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Ten Things Never, Ever To Do Unless You’re Getting Paid

Dear Liz,

I read your columns, but I still struggle to take your advice.

I left my job in December because they cut my hours.

My boss’s boss reached out to me in January and asked me if I wanted him to introduce me to a guy he knows who has a company here in town.

I said, sure! I was flattered. I got a call from the guy who owns the company, “Martin,” the next day.

Martin wanted to have coffee and talk about his need for a new project manager in his company.

We had coffee. It was a great meeting. We were at the coffee shop for two hours. When we left the coffee shop, Martin said, “Let’s try to put something together next week.”

I sent Martin a thank-you email message right away. Three days later, I heard from his admin “Becky.” She asked me to come to the office the following day. I did.

That was a three-hour meeting with Martin and two of his Project Managers. It was another great meeting. I asked Martin, “Is this a full-time position, or a contract?” and Martin said they weren’t sure yet.

A week went by. I heard from Becky. They said they wanted me to come in and work for half a day. I wrote back to ask, “How does that work in terms of your payroll?”

Becky said, “I don’t know. Just come in on Friday and we’ll figure it out.”

I did. I worked a half day last Friday. There was a planning meeting and I sat in on that, I asked good questions and everybody seemed to be glad I was there.

Around 10:30 in the morning I asked Becky, “How will I get paid for today’s work?” She said, “Let me find out.” She disappeared. After 45 minutes she came back and said, “We’ll pay you for this half day once you’re on the payroll.”

That was two weeks ago. I haven’t heard a word from the company since then.

I’ve left email and voicemail messages. I just got a voicemail message ten minutes ago from Becky. She said they want me to come back next week and work on a “small project.” When will these people hire me? Or are they just stringing me along? What should I do?

Also, Liz, what steps did I miss? I feel that I should have been more assertive, but how?

Thanks!

Malinda

Dear Malinda,

When Becky said she wasn’t sure how you would get paid for your half day of work on Friday, your next step was to ask her to figure that out and get back to you (in writing).

You can’t agree to take a consulting engagement before you’ve settled on the business terms.

You cannot agree to work for free again and let them pay you “once you’re on the payroll.” What if you never get on the payroll?

Now you have a new opportunity to straighten things out. You can call Martin directly, and tell him that you were happy to jump in two weeks ago and participate in the planning meeting. Tell him that you’re looking forward to firming things up so you can come back again next week.

You cannot go back in there without a job offer or a legal contract. Right now, you are working for free. Don’t dig an even deeper hole for yourself (and lower your perceived value) by working for free again!

Here are 10 things never, ever to do for free:

1. Sit in a staff meeting or show up at work like a person who is employed by the company. If they want you to do that, they can either hire you onto the payroll or hire you as a one-day or half-day consultant at an agreed-upon rate.

2. Create a marketing plan, website copy or any other type of deliverable just because you’re a nice person. I understand that you may have to donate some work time to let them see how smart you are. Limit that donation to one hour of your time. No marketing plan ever took just an hour to write!

3. Interview candidates or sit in on interviews.

4. Visit clients or prospective clients, work the booth at a trade show or participate in a virtual client meeting.

5. Travel on behalf of the company.

6. Develop a training program, Power Point presentation (beyond the one-hour limit) or otherwise teach what you know. They may never hire you or anyone else. They may schedule a whole week of dog-and-pony shows just to get free ideas from job candidates.

7. Interview more than three times.

8. Solve the company’s biggest problem in detail. If they ask you do this, tell them, “I’d love to dive into that project if you’re ready to formalize our relationship with an offer letter or consulting agreement.” Tell them how you would step into the project — not what your conclusions are likely to be.

9. Give up your personal contacts.

10. Take phone calls from your hiring manager or others in the company who simply want to pick your brain. Politely guide them back to the topic at hand, which is the current job opening they are interviewing you for (and the status of your candidacy).

Here’s a script to guide you:

RRRRRRING!

You: Malinda Smith!

Them: Hi, Malinda! This is Greg from Itchy Systems. We met last week. I wanted to talk with you for just a minute about your thoughts on a client issue, if you have a second.

