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Between the Trapezes

Beware of Reference Harvesting

May 2008



Welcome to Between the Trapezes! Often the changes in our lives feel precarious as we are suspended between two certainties. But the frightening moment passes as we bravely go on to the next step -- as we must.

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Beware of Reference Harvesters

When Is the Best Time of the Year to Change Jobs?

Just When You Thought You Didn't Need That Cover Letter...

The Right Words

Beware of Reference Harvesters

Have you ever submitted your resume to a recruiter or headhunter or placement agency in response to a job they've posted, and landed the interview only to have this happen: You show up for the interview (or they call and start a phone interview), and after a few questions about you, the subject changes to your references.

You're a little puzzled that would come up so soon, but you supply them because hey, this is an interview and when they ask for references, that's good, right?

Except you never hear from the recruiter again.

But you hear from your references. And they're complaining that the recruiter is calling them, not about you, but instead to sell them on a job opening -- maybe even the one you applied for -- and the recruiter is being pretty aggressive. You're mortified, and furious. What do you do?

Unfortunately, this kind of practice is commonplace, if I can use client reports as any guide. I call it "references harvesting". It is dishonest when your own references are not being used as they're supposed to be, to support your candidacy. And it's outright thievery when the recruiter pursues the reference for his/her own purposes. The theory is that unethical recruiters do this to find more experienced people in the field who could be good candidates for an open position.

Now any good recruiter or headhunter works to expand his or her network of connections. But ethical ones would ask your permission to speak to your references about topics unrelated to your candidacy, and they would ask your references themselves for the same permission. And they'd respect your answer.

And career coaches, like me, who don't recruit or place but instead coach you in how to work with such folks, will not ask you for your references, but we'll show you how to best use them, and care for and feed them.

So what do you do once you realize you've been, well, used? Your choices include:

  • Warn fellow job seekers to avoid that recruiter
  • Bring it up to the recruiter, live or via voice mail, expressing your concern that "someone" at their company must have misunderstood the role of your reference. See how the recruiter responds. If he or she says "tough", or fails to respond at all, then escalate the issue to their management. And if they don't seem to care, go to the next bullet below for another way to handle it
  • Complain to any professional organization to which they belong, especially if that organization has a Code of Ethics

When enough candidates let such dishonest operators know that this harvesting practice will not be tolerated, it will stop.

Thinking about getting job search guidance?

When Is the Best Time of the Year to Change Jobs?

womanmanI'm often asked "When's the best time of year to start a job hunt?"

There really is no one "job hunting season". But know that it usually takes longer than you expect, so starting a search near Memorial Day with the expectations that you'll be in a new job for July 4th would be, for most people, unrealistic. I tell most job-seeking professionals who are between jobs to expect a three-month campaign, and if they're working full-time, a transition taking about six months is not unusual.

Job fairs usually follow the calendar of the school year. In other words, they are usually not scheduled during the summer or close to the December holidays. While I think job fairs are usually a mixed bag at best, some are well-run with quality companies who have real jobs. Better to use the job fair ad to see what companies will be there, then check their web sites to see if there are jobs in your career area. Not every open job is posted but what's there will give you an idea of what their needs are.

There are certainly times of the year where it's more difficult to sit down with network contacts or hiring managers. Mid-December through the first of January is tough because of their many out-of-the-office commitments. But many recruiters are available at this time of year so try to reach them then.

It's not as easy to reach networking contacts or hiring managers from late June through mid-July. This is when many people are away on vacation. While this may continue through the summer, the toughest period is the two weeks around July 4th.

So plan ahead when you're hoping to make a transition. While the time of year might not have a huge impact, hitting your stride when people are around will be to your benefit.

For a collection of web sites with job postings...

Just When You Thought You Didn't Need That Cover Letter...

Man reading rptAccountemps recently surveyed executives who review resumes about cover letters. Only 44% of the executives said that job candidates show knowledge of the company in their cover letters. The execs also said that the cover letter (cover email, today), when it matches the candidate to the company and to the job, prompts them to call the candidate for an interview.

So while some companies' representatives say they never read cover letters, most still do, and they pay close attention to them. And so should you.

For some cover letter tips, click on the link below.

Some Cover Letter Tips...

The Right Words

Book cover med

You woke up this morning saying "Oh, no, I don't yet have my copy of The Resume Queen's Job Search Thesaurus and Career Guide?! How can that be?!"

Well, fortunately, that's a problem easily solved.

You can get it here or on, where it's getting wonderful reviews. AND it's also available as a iVersion for your iPod.

By using the Thesaurus and Guide, you'll improve your chances of communicating your value to a prospective employer. In these uncertain times, why not give yourself every advantage?

Thank you for your order!

More News...


Joanne Meehl

Thought of the Day:

Diamonds are only chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.

-- Minnie Richard Smith


We are proud members of:

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Called "The Resume Queen" years ago by a career counselor colleague, Joanne Meehl decided to have fun with the nickname (which we've officially trademarked). But she also takes it seriously by keeping her career management skills on the leading edge, through research and ongoing dialog with hiring managers.
You're now seeing us use "The Job Search Queen", which better reflects the breadth of our services. The trademark is pending. We use both "queen" nicknames in our materials.

Take a look at our redesigned web site. A whole new look and easier-to-find information!

More changes: You'll see that the name of our company is now Joanne Meehl Career Services. This better aligns the company name with the person clients work with. Dave Balzotti is now enjoying his new role as our Director of Research.

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