Are You Choosing the Right Professional References?

Sometimes professional references are the last step between you and your dream job. Often, employers check your references as the very last step before offering you the job.

So how much thought have you put into choosing your references?

Until a formal offer is made, the job isn’t yours. But it can be easy to lose your strategic edge when choosing which professional references to list. When it comes to job search advice, choosing the right references is right up there with a strong resume and polished cover letter.

Be sure to choose professional references who demonstrate these traits:Professional references advice

  • They will take the request seriously. Sometimes former colleagues are also friends – that happens to many of us throughout our careers. But choosing friends isn’t typically a good choice when it comes to your career. Employers who choose to speak with professional references are doing so because they value the insight such references can provide. If you choose someone (or some people) who are unprepared or don’t take the role of professional reference seriously, it can most definitely damage your reputation and result in someone else receiving the job offer. When employers ask you for references, they’re expecting you to choose the people who will position you in the best possible light, and who will be prepared to talk about why you’re a great fit for their organization. If you don’t choose the very best references now, what kind of message does that send employers about the types of choices you’ll make on the job?
  • They can express themselves well verbally (or possibly in writing). Most professional references are contacted via phone to discuss you and your qualifications, but from time to time employers will reach out via email. To be sure your bases are covered, you should present professional references who are comfortable expressing themselves both verbally and in writing. At this point in the process, your professional references are literally “selling” you, so be certain to choose individuals who are comfortable expressing why you’re the right choice.
  • They understand your weaknesses (and can position them well). We all have weaknesses. In all likelihood, you discussed yours during the interview process. But your potential new employer isn’t done talking about them – your professional references should be prepared to discuss them as well (and how you can turn them into strengths). If you’re choosing professional references who served as a direct supervisor, colleague or client, they likely have had an opportunity to see you “in action” and can formulate some thoughts on your strengths and weaknesses. But this your career – don’t be afraid to take charge and talk to your references ahead of time about your weaknesses. You don’t want to give the impression you’re telling your references what they should say. But, having a candid conversation where you ask for insight into your strengths and weaknesses can help prepare your references for having that same conversation later with a recruiter.

If you’re ready to submit your references to an employer, you’re near the finish line – congratulations! But if you’re still looking for your next career opportunity, call Helpmates. We work with top employers across Southern California, and we’ll help you find the right job to reach your goals. Search our open jobs or contact your nearest Helpmates office now to get started.

What REALLY Motivates Employees?

As the economy continues to improve, candidates are raising their expectations when it comes to compensation and benefits from employers. Is your organization meeting those expectations?

Keys to attract and retain top talentHelpmates June Blog 2

Recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified the top 3 drivers of job satisfaction for employees. Let’s dig into these 3 and identify how your organization can use them to win the talent war:

  1. Respectful treatment of employees at all levels. While most of us expect this type of treatment and would feel that we are also acting within this type of expectation, its presence at the top of list implies that many employees either do, or have, felt that they weren’t treated with a proper level of respect from their employer. With more employees struggling to find top talent, every organization should prioritize interaction between all levels of an organization to ensure that from candidate to employee, ever individual feels valued and respected. Encouraging an “open door” policy (where appropriate) where employees at all levels feel comfortable interacting and sharing feedback with senior management can go a long way toward ensuring a culture of respectful treatment. Additional research from BambooHR takes this notion a step further, suggestion that employees are looking for reward and recognition for superior work. Don’t be intimidated by this thought – recognition doesn’t necessarily mean cruises and lavish prizes (although those probably wouldn’t hurt!). Simply recognizing the great work of employees in meetings and other communications can be an excellent way to ensure employees feel valued. During the interview process, acknowledging impressive credentials or previous results can help demonstrate to candidates that their contributions will be valued when they join the team as well.
  2. Compensation/pay. The recession of 2008-2009 may seem like ancient history, but it has had a lasting effect on employee compensation over the past 8 years. In their research, SHRM found that compensation is rising in its importance among candidates and employees. After flat salaries or unimpressive bonuses for nearly a decade, more employees feel that the current state of the economy merits additional compensation. Among younger employees this can be especially critical, as student loan debt and other financial burdens are shown to weigh heavily on the minds of millennials. Yes, your candidates and employees place a high emphasis on respect and recognition, but compensation is heavily considered. While that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to outspend your competitors, it does mean you’ll need to do some research into average salaries for specific positions within your market. If you’re not meeting average salaries, you could be in trouble, both with recruiting and retention (which could end up being much more costly than meeting those initial salary expectations).
  3. Benefits. The numbers here should make some employers nervous: 60% of employees rated benefits as a very important contributor to job satisfaction, but 68% of employees aren’t currently satisfied with the overall benefits package offered by their employers. Want to get candidates in the door and keep them there? It might be time to overhaul your offering. If you’re really looking to stand out, wellness and pension programs, or benefits designed to support families currently show the least amount of satisfaction. Most organizations have got basics like health and PTO benefits covered – now’s the time to get creative and see how your benefits can support and nurture employees to help them feel valued and secure while working for your organization.