You: Hi, Greg! That sounds great. Listen, where are we in the recruiting pipeline? I’ve lost track. Is there an offer letter on its way to me? I’d love to help you, of course. If we’re coworkers, then we’re in great shape.

Them: I, uh, umm, I don’t know. I think you still have to meet with a few more people here.

You: Oh, OK — thanks for that info! That sounds good. I’ll wait to hear from HR in that case. Maybe you and I can talk once that’s all settled.

Them: I just need a little of your time now —

You: I understand Greg and I’d love to talk, but it’s not appropriate — I don’t work for the company yet. Maybe there are wires crossed somewhere or the process is just winding its way through. If you want to find out and have somebody contact me, I could even call you back once everything is official.

Them: Er — OK.

Nobody ever got a great job by hoping against hope that the company would do the right thing while keeping their mouth shut and tolerating every type of disrespect thrown at them.

The only way you will clarify whether they really need you or whether they’re just taking advantage of you is to call them on it. Set a boundary. You are a professional. It’s time to speak up!

Mother Nature desperately wants you to learn this lesson now. You’re ready for it. Go ahead and take the next step!

Yours,

Liz

Follow me on LinkedIn.

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for 10 million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997. Now I write for LinkedIn and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. My book Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve is here: amzn.to/2gK7BR7

Source: Ten Things Never, Ever To Do — Unless You’re Getting Paid

https://www.sbmoneytips.com/

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How to Create a Winning Startup Culture

Some time back, in my infographic on 51 Business Mistakes that most Entrepreneurs Make, I had outlined that one of the biggest mistakes is that you do not give any thought as to what you consider would be a great startup culture. And, without good policies or HR to keep things in check, the startup begins to develop a toxic business culture.

You will find this problem in businesses in Japan a lot. The Japanese culture is that people should work harder and if any employee goes home early, or finishes his work faster than the other, they usually get snitched on to their bosses by their co-workers. Since, you are growing a startup, you may want to avoid all these hullabaloo as time is limited and money is precious. Your workforce is your primary foundation and you want to build it strong as everything else you do is going to be supported by your employees.

Therefore, here is what you do to streamline the company’s functions and develop a strong and great company culture:

Step #1. What are the values that you hold dear and want to be reflected by your startup?

Yeah, you are the boss, you are the man of the show. Since you run the startup, you need it to reflect the type of entrepreneur you are and the entrepreneurial qualities you have as best as possible. That way, you can run it better!

So, ask yourself, what quality do you want for your startup to be its brand identity? It can be anything. For example – if you think hustle is the best quality of a startup (although, I disagree), it can be – “being the hardest worker in the room”, or if you want your employees to have a quality personal life, it can be something else.

Now, when you have landed on some values which you hold dear, make sure everybody in your business knows it – the employees, your partners, the directors and even the janitors!

Step #2. Make Sure Employees (Both Present and Future) Reflect those Ideals

If all you look at when hiring employees is whether they have the requisite skills or not, then you could be doing a grave mistake. Studies have proven that employees who are not a cultural fit with your business shall not work their best.

Heck, they can even become toxic in nature and do more harm to your company culture than good. Suppose you have an open-door policy wherein any employee can talk to you directly; however a mid-level executive doesn’t want that and shouts at and harasses his juniors for going to you without passing through him first – what do you think is going to happen?

Your startup culture will be in-operational for just one worker and can hinder performance among all your employees. That’s why mistake #1 in my post on business mistakes showed that you need a good HR even if your business is new. An HR has relevant skills and expertise in hiring the best workers so that can be a breather for you and help your business focus on, where it is truly necessary.

Step #3. Make Sure Everyone’s Voice is Heard

In order to truly know whether every employee is resonating according to your business ideals, you have to make sure that the voice of employees at even the lowest level is heard. That way, you can be sure the startup culture has truly sunk in.

In order to create a culture that actually motivates the employees, you also have to make sure that they understand that their voice matters and that if they have any grievances to tell or advices to offer, it has a good chance to be acted upon.

Also, this step that is to make everybody’s voice heard should not be made only in a vertical direction that is only from down to the top; rather it should be made laterally. Colleagues should know what their teammates think and feel.

