Here’s How References Help You Get Employed at Your Dream Job

Male Interviewee hands interviewer a reference letter from his previous employer
The job market is still hot these days and job seekers have many options regarding potential employment, but how can you stack the odds in your favor when going after that dream job?

One way is to have a list of excellent professional references.

We’re talking about past supervisors who know you, know your work and are able to accurately articulate the meaningful contributions you made while employed by their organization in either writing or via a telephone conversation.

When applying for any job, you want to put your best foot forward and sell your ability to perform the necessary tasks in an effort to be selected for the job. That’s great, and any potential employer would expect you to tout your strengths, but hearing or reading about those strengths from a past employer in the form of a reference makes it all the more real.

Here are a handful of job reference tips that explain how references help you get employed for your dream job.

1. History as a Good Employee

To get a good reference, you need to have been a good employee. It all starts with proving your worth and having someone in authority take notice of your skills and talents. If you’ve done good work, showed up on time every day you were scheduled, went above and beyond the call of duty without being asked, then you should easily be able to ask your past supervisors to act as references.

2. How to Select the Right References

Contact your top 3 references before presenting them to an employer, and make sure they will vouch for you when contacted. There is nothing worse than providing a list of references that hurt your chances. Here are 3 essential things to consider:

  1. Your references are responsive to calls
  2. You provide accurate contact information
  3. Your references remember who you are and what made you stand out

Always keep in touch with your references and make sure they know you’re applying for a new job and that they will most likely pick up the phone when your future boss calls.

3. Print out Reference Letters

Pre-empt the request for references entirely by providing a written reference or 2 during your interview with a potential employer.

An impressive action you can take during a face-to-face interview is to leave a written reference (preferably on company letterhead) with the person or team conducting the interview. This single act shows great foresight and desire on your part to be seen as a serious contender that is proactive and professional.

4. Understand the Psychology Behind References

In sales, we’re taught, ‘’If you say it, it’s suspect, but if someone else says it, it’s gospel.”

While that axiom isn’t exact, the meaning behind it is sound, since in sales, we’re promoting the features and benefits of our service or product.

What better way to do so than by offering a letter of reference from a satisfied customer? When you’re applying for a new job, you’re very much engaging in a sales process. By providing your own list of references from satisfied employers, you are achieving the same advantage.

5. Written Reference Format

When providing your written reference, be mindful of length and structure of the letter. The reference should be quick and easy to read. Make sure it’s in a memo format with a heading and includes the following:

  • A recent date is best
  • “To whom it may concern”
  • Who the reference is from followed by their company and title
  • Making clear the letter is for you and a future position
  • No more than 2 narrative paragraphs about your position, duties, accomplishments, and notable achievements

Your written references will always be more impactful if written on company letterhead, so ask your reference to use letterhead if possible.

Other Job Reference Tips

Though this is a professional reference, it could also include any pertinent personal information, too. An example would be if you worked a part-time job while you were a full-time student and you achieved your objectives at work despite obstacles like class schedules and school work.

Displaying these past challenges show a future employer your commitment to work and gives them an example of your time management skills.

Use these tips to your advantage to structure several useful references that will help you receive great offers.

Remember, too, that an added byproduct of this process is to keep in touch with past supervisors who can offer good advice and mentorship along your long and lucrative career path.

We can help you launch your career path, too. We have a long list of available positions on our job board right now as well as resources you can use to become a more attractive candidate.

How to Conduct a Successful Job Interview: Our 5-Step Guide

Three interviewers shaking the hand of a job candidate after a successful interview
You have compiled a solid pool of candidates from that perfect job posting. On paper, they all appear to be qualified and have the skills you need from your next employee. But what type of person are you hiring?

The interview process is the most important step when it comes to hiring. Face-to-face communication has never been more important in a world filled with misconstrued digital messages and other forms of computer mediated communication.

The interview is going to help determine if that perfect-on-paper candidate is worth hiring. Here’s our guide on how to conduct a successful job interview to find the employee your business needs.

1. Screen the Candidate Over the Phone

The candidate screening process may seem like an extra step when trying to hire fast. However, it’s important not to waste your time in an interview with someone who doesn’t meet the expectations set by their resume.

Once you have narrowed down your list of candidates, set up a call with each of them. These phone calls can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. A phone interview can tell you a lot about the person behind the resume.

During the candidate screening process, ask them questions about their job experience and how their skills apply to the position you’re hoping to fill. If you feel they don’t adequately fit your needs after a 5-15 minute phone call, then that’s one less interview for you to conduct.

