The Real Truth About References

You’re almost to the finish line, now for the references. The final stages of your job search and you’re close to an offer. You’ve created a strong resume, you love the company, and all your interviews went well. Now they’ve asked for references. While the resume and strong interviewing skills got you to this point, the results of the reference checks can make or break your getting an offer. Let me repeat that! What your references say…can make or break whether you get an offer. Good references are a must!

So, who have you asked to provide references? And, who should you ask to provide a reference? People who know your work well, and can tell your story effectively. Good references confirm to the potential employer that you’re a great choice.

Get references ready before your first interview.

Even before you start interviewing, you should develop a list of peers, customers (internal or external), and supervisors/managers who will best articulate your strengths and accomplishments. Make sure you have at least three people you’ve worked with who can speak to your experience and strengths.

Never ask someone to be a reference if you aren’t extremely confident they are going to give you a positive reference.

What if you’re currently employed and don’t feel comfortable asking your boss?

If you don’t or didn’t have a good relationship with your boss, and most people seeking a new job are in that situation, then provide a previous boss, peers at your current company, or other individuals you’ve directly worked with at the company that you trust to provide a strong reference. But remember, if you provide individuals at your current company, you should explain why they can provide a valuable recommendation. For instance, perhaps your boss didn’t have visibility to your day-to-day work, but other individuals you worked with on projects had that day-to-day line of sight, then use them.

What to do before you provide a list of references?

Contact your references right before you give them to anyone, make sure they’ll be accessible and anticipating contact from the potential employer. It’s important to notify your references that they may get contacted. Provide them details about the role, a copy of your resume, which of your strengths fit best in the new role, and what points can they address to the prospective employer to help you win this job. Advise them how they can be the most impactful in supporting you. Each reference you use will provide a slightly different picture of you, so by providing them insight on what you’ve learned, you help prepare your references to give you an exceptional reference and support what you said in the interviews. Tell your references why you want the new role and why you think it’s a good fit for you.

What do you do if your company’s policy is not to provide references?

Many companies are choosing not to provide a formal reference, but may provide the dates you were employed and your role, nothing more. If that’s the case at your company, you’ve still got customers, peers, and previous bosses who can be used to make sure you’ve got a list of strong references.

What to do if this is your first position?

You’re not alone, everyone starts this way. First, remember you’re talented and are on the right track…that’s what’s gotten you this far. But, if don’t have professional work references, provide references who can speak to your commitment and follow-through, such as professors who witnessed your class participation and performance, team members you worked with to complete a project, or people who worked with you in volunteer roles. If you have had an internship, then individuals you worked with at the internship can provide great references. It isn’t as important who’s name or role you provide the prospective employer, as what they say about you and if they can say it because of experience with you in a situation where you had to get something done.

What you should do after you’ve accepted the offer.

Circle back to your references and thank them! Let them know you’re excited about the new role and you appreciate their support. A personal phone call is always the best option, but a text or an e-mail will work, just do it shortly after they’ve provided the reference and you’ve accepted the job offer.

Congratulations, you’ve made it this far and done well and now you’re on your way to an exciting new opportunity!


Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

For 20 years I’ve been in the job market, either in a job or in a job search, and 15 of those years I’ve been recruiting all levels of professional talent for multiple companies in various cities and countries. Through all of it, I’ve learned some important lessons that I’d like to share.

1. Network now and forever.

NetworkingIf you’re not doing it already, start immediately. Networking should be an integral part of your career, and is critical when you’re in a job search.

Periodically connect with your existing professional contacts, whether it’s getting together or just passing along a relevant article to them, but stay in touch.

Extend your network regularly. Every time you attend a conference or off-site business meeting, make a point of connecting with someone. And, consider asking your current network to connect you with other contacts they value.

Extend yourself to those within your network by offering to help, introduce them to other contacts or act as a mentor to a junior professional.