That way, it can promote good communication and the workplace is going to remain energized. You need to also support lateral feedback even if means you have to go above and out of what you should be doing.

Step #4. Give Feedback

Now, the above step will be quite redundant without this process in place. Your employees will stop saying what they feel if they believe that what they say will not be acted upon. Therefore, you have to be proactive in giving feedback to employees. Show them that their work counts and learn to motivate them. Hold interactive sessions, talk one-on-one with employees who have addressed their grievances to you and also share your thoughts on any input they have given.

That way, you actually know whether your company culture is striving or whether the employees have just put up a facade to please you. Now, an even more important point – there will always be some employees who go against the company culture or even rebel against them.

There are three ways to handle them which you must note and be careful of:

  1. Firstly, by providing gentle feedback about how you want things to be and remain in your business. This works against employees who unknowingly have strayed from the path and need just a gentle pat to return back on track. For example, if you have a company  culture on wearing formal attire and being extremely disciplined but you see a guy who is trying to break free, because he feels the clothes are very restrictive, you can guide him to a middle path.
  2. Secondly, by actively supporting him in his endeavour. You know, some people are really creative and can’t be bounded. While, it can do a lot of damage to your company culture, if you feel that the guy has got a lot to offer, you can let him be a wild horse. This usually applies to some very creative overachievers. These guys are usually rebels and if they don’t actually harm the way other employees do their work, it is best to keep them and encourage their habits! Seems rather odd, right!?
  3. Lastly, by firing him. Some people just poison the company culture. Toxic employees who are constantly fighting their peers or are late in finishing their work almost always need to be eradicated or else you risk the chance of demotivating your other employees.

While, it looks rather simple, it is the simple things that have the most effectiveness. Executing these principles at your startup can be the separating factor from just a startup and a startup with a workforce who are optimized to win!

By:

Source: How to Create a Winning Startup Culture

 

22 Ways To Completely Ruin Any Chance Of Succeeding In Your Interview

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You always read about what you ought to do in an interview. I thought it might be even more helpful to share some blunders that you should avoid throughout the interview process. If you do engage in these actions, I can guarantee that you’ll epically fail and enrage the interviewers. You’ll probably also be barred from ever interviewing there again.

  • Offer available times to interview that are solely convenient for you. You don’t care if its burdensome to the interviewers, as it’s all about you.
  • If it turns out that the time you confirmed is now inconvenient for you, cancel the meeting minutes before the interview is scheduled to start.
  • Show up late to the interview. Compound this by not offering any apologies as to why you’re late or asking forgiveness for making them wait 30 minutes for you.
  • As you arrive tardy, you are holding a Starbucks coffee and loudly slurping it in front of everyone.
  • It’s August in New York City and about 100 degrees on the trains. You don’t find it important to go to the bathroom and get freshened up—you just arrive disheveled and offer a sopping wet handshake.
  • Of course, you don’t have to bring a résumé or business card.
  • You call the hiring manager by the wrong name twice, after she has has already corrected you.
  • Your phone rings and your ringtone is a gangster rap song filled with profanity and inappropriate lyrics. You answer the call and put up your index finger, signaling the universal “I’ll be with you in a minute” sign. You then follow up with a “shush” when they’re talking too loudly and interfering with your call.  In fact, you look annoyed at them for looking annoyed at you.
  • As the interviewer asks questions, you look bored and apathetic—trying to play hard to get.
  • You provide answers to a question that wasn’t asked. When corrected, you admit that you weren’t paying attention to the question. In this moment, you think the interviewer will value your honesty.
  • Instead of giving concise answers, you try being different by offering awkwardly long and meandering soliloquies that confuse and annoy everyone.
  • You talk trash about your former employer and co-workers. You think they will love hearing about how terrible their competitors are and appreciate the juicy gossip.
  • You ask if it’s okay to date the boss, as you’ve done so in the past.
  • Before anything else, you demand to know the salary, bonus, where your office is located and how much vacation time and sick days you get, as well as other perks.
  • You are rude and dismissive to the receptionist in the lobby when she doesn’t let you in right away. You let her know important people are expecting you.
  • You take copious notes while everyone is talking and don’t look up at all while you are writing.
  • In the middle of the interview, while they are in the midst of asking you a question, interrupt precipitously and tell them you have a hard stop and need to go to another interview, which you’re already late for.
  • When the interviewer asks you a question, you sigh in annoyance and inquire, “Didn’t you read my résumé?”
  • You either avoid all eye contact or stare directly into their eyes for the entire duration of the interview.
  • If you’re bored, you fiddle with the objects on the interviewer’s desk and distractedly look around the room.
  • You constantly interrupt the interviewer with nonsensical questions.
  • Wrap up the interview by asking, “Are you going to give me an offer or what?”

