A Guide To The Most Evil Job Interview Questions

There are many articles available online covering common job interview questions that you are likely to field. Some of them may have seemed tricky, but they’re small fry compared to some of these tough interview questions that employers reserve for when they really want to make the applicants sweat!

But don’t worry, friends – there are answers to (or at least efficient ways of dodging) the most fiendish of job interview questions. How? Read on…

“Some of this job will be repetitive and mundane. Are you seriously okay with that?”

Ouch – how’s that for an opening tough interview question? Of course no one is over the moon about repetitiveness and they know this, which is why if you’re overly positive you’ll smack of insincerity – they’re not just looking for an intelligent, positive response here, but one that’s believable! To that end, in answering this interview question you might find a good response to be something like: “Of course all jobs have elements that are repetitive and less interesting than the others, but I’ve always tried to give 100% in every aspect of my work – mundane or not.”

“How have you managed to attend this job interview during office hours?”

This tough interview question may as well have been rephrased “does your boss know you’re here?” because that’s what they’re asking! It should be fairly obvious that the right answer isn’t “I pulled a sicky!” A good answer to this is “I took some of my pre-allocated holiday time to attend”, or if you want extra brownie points it will look exceptional to say “Regrettably, I was out of paid holiday time, so I asked my employer for some unpaid leave. I don’t think it would be fair on them to pay me for time spent attending other job interviews.”

“You know what the job involves – which part do you think sounds the least appealing?”

This interview question is incredibly mean and unfortunately there is no easy way out. You could try and keep it short with a “Having read through the job description, there isn’t anything which really doesn’t appeal to me” but if the job does have unappealing elements (and 99% of jobs do!) then you’ll come across as insincere. If there are aspects of the job which you can see yourself hating then be honest about it – just make sure it isn’t a major part of the job, and try to play it down when answering the interview question with a “but every job has some areas which don’t appeal, so I would still endeavour to take on these less appealing elements in a mature and professional manner.”

“What kind of person do you find it hard to work alongside?”

Although this interview question seems like an easy pitfall, there is real potential to turn a negative into a positive! Start off your answer with your best trait, as in “I’ve always thought of myself as very hardworking/sincere/quick/efficient, and so I sometimes find it frustrating to work alongside those who lack that particular quality. That said, I do pride myself on being very easy to get along with and a team player, and I have never met someone I can’t work alongside.” When answering the interview question this way, you highlight your positive points rather than other people’s negatives.

“To be honest, you seem to be overqualified for this position…”

Not an interview question as such, but something that definitely needs to be effectively deflected: if they feel you’re overqualified it seems to imply you’re either desperate for work (which you may well be, but you don’t want them to know) or likely to move on within a few months. If this comes up, you need to convince them that it’s just the kind of job you’d really enjoy – it’s hard to do, but when answering interview questions, convince them you have a high tolerance for boredom or that this kind of work is the type of thing you love doing and they should be thrilled to hire somebody so able.

“You haven’t been in your current job very long – why?”

The job interview process is expensive both in terms of costs and time – the employers don’t want to be in a position where they hire you and find you’re looking to move on within 3 months. They need their investment to be rewarded, and as such you need to set their minds at ease and convince them that it is your intention to be in ‘for the long haul’. A reasonable answer to this would therefore be something along the lines of “I felt I had learned all I could with my current employers and need to move on to enhance my career. I am now ready to settle down and devote myself fully to something I can commit to in the long-term.”

“You’ve been in your current job for a very long time – why?”

The flipside of the long-term human resources investment coin is that employers are often unimpressed by someone who seems to lack the ambition or ability to get another job. It’s a bit unfair, and should be easy enough to defend with one of the many legitimate explanations of employee dedication – a love of the job, good friendships, or a good old fashioned sense of loyalty.

“Have you been attending other job interviews?”

This job interview question is tough and can have both negative and positive repercussions. It could be an assessment of how much you want the job (“I’m only applying to this one simply because it seems ideal for my ambitions and skill set”) or a cheeky way of assessing if their rivals are interested in you (“I’ve been talking to a few other companies and considering my options.”) You have to use your own judgment to work out their intentions based on the tone of the interviewers and the other interview questions they ask. If you are in any doubt you could try hedging your bets and combining both the previous answers: “I have been talking to some other companies, but in all honesty this job is my preference, as the job description seems to match my experience and skillset.”

