When to act as a reference

November 20, 2009 at 11:47 am Leave a comment

These days, referrals and references are the way to get a job. Most hiring managers are flooded by resumes every time they post a job so they are relying even more on recommendations from those they trust. Chances are, if you haven’t already been asked to do so, a friend or former colleague soon will ask you to act as a reference.

Should you do this? And what caveats should you give the person asking for the reference, and the potential employer? Obviously you want to help out someone but can providing a reference potentially hurt you — especially if you are conducting your own job hunt?

Hiring experts are split on this. Some say you should be quite cautious and provide a reference only for someone you’ve worked with closely and can vouch for absolutely. Others applaud the tendency to be generous and help someone out, but say in cases where you don’t know the person well to be careful in what you say about them.

Some tips for acting as a reference (and see recent blog post, “Getting the most out of your references,” for how to manage your own!):

*Only provide a reference for someone who has specifically asked you to do so and you have worked with in recent years or who you know well. As noted in my earlier blog post, it’s essential for job seekers to discuss with their potential references just what kind of jobs they are applying for and how they think their skills fit these positions. If someone doesn’t do that with you, I’d be very careful in what you say about them to a potential employer. You could hurt their chances and tarnish your reputation. Also, if they aren’t serious enough about discussing being a reference with you, I’d question their seriousness about the job opening.

*Be honest with the person asking for the reference about what you’ll say — and what areas you think you can best discuss with the prospective employer. Then stick to these areas. Hiring managers, especially those in journalism who are good interviewers, may ask all kinds of questions about the job candidate. Focus only on the areas you feel qualified to discuss and truthfully state when you don’t know something. It’s a lot better to say: “Sue was such a good reporter and mentored younger reporters so well that I think she would make a good assigning editor, even though I didn’t see her in that role,” rather than giving information about her editing skills that may or may not be true. Stick to what you know.

*Edit yourself. Being a good reference means not saying everything you know about the person. If you have your doubts about the person’s fitness for the job, don’t be a reference. If you decide to provide a reference, emphasize the positive aspects of the person’s skills and background and try to stay away from the less desirable traits — which everyone has. You’re not testifying as a witness in court sworn to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” you’re trying to help someone land a job. Be brief, to the point and honest. If areas come up that you’re uncomfortable with, say so, and don’t allow the interviewer to keep you too long.

*Avoid giving a reference via email or Voicemail. It’s sometimes tough to connect, though as a hiring manager I always wanted to talk on the phone to someone providing a reference — you can tell a lot about their tone and sincerity. The same is true for providing the reference. You’ll be a more effective advocate for the person you’re trying to help if you talk to the hiring manager — even briefly — in an actual two-way verbal conversation.

*A referral and a recommendation are two separate things. Someone may ask you to pass along their name to someone you know at an organization. By doing so, you are not necessarily giving them a reference. Helping open doors does not require you to advocate further for the person getting the job.

*Don’t be afraid to say no. Veterans of the news business often are called upon by former colleagues to act as a reference, even by people they don’t know particularly well or didn’t really cross paths with much in a large news organization. If you have your doubts about their skills or haven’t worked with them in years or wonder about their fitness for this particular position, you can beg off. Sometimes it’s best to say “I’m not sure I’d be the most effective reference for you” or another polite turn-down so that they go elsewhere. It’s much better to allow them to find another reference than to be an ineffective one that may end up costing someone a job.

*Get back to the person who asked you for the reference after you’ve been called. It’s crucial for them to know which references were contacted, what questions were asked and the hiring manager’s tone and attitude about them. You’ll be doing them a huge favor by providing this information.

*As always, some job leads….today’s focus on communications and PR jobs for those “transitioning” from journalism.

*General Dynamics has an opening in Rockville for an assignment editor focused on Central and South Asia…

Job Title Central/South Asia Assignment Editor
Location MD, Rockville
Relocation No
Security Clearance Level None
Security Clearance Basis None
Security Clearance Polygraph None
Job ID Number 158321
Job Function Technical Operations (TechOps)
Potential for Deployment No
Job Description General Dynamics Information Technology is a top-tier IT integrator that provides information technology, systems engineering and professional services to customers in the defense, intelligence, homeland security, federal civil and commercial sectors. With 16,000 professionals worldwide, the company has the customer knowledge, domain expertise and proven performance to manage large-scale, mission-critical IT programs.Seeking an assignment editor to coordinate the article submission process and communications with correspondents for a website focused on the Central and South Asia region. The editor will screen and edit submissions in Russian, Urdu or Dari. Other tasks include researching local and regional media in Central and South Asia and identifying coverage angles. The position requires strong familiarity with Central and Southeast Asia culture and preferably working experience in the region.Requires Bachelor’s Degree in journalism, international relations, area studies, political science or the equivalent combination of education, training, or work experience. The job requires excellent computer and communications skills.