While it may sound like I am exaggerating with these gaffes to humor you and make a point, you would be surprised to know that these are all real-life instances that I’ve encountered as an executive recruiter and hiring manager for my own team. I can tell you firsthand, if you exhibit any of these behaviors, I can assure you that you’ll totally flounder and sabotage your own chances of attaining a new job.

 

I am a CEO, founder, and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms in my area of expertise, and have personally placed thousands of professionals with top-tier companies over the last 20-plus years. I am passionate about advocating for job seekers. In doing so, I have founded a start-up company, WeCruitr, where our mission is to make the job search more humane and enjoyable. As a proponent of career growth, I am excited to share my insider interviewing tips and career advancement secrets with you in an honest, straightforward, no-nonsense and entertaining manner. My career advice will cover everything you need to know, including helping you decide if you really should seek out a new opportunity, whether you are leaving for the wrong reasons, proven successful interviewing techniques, negotiating a salary and accepting an offer and a real-world understanding of how the hiring process actually works. My articles come from an experienced recruiter’s insider perspective.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/

 

These 9 Creative Interview Questions Evoke Crucial Insights About Any Job Applicant. (Ask Them Before You Make an Offer You’ll Regret)

Recently, I wrote about some of the best interview questions that Inc.com has featured over the years. And, I asked readers who had other suggestions to let me know about them.

Wow, did you ever deliver. Today, we’ll begin sharing some of the replies, starting with nine of the more unusual interview questions — creative ideas that elicit insights, while being offbeat enough that applicants probably won’t show up for job interviews with stock answers.

Feel free to use these questions as they are. But, perhaps even better, use them as jumping off point to come up with your own creative questions.

1.    “If you could kick one state out of the United States, which one would you pick and why?”

For pure curiosity’s sake, you might be interested to know if an applicant really thinks we’d be better off without North Dakota or Alabama. But the point of course is to how the applicant thinks, and sometimes even what he or she believes.

“I’ve heard applicants respond with fiscal perspectives, instinctual perspectives, experiential perspectives, and sometimes even downright nasty perspectives,” said Taylor Kerby, founder of Something Great Marketing, who suggested this question. “In the end it can let you know if the candidate would be a good fit for the role, and sometimes more importantly, a good fit for your company’s culture.”

2.    “A screwdriver and a screw together cost $2.20. The screwdriver costs $2 more than the screw. How much does the screw cost?”

Oddball question, sure. It seems like it should be easy. But most people will come to a quick and incorrect answer: 20 cents.

The correct answer is actually 10 cents, and Mark Anderson, CEO of Complete Express Foods, LLC said he’ll explain the math behind it. (If you’re having trouble with that math, here’s an explanation.)

“This question has … everything to do with listening, reading, and whether the new hire will challenge basic facts and directions,” Anderson explained. “Those that still argue [after it’s been explained], you immediately end the interview and wish them success at another company.”

3.    “What do you do if the Internet goes out at the office?”

I’m betting the preferred answer here is not something like, “Just call it quits for the day.”

Of course, you’re trying to figure out if the applicant can solve problems, go past a job description, and even bring lessons learned elsewhere to the office.

And, says Corri Smith, owner of a consulting and events firm in Charlotte, N.C. called Black Wednesday, the question “has truly tripped people up. One time a girl sat for a whole minute and then said, ‘I don’t know. I just don’t know. I don’t have an answer.’ It really shows the capacity to … create a solution and can also demonstrate how interested they are in getting their work done.”

