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Are You Using the Right People for Your References?

"Employment references are professionals who can comment on your personal character, work ethic, past work experiences and abilities to perform specific duties."

It's important to have your references prepped and ready to go as you move into the job hunting, career change stage of your life. Being given a job offer and then scampering around trying to find appropriate references and their contact information won't give a good impression to your new bosses. You don't have to hand in your references until you are asked for them which is usually at the verbal job offer stage, but they should be all ready to go.  

"Almost 60% of employers claim that they have had to withdraw an offer of employment after receiving poor references about successful applicants. " - monster.com

Who to Use for Your Professional Reference?

The first choice would always be your current supervisor. This is an easy choice if your partner has just been transferred to another city and you are relocating. A little more difficult if you are looking for a new job because you want a change, specifically of boss. Your reference doesn't have to be a "manager", it could be a more "senior" co-worker who is working with you on your current project. If your reference is from a previous position then a supervisor/manager would be the best choice.  

Start off by making a list of people you have worked with in the past and had a good relationship with. List the projects you worked on that were completed successfully and who your supervisor and co-workers were. Check out your previous performance reviews, which supervisors were complimentary towards you. If there are individuals on this list who can also relate to the new position you are applying for - great.  

Get Back in Touch

Thank goodness for LinkedIn, it has made keeping in touch with previous co-workers much easier. But finding them on LinkedIn isn't enough. You need to actually call these individuals and ask them if they remember you and if they will give you a reference. If you have lost touch, you want to reconnect and build your relationship back up.  

When you are talking to them explain the position you are applying for. Reconnect about old projects you worked on together. Give them a heads up when you get to the job offer stage, so they can be expecting the call. We all deal with telemarketers and the last thing you want is your reference thinking your potential employer is a telemarketer and hanging up on them.  

Include on your list their name, company, position and a day and night time contact number. Ask them if there is a time preference for receiving a phone call. This list should look professional, a white clean 8 x 11 piece of paper, not names on little post-its.

Prepare Your References with What Information Can Be Provided About You 

References will be called so make sure they are prepared. Large companies use reference services to do their reference checks. Companies who use Recruiters will sometimes have the recruiting company do the reference checks or the actual hiring managers will call. Either way there are only certain things they can ask in a reference check. Make sure your reference is going to give you glowing comments about the following questions:

  • Length of employment?
  • Previous job title?
  • Brief details of responsibility?
  • Overall performance?
  • Time-keeping and attendance?
  • Reason for leaving?
  • Would you re-hire this employee?
  • Keep in Touch

Follow up with your references after you start your job with a big thank you and remember to stay in touch. You never know when you may need a reference again. Or you may want to go and work for them in the future.  

Keep Your Reference List Up to Date

New references from your most current jobs, volunteer or community experience should keep getting added to your reference list with up-to-date contact information. But that doesn't mean you lose track of your older references. Network, Network, Network! You never know when you may be able to help someone from your past or they may be able to help you.


Your Resume Checklist

 

Before you submit that resume, have a 2nd and a 3rd look. Once you send it there is no way to get it back, so proofread, proofread, proofread! Verify everything you need is mentioned in the resume. Below are some do's and don'ts to help you with your resume submission.

  • Your name (first and last) is bolded on the first page, followed by contact information (town/city, country, phone, email, LinkedIn) in a smaller font. On subsequent pages include your name, email and phone number in a smaller font at the top of the resume.
  • Do not include personal information like: marital status, children, father's name (yes I have seen it on resumes), passport number or SIN number.
  • How long is your Professional Profile? Keep it to 1 paragraph, 5 to 6 sentences and possibly a couple of bullets. Make sure they highlight the skills you have that match the job you are applying for. A 1-page profile will lose the interest of the recruiter after about the 5th line. Keep it short and concise.
  • Is your Education listed with the highest degree on the top, followed by certifications and training in reverse chronological order?
  • If you are applying for a technical position. This is a good spot to list your most current technologies. Needless to say if there are specific technical skills in the job ad and you have them, then put them in here so they will stand out.
  • The next section should be your Professional Experience. Again, the jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order, with the most current position first.
  • Do your achievements start with action words: Develop, Create, Built, Performed, Managed, Coordinated, etc. Here is a webpage with 100's of action words: http://jobmob.co.il/blog/positive-resume-action-verbs/ or just type "List of Action Words" in Google.
  • NEVER NEVER NEVER start a sentence with "I" or "your name". "John created a test plan and test cases" or "I created a test plan and test cases" should become: Created a test plan and test cases.
  • Put your keywords from the job ad in your achievements as often as you can. If the job is looking for someone who has worked on an "on-line banking system" then say so. Created detailed test plans for the CIBC On-line Banking System using Mercury Tools.
  • Tell them how much you enjoyed the interview and that you are looking forward to their call.
  • If you notice that it is taking you a long time to read your resume, then it is probably too long, cut it down to 2 or 3 pages. You can always put in a line that says: Detailed job information from 1999 and back is available upon request.
  • Hobbies - not needed on the resume. This is a question that may come up at the interview to get the conversation going. Be careful what you tell them. Reading, Golf, Skiing, etc are probably good topics of conversation. Telling your interviewer that you like to go to the casino every Saturday night might set off some warning bells for him/her.
  • References - don't go on the resume, in fact don't even put in the line "references available upon request", that's a known.
  • Take out the graphics, logos, graphs, pictures.
  • Don't include a letter from your mother, yes it has happened.
  • Don't lie on your resume, this is a legal document.
  • Have someone proofread it, have them read the job ad as well. You want to make sure your points address the job description.

Resumes can be adapted to different jobs/positions that you are applying for. But remember to always tell the truth!