Don’t waste my friend’s time

A few months ago, I was looking at some contract work.  The company wanted a few references.  I gave them the names of three current CEOs of companies ranging from 5-1500 people.

One of the ex-bosses sent me what he sent to the contracting company.  I was embarrassed that I actually asked this busy CEO to take time out of his life to answer these absolutely stupid questions:


  • When and where did you work with?  I worked with Rob from 2000-2004. We worked together when he was based in San Antonio and I was based in Melbourne, Florida. For about one year we both worked together in Melbourne, Florida
  • What type of environment was he in and what were his job duties/responsibilities? He was in a small office of about 20 people in San Antonio responsible for Software Quality Assurance and Test. He staffed and ran the group, interfaced with key customers and also would visit key customers in person. For the last year he was part of our larger facility in Florida.
  • How would you rate his quality of work?  Rob consistently produced very high quality work and was well respected by peers and management.
  • How would you rate his initiative? His initiative and innovative ideas were one of his strong points. He did not need much management or direction in determining in how to approach a task or problem.
  • How did he get along with his peers/management? He got along very well with all his peers and the vast majority of management. His relationship was a little tense with some of the management that had purchased our business the last 6 months of Rob’s tenure. Rob was not alone in this regard and there were numerous issues with the new management and the existing team. 
  • Were there ever any issues with appearance or attendance? No.
  • Would you consider for rehire?  Definitely
  • Finally, please list what you think his greatest strength or attribute was and something he may be able to improve on?  Strength is broad knowledge of software, the Internet and initiative. In terms of improvement, Rob is a very principled person. Something I respect. But at times, staying true to his principles, he would say what he really thought ( and what many other people thought as well). I would coach him on the fact you should not always do that. It was never a problem for me and most secure management. Some of the new management had an issue with that.


I included the answers as well, but look at the questions.  Imagine if you asked the CEO of a company to give you a recommendation then the hiring company sent this absolutely pathetic list of questions (that really tells very little about me). 

I was embarrassed.  I really didn’t think they would be wasting my friend’s time like this, but they did.  They didn’t care enough about their technical vetting process to ask decent questions.

Oh – they were COMPLETELY inflexible though on their drug testing policy (you all DO realize there is no law that mandates this crap, right?)

Anyway, my point is that they were very interested in what I did OFF DUTY, but the quality of their questions makes it pretty clear they don’t care about how I perform ON DUTY.  Otherwise they would have asked better questions.

“When and where did you work with?”  –  and they want to test ME for drugs?!?!?

“What type of environment…” – Interesting maybe, but probably not very useful – it is too open to interpretation.  “I worked with him in a cubicle, and he was responsible for dusting, and I took out the trash”.  Could also be answered, “Worked in a dynamic startup with a variety of responsibilities.  Was very proactive in his duties”.


I ended up not taking the position that I cashed in a CEO reference for.  Because I thought the company was flaky.

This all actually happened a couple months ago, but it has lingered in my drafts folder.  Going through that today, I decided to post it.

And I am very happy I didn’t take that position – even though it was a short-term contract it was working for a short-sighted company.

I’ve moved on to much more interesting things now.

And Larry – I am sorry they wasted your time.  I am sorry I let them! Next time I’ll do more vetting of a company before I let them get to you. 


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