4.    “If you were a box of cereal, what cereal would you be and why?” (Alternative: “What’s your favorite board game?”)

These are two bizarre questions, and you’re probably not all that interested in the ultimate answers. What you care about instead is the thought process and attitude.

“While this is an extremely weird question to ask, it’s a great way to get a more personal view of the potential candidate,” said Lewis Thomas, owner of Host Sorter, who suggested the cereal box question. “It also doubles as an icebreaker.”

“It’s a rather whimsical and unexpected question, and shows me how quickly they can think on their feet,” said Michael Pearce, a recruiter at Addison Group, who suggested the board game idea.

5.    “Do you like to win or hate to lose?”

Okay, I guess I’m about to ruin this question, at least if you’re interviewing at HR tech company Paycor, because Todd Rimer, senior manager in talent acquisition there, tells me there actually is a right answer in his mind.

“Those that like to win, you can’t fault them. Who doesn’t like to win? When you win, you are on top,” Rimer suggested. “But, when you hate to lose, you are more inclined to learn from mistakes, learn from past experiences and use these experiences in the future, whether it’s your next project or your next sale.”

6.    “What do you suck at?”

This question isn’t all that different from the time-worn, “What’s your greatest weakness?” However, I think it’s more direct — and less expected.

“It allows me to understand where they see their shortcomings, but also gives me insights into where they want to avoid [spending] their time,” said Peter Sullivan, founder and CEO of Jackpocket. “If that’s in conflict with where we need attention, I learn a lot.”

7.     “What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?”

I think this is the opposite of the question above: It’s a way to get an unguarded insight into a classic question.

“Instead of hitting your candidates with the same old, ‘What are your strengths?’ question,” says Darren Bounds, CEO of Breezy HR, “this is a more organic way to uncover their strengths.”

8.    “Tell me about a a project you worked on that failed? What did you learn?”

Failure is probably the last thing that most job applicants want to dwell on seriously, and with good reason.

But pushing in this direction, with a broad, open-ended question like this, tells you a lot more than the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, says Matt Erickson, managing director at National Positions.

You’re trying to find out things like, “Is this candidate driven? How do they communicate with teams?” Erickson explained. “Do they take responsibility? Can they learn and adapt, etc.?”

9.    Tell us about a time when you’ve had to deal with rejection.

I’m including this question here because it’s similar, but not quite the same, as the question about failure. It’s especially interesting when you’re interviewing people for a sales related role.

“Recruitment is a predominantly sales-based environment,” said Ian Clark, head of Americas at recruiting firm Mason Frank International, “so being able to handle rejection is essential to a candidate’s success in the role. … What I’m looking for is a candidate to demonstrate their resilience in this situation, and provide evidence of their drive and tenacity to bounce back.”

By: Bill Murphy Jr.

 

Source: These 9 Creative Interview Questions Evoke Crucial Insights About Any Job Applicant. (Ask Them Before You Make an Offer You’ll Regret)

 

What Not To Do After A Job Interview

The waiting period after a job interview can be one of the most stressful times. You’ve done everything in your power, now it’s out of your control. All you can do is wait, try to be patient, and do things to keep yourself on track for success. Just like preparing for and going on a job interview, there are things you should and shouldn’t do. Here are five of those things you shouldn’t do after an interview.

Don’t replay the interview over and over.

It’s easy to focus on what you didn’t do well in an interview and rehash those scenarios over and over in your head. This is actually a terrible thing to do. Not only does it put you in a negative frame of mind, it’s also a completely inaccurate view of how the interview went. Your interview could have gone spectacularly overall, but focusing on one or two things you could have done better will cause you to feel like the whole thing was a failure.

Analyze the interview once or twice, highlighting both the good points and the negatives. Make notes of what you’d do again in a future interview and give yourself a couple of pointers on what you’d change. After you’ve done those two things, leave it at that. Going over it more will only cause additional and unnecessary stress.

Don’t harass the hiring manager.

Send your thank you message within 24-48 hours of the interview, then don’t reach out again until the date the hiring manager told you they’d be in touch. Unless you have a very urgent question or something major comes up, there’s no reason for you to contact the hiring manager.

