Letters of recommendation?


By Scagnetti   Follow   Sat, 17 Nov 2012, 6:33pm   427 views   5 comments
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This is a little off topic for the website, but I've grown to respect the thoughtful opinions of many on this website on various subjects. Hopefully I will attract those thoughtful opinions in this thread.

I work in the steel industry, which by nature is very cyclical and volatile, even without the recent 5 year "rough patch" due to the poor overall economy. We have experienced lay offs in the past, the latest being 1 month ago. The company I'm employed at has recently made a public offering of a large amount of stock at reduced price, which in effect, tanked the stock price. My employer has also approved the sale of 100's of millions of dollars worth of corporate bonds paying 8.75%. That's a rather high return on a bond investment which leads me to believe there is at least a moderate tail risk to the purchase of the bonds. This is an attempt to generate capital to pay back previous loans, and to cover operating costs until there is a turnaround. In summary, business conditions are not looking good.

It's time for me to start evaluating the option of looking for a new job before the possibility of being left out "in the cold". I have worked for this company for 7 years (I'm 31) as a manager, have been promoted several times, and am well liked and respected by my subordinates, peers, and superiors alike.

The question is, what are your opinions on acquiring letters of recommendation in regards to;

1) Exposing myself as looking for work with a different company and experiencing blow back from this.
2) Do hiring managers put any stock into letters of recommendation anyway?
3) Waiting until I am asked to provide them.
4) Waiting for my yearly review and asking my direct supervisor then...if I can.
5) Just waiting it out for the recovery, or the layoff (and then collecting unemployment and looking for work).

P.S. I am not in danger of being terminated or let go for any other reason than a further downturn in business conditions. As I have said, I am well respected and liked at the company.

~As a side note...I would encourage people to accumulate these over time when you or your current boss gets promoted or leaves for any reason. Then you will have these for future reference without revealing your intentions.

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  1. swebb


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    1   7:46pm Sat 17 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    In the tech industry I have found that is common to line up your references ahead of applying for a job (obviously only with trusted people, so the word doesn't get out), and to include a "references upon request" note on your resume or cover letter.

    And you don't even need to line things up ahead of time if you are confident you can get good references when needed.

    This is a little different than what you are asking about, though. References get checked after you are well into the process and have already cleared the main hurdles. I'm not saying that checking references is perfunctory, but in my experience it can turn a "hire" into a "no hire" if the references turn something up that's bad, but otherwise don't really make a difference.

    Someone who is in the hiring process probably has a big stack of resumes, and wants to weed out as many as possible with little effort. If your resume doesn't catch their eye, they probably won't spend too much time on a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation from anonymous (unknown) sources aren't likely to carry much weight, anyway. If you get a strong, detailed, personally tailored letter from the CEO of your company, or your US senator, sure...that's worth putting in there...but the default will be to assume that you just asked one of the drinking buddies you work with to write some rosy poetry about you.

    I have been involved in the hiring process for a dozen or so positions and have seen quite a few applications...I don't think I have ever seen a letter of recommendation. (A well written, targeted cover letter is always a good idea)

    But this is the tech industry -- I know nothing about steel other than the fact that US Steel stock price is very volatile.

  2. Scagnetti


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    2   8:01pm Sat 17 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Thanks swebb....good post. Sounds like from your experience, not much weight is normally given to recommendations.

    Getting the CEO to endorse me will be pretty hard as I have no contact with him. This is a multi billion dollar company and I'm not at the level to have contact with a man in that high of a position. Although I do know and have worked directly with the Plant manager, which is a very respected position, far up the management ladder. It may be possible to get his endorsement

  3. swebb


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    3   8:11pm Sat 17 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Scagnetti says

    Thanks swebb....good post. Sounds like from your experience, not much weight is normally given to recommendations.

    Getting the CEO to endorse me will be pretty hard as I have no contact with him. This is a multi billion dollar company and I'm not at the level to have contact with a man at his level. Although I do know and have worked directly with the Plant manager, which is a very respected position, far up the management ladder. It may be possible to get his endorsement

    my comment on getting the CEO to write a recommendation letter wasn't really meant literally...I was trying to point out that there might be exceptions, and if you could get a "big fish" to write a letter of recommendation, it could matter.

    It's probably _far_ more powerful to get someone you work for to pick up the phone and call someone they know..."If you are hiring, I have a guy would would be great for XYZ"...

    It's all about reputation...if the person making the recommendation is putting their reputation on the line to some extent, then what they say will be taken more seriously. If you wrote a letter of recommendation for me, it wouldn't carry much weight with the average person...if, however, you picked up the phone and called a friend and recommended me, it would carry a lot of weight...your reputation with the other party is the difference.

  4. Rent4Ever


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    4   7:18am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    I'm not familiar with the steel industry, so unless letters of recommendation are standard in the steel industry I think asking for them is entirely unnecessary. References are used after you have already presented yourself in an interview and are at the stage to be hired pending a background check. If you have interviews lined up, I would touch base with your references and give them a heads up. I understand that you are concerned about "word getting out" and who you can trust, etc. You should consider co-workers that have left the company as references or any customers you've had direct contact with that would speak highly of you. I would generally avoid asking people currently working at your company unless you can truly trust them like a close friend.

  5. elliemae


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    5   9:14am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike   Protected  

    I work in healthcare - and letters of rec are essential. Collect them along the way, because if you tip your hand that you're looking (at least in healthcare) they'll fire your ass for being disloyal.

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