Tag Archives: references

How To Be Imperfect and Highly Paid – 3 things 

unique girl in a crowd

What makes you stand out? Worth more?

What about you is unique? Amazing? Unemployable? Mediocre? Inspiring?

My daughter Merrilee has Down Syndrome and is low functioning within that group, but she is amazing.  My son James got a perfect score on the SAT Advanced Calculus II college entrance exam. He is amazing. Each can do things the other can’t.  We look at James and say, “He can do anything!”   No, he can’t.  He doesn’t have the patience his sister does.  They have different realities and infinite possibilities.

The highly paid people I recruit all know their strengths and weaknesses.  When I call up their references, every reference lists the same strengths and weaknesses the candidate lists.  Often the poorly paid people give me a list of strengths and weaknesses that bear no resemblance to what their references think.

Really knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to do three things:

  1. Play to your strength
  2. Get someone to cover for your weaknesses
  3. Turn your weakness into a strength

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.  (Pascal)

Stephen Cannell flunked three grades in school.  He is severely dyslexic. He can’t write readably. He also won two Emmy awards for his writing. He created 40 television shows and 6 novels.  He has learned to compensate for his severe problem. He plays to his greatest strengths, creating fun characters and complex plots. His assistants translate his unreadable typing into the words he wanted to put on paper.

Figure out what your talents really are.  Do you have one or two real weaknesses that prevent you from exploiting that talent?  Find a way to compensate.  Get help. Find out what others have done to overcome that weakness.  You may have to adequately do the part of the job that the weakness prevents you from doing excellently. Better yet, can you get someone else to help with your weakness?

No one can do everything.  Figure out what help you need to achieve your dreams.

Something To Do Today

Take an aptitude test and a personality test.  Free ones are available at your local Job Center.  Some are available online. Do you know anyone who would dare to tell you what your real strengths and weaknesses are?  Ask them.

Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses.  Are you exploiting your best qualities?


Later:     The most common interview questions – about you

Other most common interview questions – traps, money, intimidators

Networking, referrals, recruiters, and job boards

Even a fox can get a job guarding a henhouse if he has good enough references.

Internet job boards fill 25% of jobs, recruiters fill 16%, and referrals fill 27% of jobs according to one survey.     So where do you want to concentrate your job hunting time?

But there are so many jobs on Indeed, Monster, Dice, and Career Builder, shouldn’t I try to get those jobs?

Absolutely!  But that doesn’t mean you should automatically send a resume through those services.

22% of jobs are found on a company’s own website.  Gotta like that.  Still, don’t even apply at the company’s own website until after you have tried to take advantage of this country’s main job finding system: Networking into referrals.

Print out the jobs you want that you find on the internet.  Make a list of the companies.  Next to each company, make a list of people you know who work there.  Include people who know someone who works there.  Add a list of recruiters who can get your resume past HR (Human Resources) and directly to the hiring manager.  Get into www.linkedin.com and see if you can find someone working at that company.  (Link to bryan@dilts.us to expand your network.) Add the people at companies you are targeting to a list.

Your objective is to find someone who can drop your information on the hiring manager’s desk.  Look at your whole list before you make a move.  Who has the best chance of helping you?  Who is the best connected?  Is it a professional networker or a recruiter?  Is it your friend’s wife?  Get your resume in there and follow up.  If you don’t get a call within a week, try again through another person.

27% of jobs are being filled by networking, 25% by job boards, 16% are being filled by recruiters.  Shouldn’t networking AND job boards AND recruiters be your main job search tools?


Something To Do Today

Get into www.linkedin.com

List where everyone you know works, their spouses too.  Keep adding to the list whenever you find out where someone works.  Keep track of coworkers who leave.  Start making a list of where everyone who knows you works. It may be worth more than gold to you now or in the future.


Later              Personality tests

Resume blasting

Certifications –  gold and lead

What to do about serial disasters in your job search

I lived a couple of summers on a dairy and hog farm.  There were only two things to do with manure, put it on the fields or in the creek.  Yes, once it went into the creek. The manure that went on the fields helped grow more corn and alfalfa.  The manure that went into the creek was a shame, dangerous, and very easy to get rid of. Dumping in the creek eventually became illegal.  It’s a good thing.  That was a bad choice.

The difference between fertilizer and pollution was not the ingredients, it was what we chose to do with our time and resources.

When you spend your time job hunting poorly, you flush your work down the creek.

You can be getting killed before you are interviewed, after the first interview, or when references are checked.