Emailing or calling them and asking for a status update or to let them know you’re still very interested will only harm your chances of getting the job. Hiring managers are inundated with messages already, and they told you when you’d be hearing from them, so respect them by honoring that date. Once it’s a few days past that date you can reach out again.

Don’t stop your job search process or quit your job.

Until you have a signed contract, nothing is official. While you may have given the best interview of your life and the hiring manager was gushing over you, there’s still no guarantee the job is yours. You don’t know if another candidate could come in and be an even better fit for the role, the job could go to someone internally, or a whole myriad of factors could be at play. Until you have that contract in your hands, keep working at your current job and continue your job search efforts.

Don’t post anything about the interview on social media.

It can be tempting to brag about a great interview or to post about how you’re excited for the opportunity and then tag the company or the hiring manager. You don’t know what the company’s social media policy is, so by posting you might actually be violating their standards unknowingly. Play it safe and keep your thoughts private, and brag to your friends and family offline.

Don’t ghost the hiring manager.

If you’ve decided to accept another job offer or if you’ve decided you don’t actually want this job for any reason, send an email to the hiring manager to let them know. Thank them for their time and the opportunity then explain that you’ve chosen to pursue another opportunity. They will be incredibly appreciative of this and they’ll certainly remember your actions. The business world is smaller than you think, so it’s very possible that you’ll cross paths again at some point, so don’t risk burning bridges.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Ashira is a Millennial and Gen Z Engagement expert helping organizations manage, engage, attract, and retain the next generation of talent and bridge the gap between generations. Learn more at www.ashiraprossack.com

Source: What Not To Do After A Job Interview

Why It’s A Good Career Move To Apply For A Job Even If You Lack All The Qualifications

It’s a thought that has probably occurred to most job seekers (in other words, most humans) at one time or another.  Hmm, I’d like to apply for that job, but I don’t really have all the qualifications they’re looking for. What should I do?

It’s a natural quandary. People wonder: Should I take a shot at the job? I’d kind of like to, it sounds interesting. But will I just be wasting my time and everyone else’s? Or, worse still, will they laugh at me and think I’m foolish, if they feel I’m so underqualified…

An insightful new survey from Robert Half addresses this question. The results are in, and it’s always nice to have hard data instead of just relying on intuition.

The results also seem clear. Net-net, even if you don’t have every qualification for a job, if you’re interested in it and you’re in the general ballpark in terms of qualifications, it makes good sense to pursue it. Sure, you’re not going to apply for a job as a surgeon just because you like watching The Good Doctor on TV. But if you’re a reasonable fit for a job, even if you lack some of the qualifications, there’s little downside to trying for it. Let’s consider key data points from this new survey.

  • 42% of resumes companies receive are from candidates who don’t meet job requirements;
  • 62% of employees were offered a position even though they were underqualified for it;
  • 84% of HR managers are open to hiring an employee whose skills could be developed through training.

This point about training is key. Even if many companies no longer have elaborate formal development programs in place, individual managers are often willing to “train up” as part of the normal onboarding process.

Willingness to learn

So how can job candidates improve their odds if they’re strongly interested in a position but lack some of its requirements?

I asked this question of Robert Half Senior Executive Director Paul McDonald. “Highlight any non-technical or soft skills that are mentioned in the job description – such as leadership, collaboration, flexibility and business acumen – in your application materials, if possible,” McDonald said. “This doesn’t mean embellishing your resume or listing anything that isn’t true, but being thoughtful about how your experience is tailored to the position and can help you stand out in today’s competitive market.

“A willingness to learn and a positive attitude can go a long way,” he added. “Try to keep this in mind during the application process. Employers are looking for prospective candidates who are interested in growing and learning on the job – even if they may not have the technical skills that check all the boxes.”

Feels like good counsel to me. I can relate these findings to my own management experience. I hired many people over the years, and while I don’t think I ever spent time delineating a careful one-to-one correspondence between perceived skills and written qualifications, I know I always paid close attention to personal intangibles like upbeat nature and optimism.

