Archive for the ‘Job Search’ Category

How Strategic Are Your Resume & Cover Letter?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

A prospective client with ten years of experience as a PE Teacher and Coach sent me her resume with a note that she’s tired of the long hours and is thinking of looking in a field outside of education. But she’s not sure.

The resume, which read more like a cross between an essay and a biography, began like this: “I am looking for an opportunity that will allow me more time for my family in whatever field I choose.”

Try for just a minute to think of yourself as the school administrator or Hiring Manager who’s reading this. You have a couple of openings and thousands of resumes that you must peruse while attending to the many and very demanding functions of your job. You have a budget and a strict timeframe and you simply cannot afford to hire the wrong person.

Now read that second paragraph again, Mr./Ms. Hiring Manager. The person who sent it to you begins by telling you what she wants from you. For you, on the other hand, it’s crunch time. You do not care what she wants from you. You want to know what she can do for you, and if she doesn’t tell you that very quickly you will be moving on to the next applicant.

This is a problem I encounter over and over again on resumes and cover letters, as well as elevator speeches, interview strategies, and Internet biographies. Many job seekers have a fixed idea of what they want from an employer but fail to convey what they can deliver for the employer. Since this is the primary information every employer is seeking when reviewing a candidate’s history, anything that begins by addressing the applicant’s requirements is likely to fall on very deaf ears. Applicants often compound the confusion by failing to present themselves as a good fit for job openings.

To avoid these pitfalls, YOU MUST BE STRATEGIC. Research companies that interest you, network with friends and colleagues, and when you hear of an opening for which you’d like to apply, all of your communication should specifically target that position.

The above teacher continued in her resume: “I love to teach but I would also be interested in a position in another field. I have a passion for learning. I think ‘teacher’ defines me best.”

To an education administrator on the lookout for a PE teacher who can also coach the girls’ basketball team, this is going to be very confusing. Does the applicant want to be a teacher / coach or not? Again, put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. You simply do not have time to figure out what to do with this person, so you move on, and she misses out on a potential job opportunity.

Do not say, “I’m a teacher at heart and that’s what I do best” if you’re applying for something outside of education. Instead, define a clear segue between the job you’re doing now and the job for which you’re applying. And do not say “…in whatever field I choose” if you are looking for a teaching position (or any position, for that matter). It signals to an employer that your job search has no clarity, focus, or strategy, and you will not be viewed as a serious candidate.

For example, if you’re a teacher but you’d like to supervise a customer service team, stress your experience working with multidisciplinary teams of teachers, administrators, counselors, and therapists. Talk about the challenge of managing a classroom and give examples of how effective you’ve been in keeping students on task. You can handle demanding parents and intransigent students seamlessly. You are a natural for a position in customer service!

Of course, you can turn this around: Ten years in direct customer service, including seven years as a CSR supervisor, have been the perfect foundation for a career as a teacher . . .

No one who is or might be hiring, or who may know of someone who’s hiring, should ever talk to you or read your resume and cover letter and be left to wonder what in the world you’re looking to do with yourself. Simply put, an applicant who fails to define his or her job target and related qualifications will not hold anyone’s attention past the first paragraph. Career counseling

Be clear and focused. Be strategic in your job search communication.

~ Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2013, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Power Pack Your Job Search!

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Updating Your Job Search Strategy

If you’re like most job seekers, you invest the majority of your time and precious resources in scanning Internet job boards and responding to ads in the newspapers.

Reality check. Estimates vary, but if that’s the strategy you’re using to find a job, indications are that your likelihood of success is around 10 to 13 percent. No wonder people get depressed and quit before they find a job. It can be like pounding your head against a brick wall.

The problem is that there are a lot more people looking for jobs these days than there are jobs available. (I’ll bet you already figured that one out!) Consequently, there are literally millions of resumes posted on the various job boards, giving new meaning to the term “needle in a haystack,” and when an ad hits the Internet, it’s not uncommon for an employer to to receive hundreds of responses, if not thousands.

