Traditional methods for checking references are useful, but have limitations. Reference letters typically are a page or two of carefully crafted text proclaiming the accomplishments of the job seeker. Reference checks over the telephone may result in little more than fact checking and general commendations.
I decided to research and design another option for potential employers — this site!
My original goal was to collect quotes from my references, and put together a web page with mini-reviews of myself, like the expert reviews on the back of a book or inside a book jacket.
This general problem consisted of two parts — collecting the information and then creating a way to meaningfully display it.
I carefully constructed a web-based survey to collect useful quotes from my references. Once it was ready, I sent the same announcement email out to potential participants. More details can be found on the survey page.
Given the quality and quantity of responses, I decided to create a custom WordPress site. I had never set up a blog using their software, and I wanted to learn from this experience as well as create something useful. WordPress seemed like it could provide useful interactivity, and also an easy way to post new survey results.
After pasting each survey quote into a WordPress blog post, I applied categories to identify the author's name, company, and which question was being answered. I also applied tags to each post, identifying key concepts about myself. After selecting a WordPress theme, I heavily customized both the CSS and the template code. WordPress blogs are usually sorted by posting date, but this was meaningless to my site. Instead I wrote some custom code to sort by the number of tags per post — my assumption was that the more tags a post had, the more meaningful it would be. Finally, I replaced some of the built-in widgets with a few more customizable versions I found online.
- Quotes and recommendations can be searched,
- faceted navigation on the left provides filters into the content,
- a tag cloud surfaces concepts that are frequently mentioned,
- short quotes can be quickly browsed, and feel more like a conversation,
- links to my portfolio and samples of work are also provided,
- and the site itself is proof of the quality of my work, as well as my creativity and abilities.
Plus, this site has been a really fun project!
I'd like to thank WordPress for providing such a flexible web content system and the Hippotigris theme which I hacked up pretty thoroughly. Thanks and appreciation go out to the wonderful folks I have worked with over the years who have shared their thoughts in this survey — without you this site wouldn't exist in either content or design. Special thanks to Mike Crandall, Michelle Hudson, and a few other people who acted as sounding boards for my crazy ideas and who provided valuable feedback as I worked on this site.