In the land of this being a true statement, I just heard this week that someone I worked with a few jobs ago is now out of work and looking. How do I know? His resume landed on another friend of mine's desk, and I got a phone call. Small world!
What I struggled with a bit, though, is what to say. This guy was.... okay. He was very very young, very cocky, and didn't have the skills to back it up at that point. And this was about two years ago.
So what can you talk about, when you're talking about an ex-colleague?
In general, you can talk about things that are unlikely to change. Things that may have changed, though, should be off limits.
Things to Discuss:
- Ability to learn. This is huge and I'm pretty well convinced it's innate - either people learn in an environment or not. Do allow for some different results in a different environment, though.
- Attitude. Attitudes are extremely difficult to change, and in my experience they generally don't. Someone who always had to feel like the smartest person in the room before will almost certainly still be going around trying to feel he's the smartest person in the room.
- Work ethic. If the person couldn't focus on anything before, the amount of focus is not likely to have increased. If a person regularly came in late and left early, and slacked off a lot, well, you can probably expect that to continue.
- Talent. Talent to me is a person's innate ability; it's the things that person simply finds easy. Some people are simply talented testers; parsing a system and effectively interacting with it just sort of happens. Others are not; they may be able to test, but it's often a lot harder for them. Same goes for coding and even communicating. Skills can be learned, but it's more of a struggle for some than for others.
Things To Avoid:
- Experience. Since you worked with the person he may have learned that Linux he was lacking. He may have picked up test automation, even though he never used to write a line of code. Don't ding him based on what used to be true.
That being said, if you're a candidate, you can hazard a guess that your ex-colleagues will find out about and could influence your job search. So even in this job, be mindful of the impression you're leaving.