4 Ways to Guarantee a Bad (or Lukewarm) Medical Reference

Medical Reference

The Worst Way To Ask Someone for A Reference

When trying to pull together references for a job application, the most important thing is to avoid the Lukewarm Reference of Death. This reference isn’t scathing, but isn’t particularly glowing either, and can lead many employers to wonder; if the person the candidate wants you talk to can’t give a glowing reference, what would other people say about them?

The Lukewarm Reference is common because of a lack of knowledge by candidates on how to appropriately ask someone to be their reference. But by avoiding the following common pitfalls, you can make sure you line up only the most positive references, all of whom will be happy to vouch for you.

Not asking is the worst way to ask

A Lukewarm Reference is a likely outcome when the first time a person hears about being your referee is when the prospective employer is calling them. In this case, it is likely that a referee can’t think of anything interesting to say, they aren’t prepared, and therefore end up giving a Lukewarm Reference. If you’re working with a medical recruitment agency (even as a locum), it can also create a very awkward situation for them when they speak to the referee!

Manners are free

Another way to get a Lukewarm Reference is by telling, not asking, someone to be your referee. Sending an email informing someone you have listed them as your reference is impolite and presumptuous. You want this person to rave about you, so you should be cultivating a close relationship with this person, and asking them in the nicest and most helpful way. You might want to consider using phrases like:

“Do you think you know my work well enough to give me a reference?” or

“Do you feel comfortable providing me with a reference?”

Explain to them why you are choosing them particularly to vouch for you. Provide them with the most up to date version of your CV and a copy of the job description you’re applying for. Save them time by suggesting some things they might like to mention, but make sure to tell them you don’t want to put words in their mouth.

Doctors (and all healthcare professionals) are very busy, so ask your referee the best time to call and pass that information on to your prospective employer, or locum agency.

Phone, email, or carrier pigeon?

If you work closely with a person, see them often, and can’t foresee any reservations on their behalf, you might like to ask them to be your reference in person or on the phone. This can be more personal and polite, but you should be sensitive to any sign of hesitation from them. Let them know it is fine to say no, and that they can have time to think about it if they want to. Give them an easy out.

Asking someone via email is less likely to put them on the spot, allowing them time for consideration and making it easier for them to decline if they want to. Remember, anything less than a glowing review of you and your work could be considered a Lukewarm Reference of Death, so you need to make sure you only recruit the most enthusiastic referees.

When your supervisors aren’t so super

Sometimes, you may not have had the best relationship with your direct supervisor.  In fact, if you suspect they might not give you a glowing reference, you might not want to use them at all.

If you need to, sometimes your coworkers, or supervisors in other departments, might know enough about your work and accomplishments to be able to provide a reference. The most important thing is that they know your strengths and abilities and are keen to describe you in a positive light.

You might also like to consider the relevancy of the referee’s job in relation to the job you’re applying for. A reference from the same or closely related field could be more useful – for example, if you are applying for a medical registrar position, ask a medical consultant rather than the surgeon you worked with.

It’s a good idea to have a minimum of 3 referees lined up, and particularly useful to have them focussing on different areas. For example, one might be best placed to talk about your work ethic and teamwork, one about your professional experience and one about your management skills.

Of course, it’s important to comply with the requirements your prospective employer sets out in terms of who can be a referee for the position.

Summary of The Best Way To Ask For A Reference

– Find referees who can each talk about different sides of your professional life – from teamwork to professional skills

– Ask your referee for permission at least a few days or a week ahead of providing their details to an employer. If they need to provide a written reference it would be best to offer them up to 2 weeks to prepare.

– Whether you are asking on the phone, in person or via email, be polite and give the referee an easy way to decline

– Provide all the information they might need, including your latest CV and the job description

– Offer points to talk about, even a template if you’re looking for a written reference.

Don’t forget to follow up and say thank you to every person who agreed to be your referee – whether they were called on it or not.  It’s important to keep the relationships healthy, because you never know when you’ll need a reference again.

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