Small world

Sep 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I just had a call from a friend I knew as a postdoc, who has just started her own lab.

"Dude, did you tell someone to apply for the open position in my lab?"

"no, I didn't tell anyone about your position, why?"

"X just applied and she listed you as a reference!"

Small world! I wondered if this would ever happen - a former student of 'mine' moving on in her career and being part of The Network. I assumed not seeing as I didn't follow the traditional academic career path.

But this feels nice! And scary - is there an added layer of responsibility on both sides of this equation now?

9 responses so far

  • GrumpyBear says:

    Yeah, don't give an unjustifiably glowing rec!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    *Adds "knowing Tiddles" to my list of Things That Will Disqualify A CV*

  • Pascale says:

    Surprised you didn't know. I would never list a reference without asking them first, or at least dropping them an FYI.

  • Karen says:

    In the non-academic world, I've been called several times for references without a head's-up from the candidate first. Sometimes they're not really reference calls per se, just network calls of "hey, I remember you worked at XYZ Company, did you ever know this person?" But sometimes they're quite outright, "John Doe listed you as his reference, and he's interviewing with our company." Thanks Johnny. Here I am, frazzled as hell with work up the wazoo before I go home tonight, and now I have to remember you and make instant decisions as to what I'll tell the caller about you. This is NOT the best reference you're gonna get!

  • brooksphd says:

    Gbear - that's the issue I'm thinking about. Did I, could I, would I maybe oversell (or undersell) someone? Really, would it be bad to now 'oversell' someone? to really emphasize their fit because you can write a better letter. Is it common practice? Same as under selling someone is an easy, "I certainly consider this candidate above average. Hir fit in your lab is good. S/he reads the literature and makes solutions at the correct concentration accurately..."

    PlS: who is this Tiddles that you speak of? He sounds like a talented, charming, honest scientist. Especially if you wouldn't employ his trainees....bloody ecologists....

    Pascale - I agreed to be used as a reference, but did ask to be informed of each instance, so I could be sure to write an accurate letter. I don't think there was malfeasance, just oversight this time. I have obviously mentioned this to the candidate.

  • Brooksphd says:

    @Karen - those (very few) i just say now is nt a good time, can we talk later. If the HR is pissed, then oop, serves you right for blindsiding me! If not, then I can chase down candidate X and say WTF!?

  • Karen says:

    @Brooksphd, I often do that with the network callers. When Jane Manager, who I haven't seen in years, calls to ask about Joe Worker, who worked with me for awhile three years ago, I put her off and take some time to think about it. If (as is usual) I don't have any particularly negative feelings about Joe, I'll take some time to think about how well he did and how I should present it to Jane, given what I remember about her outlook on employees. I feel it's my professional obligation to do it properly.

    But to be blindsided by someone who should have, by all the rules, given me a call or dropped me an email and clued me in that he was using me as a reference just makes me grind my teeth. So I'm going to deal with it right then and there, and make the problem go away. I suppose that isn't professionalism at it's best, but the candidate would have done well to not piss me off in the first place.

    This is a pet peeve with me, ever since some HR guy called me at night at home, when I was up to my elbows in flour making biscuits, to ask about a seasoned engineer who definitely should have known better than to make me a reference without contacting me. Candidate was a complex guy, an absolute star in some areas and a pain in the ass in others. Under the gun, getting flour on the handset, I told the truth. Candidate was pissed at me for being a less-than-stellar reference on all counts. I was pissed at him for blindsiding me. I don't think I've communicated with him since then.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Since retirement, I have had only a couple of past students email me asking for a recommendation. Both requests were reasonable, and I was glad to give the recommendation.

  • brooksphd says:

    @Karen - The student who asked for the ref last worked with me in 2008, but we've stayed in touch and I know other folks she's worked with in the interim. I'm pretty confident of my assessment, but I certainly understand needing time to dredge the memory banks for an accurate write-up.

    @Jim - Was it a 'nice' feeling being asked? Keep the old links alive? 🙂