While there certainly weren’t any surprises on this list, that doesn’t mean these factors are any less critical. In fact, understanding the nuances of today’s employees in relation to these factors is an important step toward attracting and retaining top talent. Finding the right balance between compensation and benefits is key – the team of experts at Helpmates can help you understand the competitive salaries needed to attract and retain talent, identify top benefits that are likely to help you stand out, and most importantly – help you find candidates who are ready to step in and make an immediate impact on your organization. Contact your nearest Helpmates office today to learn more about how we can help your organization maximize its talent investment.

How to Reject Candidates Without Burning Bridges

It happens – for every job. Someone’s going to get the job, and some people (sometimes many) won’t receive an offer. But while your organization is excited to make a new hire, rejecting candidates can be nearly as critical.

Build strong candidate relationships — even when they don’t get the job.Helpmates June Blog 1

That’s right, every candidate rejection offers an opportunity to build stronger relationships and to also strengthen
your candidate pipeline. Depending on your industry, every candidate who submits a resume could also be a customer. That means treating candidates poorly can directly impact your revenue.

But poor treatment of rejected candidates can affect your organization in other ways. Perhaps someone isn’t the right fit for this specific role, but is a team player with great credentials. Could they be a fit for another opening down the line? Imagine how much time and cost you could save by bringing that person back in to ensure a fit, rather than sift through hundreds (or thousands) of resumes and going through the entire process again!

Negative treatment of candidates can also make a permanent mark on your business through negative reviews – take a look at some reviews of your competition on Glassdoor. Some of the feedback is brutal – but that’s just what you’re seeing online. Even more conversations are sharing feedback in email, in person or on other review sites. It’s hard to erase a negative impression, and treating candidates poorly can impact your ability to consistently recruit top talent.

Does your rejection process burn bridges? These tips can help you maintain a strong relationships with the candidates in your pipeline and build a positive reputation:

  1. Actually reject them. This one sounds strange, but it is essential. There are few things that can hurt your impression with candidates more than never letting them know whether they have received the job. Candidates have sent their resumes and cover letters and endured interviews (which could include phone, video and/or multiple in-person interviews). Simply letting rejected candidates know that you’ve gone with another candidate is a matter of courtesy — one that is often neglected. Whether it’s via email or traditional mail, contacting all candidates to let them know of your decision is a matter of respect.
  2. Let them know as soon as possible. We all seek closure in various aspects of life. Finding closure during your job search can be especially challenging. If you’ve made up your mind that a candidate isn’t the right choice, let him or her know as soon as you can. Not only does this help candidates move on, it can help them pursue other opportunities that may be the right fit since they won’t be waiting on a response from you.
  3. Be personal. Templates can be a helpful way to save time – using a basic templated email or letter is perfectly acceptable. But, avoid a “Dear Sir/Madam” generic communication. Including the person’s name and the position they applied for is a good start, but depending on where the candidate landed in the process, you may want to include something more specific. A compliment or specific highlight of something discussed during the interview can be a nice way to show that you are talking to a person and not just a “candidate.”
  4. Don’t dwell on it. Short and sweet is essential here – it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. Sharing some information about why the candidate wasn’t chosen is helpful, but avoid going into a highly detailed description of why the chosen candidate was the better fit. A few sentences explaining the decision are all that’s needed.
  5. Be honest. Some candidates may be a great fit for your company culture, but just aren’t the right fit for specific openings. If that’s the case, be honest and let them know that they could be a fit down the road. Conversely, don’t offer hope where none exists. Only share the notion of a potential match down the road when you sincerely believe candidates would be solid additions to your company. Never offer hope of a potential match as a consolation prize — it will only result in frustrated or angry candidates when they don’t hear back in the future.

