When applying for jobs in the past, I had a handful of go-to references who I knew could vouch for my skills. They were all exclusively managers or professors, not co-workers, because I assumed my peers’ input wouldn’t carry as much weight. But a new survey on job references shows I may be wrong, as co-workers are proven to showcase valuable skills that managers often neglect.
The report found that managers tend to emphasize an individual’s task-related behaviors, while co-workers are more inclined to talk about someone’s interpersonal skills. SkillSurvey, an online reference-checking engine, surveyed 20,000 references (10,000 managers and 10,000 co-workers).
Task-related behavior is how effective someone is at working independently or meeting deadlines, for example. Interpersonal skills, on the other hand, could be a person’s willingness to help, listen, or empathize. Both are very different, though equally important.
SkillSurvey broke down notable differences between how co-workers and managers answered the same open-ended question. When asked about an employee’s areas of strengths, co-workers responded with “knowledgeable,” “friendly,” and “understanding.” Managers answered with descriptors like “dependable” and “reliable.”
What I found most interesting in the report is how co-workers describe a person’s biggest weakness. When asked about possible areas of improvement, co-workers answered “too helpful,” “perfectionist,” and “works too much.” It looks like co-workers can still find something positive to say even when they’re posed with a negative question.
As strong as your resume or cover letter may be, one negative reference has the power to tip the scale against you. Level up your job prospects by checking out our guide on how to get (and give) the best referrals. And while you’re at it, take some time to learn how to respond to the most basic of interview questions (especially if haven't gotten the most positive feedback in the past).