Killed before you are interviewed

If you make one poor resume and send it out 500 times in a year with no interviews, you are polluting, not fertilizing.  That resume goes on file at many companies and keeps you from being hired for job after job.  If you are getting no response, either:

  1. you are not qualified for the jobs
  2. the resume is not working
  3. you have a bad reputation

In any one of these cases, you need to change what you are doing.

If you are not qualified, get experience and certifications, or lower your sights to the jobs you really are qualified for.  If the resume is not working, you need to fix it.  Go to www.dilts.us/books to get the best resume book ever written. If your reputation stinks, you may have to move or try a new field of work.

Stopped after your first interview

If you are getting interviews every week, but never being called back for a second set of interviews, you are polluting.  The companies you are interviewing with are putting you on their “Not Good Enough” list for some reason. You need to do some practice interviews on camera, and practice with managers who can’t hire you but will critique you. You need interview help. You also need to get back with every interviewer you can find and beg them for honest feedback.  If they consider you a really bad match, they will often hide that for fear of angering you.  When you ask for feedback, listen meekly and probe.

Ruined by your references

Does your job search fall apart every time it gets to the reference check phase?  Someone or something in your background is killing you.  You may have a reference who is polluting your job search.  It could be a lukewarm or hostile person who smiles at you and moans during a reference check.  Some people are just negative.  They hedge and hold back and wouldn’t give Superman a good reference because of his “Kryptonite problem.”   If you know a credit check or criminal background check is stopping you, you may have to back down your job aspirations or get to know which companies will hire you anyway. Sometimes an industry change is necessary.  Changing states may help.


If your job search is not working, there is always a reason.  Always.  Where your search is falling apart may tell you what the problem is and how to fix it.  Getting to the same place over and over only to lose out because of YOUR problem pollutes the job market against you. Find out if you have a problem.  Honestly work to correct that problem and you’ll find a job.

Something to do today

Keep track of where your job search is falling apart.  Figure out if it is your resume, interviews, or reference checks that are killing you.  Now, start researching ways to overcome that problem.  Work at it.

How to get references on the company you may join

It’s a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it. (W. Somerset Maugham)

He came for the amazing opportunity at XYZ (the name is changed to protect the guilty). A year later he was gone. He quit. That happens a lot at XYZ. It seems like half the people who join the company are transplants.  It has been the case for at least 15 years.  They are hired from across the country and move to Harrisburg, PA.  It is one of the biggest companies in its market, a national powerhouse. But an unnatural percentage of its executives, computer experts, accounting gurus and even retail purchasers have been relocated here. Of course many love the place.  It is just that their first year turnover is huge and local people avoid the company.

I always warn people I place at XYZ of the reputation.  I help them find out if they are a fit before they join.  So, how can you avoid getting one of those short term, bad fit jobs?

Check the company references

Talk to 3 of their references.  They want to talk to your references, you can ask for theirs. You also need to find a few references on your own.  Finding references on a company will get you a clearer perspective on them and it is also a good networking tool that may get you a different job.

The best company references you can get are:

  •                         A talkative recruiter who knows the place
  •                         A happy ex-employee at another company
  •                         Someone doing your future job at a competitor
  •                         An HR person from another company
  •                         Someone you know who works in that department

I did not include a disgruntled ex-employee in the list.  They know why they quit, but usually not what the trends for the company are.  It’s okay to talk to disgruntled ex-employees, just filter their responses.  They may have an ax to grind.

How to find them

Connect through LinkedIn to the HR person and anyone you talk to at the company.  That way you will get networked into other people at the company now, and former employees.

Make a few phone calls.  You need to find out who the competitors are anyway. Make it a habit to search them out. Look for former employees at competitors.  They may have a better opening than the one you are looking at.  At the very least, you’ll be able to ask questions about the job you are considering.

Something to do today

Check references on the last 3 companies you interviewed with.  It is good practice.


Later: Fake jury

How Google can be a disaster for your job search

You can ruin your career and job opportunities at the speed of light.  It can take anywhere from a few months to years to clear up the problem.  Google is the problem.

More bosses and companies Google their employees and candidates now. Before they give someone a promotion, raise in salary or a brand new job, they Google them.   It is an instant reference check. Your boss may Google himself to find out what the world knows about him. He will try to figure out who the person is who slanders him behind the online name “maddog231”.  If he figures out it was you, that can be a problem.

Worse, go to Google and you’ll notice a little link by every entry that says “cached.”   Cached means stored.  Even if your comment is pulled off the internet, Google is going to keep it for a while. If someone cuts and pastes your comment onto their website, that comment could be around for 20 years.  There may be no quick fix for the havoc you wreak on yourself by being sharp tongued online.