Requires 2-5 years journalism experience. Demonstrated experience writing or editing for a news website or print publication.

Must be able to work under pressure, using a variety of sources including newswires and the Internet.

General Dynamics Information Technology is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer.
Submit Resume

*UnitedHealth Care has a media relations job in D.C. Career Advocate is the hat tip on this:

UnitedHealth Group Media Relations Director

Company: UnitedHealth Group – Communications Specialists and Management, Communications
Job Type: Full-time employment
Location: Washington, District of Columbia United States
Salary: Not Specified
Already a member? Click here to login.


JOB NUMBER: 315937DESCRIPTION:Director – Media Relations

This position reports to the Vice President, Media Relations and offices in Washington, DC.

At UnitedHealth Group, we are a healthy, growing business. We are a Fortune 25 company that has been honored in a number of ways. UnitedHealth Group was ranked number 14 on the 2008 “_BusinessWeek_ 50 Rankings,” a list of top performing companies in each of the 10 sectors that make up the Standard & Poors 500 and named “Americas most admired company for health care innovation” in _Fortune_s most recent survey. Our UnitedHealthcare business has received accolades, too. UnitedHealthcare was named South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2007 Healthcare Provider of the Year and recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for helping reduce health care disparities for its Asian-Language Provider Directories. These honors serve as a reminder of the many people at UnitedHealth Group whose talent and dedication are helping to make health care work better, and underscore the Companys work to advance social responsibility initiatives.

The Associate Director, Media Relations supports UHGs strategic direction for both proactive and reactive national media relations, and assists in the overall coordination of external contacts with major media outlets.

This position is in the Corporate Communications group which is charged with enhancing and protecting the companys corporate reputation and communicating internally and externally with all company stakeholders including but not limited to: employees (current and future), patients, medical professionals, elected officials and related staff, local civic and community leaders, academia, the scientific community, regulators and governmental agencies and officials.

* Implement the companys media relations activities, including areas such as financial communications, legal communications, product communications, crisis communications, corporate philanthropy, human resource issues and key national and local issues.
* Coordinate interviews with senior executives; provide supporting documentation and materials to ensure UHGs preparedness and key message penetration.
* Coordinate activities to support external communications and media activities for the companys key corporate reputation initiatives, and respond to media inquiries resulting from company-specific or industry-related issues.
* Develop and improve relationships with key journalists and media outlets.
* Assist in developing briefing documents to inform colleagues and gain consensus on key messages. Support corporate litigation, national crisis communications, major company meetings and corporate initiatives.
* Implement new strategies to ensure communications are in concert with rapidly changing technologies, including web-based technologies.
* Work closely with corporate, regional, divisional and local site representatives to ensure broad understanding of external communications strategies.
* Participate in the implementation of communications and PR strategies to support and advance the strategic priorities of the Company.


* Bachelors Degree.
* Strong health insurance and health care background preferred.
* 8+ years experience in communications, media relations and/or public affairs for a major corporation.
* Proven media relations skills and relationships with top-tier media; experience as a corporate spokesperson.
* Extraordinary initiative and flexibility, with the ability to get things done in a highly regulated environment.
* Demonstrated ability to provide candid counsel to C-level executives on business and communications issues.
* Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to interface with all levels of management.
* Ability to project a confident image to executives, peers, and business associates.
* Possess excellent communications and presentation skills.
* Ability to travel nationally as necessary.

Diversity creates a healthier atmosphere: equal opportunity employer M/F/D/V
UnitedHealth Group is a drug-free workplace. Candidates are required to pass a drug test before beginning employment. In addition, employees in certain positions are subject to random drug testing.

*Finally, the Federal Highway Administration has a communications opening in D.C.

