One of the most surprising truths I have found in my work as an executive recruiter is that your best friends and your worst enemies (well, most of us don’t have enemies, but we do have detractors) identify the exact same list of our strengths and weaknesses.
Candidates perseverate over who to select as their professional references. They worry someone they disagreed with, competed with, or alienated will provide a distorted and unflattering picture of them and torpedo their chances at landing the new role. I am here to tell you that in my over 25 years as an executive recruiter, I have found no material difference in how you are described by your best friends and your biggest detractors.
"I am here to tell you that in my over 25 years as an executive recruiter, I have found no material difference in how you are described by your best friends and your biggest detractors."
I always find relevant people to provide references who were not selected by the candidate (the infamous ‘back-door’ reference), so I know that these references do not reflect the candidate’s coaching in any way. And I still find I get the same comments and insights from a candidate’s greatest allies as I do from the people who did not work well with that individual. Your best friends see your weaknesses, and because I persist they will tell them to me. And your detractors see your strengths, even if they don’t always see eye to eye with you about where you will succeed and where you will struggle.
Is this just that people are likely to be honest? Maybe that is part of it, but I think it’s also a reflection that those who disagree with us or even dislike us are still over time able to see us for who we really are. After all, our beliefs and actions are out there for all to see. And we’re all paying attention, regardless of our affinity.
We are what we are.
There isn’t any point in trying to hide it. And that’s a really good thing!