Searching for talent to help your organization achieve its goals? Here at Helpmates, we have an extensive network of top talent across Southern California. Contact your nearest Helpmates office today to learn more about our staffing and recruiting solutions.

Top 5 Interview Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

You’ve put hours into perfecting your resume and cover letter. Great work – but you’re not done yet! Until you’ve impressed an employer in your job interview, you’re still a candidate and not a new hire. Now it’s time for your ‘A’ game.HM May Blog 3

Successful interviews are far from impossible, but you’ve got to avoid making mistakes.

Recruiters often see some of the same critical interview mistakes from candidates. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll better position yourself to land a great job:

1. Not asking any questions. You might be eager to wrap things up and tell everyone how you aced your job interview, but when an interviewer asks you if you have any questions, he or she isn’t just being polite. This is a critical step in the interview process, and one that can make or break your chances of landing the job. Thoughtful questions can turn an average interview into a great one, while a lack of questions (or a poor choice of questions) can have the opposite effect. Try to get specific with your questions and show that you’re interested in the job, engaged with the employer and eager to jump in and start getting results. Here are a few examples:

      • How will my performance be evaluated in this position?
      • What does your company value the most (and how can I contribute toward those values)?
      • What do you do better than your competitors? Conversely, what do they do better than you?
      • What do your customers/clients love about working with you?

2. Not sending a ‘thank you’ letter. This is a “classic” piece of interview advice that is still just as important today as it was 20 years ago. Although technology may have changed expectations here a bit, sending a ‘thank you’ letter, note or email is essential. Not only is it polite and good manners to thank the interviewer for his or her time, it is one final opportunity to present your qualifications and sell yourself for the job. If you’re sending a letter or card, be sure to get it in the mail within 24 hours of your interview. If you’re emailing, later that afternoon or the next day is appropriate.

3. Not tooting your own horn. Now’s not the time to be shy – job interviews are your chance to SHINE. Take every opportunity to show interviewers how you contributed to successful projects, great ideas you had to improve customer experience, awards or recognition you received – the list goes on and on, and shouldn’t stop with these ideas. Show off your knowledge, experience and passion for the job. While you don’t want to come across as cocky, showing pride in your accomplishments and enthusiasm in your skill set demonstrates to interviewers that you will bring that same level of excitement to their business.

4. Being negative and complaining. Last year, we talked about confidence in job interviews and how staying positive can help you. Let’s flip that coin and examine how you can spoil an interview by being negative. In addition to the most obvious choice of negativity to avoid – bad mouthing past employers or colleagues (which you should, of course, NEVER do), this also includes complaining. Sometimes it just slips into the conversation unintentionally: “How are you today?” “I’m fine, but wow, that weather is awful!” Or sometimes it can come through when answering questions during your job interview. Either way, avoid negativity and complaining at all costs. No one wants to work with a Debbie (or Donnie) downer – if you’re complaining about the weather in your interview, who knows what you’ll complain about every day in the office? At least, that’s what the interviewer will be thinking! If you’ve failed into the habit of griping about the weather or traffic in every day conversations and you’re especially concerned about interviews, just keep your answers to intro questions short and sweet – when asked how you’re doing or how your drive/commute into their office was, a quick “Great, thanks” will do just fine.

5. Not paying attention to the interviewer. You’re understandably focused on what you’re saying and doing during job interviews, but if you’re too focused on you, you might be missing some important cues from the interviewer. For example, if you’re talking about a past employer or skill set and you notice the interviewer’s eyes brighten or increased note taking, that’s a good sign that you’ve piqued his or her interest and are discussing something that is directly relevant to the job. Run with it! Take every opportunity to showcase that skill set again throughout the interview. Also, it’s pretty common to miss important cues in interview questions when you’re too busy thinking about what you want to say. This is completely understandable, but it could seriously hurt your chances of landing the job. It’s perfectly acceptable to slow yourself down and be sure to listen to the interviewer, which could help tip you off to certain skill sets or personality traits the employer is seeking. Then after the question has been asked, pause for 10 seconds or so to formulate your response. It is always better to listen to the question and possibly pick up on cues that will help you land the job through a more thoughtful response.

Looking for a job in Southern California? We’re hiring! Here at Helpmates, we work with employers across Los Angeles County and Orange County. We’ll help you find the right job and put your best foot forward to avoid interview mistakes. Search our current job openings or contact your nearest Helpmates office to learn more.

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