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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. Now, that's a good reference.