If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will soon. The economy drives job hunters — especially if they’re unemployed — to call everyone they know and ask for job leads. It’s an awkward request to make and people get understandably nervous about asking. It’s wonderful when friends and acquaintances can help out.

I help whenever I can and my heart goes out to those in dire straits. I urge you to make thoughtful introductions for people you hold in high esteem. (On the other hand, never recommend a job hunter who isn’t worthy. You will risk your own reputation.)

But let him beware to whom I give a valuable introduction who does not follow up. Do that to me and I’ll never give you the time of day again because you have wasted the hard-earned favor of someone who trusts and respects me. I have spoken to that contact, referred you and vouched for you. My contact is ready and expecting your call. I have just written a check to you against the good will I have amassed someone else’s bank. If you don’t make the call, I look bad. I’ve wasted an asset.

I get great satisfaction when I make introductions that lead to job offers, business deals or just to enjoyable conversations and new friendships that may blossom into business later. The recipient of the favor benefits. But so do I because the quality of the introductions I make reflect on me, and my credibility grows. My contact trusts that the next time I make an introduction, it will be another good one.

I know how frantic the search for a job can be. But don’t lose track of the “checks” your friends write to you. Enjoy the good will and use it fully. But treat a personal referral with respect. Follow up. Call the person who’s expecting your call. Behave like the person that I have vouched you are. But if you squander my assets, don’t ever call me again.

  1. Nick – It really surprises me to see how many people just won’t show up, even in today’s lousy economy.

    In my second life I’m a reserve deputy sheriff. We’re currently doing interviews for admission to a training academy. In our county the position of reserve officer doesn’t pay, but it definitely gives somebody an “in” if they want to get into full time law enforcement. I’ve seen many enthusiastic and highly competent folks get hired after they’ve proven themselves by working as a volunteer.

    We’re currently increasing the size of our reserve division. Since the positions aren’t paid, we have authorization from the boss to bring as many good people as we can find on board. Our interviews aren’t competitive as such, but rather a process of finding people who meet strict set of qualifications.

    The first criteria we’ve put in place for hiring is to complete an application correctly and on time, and to show up for the interview. That shouldn’t be too hard and we feel that if an applicant can’t fill out a personal history we probably don’t want them doing a police report (or carrying a gun!). Given that the process really isn’t rocket science, a siognificant portion of the people who have expressed interest just can’t seem to get their paperwork turned in or show up for the interview. These folks can move heaven and earth to get to the ball game or a movie, but they can’t take five minutes to make a phone call and reschedule an interview.

    I guess that the old saying that 90% of success is just showing up has a lot of truth in it.

  2. Dave,

    I was mayor of my town for 3 years til last Dec. (It’s a volunteer elected gig that essentially pays no money. You do it to help out.) Getting onto our police force isn’t easy; there’s lots of competition. But like your sheriff’s dept, our PD has “specials” – part time cops. Smart applicants start there, and if they’re good they’ve got the inside track when a rare position opens up. But that’s true in almost any business, though people don’t think of that as a good access point. They’re missing out.

    As for people who don’t show up, they are legion. I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t write about it, but it’s worth an article. People want a certain job, but they blow it in the most silly ways — many don’t even realize it. Those are the ones who least deserve the job. Where are their heads?

    Check out this percentage:

    My only advice is, keep your hiring criteria very strict, even if the jobs don’t pay. Sounds like you already do. The higher the standards, the better. Especially when it comes to cops (or deputies).

    People reveal themselves and they don’t even realize it. Trouble is, employers often don’t notice, either.

  3. Great tip — if you’re going to ask someone else to write a check for you, you better cash it!

  4. I have a couple of friends / co-workers that I have recommended to recruiters / hiring managers. Neither of them ever called the person I recommended them to. I’ve learned my lesson and will not recommend them again. Unfortunately, it has made me rethink recommending any of my friends / co-workers again.

  5. WokaiLi,

    It’s a sad thing. Various studies show that 40-70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts.

    People waste ridiculous amounts of time on job boards, which deliver paltry results.

    So what do people do when they are given a precious personal referral? They waste it. Just astonishing. I think the psychology of job hunting is absolutely fascinating.

    There is a famous study of rats in a cage sitting on a shock panel. There is no way out of the cage when the shock goes off. After many experiences getting shocked, the rat is put into a different cage with an exit door. Again it is shocked. Yet it does not move away from the shock panel. It has been conditioned to stay put, even when an exit is available.

    Need we say more?