So if your primary strategy for finding a job is to surf the Internet boards and respond to newspaper ads, you are competing with dozens, hundreds, thousands, and in some cases millions of other applicants, making the odds against you pretty overwhelming. No wonder you’ve begun to feel as if you’re dropping your resume into a black hole! There’s got to be a better way.

There is, but it’s going to take some hard work and initiative on your part. If you enjoy sales and marketing, it will be right up your alley, because for this little window of time (i.e., while you are trying to find a job), you are in sales, and the product you’re marketing is you. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, there are lots of other “products” out there. Some of them are cheaper, some of them are smarter, some of them are older, some of them are younger, some of them have more experience, and some of them have less. It would be nice to think that the most qualified applicant will be the one who lands the job, but it frequently does not work that way.

Put yourself in the position of the person doing the hiring. You have an opening you have to fill within two weeks. You have two hundred resumes to review and counting. You would love to shut down the office for the next fourteen days until you’ve settled this matter, but that’s not at all practical. And so you get the awful job of sifting through resumes and calling people to come in for interviews while still performing all the other functions of your position. And you would rather submit to a root canal without an anesthetic.

And then some eager beaver (let’s call him Joe) gets a hold of you on the phone. Actually, he’s been calling for weeks. He’s talked to your assistant and sent you e-mails and forwarded his resume and then e-mailed another copy “just in case the first one got lost.” Finally, he calls early one morning before your assistant gets in, just as you are facing the prospect of going through all those resumes. He is pleasant and polite and to the point. He tells you briefly what his skills are, he expresses an interest in your company, and he asks about employment openings.

On the one hand, this call is a little annoying. On the other hand, you look at the growing number of resumes and think, “This guy seems to know a little something about what we do around here, and he’s awfully eager.” And at a subconscious level you’re even thinking, “If he works out, I won’t have to go through all these resumes.”

He presses a little bit. “Would it be possible for me to come in and speak with you? I promise I won’t take up too much of your time, but I would appreciate just a few minutes to introduce myself and present my qualifications in person. Would today be okay or would sometime later in the week be better?”

What would you say? If you’re like the hundreds of hiring managers I’ve talked to who have been through this, you’re likely to say something like, “I’ve got a little time this afternoon if you can be here at 3:00.” So Joe gets a crack at the job, while the 200 applicants who simply submitted resumes and then sat around twiddling their thumbs hoping for the phone to ring may very well be history.

What made Joe stand out? Is he smarter or more qualified? Not necessarily. He was simply the one who called the right person at the right time.

But, you say, how can you possibly know when to call whom?

You can’t. And so what you do is make a volume of phone calls (I recommend 10 to 20 or more a day) and persist through a thousand stalls, rejections, and maybes until you touch base with the right person at the right time who says yes. It’s that simple. And that difficult.

Before you moan and groan and say you can’t do it, it’s not your style, let me reiterate. In the past, the approach to getting jobs was passive. You submitted resumes and waited, hoping for a response. Since back in the good old days there were more jobs than people to fill them, you usually didn’t have to wait very long, and this approach worked most of the time.

But we’ve already established that the world has changed — a lot — and today the onus is on the job seeker. You must take an active, persistent, aggressive approach to finding the job you want. If you don’t do it, no one will. That I can guarantee. And my experience has been that for many people, the process can be exciting and empowering. Rather than submitting helplessly to the whims of the job market, which can be the most depressing experience of a lifetime, you are taking control of the process for yourself.

~ Excerpted and updated from the book Power Pack Your Job Search! by Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2012, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Catch 22: How to Find a Job When You’re Unemployed

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Research continues to show that people who are currently employed are more likely to find a job than people who are not employed, and I’ve seen this with my clients over and over again. It’s the ultimate Catch 22.

One option: Job seekers can take temporary positions. Temp agencies these days are hiring people in multiple fields, so accountants, warehouse managers, tekkies, and even management level personnel have a shot at a temp position. This serves two purposes. First, of course, it demonstrates that a job seeker is currently employed. Second, it’s a way to get your foot in the door! A lot of companies these days prefer to hire people on a temporary basis to see how they work out before making the big investment of offering a permanent job. I’ve had plenty of clients go from temporary to permanent positions.

