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7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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4 March, 2019 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Recruiting, Reference Management
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Don’t Drop the Ball With Your References (It Happens All the Time)

Posted March 4th, 2019 | Author: John G. Self

From Chicago

Take Aways

  • Select a sufficient number of references to avoid wearing them out
  • Be sure they can speak knowledgeably of your accomplishments 
  • Ask your references for their insight on your weaknesses, strengths, etc. Use that information to craft your answers
  • Alert your references before they are called. Brief them on the job

Sometimes the little things can derail your job search, like your references.

I have seen more executives with good credentials, a career progression that satisfies conventional wisdom, a clean background investigation and a series of accomplishment that, on the surface, would impress most boards, but then come the reference checks and suddenly what seems so certain becomes less so.   The problems cover the gamut — the referees no longer work where you said they would be or the contact information you provided is wrong, their  answers to questions regarding your performance damn with faint praise, they are unable answer two or more of the critical questions, or they do not return calls from the recruiter or employer.   Any of these issues are potentially disqualifying.  

Finding a new job is really hard work so to get this far in a search and then drop the ball with your references is mystifying, but it happens all the time.  Recruiters might say that you lack attention to detail or a seriousness about the opportunity.  Whatever the cause, poor reference management is the last reason your are eliminated from further consideration.

Here are six guidelines to help you avoid a reference disaster:

  1. Pick a sufficient number to ensure they will not experience “reference fatigue”
  2. Select superiors, peers and subordinates. We recommend su
  3. Ensure that your references can speak to your style, skills, interpersonal relationship skills and performance
  4. When you ask a colleague to be a reference, ask what they see as your weaknesses, strengths, relationships with colleagues, etc.  Leverage that information as you develop responses to some of the most commonly asked interview questions
  5. When you think your references are going to be checked, alert the individuals you submitted to the search firm or prospective employer.  Tell your references the job you are pursuing, what the key issues seem to be and tactfully remind them of your relevant accomplishments in those areas
  6. If you mention the names of other colleagues during the course of an interview be advised that they could become what recruiters call “secondary references.”   Recruiters/prospective employers are NOT limited to speaking only with the names you provide. 

© 2019 John Gregory Self

26 February, 2019 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Interviewing Skills, Job Search
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6 Important Issues To Know About Your Job Search

Posted February 26th, 2019 | Author: John G. Self

Take Aways

  • Many jobs are not posted online.  Strategic networking know-how is essential
  • Your search will take longer than you want it to take
  • Recruiters are terrible with followup
  • Your job search is NOT about you.  Focus on the needs of the prospective employer
  • Jobs are won or lost in the interview phase
  • Leverage the information you obtain from your references

Looking for a job can be a painful, frustrating experience.  It is hard work and, done right, is almost like having another full-time job just with a lot of rejection.  

If you are about to enter the job market because you have been terminated or you are ready for a new challenge, there are a few realities of which you should be aware.

  • 80 percent of the jobs are not listed online.  If you are not adept at strategic networking, and if your existing professional network is anemic, then your challenge just got a lot tougher.  You may want to consider hiring a career transition coach to help you master this important, essential skill.  
  • The recruitment process will not go as fast as you would like it to.  There are a lot of reasons for the time it takes most of which you cannot control.  
  • Recruiters, particularly those who work for external firms, are notoriously terrible at returning telephone calls, especially if it is unsolicited, that is say you are calling them about  a job.  You have a better chance of connecting with a recruiter if you have an existing relationship, but even that is no guarantee.  Do not make the mistake of beginning your networking with recruiters on the day you are laid off or terminated. 
  • Understand that although you may have initiated a search to advance your career, do not think that the process is about you.  It is about a prospective employer looking for someone who can solve a problem.  Job applicants who customize their messaging to the needs of the prospective employer stand a better chance of succeeding than those who do not. Focus on the needs of the prospective employer. That is the essential mindset. 
  • The interview is critical.  Job applicants typically lose the job at the interview table. One reason, recruiters say, is that candidates show up unprepared.  They may know a little bit about the employer but they have not taken the time to practice answering challenging behavior and values interview questions.  Without this level of preparation, candidates  frequently miss opportunities to score valuable points with the interviewer.  In the end their answers sound like everyone who has interviewed for the job.  Differentiation is a key to success in interviews.  If you struggle with telling your story — selling yourself, your value — then consider hiring a career coach who specializes in job interviews.  
  • Most candidates do not leverage their references.  In fact, many do not have a clue what a particular reference might say. They can be a source of important information that can help you prepare for tough questions about your weaknesses, your needs for improvement or your leadership style.  When you ask them to be a reference, ask them about your weaknesses, strengths and your value to an organization.


In addition to his executive search practice, John coaches executives on career management and job transition.  His is a recognized thought leader on the art of the job interview.  He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives Congress faculty where he will be teaching a course on interviewing skills on March 6 in Chicago. 

© 2019 John Gregory Self

26 February, 2019 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Coaching, Career Transition/Outplacement, Job Search
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The Odds Are Against You So Be Helpful

Posted February 26th, 2019 | Author: John G. Self

When you are looking for a new job, you know that the odds for any one position are against you.  Depending on the role and compensation, those odds can be 20, 30, 40 or more to one.   I am not much of a gambler but if the typical recruitment opportunity were a horse race, I think I would keep my money in my pocket.  

To make matters more daunting, the process at the start of the search is decidedly adversarial.  With 30 or more candidates per job recruiters are looking for reasons to winnow down the pool — to get rid of you.  If your resume does not address the specific requirements of the job posting, if your resume format is confusing, or if you have a mistake or two, the chances of you surviving the resume review — the first interview   are somewhere between slim and none.

[Tweet “The job Search odds are against you so be a helpful candidate”]

There are many ways an executive can improve their job search odds, but today we are going to look at three keys to success.

  1. Be sure your LinkedIn profile contains a professional picture — no casual poses with your dog, or one with you in a tux at your daughter’s wedding —  ensure that your career information mirrors the chronology of your resume, that your profile includes a list of your degrees and certifications, and, finally that you listed your contact information.  More and more organizations are using social media sites, LinkedIn being one of the most prominent, to look for candidates. If you do not include your email and/or telephone number, you probably will not know that you were eliminated.
  2. Specifically address the needs of the prospective employer in your resume.  The first time a recruiter reviews your resume in connection with a search, you will be lucky if they spend 30 seconds reviewing your career.  That is why having a customized Professional Summary at the top of the document is so important.  Make it easy for the recruiter.
  3. Be a helpful candidate.  Once you make it past the dreaded telephone screen and obligatory SKYPE or FaceTime interviews, you can safely assume the prospective employer IS interested.  At this point they have dropped their adversarial approach.  Now they are looking for a reason to hire you.  Give them one. Sell your value in a compelling way, one that is memorable and differentiates you from your competitors.  

In addition to his executive search practice, John coaches executives on career management and job transition.  He is a recognized thought leader on the art of the job interview.  He is a member of the ACHE Congress faculty where he will be teaching a course on interviewing skills on March 6 in Chicago. 

© 2019 John Gregory Self

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