What you say about your references can kill your chances to get the job–not to mention what they say about you when they’re called! Your references are a huge factor in your success–they can make you or break you (see How Bad References Can Kill Your Job Search). But I just talked to a candidate who, even though her references aren’t negative, is making a fatal but common mistake when asked about them.
Listen to this audio to find out what her mistake is and how you can avoid it:
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Do you know how to handle the references question? I just talked to a candidate who’s making a fatal mistake when asked about her references. Listen to this audio to find out what it is and how to avoid it:
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Have you ever wondered if it carries more weight to have a written reference letter, or if it makes a better impression to have your reference speak directly to the hiring manager on the phone? Watch this video and we’ll examine the differences and let you know which type of job reference best fits various situations:
If you’re asked about your references in the job interview, do you have a few names ready?
Do you know what those people would say about you when they are called?
In today’s video, I’ll tell you how to choose the best references, how to make sure they say fantastic, glowing things about you, and why it’s so important to the success of your job search.
Laid-Off Pharma Reps: Get a Reference Even Though the Managers at Schering, Merck, or Wyeth Say You Can’t Have One
It’s rough out there: tens of thousands of pharma sales reps have gotten laid off in the last 2 years, and pharma layoffs are only getting worse. Not only are all these thousands of pharma reps flooding the job market in medical/healthcare/pharmaceutical sales, many pharma companies are telling the former sales managers of these reps that they aren’t allowed to give a reference–even if it was a company-wide layoff and the rep was great. Company policy restricts them to name, rank, and serial number only: what the candidate did, how long he worked there, and why he exited the company. That’s not a job-winning reference for any candidate.
A lot of candidates just accept this situation because, “Hey, it’s company policy…what can you do?” But that’s just not OK. If you’ve worked hard for someone and done a great job, they ought to give you a great reference, no matter what the company says.
And there is something you can do. Watch this video so I can show you exactly what to say to get your former manager to give you a reference, even if the company has told him not to. If you know that it was a good working relationship, that you did a fantastic job, and that it would be a great reference for you, then it’s worth trying one more time to get it. Be sure and take the poll below the video about this.
And if you have a comment or a story of how this has impacted you, would you add it in the comment section?
Your job references are important to your job search success. They’re the last step in the interview process, and you have to take just as much care with them as you do with anything else–like your resume, your interview skills, your brag book, or your 30/60/90-day plan. A great reference could easily be what convinces a hiring manager who’s on the fence about you to go ahead and hire you. And a bad one can knock you out of the running faster than you can blink. Recommendations carry a lot of weight.
When you are asked in a job interview about your references, don’t lead off your answer with a list of names. Get to the meat of what the hiring manager or recruiter wants to know by talking about what kind of references you have: titles, positions, and so on. Which references are the best ones? Former managers are always at the top of the list of desirable references for any job seeker. If your last job situation was less-than-ideal, you might have to get a little more creative to get a good reference. For instance, you could ask a high-level client, a colleague, or a manager you didn’t directly work for but who knows your work.
But it’s not just job titles that come into play when choosing a reference that will make you look good. You have to choose someone you know thinks a lot of you, someone who knows about the job you’re going for so that they can speak to your strengths, and someone who can express himself or herself well.
If you’ve got a lineup of good references, you need to know some job-reference etiquette: (1) Keep your references updated with regular e-mails about your career and pass on things that might be helpful to them, just like you do with the rest of your network; (2) give them a heads-up when they are about to be called for a reference, and use that time to tell them about the job and what skills they might focus on; and (3) be sure to thank them for helping you out.
Resumes Win Interviews, But References Win Job Offers
By Heidi M. Allison, Managing Director, JobReferences.com
Inquiring minds want to know, and no minds are more inquiring than those about to hire you. Rest assured, you will be investigated. As a rule of thumb, the better the job, the higher the pay, – the tougher the screening process. If you are up for a good job at a visible company, your references will be checked in great detail. Be aware that your list of references is simply the beginning of the investigation a prospective employer will conduct.
When a prospective employer has completed the first round of interviews and you are in the group of top candidates, the next logical step is to check your references and interview those individuals to whom you reported. Are you certain these individuals will seal the deal or will they blow it away? If you are like most people you probably haven’t given your references much thought. Instead you have focused on your resume, interview skills, networking and what to wear to the interview. Now the focus shifts. Your biggest concern should be the quality of your references and recommendations from past employers, because they can make or break your chances.
About half of all references that get checked, according to Heidi M. Allison, Managing Director of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking Inc., range from mediocre to poor. So it is very possible that the great job you lost out on at the last moment had nothing to do with your lack of skills, or being overqualified. It could have had more to do with what one of your references or past employers said about you. So if you are concerned that someone, somewhere, might be giving you a bum rap, there is a one in two chance that you are right. That’s a frightening scenario when your livelihood is at stake.
