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Tag Archives: references

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to references while searching for jobs.

Get the Best References and Testimonials for Your Independent Contracting Business

Get the Best References and Testimonials for Your Independent Contracting BusinessA stunning testimonial can grab a recruiter or new client’s attention and get you considered for an interview before they begin to look at your qualifications. The right reference will seal the deal on a new contract and might even help negotiate a better offer. Above all, a well through-out approach to securing and displaying these assets is invaluable to your IT contracting business.

Testimonials and references are a marketing tool used by all businesses, from international corporations with thousands of employees and selling hundreds of products to independent contractors going from gig to gig. Regardless of the business size, it’s a struggle to get detailed references and not everyone uses them to their highest potential.

Having a list of great references is a mandatory requirement for any job seeker. It’s often advised to have a number of recent ones up your sleeve, guaranteeing you have a back-up if one is suddenly unavailable, a new client or recruiter requests something else, or you learn that a reference you thought liked you is actually giving some unpleasant feedback.

And what about testimonials? A great description from a client explaining your invaluable contributions to a project or from a recruiter vouching for your work ethic and dependability can go a long way if you use it correctly. For example, adding more chunks of text to your resume is bound to be ignored by a busy recruiter or hiring manager; however, glowing reviews fit perfectly on a LinkedIn profile or personal website and immediately add credibility to your story.

Given the benefits, what strategies can an independent contractor or technology professional use to source the best testimonials and references?

  • Develop a formal process. Work out the exact plan and approach of how and when you’ll ask for references for every single project you work on. It will get easier every time and you’ll end up with consistent information saved in one file, plus a variety to choose from to match on relevant project applications.
  • Keep notes. Make a note every time you receive a compliment or great feedback during a project. Remind your client of that when asking for their support. You’ll also have specific examples for your client to reference.
  • Do the legwork. It is certain that whoever you are asking is busy, so make their life as easy as possible. Prepare all of the details, contact information and a draft testimonial of what you think they would say. The only work left for them will be minor edits and a signature.
  • Understand what they can say. Recruiters and staffing agencies can rarely give a reference about your work because they were not there and their feedback is only second-hand. They may, however, confirm you worked on that project for a period of time, as well as speak to your ethics and work habits. Asking “Can you give me a reference” may not be successful, but phrasing it as “Would you be willing to speak to my work ethic and ease of working together” can have a positive impact on your relationship with future recruiters.
  • Use LinkedIn testimonials. Ask for testimonials on LinkedIn. Once you have them, display them proudly on the social network and ask the person for permission to use their words elsewhere in the future.
  • Timing is key. Asking for a reference or testimonial is generally not a good idea while simultaneously seeking payment or when you know the project went terribly wrong. Wait until you’ve added value and they’re already giving you positive feedback before you ask “Would it be alright if I shared your words on my marketing material?”
  • Endorse them. Your clients and recruiters are also running a business so testimonials are just as important for them as they are for you. Before or after you receive a reference, look them up on review sites like Google, Glassdoor, Indeed, Yelp or LinkedIn to tell other independent contractors how happy you were working with them.

For every reference or testimonial you receive, always remember to show appreciation. It doesn’t have to be complicated and showing gratitude for a favour is necessary to build relationships. Like so many situations, a hand-written thank you card goes such a long way, it’s incredible.

How do you solicit client and recruiter feedback?

How to Manage the Tricky World of References

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

It’s funny how things that are so integral to your job search are often times the most neglected areas of the average candidate’s repertoire.  We all know how important networking is yet we are often too busy to attend events that could directly lead to our next position.   And if you don’t have a well written resume that highlights your accomplishments as well as your job titles, you may well be selling yourself short.  So, what about references?  How important are they in the scheme of things.  Well I would argue that they are integral to the process, not just for the hiring party, but most importantly for you.   Potential employers are most interested in what you were able to achieve in your most relevant, previous experience.  You should go through the trouble of listing them in your resume but the absolute best way to affirm that those accomplishments are real is for the potential client to hear it in the words of your previous client.  So how do you make sure you “manage” the process?  After all, once you hand over their coordinates, how do know what is going to come out of their mouths when they are contacted.  A single lukewarm reference can destroy your candidacy and negate all the hard work you put in just to get to the offer stage.   The following tips are a bit of work, but the confidence it will inspire and the results it will have, are well worth the effort.