Yes, as Mr. McDonald succinctly put it, willingness to learn and positive attitude go a long way.

My online Udemy courses help develop new managers, and help new and experienced managers  meet the challenges of difficult employees.  

Source: Why It’s A Good Career Move To Apply For A Job Even If You Lack All The Qualifications

How To Secure Strong References Who Will Help You Land The Job – Georgina Grant

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Job seekers are free to toot their own horns on résumés and cover letters. So for a slightly less subjective opinion, hiring managers may turn to candidates’ references.

“The purpose of the reference, more than anything, is to judge somebody’s professionalism and behavior,” says Ryan Sutton, district president at global staffing firm Robert Half. “References can really help check your math, so to speak, and check your decision-making process and make sure you didn’t miss anything.”

Although you may feel as though the reference-checking process is out of your control, there are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of receiving a favorable review.

Build A Strategic List

In general, recruiters do prefer references from former managers. “We’re going to expect that they’ll be able to talk to your strengths and your weaknesses as they would relate to the potential position,” says J.T. O’Donnell, the founder and CEO of Work It Daily. “A close second is going to be peers, especially peers who are highly successful in their own rite.”

Without many former managers or colleagues to choose from, candidates just starting out in their careers may feel as though they’re at a disadvantage. But Sutton insists that recent graduates can still turn to former professors or supervisors from extracurricular activities, such as internships, sports teams or volunteer experiences.

While job descriptions frequently call for a minimum of two references, Sutton recommends asking as many people as possible if they would be willing to speak on your behalf. This, however, does not mean you should include all of their names and contact information on your résumé.

Instead, build up a “toolbox,” as Sutton calls it, a master list of all those willing to vouch for you. Then, when a potential employer asks for your reference list, you can provide a customized version that only includes those individuals who can best speak to your skills that are most relevant for the job at hand. Take it one step further by asking the hiring manager who they might be most interested in speaking with. By putting the ball in his or her court, you can both prevent unhelpful reference checks and demonstrate that you have a history of productive professional relationships.

If a recruiter asks you to provide a reference from your current manager, O’Donnell recommends asking if he or she can wait until the final offer stage so you have time to secure the job and break the news to your boss.

Keep In Touch

When asking someone to serve as a reference, a phone call works better than an email. “Either the person’s going to be really enthusiastic over the phone and you’re going to know that they’d be good, or you’re going to hear some kind of reservation,” says O’Donnell. Not only can a conversation give you insight into what a potential reference might say to a hiring manager, but it’s also a chance to network with past colleagues who may know of other job opportunities for which you might be a fit.

As you reach out, keep in mind that some companies have policies that may preclude managers from accepting your reference requests. “Your previous employer and current employer may only be able to verify dates of employment and title of role and that’s it,” says Sutton. “It’s not about you.” These sorts of protocols are becoming increasingly more common, especially at large corporations.

After the initial ask, it is essential to stay in touch. Let your references know whenever you hand over their information, and ask them to tell you if a potential employer reaches out. It is equally important to keep them informed about every position for which you apply so they know what kinds of questions to expect. “You never want them to be blindsided,” O’Donnell warns. Provide any and all background information well in advance of your references’ calls, which will likely occur sometime between the final interview and the offer stage.

Show Your Appreciation

How you follow up with a reference may depend on the nature of your relationship with the person. But O’Donnell maintains that the rule of thumb is to send a thank-you email every time someone vouches for you. When you finally accept an offer, all those who gave you a reference deserve a phone call, followed by a handwritten note. “You don’t have to go over-the-top and buy a big expensive gift,” says O’Donnell. “You just want people to know that their time and their input was worth something to you.”

Set Yourself Up For Future Success

While much of the application process may be out of your hands, you can control the attitude and work ethic you bring to the table. Leaving a supervisor with a good impression takes time and dedication, but it will ultimately give you a major advantage during future job searches. “I’ve just had so many people in my program lately who come in and have burned bridges and can’t give references at past employers that would be vital to them landing this big, wonderful opportunity they want,” says O’Donnell. “Never underestimate how important it is to manage your relationships where you work, because those people will be your references some day.”

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