When you ask someone in your network for assistance or to connect you to a hiring manager, be specific and thoughtful in your ‘ask’. For example, if you’re in the job market, and interested in a specific role, be prepared by providing your resume, as well as an outline of your strengths and accomplishments that match the requirements of the role you’re interested in.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is engaging and professional. Don’t just drop your resume into your LinkedIn profile. Your profile should be more distinctive and include the highlights of your career. Create a headline that speaks to what you’re passionate about in the business world. Hiring managers and recruiters are constantly using LinkedIn, so a strong headline can get you noticed.

If you want to minimize age bias, abbreviate your experience, including only the last past 10 to 15 years.

3. Have an elevator pitch ready.

NetworkingWhen you least expect it, you’ll be asked what you do or what you want to do. Be ready and be concise, zero in on what you do and what you want to do. Your story should take less than thirty seconds to tell.

Always have your elevator pitch ready, not just when you’re making a job change, but all the time, because opportunities can arise when you least expect them.

4. Regularly update your resume.

Annually, it’s a good idea to update your resume, even if you don’t need it. That insures when you do need it, you’ll be ready to go.

I’ve met leaders and senior professionals who recommend you keep a record of your accomplishments and update your record at least annually. It’s a great idea and good practice to get into.

5. Be prepared to discuss salary during a job hunt.

It may seem radical that when you’re in the job search, you get asked about your salary during your first conversation with a company, but it happens frequently. The reason why? Companies don’t want to spend valuable time with candidates who aren’t likely to fit their role. And, from your perspective, there’s nothing worse than spending 8-10 hours interviewing, and then receiving an offer that $10k to $25k below what you’d consider. You’ve just wasted valuable time and energy that could have been spent on a stronger role. So, while it feels intrusive, discussing desired and/or actual salary insures you and the company are focused on a role that matches what you’re interested in.

If you’re asked for a specific number and you’re not comfortable providing one, consider providing a range. If you want to be flexible about compensation, add that you’re flexible when you reveal your salary. And, tell the hiring manager or recruiter why you’re willing to be flexible, so it doesn’t appear to be desperation. Many individuals are flexible in their compensation requirements for reasons such as a better location, work/life balance, because they feel they’re over the current market salary or they may be transitioning their career.

6. Be organized.

cover-letter-writingJob search should be viewed as a project, and potentially the most important project you work on at any point in time. Like all good project managers, develop a plan and schedule, work the plan, and stay on target. Good project management skills will keep you organized when you’re juggling multiple interviews and roles, and interviewing with several companies.

7. Set aggressive goals each week.

Since most of your work will be meeting people or applying online, set goals for both, applications and networking. And, make your job search your number one priority every day. When you’re in a job search, you should spend 6 hours/day minimum on your job search, like your standard work day, whether it’s time spent networking, in meetings, resume submissions or research.

8. Contact and confirm your references.

Don’t include references on your resume or when you apply for a role, but do connect with your professional references early on in a job search. You should gather a list of at least 3-5 references and use only 3 of the most appropriate when you’re asked for them after an interview(s). Most companies want a reference from someone who supervised you, a peer, and one other person who knows you professionally. If this is your first role after your education, then teachers and professors can be used as they will speak to your work ethic. And, stay in touch with your references regularly.

When you get asked for the names and contact information for your references, reach out to the ones most appropriate for the role, and provide them information about what you’ve learned about the role, reiterate strengths that are important for the position, and thank them in advance for the recommendation.

Once they’ve provided a positive reference, and you’ve accepted the offer, circle back with your references, advise them of the role you just accepted, and thank them again.

9. Stay positive.

Job search, whether your currently employed or not, can be exhausting and discouraging. It’s critical that you stay positive. When the going gets tough, reach out to motivators in your network for support and fresh ideas. And, even if it’s difficult to hear, take the advice they give. Sometimes, we can become too siloed in our thinking when it’s about our career or salary. After all, it’s highly personal and often fundamental to how we define ourselves.

10. Pay it forward.

Do what you can to help a colleague, friend, or connection whenever you can. Help others through introductions, or mentoring more junior colleagues. And, if someone seeks your advice, be generous in providing it. Never forget that someone else is today in the same situation you were at one point and may be again.

Job search and managing your career can be exhilarating and frustrating. Being prepared and organized will make you savvier and appear more professional, and get you the results you want faster!


