Have you wondered why you didn’t get called in for an interview when the job was a perfect fit? Maybe it was because when they contacted your references, something went wrong. Good references are one of your biggest assets in a job search because they are independent witnesses who testify that your skills and work habits are suitable — that you will be a good fit for that job. But since references are real people, things change.
Choose Your References Carefully
The buddy that you party with every weekend is probably not going to be a good reference about your professionalism, right? Think about who will be an authority in your career search; someone who understands the work involved and who has seen how you work. This means supervisors, professors, and those you have served with as a volunteer.
Look at the reference the way an employer would and think about the type of questions that will be asked:
How long have they known you?
How have they worked with you?
What problems have you had in the workplace?
Check With Your References Regularly
Ask your reference first, before you put their name down, as a professional courtesy to them. But even if someone has told you it’s okay to use them as a reference, you need to ask if they will be available when you expect a potential employer to contact them. The professor you worked with as an intern may be out of the country for a few months and unavailable, for instance.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the contact information you list for your references is accurate and current. Queries sent to an unused email address will not help your job prospects, will they? Neither will phone calls that are never answered or wrong numbers. It’s always a good idea to check your references before the employer does so you can verify that they will be available and able to provide the positive reference you need to get that job.
Did you ever think about what a potential employer is really looking for in all openings, no matter what the job description is? Reliability. No matter what that job description is, and on top of any skills listed as requirements, their foundational need is a worker who shows up on time consistently and does the job responsibly every time they are expected to do so. Sometimes an unforeseen crisis may prevent a perfect attendance record, but an employee who is reliable is a better investment than hiring a brilliant whiz kid who doesn’t show up or goofs off most days. This need for reliability is why references are so important. Your references are people who testify to the way you are to work with, the kind of person you are, and ultimately how reliable you will be. And that promise of being able to rely on you for a job well done is what an employer is putting their faith in when they hire you. So, how do you go about getting a good reference…regardless of the circumstance that discolors a dubious job history? Sometimes the work situation was not your fault but affects your record. If this is the case, choose your reference providers with care. If you can, do some volunteer work that will show you are reliable. You want to make a case for your potential reliability by showing how you have been reliable in the past and proving it with the testimony of those who worked with you in the project. If you must address the issue during your interview, avoid disparaging remarks about your previous employer and be professional in your representation. Point out your best accomplishments and the fact that you look forward to being more productive. Diplomacy is professional and always impressive. You are showing in real time that you can be relied upon to do the best you can in any circumstance, and that puts you ahead of the pack.
Do you tend to remember stories instead of facts?I know I do. Most of us do, because we are people who love stories — movies, tv shows, books, gossip, family lore, and all the rest of the ways one can tell a narrative. Even jokes are stories, if you think about it! I don’t know the fancy reasons why this is so, but it probably has something to do with being able to identify with the story teller or a character in the story. This love of story plays out in your career in several ways:
Your brand is a synopsis of your story; a general overview of who you are
Your references are anecdotes of your story; testimonials from people with memories about you
Your resume is a capsulation of the highlights of your career story; the highlights that affect a potential job opening
It’s a good idea to remember that people usually will think in terms of story. That person interviewing you has sifted through a lot of resumes to choose the best character to introduce in their next chapter. They will try to figure out if your story, who you are, and how you will fit into the ongoing narrative of their enterprise. When you sent that thank you letter after the interview, you remind them of that story.
Not all story is going to be profitable for your career — gossip, backbiting, etc. are not things you want people to remember about you. The way you act and speak today will become the story people remember about you tomorrow. You can change parts of the story they remember by apologies and reforming, but it is really better when you realize that the narrative of your career and life is being written by you every day.
A common question asked during an interview is “Why Did You Leave Your Last Position?” A friend of mine who worked in Iran during the 1979 revolution offers an easy answer: his resume always says “civil unrest.” While that is a concrete and completely honest answer, most of us don’t usually have such a perfect answer when asked that question during an interview. Futhermore, the answer can be even more difficult if you are still in your current position and interviewing for a new position at another company.
If the questions “Why did you leave your last position?” or “Why do you want to leave your current position?” come up during an interview (and they will), your answers should be brief and honest. Simply stating that you are looking to advance your career or enhance your skill set are easy answers. You want to talk about using your skills, especially new ones you might have acquired through additional education or on-the-job training. You could also mention that you are looking for a position with more advancement opportunities and responsibilities.
What if the reason you are leaving is because of harassment, horrible policies, downsizing, or that your last boss was a complete jerk? Pretend it never happened. Under absolutely no circumstances are you to mention anything negative about you supervisor, your company, or anyone you have ever worked with. There is no possible way to complain without looking bad to the interviewer, so avoid it at all costs. If for some reason the interviewer knows that there was a situation at your last job, answer his questions truthfully, without giving a lot of detail, and direct the focus of the interview back to your qualifications for the job he is interviewing you for.
When interviewing, you want to leave the impression that you are ambitious, hardworking, and the best candidate for the job. Before you interview, take the time to rehearse concrete answers as to why you’re looking for a new job and how your skills, experience, and work ethic make you the best candidate.
You Prepared for the Interview…Did you Prepare your References?
A great resume and fantastic cover letter will get you an interview. What happens from there has a lot to do with you, and if you nail the interview, then you need to be sure that the final factor in the job search process – your references – are prepared to help you seal the deal.
