Edition Thirteen: On referrals

To give a recommendation for a potential hire, which is essentially backing someone with your words, is a big deal.

It’s me saying, “I promise that giving you this name means that I believe this person fits this role and will succeed at it.”

Too often, when we recommend someone it’s because “I like this person.” It’s got to be more than that. I like a lot of people. I don’t want to work with all of them.

I first learned this lesson when I recommended a friend to a job interview, with some people who had tried to recruit me, and when I said no, asked for other candidates. My friend, who is a lovely human being, almost forgot about the interview and winged it. I never heard from that contact ever again. I learned it again when I asked for a recommendation and took a valued colleague at her word that her friend was great, without checking references deeply.

It’s not just the candidate who is on the line here, it’s the reputation of the person who gave the recommendation. For that reason, recommendations should be rare — how many people would you back if your job was on the line, too?

Recommendations, whether you’re the one asking, or the one giving, are treacherous because of assumptions. I assume the name you’ve given me means you have worked with them and their temperament matches mine. I assume that you’re going to thoroughly interview and check references when I give you the name of that friend. Sometimes, if our desperation for the “right” person, we skip the steps we’d complete for a candidate who walked in off the street. That’s unfair to everyone involved.

The fix is more transparency. Be transparent about how you know the person you’re recommending, your relationship to them, and how you know they’ll be a good fit for the job. Be transparent about why you’re asking for a recommendation and the kind of person who would be a good fit.

Use your words, and the weight others lend them, carefully.


Recommendations (of cool stuff!)

I’ve been slowly reading this research on memory holes and the problems with archives and news preservation. The question rolling around in my head: Who is responsible for saving online news?

Great things I’ve read lately
Seth Godin on phrases we use and phrases we should use. (Seth’s Blog) “Establishing a process to say ‘no’ to big ideas that aren’t good enough creates the space for truly innovative ideas to grow. “ (Harvard Business Review) Tough advice for some of us to hear: ”You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.” (New Yorker) A fantastic piece by Rachel Schallom on hiring practices in news – tl;dr, we’re not good at this and it’s easier to be better. (Source)

Jobs jobs jobs 
Director for journalism at the Knight Foundation. (h/t Rachel S!) Associate editor at The World Post in NYC. (h/t Kathleen M!) An editor at a new NBC vertical on ideas, THINK. Peace-building fellowships at the International Reporting Project. Chief Communications officer, Wikimedia.