20 Interview Questions You Need to Ask an Employer

You’ve got your first interview coming up with the manager and you’ve prepared how to answer all the questions including why you’re looking for a new role. But have you thought about what questions you should ask?

This is the first time you should be asking specific questions to find out more details about the company, the culture, your future manager, peers you’ll be working with, and future growth opportunities.

It’s a good idea to start with general questions and then move on to more specific questions.

About the Company

  1. Ask about the company’s short and long-term goals. What are major initiatives this year and what are the long-term plans?
  2. Inquire out about the culture. While most companies declare they have a positive work environment, what does that really mean? Ask the interviewer what their experience has been and what they value most at the company. Ask what they’d like the company to improve? Is it corporate sponsored events, community giving, or perhaps more frequent internal or executive communication. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, but it can provide valuable information for you.

Position Specifics

This can be tricky because candidates often ask general questions like, what are the job expectations, or how do you define success? And, the answers often don’t provide useful information. Be specific.

  1. How would your time be allocated on a ‘typical’ day?
  2. What are the challenges that you’re going to face? In the first 90 days? And the first year?
  3. What’s the structure of the team and how long have people on the team been at the company and in their roles?
  4. What obstacles may arise? And where will the resources be to overcome them?
  5. What metrics do they use to determine success in the role?
  6. How frequently will your manager meet with you? Daily, weekly, or bi-weekly?
  7. What’s your manager’s management style? Are they a hands-off manager or a micromanager?
  8. Request a meeting with your peers on the team. It’s a great opportunity to get a good feel for what you’re getting into. What were the department’s biggest challenges last year and how did they solve them?

Salary and Compensation

interview-questions-for-employersSalary and compensation conversations should be kept general in the beginning of your meetings. Likely the recruiter will ask your salary, or salary range, and you can provide them current salary, desired compensation, or a range. However, if you provide a range, keep the range within $5-$7K, because whatever range you state, the employer hears the lowest number, while you’re thinking the highest end of the range. This disparity can result in an offer that disappoints.

In meetings with the actual hiring manager, salary and compensation questions you initiate should be kept to a minimum.

  1. You may want to ask for confirmation your salary is in the range of what the company has allocated for the job.
  2. You can ask for an overview of the company benefit plans. Some companies won’t provide specifics until the end, but many will provide you a summary of their overall benefits.
  3. Ask when detailed benefit information will be available.
  4. Ask about perks the company regularly provides, like matching contributions to charities, educational reimbursement, free beverages, casual work environment, work from home days, etc.

Training and Future Opportunities

  1. Inquire about any early training.
  2. Ask if there’s a senior resource available for questions or if they have a formal mentoring program? It’s always a benefit to have a mentor, so if it’s not offered, find one within the company as soon as possible. It can be an employee in another department, but your mentor should have more tenure and seniority to be the most useful.
  3. What are the future training opportunities, from web training to conferences and onsite training?
  4. Ask about growth opportunities? What’s been typical in the department?
  5. What was the manager’s trajectory in the company and have they promoted any team members?
  6. Ask about opportunities to transition to other departments and the flexibility to do so if it’s good for your long-term career growth at the company and an opportunity presents itself. What are the limitations?

interview-questions-for-employersIt’s important to have some knowledge of the individual you’re meeting, as well as the organization before you ask any or all questions. If you’re interviewing at a start-up, growth opportunities, training and mentoring may not be clearly outlined. However, if it’s a small start-up you’re interested in, it’s important to understand your manager’s philosophy to promoting people, and in the end, you’ll likely need to be more open to taking a risk. Well established companies often have formal development and/or training programs, so you’re likely to get more concrete information.

It doesn’t matter how much you want the job, it is critical you get as much information and your questions answered, so you can make an informed decision if you get an offer. There’s nothing worse than accepting an offer and learning later, you should have asked more questions and now you’re committed to a job you don’t like.

