Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

You need the right recommendation to land the job

A good reference letter should have the potential to influence your future employer's decision

New Delhi: A manager with a private bank in Delhi, S. Vini, had cleared several rounds of interviews for a job with a multinational corporation last year. She had provided a recommendation letter from a senior colleague.

“I did not get the job, but the person who did (as I found out later), had a recommendation from the company’s chief financial officer, and it turned it in his favour. I have since been very careful about who to ask for a recommendation," she says.

Vini Sinha didn’t get a job as she furnished a recommendation letter from a senior colleague and not the biggest name in her organization. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Vini Sinha didn’t get a job as she furnished a recommendation letter from a senior colleague and not the biggest name in her organization. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Remember, unless s/he has worked with you or can vouch for your capabilities, choosing the biggest name for a recommendation from your former organization may not always work. So here’s what to keep in mind while sourcing that critical letter.

Choose the right person

Do not pick someone just because they are likely to give you great reviews though they may not be familiar with your work. “When applying for a new job with a recommendation letter, the letter has the potential to influence your future employer’s decision and judgement of you and your capabilities. Thus, the writer of the letter needs to be professionally credible and someone with good regard for the applicant’s work ethic in order for this letter to work in your favour," says Anviti Sangwan, human resource director at staffing firm Adecco Group India.

How should you choose this person then? According to Sonal Agrawal, managing partner at retained executive search firm Accord Group India, choose the referee most relevant to the context for which the reference is required. It should be someone you have worked with for a credible period of time, or on a significant project, and who can speak with some authority on your performance. “This is usually a supervisor or a peer, but can include clients, service providers or external partners, if relevant," adds Agrawal.

Every professional undergoes a change in terms of his role, performance and work. “Hence, the reference should not come from a person whom one worked with 10 years ago," says Lohit Bhatia, chief executive officer, staffing, IKYA Human Capital Solutions, a provider of human resource services.

Nilayan Dey, a chemical engineergin consultant in the oil and gas sector, says he got his recommenders to look through his resume before listing them as references. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Nilayan Dey, a chemical engineergin consultant in the oil and gas sector, says he got his recommenders to look through his resume before listing them as references. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Before submitting names, find out how the person feels about you. “I have had my recommenders look through my resume and asked for feedback before listing them as references," says Mumbai-based Nilayan Dey, a chemical engineering consultant in the oil and gas sector.

What should you ask for?

Once you have decided whom to ask, explain to them the role you have applied for. This will also help him/her identify which skills or traits to focus on while writing the recommendation. Always ask if they have the time to write the recommendation.

“Depending on how well you know the person and how senior they are, a meeting is ideal, but a phone call will usually suffice. And always send a thank you note," says Agrawal.

Sending a CV with dates and roles to the recommender to jog the memory is okay, says Agrawal. “One could also offer to send them pointers about the focus of the recommendation letter, but do not insist on providing a sample one, unless asked for," she adds.

What should it have?

The goal of a good recommendation letter is to establish that the person is a strong candidate for the job. Hence, the recommendation should well describe the qualifications, achievements, character and capabilities of an individual.

“A recommendation should include if the person is a data-oriented, market- and customer-oriented or people-oriented person. It should also consist of information about traits like trust, integrity, longevity and how a person works under stress or pressure; innovative thinking and multitasking skills should also be highlighted," says Bhatia.

So the next time you are asked to give references, take these things into account. After all, a few sentences from them could very well decide your career path.

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Write the perfect recommendation

Francis Padamadan, senior director, KellyOCG, Asia Pacific, shares tips:

■ Try to understand the long-term goals of the person you are recommending.

■ Always mention the organization and reporting structure in your testimonials. If someone did not directly report to you, you need to mention that.

■ Give insights into the job functions of the person being recommended and how s/he excelled in achieving key performance indicators.

■ Do not forget to talk about people management, collaboration, communication and innovation abilities.

■ Never feel obligated to recommend someone if you feel he or she does not stand for your set of beliefs.

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