How to be a reference for a job-seeker

Q. I’m only 25, but my peer at my old company is interviewing for a new job and asked me to be a reference. I’m excited! But what does this mean — what do I have to do?

A. Congrats on the honor! Whether you’re 25 or 65, my insight is the same. First, find out from your peer the type of roles they’re pursuing and to alert you when they’ve gone far into the interview process. Typically, a reference isn’t called after the first interview but rather closer to a job offer.

Identify the skills you should highlight. Ask your peer about the skills suited to the jobs they’re pursuing that you should emphasize with specific examples. Perhaps if time management is a critical skill you can speak about an example your peer demonstrated that hit the ball out of the park with time management when deadlines were looming.

Once you have this information, you don’t have to do anything else until you’re contacted by the employer. Then, I’d go full circle to the peer and let them know when you were contacted and by whom.

Footnote: This is more for dear readers who are asking people to be their references: Definitely get specific with your reference as to how they can best help you. And lastly, always follow up with a thank you!

Q. I manage a stellar employee and got approvals for a mid-year bump in pay. He’s already underpaid, but in addition to getting him up to peers’ salaries, we need to recognize his performance and reward it. Now I’m being told we don’t have money in the budget — even though it was approved — to pay it. How do I go back to him and tell him this? We’ll probably lose him to a competitor.

A. My first reaction is literally “Ugh,” especially since this is out of your control. As for not having money in the budget despite prior approvals, can you talk to payroll again? And the higher-ups who approved it to find money from somewhere, anywhere to make this mid-year increase happen? If the increase can’t happen right now, can you pull money from another part of the budget as a one-time bonus at least? Technically it seems like the employee should get a pay increase to get paid what he’s worth in addition to a bonus for excellent performance.

Present the alternatives if they don’t pay up: the employee leaves and the time and money spent on recruiting a placement goes beyond the hiring process. Then, there’s the ramp up and assimilation time. It could easily be six months or more before the new hire is up and running. And for the period if the role is vacated, that salary that would have been paid will sit idle, so a bump in pay now is certainly going to be less than let’s say three months of an annual salary which you probably already know, but still…

I’d get all the information first before you go back to talk to him, but you may want to give a heads-up if the date for the increase has come and gone and the new salary hasn’t been adjusted in the system. You’re pulling for him as a wonderful manager does, so you may want to let him know you’ve got his back and you’re doing what you can to support him financially.

Tribune News Service

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