I’m a big fan of networking and believe very seriously in the importance of references and referrals. All three have been fundamental to my success.
What happens, though, when the image and reputation of a reference is less-than-stellar? For example, I’d expect a baseball manager would be much more likely to give an aspiring baseball player a try-out if the player said David Wright suggested he contact the manager (as opposed to, say, Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens).
This sort of thing just happened to me. I received a note from a job seeker that referenced someone we both knew, but whose reputation is, shall we say, less than stellar. Truth be told, Pol Pot had a better image.
The job seeker began his note in this way, ‘I’m writing at the suggestion of (insert name of anti-Christ reference) who thought I’d be the perfect, high-level fit for Peppercom….’
Talk about a non-starter. Talk about the kiss of death. Talk about a classic Pavlovian response. I replied to the job seeker in a courteous way, but let him know we weren’t hiring at the moment. But, even if we had, I’m not sure I would have given him a chance. I know that’s wrong. But, aren’t we judged by the company we keep?
For me, it’s a great example of the type of due diligence necessary in today’s incredibly competitive job market. It’s no longer enough to have a great reputation. Nor is it enough to know people who know people who can open doors. You need to also make sure you know the right people with the right reputations. With so few jobs and so many aspirants, referencing the wrong reference is a sure fire one way ticket to Palookaville.