References may be key to helping ex-offenders find a job

job referencesWhen you’re in reentry and looking for a job, you’ll need all the help you can get. And that means finding people who can speak about your talents, skills and character to a potential employer.

Along with your resume or JIST card and turnaround packet, don’t forget a list of references.

It’s no longer appropriate to just include “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. Instead you should compile a professional looking list of several people who are happy to sing your praises. Pick people who have known you for at least three months, but the longer the better.

These references can be a boss you worked for, a supervisor at a volunteer gig (all the more reason to volunteer) or, if you haven’t had a job for a while, you can use a personal reference that knows you well. For a personal reference, you might choose a teacher, coach, mentor, spiritual leader, counselor or even the job developer you’re working with.

Before you include them on your list, however, check to see if it’s OK and ask them the best way for potential employers to contact them. Make sure you get all the relevant info: the person’s name and title, name of the company or organization and its address. Also ask for the reference’s work phone number (or mobile phone if it’s a personal reference) and an email address.

Include a sentence or two on how the reference knows you and maybe some specific information they might be able to share about you.

Find a job reference template online

There are many templates online, but we particularly like the one on the Damn Good Resume Guide website. Another good example can be found on the Career Nook website.

Make sure your references have your latest resume or JIST card, so they’ll be up to date on your experience. Also contact them when you go on a job interview, preferably before, in case the hiring manager calls them soon after the interview is over. Let your references know what type of job you’re applying for and where, just as a heads up in case they do get a call.

Have your reference call the hiring manager

Another effective, usually overlooked, tactic is to have your reference call the hiring manager, preferably before the interview. This can demonstrate initiative on your part and a sincere interest in being offered a job. Your reference could say something like, “I understand that (your name) is coming in for an interview tomorrow (or whenever), and I’d like to highly recommend him. He worked for me on a bathroom remodel, and he’s an excellent carpenter, hard worker and reliable. I highly recommend him.”

Of course what the reference says would be tailored to you and the job you’re applying for, but this can be very effective.

Finding a good reference or two who can vouch for your abilities might just be the extra thing that will inspire someone to hire you.

 

CareerBuilder survey highlights job interview mistakes and what to watch out for

interview mistakesFew experiences can be more nerve wracking than being interviewed for a job. But with a bit of awareness of what can go wrong, you will be able to avoid mistakes and make a good impression.

And a good impression is crucial, because it doesn’t take hiring managers very long to make a decision. At least that seems to be the case, based on the results of a nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 16 to December 6, 2016. Among more than 2,600 hiring and human resource managers surveyed, 51 percent said they know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for a position.

Along with doing your research about the company you’re interviewing with and practicing the answers to potential interview questions, there are some very important things to remember that will help you make a good impression.

According to those surveyed by CareerBuilder, your body language could be more important in making a positive impression than what you say. So pay attention to nonverbal communication, and be sure to avoid some common mistakes.

Learn not to make these body language mistakes

Here are the top 10 body language mistakes mentioned in the survey and the percentage of hiring managers who felt they were a problem:

  1. Failing to make eye contact: 67 percent
  2. Failing to smile: 39 percent
  3. Playing with something on the table: 34 percent
  4. Fidgeting too much in their seats: 32 percent
  5. Crossing their arms over their chests: 32 percent
  6. Having bad posture: 31 percent
  7. Playing with their hair or touching their faces: 28 percent
  8. Having a weak handshake: 22 percent
  9. Using too many hand gestures: 13 percent
  10. Having a handshake that was too strong: 9 percent

These body language mistakes are something you can memorize and try to avoid.

Worst things job applicants can do in an interview

The survey also found a few things that were even more problematic than bad body language. In fact they are the worse things that hiring managers say an applicant can do during an interview. And they could potentially ensure that you won’t get the job.

  • Candidate is caught lying about something: 66 percent
  • Candidate answers a cellphone or text during the interview: 64 percent
  • Candidate appears arrogant or entitled: 59 percent
  • Candidate dresses inappropriately: 49 percent
  • Candidate appears to have a lack of accountability: 48 percent

Keep all these tips of what to avoid in mind, and your chances of getting that job you’re after will continue to improve.

 

Determining the best final question to wrap up an interview

interview

Brad Drevno

In job interviews, the questions that you ask the interviewers may be as important, if not more so, as the questions they ask you. And the question you ask last may leave a lasting impression.

As you prepare for an interview, keep in mind that very carefully crafted questions will give you insight into the company or organization and help you determine what type of place it is and whether it would be a good fit for your skills, talents and personality. In other words, would you be happy working there?

Asking intelligent questions will also show the person who is interviewing you that you’ve done your homework, understand the business and are interested in potential employment within it.

There are a multitude of questions to ask throughout the interview, and many examples of these can be found online. (We also offer tips on our website.) But what happens after most of the questions have already been asked? How do you respond when the interviewer closes the interview with, “Do you have any other questions? or “Is there anything else you’d like to know?”

Save an intelligent question for the end of the interview

Instead of saying, “No, I think I’ve asked everything I need to,” be sure to save a question for the end.

Brad Drevno, chief operating officer of Professional Case Development in Denver, Colo., – and mentor for business students at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business – has a suggestion for an idea he picked up during his search for his current position.

“We’ve all been there,” he says. “It’s the end of the interview, and after nearly an hour of pouring your heart (and work experience) out to a potential employer, the hiring manager asks if you have any last questions before wrapping up.”

“It’s meant to be a formality, of course – a way to end the conversation without kicking you out right then and there. But it’s also an opportunity, intentional or not, to make one final impression and give your interviewer something to remember you by.”

Effective question to close interview

Drevno was inspired by an article on the Medium website which was written by Marshall Darr when he was entrepreneur in residence at Tradecraft.

In the article, Darr says he ends each interview with: “Actually, yeah, I was wondering what your best moment so far at (company name) was?”

Darr credits this rather innocuous question not only with giving him insight into the hiring manager and the company in a way that perhaps no other question could, but it has also turned interviews that weren’t going well for him into invitations back.

And Drevno found that, “There’s no higher note to end on than with your interviewer’s fondest memory of the company, a feeling that can now be subconsciously associated with your prospects as a future employee.”

It gives the hiring manager a chance to share the benefits of working for the company, and if they can’t come up with a “best moment,” you might want to consider looking elsewhere.

Everyone likes a happy memory. And encouraging the hiring manager to remember one might just be the thing that sets you apart from other applicants – and leads to a call-back interview or possibly a job offer.