Another option is to work as a consultant. Is your Aunt Ruth starting – or having trouble with – her antique store or spa or accounting business? Offer her your expertise and help her out. Call some local nonprofits and see if they need some help from someone with your background. Sometimes they will pay a little, sometimes they won’t, but in either case, you are working as a “Business Consultant” or “Network Consultant” or “Change Management Consultant” or “Marketing Consultant” or “Accounting Consultant” (the options are endless), and that can be reflected on a resume as a current position. Of course, you should be entirely honest and never lie or exaggerate. But if you’re doing real work for a real company or organization, it counts!

Another thing that’s important is to keep credentials up-to-date. Did I say Catch-22? This can be a real struggle if a person isn’t employed and generating an income, but it’s critically important. If you allow your PHR to lapse, or if you don’t maintain memberships in your professional associations, it says to a prospective employer that you USED to do this kind of work, but you are now officially out of the field.

It’s unfair that in today’s economy employers continue to discriminate against job seekers because they are not currently employed, but like it or not, it’s reality. I recommend taking action to keep yourself in the game.

~ Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2011, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Managing Depression During Your Job Search

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

A psychologist once told me that losing a job can have the emotional impact of having a doctor tell you that you have cancer. I have seen grown men and women reduced to tears after a job loss, with overwhelming feelings of grief and inadequacy, in spite of a history of career achievements.

The irony in all of this is that when you’re looking for a job, you have to sell yourself in a very competitive market, so it’s of utmost importance that you remain positive and confident. Be proactive about this! Don’t wait until you’re too depressed to get out of bed in the morning. Develop a plan to keep depression at bay. Following are some suggestions:

Establish a Routine

Searching for a job can be a full-time job in itself, so think of it that way. Set specific hours each day to do Internet research, and establish a rule that you will make at least ten calls to networking contacts and prospective employers every business day.

Develop Strategies for Staying Positive

Let’s face it, looking for a job can be a frustrating and even demeaning experience. I’ve had job seekers tell me they have enough rejection letters to wallpaper a room! Do whatever it takes to stay positive in the midst of it all. Take regular walks, spend more time with family members, or volunteer. In addition, many job seekers have found a period of career transition to be a respite, giving them the opportunity for prayer and spiritual renewal.

Network, Network, Network!

Isolation is unhealthy in the face of discouragement and depression. Take this opportunity to stay on top of business trends, take a class or two to improve your skills, attend conferences, and keep in touch with people in your industry. A capable and caring resume and career consultant can also be a positive source of encouragement and direction as you maneuver your job search.

Take Care of Yourself

Eat your veggies, OD on healthy fruits, enjoy lean meats, stay on a consistent sleep routine, and exercise regularly. ‘Nuff said.

The psychologist was right: a job loss can be a devastating experience. The good news is, it really isn’t the end of the world, although it may seem that way at the time. I can’t count the number of clients I’ve worked with who viewed their job loss as a crisis of cosmic proportions, only to discover after landing another job that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. It may sound cliche, but you can do this, and you may even come through better for the experience. So whatever it takes, refuse to let depression take hold.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Where Is Your “Locus of Control” and How Does it Impact Your Life and Career?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

Do you have an internal locus of control, or is your locus of control external?

Your locus of control is, quite simply, where you believe the control in your life originates. Do you control your life, or are there other forces outside of you that are in control? It turns out that what you believe — internal or external — can profoundly impact your life and career.

If your locus of control is external, you tend to have little faith in your ability to control and improve your situation. Your inclination is to withdraw in the face of difficulties or obstacles rather than fight for improvement, and you have a passive approach to life, accompanied by a belief in “luck” or “fate.”

On the other hand, if you have an internal locus of control, you are blessed with a high degree of intrinsic motivation, as well as strong coping abilities in various situations that enable you to avoid or reduce everyday stresses. Research has indicated that people with an internal locus of control find their jobs to be more interesting than those with an external locus of control, and they also have a higher level of education. In addition, they enjoy more satisfaction and motivation in their careers.