Vacancy No. FHWA.JPO-2010-0001 Department Federal Highway Administration
Salary $102,721.00 to $133,543.00 Grade 14 to 14
Perm/Temp Permanent FT/PT Full-time
Open Date 11/17/2009 Close Date 12/2/2009
Job Link Apply Online Who may apply Status Candidates
Locations: ( Help make everyone’s job search easier! Report incorrect job locations. Include a new Location)
Job Description (Please follow all instructions carefully)
Department Of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Sub Agency:
the U.S. Department of Transportation
Job Announcement Number:
Job Title:
Communications and Outreach Specialist, GS-301-14 AT
Salary Range:
102,721.00 – 133,543.00 USD /year
Series & Grade:
Promotion Potential:
Open Period:
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 to Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Position Information:
Full Time Permanent
Duty Locations:
Washington, DC
Who May Be Considered:
To qualify, you must either:

  • Be a current or former federal employee with
    status OR
  • Be a veteran who qualifies under

Targeted Work Environment(s)
Mission Focused:
Attracting applicants who want a work environment that welcomes all motivations, from general service commitment to a specific passion.
Flexible Arrangements:
Attracting applicants who want a work environment that welcomes and accommodates traditional and flexible work arrangements.
Job Summary:
Real solutions to meet genuine challenges.  Innovative ideas to
take on growing realities. That’s the Federal Highway
Administration – Leaders in Paving the Way on the Road to Success.

This position is located in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO) of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), and serves as the Communications and Outreach Specialist within the ITS Knowledge Transfer and Policy (KTP) Team.  As such, you will be responsible for and will be a national expert in leading and coordinating communications and outreach activities for the ITS JPO as a whole and advising and assisting individual program managers with related activities for their programs. Maintaining liaisons and networks with national transportation trade press and outreach communities and helping research program managers build and coordinate stakeholder relationships are important aspects of your responsibilities. You will coordinate all publications, web publishing, articles, press releases, conference events, and other external communications activities of the ITS JPO.  You will work with the RITA’s Government, International and Public Affairs Office (GIP), supporting Administration-wide communications initiatives for the ITS JPO.  Responsibilities support the ITS JPO in accomplishing core objectives of transferring research results into practice.
The Communications and Outreach Specialist will work with the other members of the KTP Team, including the Team Lead and the Knowledge and Technology Transfer Program Manager, to execute a coordinated program of knowledge transfer, policy, and communications for the Office, and has primary responsibility for communications and outreach related activities.  Works through contracts, agreements, and liaisons with other offices and program managers to accomplish the program of work. Ability to work in a matrixed team environment and with external stakeholders and to manage and oversee contracts are critical components of the position.
The ideal candidate has experience supporting communications and outreach in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) industry such as for a Federal agency, State Department of Transportation with a major ITS program or for a national association with a related focus.  Experience should include dealing with unique challenges, key stakeholders, and terminology used within the ITS industry.
Key Requirements:

  • You must be eligible for status consideration & meet specialized experience
  • Submit application and resume online by 11:59 PM EST on the closing date.
  • Provide ALL required documents by closing date (see How to Apply Tab)
  • Position is telework eligible.
  • Job also advertised open to all U.S. Citizens see FHWA.JPO-2010-0002
  • Job announcement may be used to fill similar positions within 90 days.

Major Duties:

  • Identify goals, messages, and target audiences for communication activities.  Identify key messages for the ITS program and develop and maintain related talking points and presentation materials for use by ITS JPO, RITA staff, and senior management.
  • Develop and maintain archives of communications materials.  Establish resources to assist staff in conveying messages and developing graphic intensive presentations.
  • Responsible for writing and approving articles, press releases, web content, and other material.  Manage ITS JPO website and the ITS JPO activities with Web 2.0 and social media tools.
  • Identify key messages for the ITS program and develop and maintain related talking points and presentation materials for use by ITS JPO, RITA staff, and senior management.
  • Coordinate the ITS JPO participation in major conferences and events.
  • Manage website maintenance, publication, and event coordination.  Oversee contractors associated with website maintenance, publications, and event coordination.
  • Assess stakeholders’ communications and outreach needs by networking with research program managers, modal administration personnel, and external groups.
  • Build and maintain stakeholder lists for the ITS JPO.


To meet the minimum qualifications for this position, you must
meet the specialized experience qualifications for this position.
To qualify on Education, you must have
at least:
To qualify on Experience, you must have at
You may not substitute education at this grade level.