Here is just a sampling of the comments HR people and line managers hear when they check references: “Our company policy prohibits us saying anything. All we are able to do is verify dates of employment and title.” Then they have gone on to say things like, “Check his references very, very carefully.” Other common conversations include: “Are you certain he gave my name as a reference?”; “Although we are currently in litigation…”; “We miss him very much.”; “After we settle our lawsuit”; “Let me see what the paperwork says I am able to give out regarding ______.”; or they seem very surprised and make other innuendoes such as: “Is he still in this field?”
References and past employers won’t call and warn you that they are not going to be complimentary. With company policies changing (not that many choose to follow them anyway), new employees in HR Departments, new laws concerning references, company liability when they give references, the reference situation is ever changing and is therefore very volatile. So, you are well advised to take more control of your career momentum by finding out just what every potential reference will say about you. If the odds hold, as they will, those references will range from stellar all the way on down; yet when you know who is going to say what about you, you can pass on your best references with greater confidence. Plus you will have the opportunity to stop references saying things that are not true. Here are ten winning ways to utilize your references:
I. Make a list. Start by making a list of all of your prospective references. Begin with the first job that is relevant in management of your career today. You need to select those who have carefully observed your job performance. Your references need to have seen you in action, hopefully performing well in adverse conditions. But beware whether you list them or not, your past employers will be contacted. Be sure to gather all important contact data about every potential reference including: Name; Title; Company; Address; Telephone Number; Fax Number; e-mail Address. Other individuals that may prove to be useful as references include: Colleagues; Subordinates; Suppliers & Clients; Volunteer Committees; Pro Bono Clients.
II. Narrow the list. After you have made your list of references, select those that you feel will be most willing to give you an excellent report. A typical list of references should include five to ten names, depending on the amount of experience a candidate has accumulated.
III. Set up a meeting. It is very advisable to meet with each reference personally if possible. At the very least send them a note stating that you are job hunting and would like to use them as a reference, or call them. Be sure to share with them your current resume and let them know of the position you are applying for as well as the type of qualities the company is seeking. Give them the impression that their reference is critical to your obtaining the job.
IV. Confirm your personal information. Refresh their memory regarding the position you held, go over your past responsibilities; remind them of solid results you gave the company. It is not a bad idea to visit the HR Department and verify that all information in your personnel file is correct. Go over with each reference what they will say in response to questions regarding your strengths and weaknesses.
V. Conduct a personal exit interview. Go over with each reference what they will say in response to questions regarding your strengths and weaknesses. You should try to learn what your references are going to say about you. Do not take things personally, be upbeat. During the conversation update them on what you are doing, and how you have been adding experience and turning old weaknesses into new strengths. If they feel you are aware of your own weaknesses it may lead them to say you are open-minded and that you strive to grow professionally. One of the key skills in the workplace is effective communications. Your reference will feel comfortable stating you are a good communicator if you have filled them in on whom, why, what and when.
VI. Be prepared ahead of time. It pays to take the time early in your job search to identify and prepare your references. The last thing you want to happen is to lose out on a good position because you did not have your references prepared. You can even use your references as very effective networking tools, mention that you are currently seeking a new position and wondered if they would mind if you used their name as a reference. Tell them what you have been doing since the last time you worked with them. Not only is this the courteous thing to do it also keeps them updated on your career. Any reference that is well informed about the progression of your career will be a much better reference. Ask them if they know of any current job openings in your field.
VII. Communicate with your references. When a specific offer is on the horizon let your references know the company, and that you will be using them as a reference with. When you advise them of the company name they feel comfortable giving out information about you or return the call in a more timely fashion.
VIII. Follow-up with your reference. When you get your new position, make sure you call them and advise them of your new position. Keep them posted about your career, when and if you need them in the future, they will feel warm about you.
IX. Attention to detail. Always check to be sure of the correct telephone number, area code & company name when giving out references. With today’s mergers and other technology changes things are changing daily. Should you list an incorrect telephone number, or if a reference has taken a position elsewhere, it looks as though you are totally out of touch with your references.
X. Check your references. Why leave it to chance. If you are not 100% convinced that your references and past employers will relay positive comments about you to prospective employers, and then check them out. A professional employment verification and reference checking firm can either put your mind at ease, or supply you with the critical information and evidence that has been blocking your job searching efforts.
Heidi M. Allison is the Managing Director of JobReferences.com (an Allison & Taylor Company), the nation’s oldest professional employment verification and reference checking firm. Please visit their site at www.JobReferences.com.or call 800 651 2460 to learn more about this valuable service.