  1. Shaking hands with a referenceBe strategic in choosing a potential reference:  Make sure the reference can speak coherently to the abilities that matter to the company or individual doing the reference.  If you are applying for specific roles in IT, for example, the reference better be able to comment on your strengths in that area.  And not just your strengths but your accomplishments.    Any vagueness in their answers because they really weren’t directly connected to your work plants more questions in the minds of those conducting the reference, than answers.
  2. Ask their permission (of course):  But asking their permission is just the beginning.  Let them know what kinds of roles you are applying for and most importantly, let them know what accomplishments you are highlighting.  Think of how strong the message is if your reference speaks to an exceptional performance that you yourself highlighted during the interview.  And as a courtesy, let them know when you’ve accepted a job so they know not to expect any more calls.
  3. If you are unsure what a reference might say, ask them:  Don’t be one of those candidates who gets torpedoed by a poisoned reference.  Ask them directly if they would support you in your description of an accomplishment.  If they hesitate, or don’t seem onboard, ask them why.  It’s amazing how many times a conversation after the fact uncovers a misunderstanding on a previous project and just maybe hashing it out turns a negative into a positive.  At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of who is really in your corner.
  4. Finally, offer to assist your reference in filling in some possible gaps:  You might actually need to coach them in some circumstances.  This could be because of a misunderstanding, as mentioned in the previous point, or maybe a lot has happened since you last worked with them and they need a refresher about your project’s successes. A question that often causes trouble for a reference is “Why did the candidate leave their last position”.    The project came to an end or he/she left to pursue a different opportunity with greater responsibility sounds a lot better than, he/she left for more money!

References are critical and spending time thinking through the process of lining up references, rather than treating it as an afterthought, can be an important element in your job search. How much time do you put into preparing your references?  Could you improve?  Share your thoughts below.

Do We Really Need Reference Checks?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

In this day and age of social media and everyone being connected, do we really need to do “official” reference checks?  I get asked this question all the time by clients and candidates… and I always say YES.

Reference checks are an important part of the process in deciding to hire a candidate.  People often comment that “no one” provides a real reference anymore due to corporate policies and that information about past performance is often restricted.  Regardless of corporate policies, diligent clients believe it is still important to conduct 2-3 references when hiring a contractor.  Manager conducting reference checks

I frequently guide clients in the types of references they should be asking for.  They often accept anyone as a reference point and even more often outsource the checking process to a third party.  I tell them that the key to successfully determining if the candidate is an ideal fit, though, is to only accept a reference from a past hiring manager.

Many contractors offer other referees such as past co-workers but this is not an ideal choice for clients.  Past hiring managers are the key to assessing whether or not the potential contractor performed the role they described on their resume and in their interview.  If a past hiring manager is unable to answer a reference check in detail, they are always able to state whether the candidate is available for re-hire.  “Re-hireability” is the best question to ask a referee as this is the best indicator if a candidate was a good hire.  If a reference cannot provide “any comments” about a contractor, this is often a good indicator that the candidate was not a good hire for their past position.

From a candidate perspective, it is important to always have your references lined up before you receive an offer.  Scrambling at the last minute can leave a prospective employer wondering how credible you are if you cannot come up with references.  In this day and age of social media and being able to conduct unofficial references, it is critical to control the sphere of influence on your next career move.  Keep the bridges open with past hiring managers so that when you need that all important reference, it is an easy ask.

Regardless of what people may believe, although social media is connecting everybody in ways we’ve never been, official reference checks are not going anywhere.  If anything, they’re becoming more important because of all the clutter and potential to forge a reference on places like LinkedIn.  In my opinion, taking references seriously and planning ahead of time is a great move that can be major differentiator, whether you’re a contractor or a client.  What do you think?

How to Manage Your Brand

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Managing your brand does not start and end with keeping an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn.  I often hear clients say that when they are sent a resume, they do 3 things:

  1. Look them up on LinkedIn to see who they know in common and determine if their profile reflects their resume.
  2. Google the candidate to gain an understanding of their web presence – good, bad or non-existent.
  3. Look at where they’ve worked in the past to see who they might be able to contact for an informal reference.

Your personal guaranteeClearly, there are a lot of aspects to your personal brand that are important to manage.  Here are just few considerations:

Social Media Presence.  Pay attention to all of your social media profiles. Specifically, manage your LinkedIn profile carefully.  This is the first place recruiters and clients will search you out.  Do you have a picture?  Is it professional?  Studies have shown that people trust LinkedIn profiles less if they do not include a picture

Online Digital Presence. Google yourself – what did you find?  Does it reflect the way you perceive your brand? Do you even have a presence on Google?  It’s not always easy to control what Google finds online, but you should at least commit to getting rid of any negative content by contacting the content owners.  It is ideal if you are able to create blogs posts or searchable content to show that you are an expert in your field.

Written Word — Your Resume! Carefully craft your resume to match your brand.  Also consider the points above. Are the messages and statements on your resume reflected on your social media profiles?  If there are contrary messages, it creates a confused message to your audience.

Your Network (online and offline).  People often look to LinkedIn to see who you might have in common.  It is critical you manage your network.  Associate with people who have a similar brand to you. Some people accept all invites and this will often diminsh your network credibility.

References.   Many people ask for LinkedIn references to help their online presence, and obviously, having a great set of offline references is also beneficial. Don’t forget, though, that your industry may be small and your clients often network amongst each other.  That means potential clients may speak with your past clients even if you didn’t provide them as a reference. Always leave a client site knowing what a client will say about you and your personal brand.

Career Choices. Every job is a reflection of your brand.  When considering new opportunities, consider how this opportunity fits into your brand.  Will it enhance your brand?  Are you shifting your brand or steering away from your core focus?

Whatever your personal brand, take an active part in it!