  • Experience supporting communications and outreach in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) industry such as for a State Department of Transportation with a major ITS program or for a national association with a related focus, or consulting experience for an ITS program at the national, State, or association level.
  • Applicants must meet all qualification requirements by the closing date of this announcement.

    obtain and retain a Government contractor-issued travel card to be
    used for official business as a condition of employment.

    If unable to obtain and/or retain a card, you may be subject to
    removal. Those who fail to meet this condition of employment will
    have our offer of employment rescinded.

    TIME-IN-GRADE REQUIREMENT: Federal applicants must have served 52
    weeks at the next lower grade to satisfy time-in-grade restrictions
    contained in 5 CFR 300, Subpart F.
    How You Will Be Evaluated:
    The Automated Staffing Office is ultimately responsible for
    determining your final rating. Please ensure that your resume and
    application provide enough detail to support your answers to the
    Vacancy Specific Questions.
    Your application will be rated on the extent and quality of your
    experience, education and training relevant to the position. Your
    answers to the Vacancy Specific Questions, your self-determined
    rating, narrative responses, resume and supporting documentation are
    reviewed.  If your resume, essay responses, and supporting documents
    do not support your answers to the Vacancy Specific Questions, your
    final rating may be modified.To preview questions please click here.

    Benefits include health and life insurance, annual and sick
    leave, and retirement benefits.  Explore the major benefits offered
    to most Federal Employees here.
    This position is telework eligible.
    Other Information:
    Displaced employees may be eligible for ICTAP or CTAP priority
    consideration.  For more information, please review the OPM Employee’s Guide to Career Transition.
    How To Apply:
    You must submit a complete application package (including resume,
    vacancy questions and supporting documents) no later than midnight
    Eastern Time on the closing date of the announcement.

    • To begin, click the “Apply Online” button on the job
      announcement posting.
    • Follow the directions to register, submit all required documents
      and complete the assessment questionnaire.
    • You may review your saved application(s) at

    If you are having difficulty applying online, please contact the DOT
    Automated Staffing Office during regular business hours (8:00 a.m.
    to 4:00 p.m. ET) at (202) 366-1298.  You may also email us at
    Required Documents:
    The following documents must be provided by the close date:

    • RESUME – showing relevant experience and education
      Resume” or other non-responsive answers to the request for narrative
      information may lead to your disqualification from consideration.
    • SF-50 – which verifies grade, full performance level of
      position, and eligibility for consideration as a status
    • DD214 – verifying military service and eligibility for
      consideration under the Veteran’s Employment Opportunity Act.
      consideration for Non-competitive appointment eligibility (e.g. disabled,
      disabled veterans), letter from VA, State Vocational Office, etc.
      Only required if requesting non-competitive consideration
      requesting priority consideration under CTAP/ICTAP.  You
      must submit ALL of the FOLLOWING: your most recent performance
      appraisal, the proof of eligibility letter from the Agency and your
      most current SF-50, displaying current series and grade.  In
      addition, you MUST meet the well qualified standards for this
      vacancy (meeting minimum requirements for position and scoring at
      least an 85)

    Failure to submit any of the required documents by the closing date
    of the vacancy will result in your removal from consideration for
    this position.
    Contact Information:
    Automated Staffing Office
    Phone: 202-366-1298
    Fax: 571-258-4052
    Email: TRANSJOBS@fhwa.dot.gov
    Or write:
    the U.S. Department of Transportation
    Submit Application and Documents Online
    1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E./HAHR-50
    Washington, DC 20590
    Fax: 571-258-4052
    What To Expect Next:

    You may check your application status by logging into
    USAJobs.com. (Select “My USAJOBS” and click “Applications”). Within
    two weeks of the closing date, a Human Resources Specialist will
    evaluate your application. Ratings will be determined based on the
    documents and information received by the closing date. Qualified
    candidates will be assigned a score between 70 and 100, not
    including points that may be assigned for veterans’ preference. The
    most highly qualified candidates are then referred to the hiring
    manager for further consideration.  If you are selected for an
    interview, we will contact you directly. Once the position is
    filled, we will notify all applicants of their final status.

    Happy hunting and have a relaxing weekend!



    Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

    Searching for a job while still employed Turning down a job without closing a door forever

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