Career Resources

Friday, August 13, 2010

Keep your references in the loop

I got a call yesterday from an employer looking for a reference for a student, and I was totally caught off guard because the student hadn't told me about it. First of all, I couldn't recall who the student was right on the spot since I work with thousands of students, and this particular student had a very common last name. Luckily, after a few minutes of awkward silence on the phone, I searched my memory and was able to remember him. But then I had to quickly scramble to remember what I knew about him. I asked the recruiter if he would mind if I took a minute to look up my counseling notes in our student database, and he agreed. After a few more minutes, I was finally able to provide a reference to the recruiter. But was it the best reference I could have given him? Probably not. Plus now the recruiter knew that the student hadn't contacted me beforehand, which could create an unprofessional impression.

All of this could have been avoided if only the student had given me a heads up that the employer would be calling me for a reference, what position he was interviewing for, what the employer was looking for in a candidate and what he wanted me to emphasize about him in the reference. That way, I could have strategically developed a targeted reference for him that would have been much better than my ad hoc, top of mind response and would have increased his chances of landing the job.

Moral of story: Let your references know each and every time you are using them as a reference for a job so that they won't be caught off guard like I was and will be able to provide you with the glowing reference you deserve.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Resumes: First impressions count

First impressions count on a resume, so what does yours say about you? Does it say that you're sloppy, detail-oriented, scattered or professional? Of course, it's the content of your resume that employers care most about but if your resume doesn't look appealing and inviting, they may never get to your content. Recruiters will automatically be drawn toward the resumes that look professional and readable.

Here are some ways to increase the probability that your resume will be read:

1. Make sure to use enough white space; don't squeeze too much text into too little space.
2. However, don't leave too much white space at the bottom of our resume which would convey that you don't have a lot of experience; spread the text out evenly down the page.
3. Use at least a 10 point font size but nothing larger than 12 point.
4. Use bolding, italicization, and underlines to make your resume look interesting.
5. Don't use cutesy graphics (one time I saw heart symbols on a student's resume) or unusual fonts to get attention; when in doubt, err on the side of being conservative.
6. Be consistent with formatting within your resume; for example, if you bold one company name, make sure you bold them all.
7. Use bullets to describe your work experience, not paragraphs.
8. Absolutely do not have any typos or misspellings! Your resume could easily be discarded into the "no" pile because of one typo, and wouldn't it be a shame to be disqualified for that?