills and experience. Don’t assume they will be a good reference without asking them if they have a good impression of your work and experience. If you get any kind hint of negativity in their answer – find another reference. When you are at the finish line headed into offer negotiations, the last thing you want to do is fall on your face because a reference was negative or even neutral.

If you suspect that a reference may not be as strong as you’d like – ask them about their comments or have someone objective speak with them on your behalf. If you are working with a trusted independent physician recruiter – the recruiter can call to check a reference in anticipation of working with you. That recruiter should then be able to verify for you if your references are as strong a resource as you need for your job search campaign. (Note: I suggest an independent recruiter versus an internal recruiting professional because the results would bias an internal recruiter’s conclusions about your candidacy with their employer).

As in everything you do, the devil is in the details and knowing you have solid professional references is key to success in your career search.

Job Seeking Success,