It used to be standard to put “references on request” on your resume. This had essentially become the norm, but because most employers aren’t really interested in your references until after they’ve met you, you no longer need that line on your resume. But…you do need to ensure your reference list is prepared and ready to hand over to a potential employer during the interview. .
Here is how hiring generally works: The company goes through and picks out a handful of candidates to interview. This is where your outstanding resume and cover letter are so important because it’s all they have to work with at this point. Once your resume is selected, you are scheduled for an interview. It’s after the initial interview that employers begin to check references. What happens here can be the difference between a second interview (or if you really blew them away, an offer) and being removed from consideration.
You not only want to have a list of references ready, but you want the right kind of people on that list. Exclude your mother, doctor, and 3rd grade teacher. What the employer wants are past professional contacts. People who know your work ethic and can speak professionally about your skills and expertise. If you are a recent graduate, you might need to look at the supervisor of your internship or volunteer work. In a pinch, if you have nothing else, check and see if a professor will consent to be a reference.
Always ask the person for permission before using them as a reference. You are not generally required to request the permission of your last boss or supervisor, but it’s a classy touch that can help when they get the call. If possible, let your references know the job you’ve interviewed for, the name of the personal who will be contacting them, and any other significant information. The more prepared your professional references are, the better they will be able to speak on your behalf.
Picking your references is a very important part of your resume,yet many people do not take them into proper consideration. Your references are important for potential employers to get an opinion of you from someone other than yourself. This means that the references you choose to put on your resume need to be competent, reliable, respectable, and trustworthy sources who your potential employers will listen to and respect their opinions of you. This also means that you want to pick people who will talk about you in a good way. Below are some ideas that may help you decide who to pick for your references and who to avoid.
Teachers/Professors–New Graduates or College Students: Teachers or professors that you have a good relationship with and who you have done good work for are a great option for references because they get to see your work, but they also can see how you work with other people. However, do not pick teachers that have not seen your academic work. Art and music teachers may have been good friends and teachers, but they do not get to see your writing, computer skills, or other skills that are applicable to your job. This can be ignored if your field of work is applicable to art or music.
Direct Supervisors/Managers– Professionals: Direct supervisors are a good choice to put down for a reference. They are able to see how you work while also being reliable and respectable people due to the nature of your relationship with them. Avoid putting supervisors as references if you have had major difficulties with them.
These are both excellent types of people to put as references. They will give the type of recommendation that you want without being biased due to familial connection or long term friendship.
Your professional portfolio is a collection of physical evidence that documents, describes, and emphasizes your professional accomplishments. A professional portfolio can be very useful in encouraging potential employers to offer you that coveted job. Many job seekers know they need these documents during their job search, but aren’t always sure of what needs to be included and how they should be presented. Here are some simple answers to help get you get started. Why use a professional portfolio?
Effectivelyexpress your professional and career goals
Articulatethe work you have been doing to achieve your goals
What goes into a professional portfolio?
Introduction:Statement of your professional goals and your professional philosophy.
Career History: Resume or Curriculum Vitae.
Narrative description of experiences you want to highlight such as: Academic Work, Research, Teaching, Leadership, Service, Publications, Conference Participation, Lectures/Speaking Engagments, Performance Reviews, Recognition, and Awards.
Appendices: Annotated materials and examples to illustrate or elaborate on the previous portions of your portfolio.
Professional References: Not all employers ask for these during an interview, but if they do, show them you’re prepared by having your list ready.
How to get started with your professional portfolio?
Develop the practice of collecting materials that represent your skills, achievements and accomplishments.
Study job postings and learn what potential employers value when they are hiring.
Determine what materials and examples provide the best representation of your goals and philosophy.
Select an organizing principle that best reflects your work: chronological, functional, thematic.
A portfolio will help you stand out amongst the scores of job applicants. It will look very different from all the other candidates because your experiences will be unique. This makes it easy for you to stand out and impress those potential employers.
If you’re a teenager or college student, or the parent of a teenager or college student, then you all know what time of year it is…time to find that much needed summer job. While the economy has picked up a bit, there are many places, including here in Michigan where scoring a summer job is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Don’t give up – there are things you can do to help make your summer job search a success. Seasonal Jobs
Head to your local garden centers, greenhouses, and home improvement stores. Many of these retailers hire extra help during the summer as more people are busy with remodeling and home improvement projects during the warm summer months. You could also check out your local government agencies, as they also hire students to help with extra lawn work during the summer. If you enjoy working with children, there are always parents looking for childcare while their kids are out of school for the summer, or you could look into opportunities at local youth camps. Application/Interview Etiquette
Even if you are only putting in an application, dress professionally. If you are offered an interview on the spot, you want the hiring manager to focus on your qualifications and work ethic, not your short shorts or ripped jeans. Carry your resume and reference information with you to make the application process go faster, as well to show that you’re prepared in the event the employer asks for a resume. Digital Dirt
Don’t think that because you’re only seeking summer employment that a hiring manager may not “Google” you or look you up on Facebook. If your status updates or tweets are filled with profanity and/or pictures of your weekend escapades, the hiring manager may decide right then and there that you are not the type of person who would be a responsible employee. Clean up your digital dirt before you start applying for jobs and remove inappropriate posts/comments from friends who have access to your online profiles. Finally, make sure you have a professional greeting on your voice mail. An employer doesn’t want to hear “This is Joe – hit me up” when they need to leave a message for you. Simply state your name and confirm your phone number in your voice mail so that the employer knows they have the right person.
With a little bit of patience, hard work, and perseverance, you will surely land that coveted summer job.
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