Why is this important to your job search and career? Because looking for a job these days is not a passive endeavor. It requires determination in the face of rejection and a commitment to researching companies and career opportunities, improving skill levels, and being proactive in an increasingly volatile job market.

I once had a friend who longed to meet the right man, get married, and have a family. Opportunities to meet men at work were very limited, however, and she refused to get involved in anything, so she spent her days at a dead-end job and her nights and weekends alone behind the closed door of her apartment. I encouraged her to get involved in volunteer or social activities, but she wouldn’t think of it. She constantly complained about not finding the man of her dreams, but she steadfastly refused to do anything about it, and so she was perennially unhappy. THAT is an external locus of control.

The same is true for job seekers. As a resume writer and career consultant, I have observed over the years that clients who are willing to take risks, upgrade their education and skillset, and actively look for new opportunities are much more successful and satisfied with their lives than those who take a passive role toward their careers. In addition, they refuse to blame external circumstances for problems they encounter; rather, they look for ways to make necessary changes, instead of hoping for the right opportunities to come to them.

To determine if your locus of control is internal or external, ask yourself: Do I blame circumstances outside of my control for my unhappiness at work, or do I look for things I can do to take control and change things? Am I willing to risk rejection to find the right job, or am I passively hoping the right job will magically fall in my lap?

If you’re unhappy with your career, I can tell you for a fact that the job of your dreams is not going to fall from the sky. You are going to have to go after it, and it’s going to take some serious work and commitment on your part. I urge you to examine whether an internal or external locus of control is driving your life, and then take the necessary steps to get out there and take control.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

[Reference: Biological and Psychological Basis of Psychosomatic Disease, based on papers presented at a conference on Psychological Load and Stress in the Work Environment, Bergen, Norway, 1980. Editors are Holger Ursin and Robert Murison, Institute of Psysiological Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway.]

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How to Prepare and Use a Portfolio for Your Interview

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

He was a mechanical engineer who had developed any number of creative process improvements over the years, saving his company millions of dollars. And he was proud of his work. In fact, when I first met with him to go over his history and begin the resume development process, he brought me a shoe box full of photographs and diagrams. I was so impressed with his creativity and enthusiasm that I suggested he create a portfolio to use during an interview.

A portfolio? He had no idea what I was talking about.

People in creative fields routinely prepare portfolios: teachers, graphic artists, writers. But portfolios can be used for almost any position, and for people at all levels: new grads to executives. If done effectively, a portfolio can give you a unique opportunity to showcase your talents.

It can run the gamut from a single sheet of paper as an adjunct to your resume, with graphics and a list of accomplishments, to a notebook full of original photographs and materials with succinct and creative headings. You might even create a leave-behind DVD of you at work doing what you do best. Below are some strategies for putting together a portfolio, and some suggestions on how to use it in an interview.

How to Create an Effective Portfolio

Keep in mind that your portfolio must present you as a professional. Don’t hurry the process, and don’t skimp. Contrary to the maxim, a book is almost always judged by its cover! Purchase a classy folder and use plastic sleeves to display and protect materials. It should be a nice size, but not so large that it’s awkward to carry or display.

Put the most impressive information at the front of the portfolio, because you don’t know how much time you’ll have once you get to it in an interview (more about that later). In fact, you can re-arrange the information for each interview, depending on the responsibilities of the position for which you’re applying.

Some Information to Include in Your Portfolio

It varies, depending on your areas of expertise and experience, but you may want to include some or all of the following:

  • Table of Contents, tabbed for easy access.
  • Your resume. Your transcript, certifications, awards, and/or licenses.
  • Evaluations of your work and/or letters of recommendation (only if they are glowing).
  • Newspaper or magazine articles that feature you and/or your work.
  • Writing samples.
  • Samples of brochures or business forms you’ve developed, or diagrams of some of the process improvements you’ve designed.
  • Photos with brief captions, and these should include samples of your work. For the mechanical engineer, it included pictures of his innovations on the plant floor. But they could also be photos of a company picnic or customer appreciation dinner that you coordinated.