In the end, stay positive throughout your conversations with the company. There will be times when it’s appropriate to ask certain specific questions, and other times when you’ll have to keep questions more general. And you need to be sensitive to the interviewer’s interest in answering questions. Don’t ask too many questions at once. There’s nothing worse than a candidate who drills the interviewer with multiple questions when the interviewer isn’t convinced they’re a strong candidate. It confirms to the interviewer that the candidate has little awareness of how the interview is going or doesn’t know that timing of questions is critical.

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Smart People – The Best and Worst of Being Smart at Work

I wanted to write about what it meant to be a smart person in the workplace, and realized it’s been widely written about already. It’s generally accepted that being smart is fundamental to success and there are numerous articles and blogs that support that belief. So, rather than restate what others have said, often better than I could, I wanted to highlight articles that were especially interesting.

What defines a smart person?

An article in HighIQ talks about the benefits of being smart, and how intelligent you need to be to be considered ‘smart’. In this article the author defines the ‘highly gifted’ individual with an IQ of 140 and above, while just being ‘smart’ has an IQ at 130 and above. Are you curious what your IQ is? It doesn’t really matter what your actual IQ tested at, or tests at, because it can change. Most people inherently know how smart they are, especially once they’ve been exposed to both a formal education and the workplace. Whether you’re a CEO or you’ve only worked one year, you know if you’re smart. Doing well in academics isn’t always the only indicator of an intelligent mind. In an article in the Elite Daily, several of the most successful businesspeople in today’s world were challenged in school, with the most recognized name being Bill Gates. Consequently, while intelligent individuals frequently get good grades in school, some don’t and still have profound success once they’re in the workforce.

And in the Forbes article, Science Says These Five Things Prove You’re Smart, being smart is defined by anxiety, early reading, early music lessons, left handedness and a solid sense of humor. This appears to be an unscientific way to conclude intelligence, but I felt it appropriate to include.

What are the quirks of being a smartie?

According to an article by John Stanley HunterBusiness Insider , published in the Independent on Friday 5, August 2016, smart people swear more, have a larger profanity vocabulary that they can spout easily, and don’t get much sleep. They can also be very funny. After reading that article, I realized I’ve met a lot of smart people, who were quick with their humor and sometimes profanity, along with interesting ideas and stimulating discussions.

And in an article in the Thought Catalog by Kovie Biakolo, smart individuals often are harder on themselves, less happy, misunderstood, frustrated, sometimes not particularly successful and frustrated because a superior has a lower intellect, which dramatically articulates the frustrations that can occur when someone has a high intellect. But, they don’t have to limit you.

What are the downsides of being smart at work?

Whether you’re smart or not, everyone makes mistakes and has flaws. But smart people make some unusually stupid mistakes. Smart people often respond too fast to simple questions, getting the answer wrong because they rely on knowing they’re smart, and don’t think about what the question is really asking. Smart people sometimes don’t ask questions when they should. Likely because they assume they already know the answers from past experience or knowledge they’ve gained.

Think you’re smart? You should read this article in Ladders…and likely you’ll realize you still have a lot to learn.

In an article in the Houston Chronicle, “The word “smart” is often associated with a high intelligence quotient or IQ. And, Webster’s Dictionary defines “smart” as mentally alert, knowledgeable, witty and clever. There is one major difference between a smart employee and one who simply has a high intelligence quotient. An employee with a high IQ is able to comprehend, analyze, process and reproduce information. While a smart employee has these skills too, he also possesses a worldly wisdom and common sense that no textbook or training can teach, including wisdom that is derived from his life experience.”

To take that information further, being a genius doesn’t necessarily provide more benefits in work output, but being smart, and combining it with experience and common sense will likely get one farther, faster.

What are the benefits of being smart at work and at home?

In a recent Reader’s Digest article, wise people execute a lot of smart habits and actions that should improve their knowledge, quality of life and social skills. These positive actions and habits are wise for anyone to develop at all stages of life.

In the end, being smart doesn’t get you happiness, guarantee productivity, money, or love, but it does give you the ability to learn what you don’t know, what you’re doing wrong, and how you can improve, if used well. The rest is up to common sense, luck and fate.

