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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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!

Nurse Interview Tips

Tips to Succeed in Nursing Interviews

Everyone hates interviewing. It can be scary, nerve-wracking, anxiety-producing, discouraging, and it’s time consuming when you’d rather be doing anything else.

So, how do you make the most of your interviews?
Two simple recommendations…prepare and practice.

Healthcare Training CEUsSeek out a couple sources for advice, friends who have interviewed recently, and website blogs. On the internet, research topics like ‘interviewing advice’ or ‘interview questions’. Spend time reviewing the information you discover before you begin your preparation. Your preparation before the interview will make a huge impact on how well you do at the interview.

Put together a brief explanation of why you’re looking for a new role. In some circles this is referred to as an elevator pitch. According to Wikipedia, ‘The name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin.[2][3] Bottom line, it’s your story, succinctly conveyed in a short elevator ride. Your ‘story’ should be about a paragraph long. It’s challenging to be succinct, so write it down, review it, and edit until you’re satisfied. Start with a high-level explanation of your current role. For example, ‘I’m a RN in XYZ’s critical care unit, in charge of a small team.’ Then explain where you’re headed and why. Perhaps, ‘While I love what I’m doing, I’ve been there for seven years, and think it’s time for a fresh challenge.’ Or ‘while I enjoy where I’m at, there are only limited opportunities, and I’m looking for an organization with more growth opportunities.’

Next, consider the questions that will come up during the interview. Prepare for those the same way you prepare for your ‘story’. Consider drafting responses to the following frequently asked questions.

Question 1: Tell us about yourself.

Answer Example: ‘I’m an energetic, dedicated, and compassionate RN with 5 years’ professional experience in both clinic and hospital settings. I value providing the best quality of care to my patients and supporting my peers so that we provide the best care possible to all patients.’ Its succinct, complete and reveals your motivation and healthcare goals.

Question 2: Why did you choose healthcare as a profession?

nursing-interviewingAnswer this question with a strong, specific response. Your response will reveal your motivations and it can make or break the rest of your interview. Telling a personal story is the best way, but be authentic.

Answer example: You may have grown up with an ailing family member for whom good healthcare was critical. Then, you decided you wanted to be a part of the solution. Or, perhaps your experience wasn’t that personal. But it could be something as simple as, ‘whenever I had to have a vaccine or injection, which I was particularly scared to get, I always appreciated when the staff understood my fears and supported me. It was then that I realized I wanted to do that for others.’ Or it could be from an experience volunteering or because you realize that healthcare is vital and becoming more so to improving people’s quality of life. And you decided you want to be someone who’s directly involved in making it better for them. Whatever response fits you, make it real, authentic, and show your commitment and passion to what you’re doing. Never answer with, something like, ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was good in science classes, so I kind of fell into it.’ This is an opportunity for you to show the interviewer you’re a dedicated and responsible caregiver.

Question 3: What are your strengths?

Almost every interviewer asks this question, and while I’ve often heard it criticized by some professionals as too broad, or they always get the same answer, I’ve always found the question valuable. It’s valuable because while everyone often answers similarly, there are nuances in tone, in words used, and in supporting stories that can influence how believable and valid the strengths are. I’ve experienced dozens of candidates providing responses that don’t relate to the job they’re seeking or are vague, without any supporting statements, leaving the interviewer wondering if they’re sincere.

And because it’s an easy question for interviewers to ask and candidates to answer, I’m confident it will remain the number one question asked in interviews.

So, how do you best answer the question? Prepare ahead with 3-4 strengths that apply to the new role you’re considering. And, provide a supporting statement or story that reveals where it’s been a benefit for you in your past.

Question 4: Why are you interested in leaving your current job?

Never, ever criticize your current employer. The only exception is if there’s public knowledge about the organization that simply explains why you’re looking. For instance, if the hospital is closing and it’s been made public. In which case, stating that as your reason for looking is a public fact, genuine, and will be appreciated by the interviewer.

Question 5:  What are your salary requirements? Or what is your current salary?

male-murseThis is a challenging question for many to answer. Should you tell your current salary, should you say what you’re hoping to get? Or, should you respond that you’re open to ‘market’ compensation?

We recommend that you don’t provide any of these answers without some consideration. If you’re comfortable with your current salary and it’s not an important part of your decision to accept a new role, then be transparent and say where you’re at. However, if you’d like to get an offer for the most you can, then you’ll need to be more careful. It’s important to be forthright and transparent, but you should qualify that. For example, state your current salary, your desired salary, and your supporting reasons for wanting a higher salary. Valid reasons for wanting a greater salary are that your current organization has been restricting increases because of cost control, or the market has significantly improved, or you’ve gained additional experience or education and haven’t yet received an increase that correlates with that achievement. Reasons that aren’t well received are statements like ‘This is a bigger role,’ or ‘I’ll be working harder here,’ or ‘My commute will be longer.’

All in all, if you want your employer to be trustworthy and transparent, then you should also be transparent and display that you’re trustworthy.

And, finally, you’ll likely be asked one or more difficult questions, such as:

  1. What do you feel is the most challenging or difficult part of being a nurse? Describe a time when a physician gave an order that you believed was incorrect. How did you handle it?
  2. Describe a time when you were unsure of the best protocol to follow. How did you handle it?
  3. Describe a time when you had a conflict or disagreement with your supervisor. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  4. How have you handled coworkers, physicians, or others you work with who become rude or demanding?
  5. How do you stay current within the nursing field? What publications do you read? What research findings interest you?
  6. How do you handle a request you disagree with?
  7. Can you describe a time when you had to intervene for a patient, what you did, and why? What was the outcome?
  8. How would you handle a patient, who complains about everything?
  9. If your shift ends at 5:30 and your replacement has not arrived by 5:45, what do you do?
  10. Tell me about the last time someone critiqued your work. How did you respond?
  11. Have you ever disagreed with a supervisor’s decision? Tell me how you handled the situation.
  12. When you have a lot to do, but not enough time on your shift to do it, how do you handle the situation?
  13. Talk about a time when you disagreed with a co-worker.

Nurse Interview guideSince you know ahead of time that there will likely be difficult questions, your best action is to prepare for them ahead of time. While you’ll never know exactly which questions you’re going to be asked, our recommendation is to prepare three to four stories of challenging experiences you’ve had and the action you took to resolve a problem and what you learned from the experience. While this won’t arm you to answer any question, it will generally help you answer many of them. As you prepare your responses ahead of time, write down your examples, review them, edit until they’re succinct. Then review them with a family member or friend and listen for any possible changes you should make, or any additional information you should be including.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “In career news, healthcare is everywhere. That’s because the healthcare industry is projected to add more jobs—over 4 million—than any other industry between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And it is projected to be among the fastest-growing industries in the economy.” So, while the industry is growing, people are continually joining the healthcare field, which means you’re also likely to have competition when you interview. Therefore, preparing for any interview is going to be critical. And, as you prepare, think about the responses you’ve put together, practice with family and friends. While you don’t want your responses to sound too rehearsed, preparation goes a long way to helping you come across confidently, not rehearsed.

In the end, your education, experience, positive attitude, and preparedness will likely lead you to getting the job you want.