Presenting Your Portfolio During an Interview

Bring the portfolio with you to the interview, and when you meet and greet your interviewer say, “I’ve brought along a portfolio with highlights of some of my achievements if you’d like to see it.” Then, at some point, the interviewer is likely to say something like, “Okay, show me what you’ve got.”

Now you are in the spotlight! You have the unique opportunity to give a sales presentation – about you, and what you can do for this company. It’s important to do this right, because you will only get one shot at it, so I recommend you put a lot of thought into your presentation. And try and keep it to about ten minutes.

Go through it page by page and practice your explanations prior to the interview. For example, “Here’s a photograph of the United Way Campaign that I managed for our company. That’s me in the clown suit, and the other executives are wearing costumes, as well. The campaign was the most successful in the company’s history, bringing together people from all levels. The CEO told me later that she’d never seen such a spirit of cooperation throughout her years with the company, and we broke all records for employee donations.”

If you don’t get the opportunity to go through your portfolio during the interview, offer to leave it behind. This serves two purposes: first, the employer may have the time to look over your work more carefully. It also gives you an excuse to drop in on him or her a week or so later to pick it up.

The mechanical engineer took my advice and put together a very impressive portfolio. He called me about a month later and said, “Anne, you won’t believe it. I got the job! The boss told me when he called to make the offer that I was the only one who had a portfolio, and he was very impressed with it. Thanks for the suggestion!”

(Resume writers LOVE getting those calls, by the way. :-) )

Need I say more? In a competitive job market, a creative and attention grabbing portfolio can make the difference.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Your Summer Job Search

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Are you tempted to take the summer off and wait until the fall to ramp up your job search? You could be missing some great opportunities.

Contrary to popular opinion, employers still hire during the summer months, and recruiters are always on the lookout for new talent. Besides, the summer is going to end soon enough, and when it does, all those job seekers who took the summer off are going to hit the proverbial pavement . . . and the job boards. At that point, the competition could get very intense. Why not get the jump on things?

While others are taking the summer off, keep networking, take a course or two to upgrade or expand your skills, research prospective employers, and keep sending out that resume. When it comes to your career, summer doesn’t have to mean time out. In fact, if you are proactive, you could find it very productive.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Job Security & Today’s Economy

Friday, April 25th, 2008

As a guest on a national radio talk show a while back, I got a call from the mother of two young college men. She wanted her boys to avoid the pitfalls of reorganizations and job instability that seem to be rampant in today’s economy. She asked me what they should major in “so they will never lose their jobs or be downsized.” I said, “Tell them to go into nursing.”

I wasn’t being flip. Downsizing, also called “workforce reduction,” “negotiated departure,” “restaffing,” and a host of other euphemisms, is the trend as companies adapt to an increasingly global economy and shrinking profit margins. “Firings used to be done with surgical cleanliness,” according to employment guru Harvey Mackay. “Now they’re called restructurings, and they’re done with a meat cleaver.”

But even in today’s economy, there are areas of job growth. These include healthcare, government, and some technology sectors. Hardest hit are manufacturing, transportation, construction, and education. Many mortgage brokers and loan officers aren’t doing so well now either.

The South is the strongest area in the country for job growth right now, while the Midwest is the hardest hit because of its broad manufacturing base.

Yes, there is a screaming need for nurses. In fact, many hospitals and health care organizations are importing nurses from other countries because it’s so difficult to find enough nurses in the U.S. But you don’t need to become a nurse to increase your job security and avoid the “meat cleaver.” Update your skill-set and target the growing sectors.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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Deciding Whether or Not to Accept a Job Offer

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

No matter how desperate you may feel, don’t rush to accept an offer if it’s not what you want. Accepting a job offer is a little bit like getting married. Once you take the plunge, you determine your course for many years, possibly the rest of your life. If you decide you hate the position, or the company, you can either bail out or hang in there, but neither is good for your long term career — or your emotional well being!