After my research, I learned it’s generally an advantage in the workplace to be smart. But like many advantages it must be appreciated, and individuals need to be aware of the challenges they still face and focus their energy on strengthening the positive and coping with the negative. Consider intelligence and smartness another tool in your toolbox you can use to make yourself better, and you’ve got a valuable tool. Waste it, by too much comparison and introspection, and it becomes a burden.



Beginner’s Guide to Networking for Healthcare Professionals


Building connections and networking, is critical for everyone today, and can be very useful for healthcare professionals. Whether you’re a Physical Therapist, Registered Nurse, LPN, Dental Professional, Physician, or in another specialty area, it’s an advantage for your career.

Our world is getting smaller, as Stacey says in her blog on One Hour Translation, ‘we often find ourselves connecting with people from one job to another, or with people who leave and move to another position, you’re likely to find it useful at points throughout your career.’

Several years ago, I was encouraged to begin networking and sought out resources to figure out how, including Keith Ferrazzi, and his book, Never Eat Alone, to better understand the mechanics of how to do it. And while that helped me launch my networking efforts, I quickly realized that sometimes it can be easy, but other times it’s a challenge. Here’s suggestions and ideas for it all.

First, if you’re not on LinkedIn already, set up a LinkedIn profile. Keep it simple, but professional. This is a professional networking site, so never put anything too personal or social on it. If you’re concerned about privacy, you can adjust the settings to better match your comfort level. Then, once you’ve got your own profile, invite a peer to connect with you, and another and another. It’s also a great idea to connect with people you’ve met at school, or at any organizations you belong to. And, try to build 75 connections or more to start. This is an arbitrary number, and a guide to help make it a useful tool. You may not need the connections today, but at some point, you’re likely to consider them valuable.

Let’s talk about why you’re networking. There can be several reasons; you’re looking for a new position, you want to stay connected with talented individuals you’ve met, you want to connect with potential employers, or you know it’s just something you should do. For healthcare professionals, these reasons can also include:

  • Building connections with other therapists, doctors, and other healthcare professionals, which may develop into partnerships or help you to land future patients.
  • Knowledge and advice of other therapy professionals about different or innovative treatments and techniques.
  • Awareness of recent research, upcoming events, and issues your profession is currently facing.
  • More professional options. When meeting other professionals in your expertise, you may learn about another position you’d be interested in.

Healthcare ConsultingWhatever your reason for networking, for it to be useful and be good at it, you need a focus. Several years ago, I learned the hard way what my motivation would be. My family and I were on a trip driving through to another state when we were stopped by the highway patrol on our route. After reviewing our license and talking with us, the officer said, ‘Recently I received some valuable assistance from someone I didn’t expect, and they wouldn’t let me compensate them, they said, ‘pay it forward.’ So, I’m going to pay it forward, and if you agree to do that also, you can go on with your trip and I won’t give you a violation.’ That was the beginning of a commitment to pay it forward. Yes, it’s a simple life story, but it was a poignant lesson I learned and how it impacted my networking was important. After some thought, I decided to make ‘pay it forward’ my motivation for networking. So, as I began reaching out to connect with others, I looked at ways I might be able to help them. Often there aren’t any specific ideas that emerge, and they may end up helping you instead, but knowing my motivation made it substantially easier and more fun to network. And the rewards have been immense – from those that I helped professionally and personally, to those that have helped me in unexpected ways.

So, why do you network? Think about it and decide why you want to build your professional network, choose your motivation and focus.

Next, join a local professional organization. If you can’t find one you’re interested in, try finding an organization to volunteer at, and become involved with volunteering. Volunteering can be a great resource for connecting with like-minded professionals.

healthcare-professionals-meetingStart meeting people face to face, whether it’s at conferences, continuing education, or social. It will all be beneficial, and you don’t need to connect with everyone, but if you can connect with one or several people you respect, connect with them later via LinkedIn, and keep an eye on their progress and stay in touch with everyone in the network you’re building.

Last, as you approach networking, keep your approach positive and professional. Don’t approach networking from the point-of-view, what can I gain from this connection? Instead, your approach should be on connecting with talented and interesting people.

Throughout the years, networking has proved to be rewarding in every aspect, professionally of course, and several times over, but also socially and personally.

So, get out there and just do it!