If you work with a recruiting service like STS Staffing, we actually do this step for you. We contact the candidate to gauge their interest and competency for the position. By the time you meet the candidate, your list of second round interview questions to ask will be more thorough, and you’ll learn a lot more about the candidate.

2. Prepare the Candidate for Success

Be proactive and take the time a few days before an interview to plan for situations that may arise. Reach out to the candidate via email or over the phone to make sure they have everything they need.

Confirm the date and time for the interview, send them directions to your office even if they don’t ask for them, and explain where to park. Tell them who they will meet with so they can prepare to ask the right questions.

You can also direct them to the Job Seeker Resources page on the STS website that provides a variety of tips and steps to help candidates prepare to stand out in the interview.

STS Staffing offers these resources and information to help candidates prepare and deliver a high-quality interview that will win you over.

3. Prep for the Interview With A Fellow Interviewer

We’ve seen it a million times. You’re busy with a project deadline that’s quickly approaching and you forget to prepare for your own interview. An interview can quickly turn into a huge waste of time if you’re not prepared.

Remember, hiring isn’t a solo mission. Ask one of your fellow managers or tenured employees to join you in the interview. Schedule a time to meet the day before or day of to discuss the game plan — who will talk first, what questions are you going to ask, who will explain the position, etc. This forces accountability.

Having a second opinion never hurts, either. You could feel that the candidate is qualified and would do a great job, but the other interviewer might sense that the candidate wouldn’t fit your work culture. Another interviewer might see a red flag while you’re thinking of the next question to ask.

When you meet before the interview, make sure you set an agenda for the interview. Agree to only spend 10 minutes on past job experience and leave 5 minutes at the end for questions, for example. Target a time frame for the interview and stick to it.

4. The Right Questions to Ask When Conducting an Interview

While pondering the questions to ask when conducting an interview, start with the job description you posted. What are the skills you are looking for? Base your questions around that to start. Here are a couple customer service related questions as an example:

How would you reply to a negative comment about our business from a customer?
What would you do if a customer asked to see a manager?

If you want to dig deeper into the candidate’s past work, do your research. Go beyond reading their resume and look into their former or current company so you can ask good questions about work they are familiar with.

If you did do an initial screening process, find relevant second round interview questions to ask like what they see themselves doing in five years or how they want to grow within the company.

Below is our top 10 list of questions to ask when conducting an interview. Here you’ll find a basic outline for what you should be asking. Make sure you add to this list and ask questions that specifically relate to your industry and job you’re looking to fill.

The 10 right questions to ask a candidate during a job interview
(Click to download)

On one final note about questions, make sure they are legal. Questions about marital status, if they have kids or their age are inappropriate and illegal to ask a candidate in an interview.

5. Sell the Job in the Interview

With the unemployment rate at the lowest it has been in more than a decade, the job market is filled with desirable positions. That’s why you have to make your company stand out.

When you go over the interview agenda with you interview partner, make sure you add another 5-10 minutes after the candidate asks you questions about the position. Use this time to cover your work culture, if they haven’t asked about it already.

Don’t be afraid to share news about the company or any exciting plans down the road that this candidate will be a part of if they’re hired.

Talk about how integral the job is to your company’s overall process and success. People ultimately want to feel valued, so express the importance of the position with the candidate. STS Staffing can also help in this respect. We can get your company and job seen by hundreds of people looking for their next job.

If you’re ready to start collecting candidates, consider STS Staffing. We have the right tools to optimize your job search. Your interview process is ready, now find the right individuals who are ready to knock it out of the park.

What to Expect from Your Staffing Provider: The 4 Steps to the Recruitment Process

T-shirt that says “Find the right people”

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion were all directed to follow the yellow brick road in order to reach their goal destination and meet the great Oz.

Having a reputable staffing firm on your side to help guide you through the steps to the recruitment process will hopefully put you on your own yellow brick road — one that avoids encounters with the likes of the wicked witch and any flying monkeys.

Here’s what to expect from your staffing provider, in basic terms.

Want to see the complete and comprehensive guide to our recruitment process? You can find it here!

Step 1: Defining the Need

Does your company require temporary staff for a special project or production overload? Or is the need for someone on an ongoing basis or even a long-term direct hire? Whatever the circumstance, your staffing firm should be able to assist, but the methods and strategy applied will depend upon your circumstances.

A candid and thorough conversation is the first step in meeting your need. Also, the better your staffing firm understands your overall objective, the better they will be able to quickly and efficiently complete the task.