Consider any offer very carefully, and make sure it’s what you want before you accept. In fact, I recommend that you never say yes the day you receive an offer. Tell the employer that you’re interested, but you’d like to think about it and return the call the next morning with your answer. That gives you the chance to consider the job opportunities, decide if this is what you really want, and also about what you would like to negotiate (salary, vacation days, paid leave, benefits, or all of the above) prior to saying “yes.”

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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References: Don’t Get Caught Without Backup!

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Sam was clean and polished, and he made sure he arrived at the interview on time – not too early, certainly not late. He had thought through answers to a hundred potential interview questions, and he was sure he was ready for anything. Things began swimmingly. He was charming and polite, and he had researched the job and the company enough to know what the prospective employer was looking for in an employee. He was just beginning to think the job was in the bag when the interviewer asked to see his references.

“References? Uh, well, uh . . . Can I send them to you?”

This is a scenario you want to avoid.

People make a number of mistakes with regard to their references. They may send them too early or, like our friend Sam, be unpreprepared when asked to supply them. Other common mistakes include using too many references, or too few, or the wrong references, or giving too little information about them, or too much.

You may be inclined to use a neighbor, or a family friend, or even your clergy person, but these are personal references and they don’t carry as much weight as professional references. Employers do not want to hear what a nice person you are. They want to hear that you are competent and hardworking and have the skills to do the job. And, of course, this is most likely to come from someone with whom you’ve worked.

You will need at least three references, and no more than five or six. Supervisors and managers are the best people to list as references; or teachers, if you’ve recently completed school. It’s also acceptable to use people with whom you’ve done business: a banker, a customer, or a colleague. You may even use people you’ve supervised, although it would be best to at least lead with someone who supervised you.

Choose people who are likely to say great things about you with some enthusiasm and elaboration. If your last manager thinks you can leap tall buildings with a single bound, but speaks in a monotone and tends to be inarticulate, he (or she) may not be a good choice for your reference list.

Of course, you will need to contact your references in advance, and don’t be afraid to remind them of your accomplishments, and to suggest things you’d like them to highlight if they get a call. For example, if you previously worked in retail management but are applying for a position in human resources, it’s okay to ask your references to emphasize the HR aspects of your job. Also, it’s not a bad idea to ask an employer when you leave a job if you may have a letter of recommendation. Even if your leaving was awkward or unpleasant, if there’s someone in the company with whom you’ve remained on positive terms, ask that person for a letter. This will give you something constructive to show a future employer if there are any questions about why you left. Hold on to these letters, and be prepared to give copies to an interviewer if the subject comes up. If the letters are particularly glowing, you may want to incorporate brief quotes from them in your resume and/or cover letter.

In most cases, it’s preferable to leave your references off your resume. You are likely to be sending your resume to a number of people, and it’s not a good idea to invite someone to conact your references until you’ve established a mutual interest with an employer, usually during an interview. There are exceptions, of course. The curriculum vitae, normally used by people in higher education and health care, often includes references at the end.

Once you have a list of references, you need to organize them and present them in a professional manner. They should be listed on one page, either an e-file or a separate sheet of paper, with your name and address at the top, and the title of the page should read: Professional References, followed by the references themselves. Lead with the most positive and impressive. People often contact one or two references and leave it at that, so you want them calling your best first.

When listing a reference, include the name, making sure it is spelled correctly; the person’s title; the person’s place of employment; an address (either business or home); his or her business phone, home phone, and/or mobile; and an e-mail address.

Always bring your references with you to an interview. If the interviewer asks for your references, you’ll be prepared. If he or she does not, I recommend you end the interview by offering them. You may say, “Thank you for your time. Before I leave, I’d like to give you a list of my references. If you have any questions, I hope you’ll feel free to contact them.”

If other candidates are interviewing for the same position, you’re the one who left something behind, and you’re the one who invited the employer to check up on you. This is a very confident, professional gesture, and it’s sure to make you stand out from other applicants.

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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