I have known David Allen for a long time. I tried to recruit him back about 9 years ago. Failed. But did win him as a client – so all was not lost. He is a super manager with experience in Quest Diagnostics (laboratory services), Oncura (oncology therapy) and Urologix (oncology therapy). So I begged him to chat with me about his hiring philosophy and experiences. You can listen to it here:
I hope you enjoyed this (and maybe learned something). Is there any topic, type of person, etc. that you would like to see/hear here? Put it in comments or email me.
Jennifer M. tells all about how a career coach (that would be me) made her dream job come true (even in this economy)!
I worked with Jennifer mid July. We fixed her resume, worked on her social media skills, helped her target hiring managers (and gave her the secret of what to ask for when she contacted them), and smoothed out her rough interviewing edges (don’t say “I hope”, “I believe” or “Hopefully”, or other negative statements). And within 6 weeks, she called me to say that she had landed the job of her dreams.
Here is her version of the story:
If you want someone in your corner that really has the inside scoop, go check out my custom career coaching page.
Life is short and you will only get one run through it (as far as I know), so why would you wait to grab your dream job?
Can’t get an interview?
Can’t get past the first interview?
Are you demonstrating the levels of commitment, drive, tenacity, skills and organization employers want?
Here are 6 tried and true ways to separate you from other candidates and be the candidate everyone wants to hire:
1. Preparation = SWOT Analysis:
SWOT is a strategic planning tool. It stands for Strengths (attributes helpful to achieving the objective), Weaknesses (attributes harmful to achieving the objective), Opportunities (external conditions that will be helpful to achieving the objective), and Threats (external obstacles or conditions that will harm the process). Look at the picture–it helps. Doing a SWOT analysis on the company demonstrates your drive, commitment, and skills, along with helping you create a better 30/60/90-day plan. Click here for advice on how to do one and avoid mistakes.
2. 30/60/90-Day Plan :
A 30-60-90-day plan is a short, 1-3 page outline for what you will do when you start the job. Essentially, you spell out for your future employer, in as little or as much detail as necessary, how you will spend your time–in training, learning company systems, introducing yourself to customers, and your initial plan to build sales. It demonstrates exactly how you’ll be an asset. A 30/60/90-day plan is an almost-guaranteed way to impress any hiring manager or hiring team.
Check out this audio that will tell you exactly how to present your 30/60/90-day plan to the hiring manager. Get a proven 30/60/90-Day Sales Plan here.
If you absolutely can’t get an interview, you could try e-mailing your 30/60/90-day plan to the sales manager. It’s an attention-getter, and it could be the key to get you in the door.
3. Video or Audio Communication -:
Send the interviewer an audio or video clip of yourself. Keep it short and sweet, and make sure you’ve checked lighting, background, and sound quality. One idea: Structure it like an elevator pitch–what can you do for the company and why can you do it?
4. Brag Book :
A brag book is a folder/ binder that you can use during your interview process to clarify your skill sets. It can include letters of recommendation, “attaboy” notes (or any notes commenting on what a good job you’ve done), staff ranking, annual reviews (if you include some, include them all), rewards letters, your resume, types of equipment you’ve used or marketed, certifications or other educational courses, any financial or PowerPoint presentations, copies of articles you’ve written, brochures you’ve helped develop, and a college transcript (though ONLY if you’re just getting out). Here’s a link to a video that explains more about brag books.
5. References :
It’s critical that you have winning references. Some people believe that references never get called, but they do. You should know how to choose a good reference, and know with stake-your-job-on-it certainty what they will say about you. You can (and should) even coach them beforehand, to help them tailor their answers to the job.
6. Follow-up/Thank You Notes :
Don’t underestimate how important thank you letters are in the job interview process. Everybody “knows” they’re critical, but unbelievably, not everyone writes them. Thank you letters accomplish several things:
- They get your name in front of the hiring manager one more time.
- They are your last chance to package yourself as the best, most qualified person for the job.
- They are polite, and manners count.
- They can be an example of your ability to take in information (the interview) and process and provide feedback or new ideas about whatever the problem was. For example: “I thought about your concerns about how to handle xyz delivery issues, when I was a product manager at ABC corporation, we used………”
(See what I mean?)
Handwritten thank-yous are nice, but e-mail thank yous are fast. Sometimes, hiring decisions are made quickly, so a timely note can be critical.
I know these things will help you become an outstanding candidate!
If you need more personalized help, please see my custom consulting page. If you’re really having trouble, a fresh pair of expert eyes can point out issues or problems that are keeping you from getting the job you want.