Step 2: Agreeing on a Process

Once the need is defined, agreeing on the best way to reach the goal is necessary. What this means is largely dependent upon your need.

If your company requires temporary staff for 2-3 weeks for a special project, it may simply be just a matter of defining the role(s), work hours, general pay rate, and required skills for the staffing firm to find and send in the people needed to fulfill the requirement.

If, on the other hand, this is a search for a direct hire in a key role, a deeper vetting process including multiple interviews, specific skill or behavioral testing, etc may be needed.

Step 3: The Offer and Acceptance

With temporary employees, a pay rate is established for the work, and a recruiter contacts the available employees who have the requisite skill set to meet the needs of the job.

In a direct hire situation, once a viable candidate has been identified, making an appropriate offer and gaining an acceptance can be more involved.

Your staffing firm will be able to assist with this by providing you with market rates for the position based upon the work they’ve done with other clients for this type of job. They will also vet the candidate in regard to expectations for salary, benefits, PTO, and potentially even some type of sign-on bonus.

Ultimately, everyone should strive for a win-win scenario in regard to the overall compensation package.

Step 4: Follow Up

It’s the “service after the sale” that sets the premier staffing firms apart from those at the back of the pack, and they do so by going the extra mile and following up.

In the case of temporary placements, an “arrival call” on day one ensures that everyone showed up on time and is doing the work as expected. This also includes a call to the supervising manager with your company to see that they are satisfied.

In the case of a direct hire placement, the same sort of arrival call holds true, but it may take the form of a follow-up a couple weeks after the start of the job.

Since this is meant to be a long term relationship, there is more involved than just a skill set to perform the job. True job satisfaction includes many things like challenging work, cultural fit, monetary compensation, room for advancement, and comprehensive benefits. The list goes on, so the follow-up will be more involved and done after some time on the job has elapsed.

In “The Wizard of Oz,” the wonderful wizard pulled all the strings behind the curtain. So should your staffing provider. STS Staffing will be there to pull back the curtain during all of the steps to the recruitment process, in full disclosure, to guide you and your company to successful direct or temporary hires.

Contact our team to learn more!

The 3 Most Important Soft Skills for Your Job Search

After 26 years in the staffing and placement industry, STS Staffing is often asked by our job seeking candidates to provide tips on how to best “package” and present their skills, abilities, and previous work/life experience when catching the attention of hiring managers at top companies.

You already know what your “hard skills” are, right? These are the culmination of education and hands-on experience you have in your chosen line of work. Earning a 4-year technical degree from a highly rated university, and 2 years of real world experience in robotics, programming or engineering speaks for itself. But what can you present as your “soft skills?”

Soft skills can be loosely defined as the things about you that may not be as easy to quantify as hard skills, but are no less vital to your professional success. Let’s consider 3 important soft skills to have in your job.

  1. Social Intelligence: Various definitions abound, but we would describe social intelligence as your ability to interact and function well in a working group. Think of past work assignments where your input in a department setting was vital to a design review or product development effort, and convey that during an interview. Being able to consider others’ views, offer useful suggestions, and “critique without crushing” (while still selling your own ideas), is a true art. It’s one that propels those who master it to a higher chain of command.
  2. Being Likeable: Likeability at the office, or anywhere else for that matter, is one of the most important soft skills for your job search, and on the job, to give you an edge. Your ability to interact in a friendly and social manner with those around you will do more to insure your place in an organization aside from your work. But don’t confuse likeability with being phony or false. Just be your happy self, particularly in an interview. You should always strive to be agreeable, cheerful, and whenever possible, SMILE. An outgoing, calm confidence, genuine interest in others, and helpfulness will make you likeable to most people, and it’s particularly important during your interview.
  3. Go the Extra Mile: Success in business and life is often a matter of “going the extra mile.” What does that mean? Well, it starts as a mindset that tends to manifest itself in the physical world. If, as a Sales Rep for example, your quota is 10 new appointments each week, but you make a commitment to “go the extra mile” and do 15, you’re that much further ahead in landing a new account and generating revenue for your organization. Going the extra mile means working until 6pm when everyone else leaves at 5pm. You miss a lot of the rush hour traffic, and the extension of your work day by a full hour is always a good investment in your success. However you choose to “go the extra mile” will always pay great dividends in the long run. Before your interview, think of ways in which you have gone that extra mile, and make sure you inject those examples into your meeting with the hiring manager.