Don’t hit send (yet)


Maybe the truth is that nobody is helping new employees focus their efforts in order to produce better reports or emails. And by better, I mean some of the items that are in this checklist (below). Perhaps, instead, it is the excitement and eagerness to hit the send button too soon.

Let’s walk through 5 things you can do to ensure that your email or your report or slide deck does not suffer from a few preventable ailments and risk being deemed as “not ready yet” for further distribution. Delivering work that is incomplete or incorrect will not lead to being considered for more responsibilities any time soon. Want to move up? Focus on the quality of your work first.

All names spelled correctly

Most people find it annoying to read minutes of meetings or a report which names them but misspells their first or last names. This is completely avoidable these days. With the internet and most people having Linkedin accounts, or in the same company you can look people up on the email system. There is no reason why we should be misspelling people’s names these days. When you do not take the time to double-check, it comes across as callous, lazy, or just not committed to producing quality work.

All dates are correct

Not all countries use the same format for dates. This would be the first point to consider – who will read your email/report? Check (online if needed): how do they write dates in that country? If you have a distribution list including people from multiple countries, consider writing the date out more: 3 Mar 2019 (for example)

The second point is more often a bugbear of mine – dates in the same document contradicting one another. For example: on page 2 of the slide deck it states that the project is completed on 2 Dec of that year, on page 5 it states that the project will run well into the new year and completion is projected to be the end of March of the next year. Which one is correct? If they are both correct – explain the term completion used on slides 2 and 5. Always check the latest version of your reference material or project schedule before you finalize your section on dates. It reflects badly on the creator of a document or slide deck where dates are misaligned and confusing. Check first!

Spelling or grammar errors

It is very avoidable these days to produce and send documents or slides to others without spelling errors. Use the built-in spell-check in Microsoft suite or a similar feature in other packages used. Some packages will also pick up grammar errors and flag it for you – if you have that feature turned on! Sometimes a missing word is not picked up by built-in checks. Read your own text back to yourself – aloud. Say each word. And make sure the words are not correctly spelled but actually the wrong word for the context. Examples would include: they’re/their/there or hear/here/hair

Use sane fonts

Some companies have branded templates to use for creating reports or slides. If your company does not have rules around branding which include the font colors, types, and sizes to use in company documents and slides, I would go with common sense. This would include – not using all the colors of the rainbow and multiple types of font in a project progress report and not varying the size of the font in every bullet-point you use. [Of course, if you are in the creative world and these variations are a design part of your project (as would be normal in advertising or other creative endeavors) this message is not for you].

Make it easier

Is there a clear structure to your work? Think about the message you want to communicate. What are the main points, what are the next level of detailed points to support each of the main points? Structuring your reports or emails greatly enhances the readers’ abilities to quickly understand what it is about, what the options are, and what you are proposing.

Use headings for distinct paragraphs and consider a bulleted list to align points that are grouped together under a heading. If the sequence or number of points are relevant, why not use a numbered list instead?

Speed in sending out reports is often not the biggest priority. Sending out something fast while the items listed above are incorrect or incoherent can truly harm your reputation. You would not come across as someone who has self-discipline, pride in the quality of your work, or who is seen as thorough – someone your boss can trust to give more responsibilities to! Pause, check, then hit send!

Reference checks


After interviews have taken place you will want to take a few more steps before you decide whether to make an offer to one of the job candidates you have for a vacancy. You may want to ask candidates to complete assessments or you may want to get the perspectives of their former colleagues before you make a decision.

Additional steps after initial interviews or between rounds of interviews could include:

  • Tests or assessments.
  • Practical exercises like a business case or even a presentation to be made to some senior leaders or experts at your company.
  • Reference checking with former colleagues, former direct reports or former supervisors of the candidate(s).

Checking References

The (download) template I am sharing below contains a few questions to help you understand whether one candidate may be preferred compared to another given their experiences and approaches.

Background checks are used in some countries but can be harder to obtain in countries or regions where data and privacy protection laws exist. In most cases, criminal background and/or financial history information can only be obtained if the prospective employer can show a direct link between the requirements of the role and the information it wishes to obtain. Reference checks are typically easier to conduct in most countries, but be mindful of the kinds of information that you would be reasonably able to obtain given local laws.

Be mindful to:

  • Ensure that you notify any impacted job candidates (i.e. in areas such as Europe) about the data you wish to obtain and how you would process this data to avoid the risk of non-compliance. Job candidates need to know this at the start of the process and they must (actively) agree with your proposal for collecting data before you are able to proceed.
  • Ensure that all data obtained during the recruitment process is archived or destroyed after the process has been completed for a specific vacancy. All HR personnel who deal with such data would need to understand that this also includes any data that have been saved to their individual computers during the process.
  • Make sure the data you wish to obtain is relevant to the hiring decisions you wish to make. And make sure that those who would speak with candidates or possible referees can explain the connection.

Assuming that you have taken all precautions to ensure you are not incurring any risks with your planned reference checking approach, use the questions you have selected (the download template above can help) when you contact the list of referees provided by the job candidate.

You can use the template in a few ways:

  • Set up a time to talk to each referee via phone or Skype and go through the questions, capturing his or her responses.
  • Send each referee a form and ask him/her to complete it and return it to you – typically via email. Be aware that this approach does not offer you much opportunity to ask further questions to clarify without creating a few extra emails to the original string.
  • Set up the questions as an online survey (for example using www.surveymonkey.com) and share the link with referees. Note that data interpretation may be an issue here – not knowing what a referee meant by a specific score or comment. This also means you would have to contact referees again to clarify feedback. One way to improve data interpretation is to build in comment fields to explain scores.

Finally, it is important to understand that a reference check is just one of the data points that could support decision-making related to hiring the best candidate for the vacancy.

Feedback may be incomplete for a number of reasons:

  1. The referee wishes to avoid any unpleasant situation with the former employee and wishes to be cautious in his/her responses.
  2. There may be laws in the country which specifies what referees can or should say and what they cannot comment on.
  3. The previous company may have clear policies about what can be shared by referees, which may be limited to job title and years of employment at the company.

Getting feedback from those who previously worked with a job candidate can still be valuable – understanding how the candidate’s knowledge or work methods would fit in with the job requirements or the company culture. For this reason, it can be good to get more perspectives. Just be aware of possible risks given the changing legal environment as you obtain feedback from referees.