There is this paradox in pride – it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from becoming so.  (C. C. Colton)

It is time to start worrying about how you portray yourself in blogs, emails, resumes, reader comments and anything else you do online.  Google is a powerful tool.  Make sure what you put on the internet helps you instead of hurting you.

Something to do today

Google yourself, your bosses and your company.  Did you find anything interesting?


Later:               That loud sucking sound

How to tell who is great

55 gallon oil drums on the horizon

How To Tell Which Reference Is Knifing You In The Back

Trust enthusiasm. Fear okay.

If something always goes wrong in your job interviews after the point where references are checked, you probably want to rethink your references.

Some of your references may be knifing you in the back.  They are your phantom friends. You thought they would give good references.  They were always friendly.  Still, they may have thought you were a poor worker.  They might just be unable to compliment anyone.

Trust enthusiasm, fear “okay”

You can’t trust a reference to tell you directly, “I’m going to say bad things.”  If you ask someone to be your reference and they say, “I’d love to.  You were a great worker.  I will brag about how well you did.  You were wonderful”, they are probably a good reference.  If they only say, “Okay”, be careful. 

Interrogate okay

Ask Mr. Okay, “Will you say that if it was up to you, you would rehire me?”    If you get any hedging, don’t use this reference. For instance, “I’ll tell them I would rehire you under the right circumstances,” is hedging.  “Jim, you know I don’t have the authority to rehire you,” is also hedging.  “Of course! I’d rehire you and give you a raise.  I really wish you were still here,” is the positive reference you are looking for.

If you are concerned that someone might be a phantom friend, drop them from the reference list.  Find someone else.  That’s the safest bet.

Have someone else check your references

You can always have someone check out your references for you.  They will call up and say, “I’m checking Jane Doe’s references. Would you recommend her for the same job she had?”  They also have to ask, “Would you rehire her?”

Your references are one of your strongest job search weapons.  Make sure they really are good references.  It will make a huge difference.

How To Deal With Bad References

“I only have 3 references from my previous job. That’s all the guys who worked there.  My 2 coworkers will tell you how well I worked.  The owner will only bad mouth me.  He’s mad that I am leaving after 3 years.” 

I called, and the owner was a terrible reference.  Since I checked all the references I was able to prepare the hiring company for what I heard.  They wanted to call to verify what I said. I cautioned them to find out what really ticked off the old boss.  It was things like, “He only gave me 6 weeks notice before he left. I may not have given him a raise in 3 years, but he’s essential to the project.  He knows that, and he is leaving.  He’s a quitter. I hate him and would never recommend him to anybody.” 

I had them really dig into performance. I gave them specific questions to ask. The boss couldn’t deny the candidate’s accomplishments.  His answers were, “Yes, he did that well, but you don’t understand.  I hate the guy because…”

That candidate was hired.   

The easiest way to deal with a bad reference is not to give out that name.  In some cases the company insists on a specific reference, and you know it will be bad. Tell them in advance what the complaints will be.  Tell them what to ask that the bad reference has to confirm you did well.  It’s an uphill climb, but you can often overcome a bad reference you can’t avoid.

9 Job References Most People Overlook

When your friend puts your resume on the desk of her boss and says, “Jill is the best salesperson I’ve ever met,” that’s not a reference. She never worked with you. It is only a fantastic introduction.  So get your friend to do that, and also find real references.

The people you choose as references need to know how well you work.  If you provide your pastor, a bowling buddy and your son’s Scoutmaster as references, it will work against you.  People who check references want to know how well you work, not how well you sit in church, drink beer or drop off hikers. 

When you give people you have not worked with as all of your references, you wave a big red flag in front of your candidacy.  The hiring manager will wonder why you have no coworkers you can trust.  Isn’t there someone you worked with in the past who can say something nice about you?

Don’t limit yourself to coworkers and bosses.  Try these references:

  • A secretary or administrative assistant who you constantly worked with
  • Suppliers you dealt with extensively, more than just order takers
  • Contractors you worked with, supervised, or reported to
  • People you sold to
  • Salespeople you negotiated with
  • The person who always came to you with questions
  • A business rival you constantly competed with and sometimes beat
  • Someone from where you do a lot of real work as a volunteer
  • A teacher (only if you are fresh out of school)

Your current job and previous jobs are your biggest assets in a job search.  Use your jobs to prove how well you will work for your new company.  The bad news is if you screwed up on two jobs in a row, you are going to have a hard time getting hired. The good news is if you impressed three people at your old jobs, those are the only three you have to give as references.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal list the people you impressed in the last 5 years.  Use the suggestions above to add people beyond your coworkers, bosses and subordinates.