“What is your current salary?”

This is a cheeky job interview question that you should avoid giving the straight-answer to! They’re trying to save money as much as possible, and by working out your current wage they hope to be able to offer you the bare minimum (a slight increase on your current salary) – if you don’t tell them, then you’re in a far better position to negotiate. “It isn’t about the salary for me really – it’s the whole job package that interests me.” Avoid directly answering the interview question here, and you should be fine.

These tough interview questions are difficult to answer sufficiently, but the employer knows this – remember every applicant will receive the same grilling, and if you have the preparatory edge to put you ahead of your rivals, you have every change of beating them to the post.

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When Your Job Skills Aren’t a Perfect Fit

Okay, it’s bound to happen. Sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself with a job description that is “almost” perfect for you but your skills might not be the total package.
Believe me, I’ve been there and I know that it’s definitely frustrating. It’s like running a marathon race and falling short right before you hit the finish line.
Guess what?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you talk to most job hunting experts, they’ll tell you that you should apply for the position, even if you’re lacking in some areas. However, they’re quick to point out that there are some things that you need to do — and some things that you definitely shouldn’t do.

Make sure that your resume is one that’s functional. This is so that you’re emphasizing your experience. One trick that many successful job seekers have used is to “tailor” their resume for the various jobs they are seeking — moving from most advantageous in terms of landing the job to least important.

Highlight the specific skills that you’ve already learned in relation to the job description. Again, you’re going to want to make sure that they are relating to the job that you’re going for. This is definitely going to attract the notice of the hiring manager. They’ll be sitting there, looking at your resume in relation to the job you’re trying to land, and they’re going to say, “This applicant is definitely hitting the targets we’re setting up.”

Don’t over-inflate your skills on your resume or during the job interview. There are few things more embarrassing than trying to pull off something that you can’t handle and being called on it. The best thing that you can do, right off the bat, is be upfront about your experience. If you’re a little weak in an area, just point out that you’d be willing to do whatever it takes in order to get you up to speed in that field.

Write a compelling and interesting cover letter that is specific to the job. Hiring managers can spot “form” cover letters a mile away and they tend to just pass those applicants by — and with good reason. If you’re trying to land a job and you can’t even take the time to come up with a fresh cover letter, what is that going to say about how much you might want the job? Make sure that the cover letter is no longer than a single page and you’ll want to emphasize the areas where you’re suited for the job and ignore the areas where you aren’t.

Here’s a little trick that many successful applicants have learned: When you’re working on your cover letter, imagine that you’re the hiring manager and think about what you’d like to see in a good cover letter. The chances are that if you can come up with something that’ll interest you, the same will hold true for the hiring manager reading your letter.

Now, let’s say that you really want a job but you’re lacking in a certain area. For example, a friend of mine really wanted to land an job in a law firm but one of the requirements was knowing transcription techniques. In his cover letter, he explained that he was currently taking a course on transcription techniques, and he wound up getting what he wanted.

Another thing that many people neglect to do is point out any unpaid experience that they might have. In other words, if you’ve done some work for your local church or for a charity, mention that. When you engage in something like that, you’re showing your potential employer that you’re someone who sees beyond himself or herself and that’s something that just about every employer likes.

At the same time, you might also mention any hobbies or outside interests that coincide with the position you’re going for. When I was going for a job as a film editor, I pointed out that I belonged to a local video organization that during the interview, that was brought up and I fully believe that it helped me to land the assignment.

When all is said and done, what you need to do is look at where you are, look at the job you’re going for, and emphasize the areas where you and the job mesh.

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Job Search Idea: Cold calling for Jobs

When hunting for a job, after the first few weeks of sending out resumes and posting on job boards, people often feel like there is more they should be doing. Getting an interview in today’s tight job market is difficult and you may need to pull out some old-time methods to help you get a good job.

This tip is not applicable for many industries and positions, it can be an effective way to get in the door, particularly for certain sales positions.

You might ask what else can I do to get a job and the answer would be to do anything and everything possible to help yourself get a job. One method of job searching that has fallen by the wayside in light of the Internet age is cold calling companies to see if they are hiring.

As most of us know, companies who want to fill positions will initially try to fill in-house (even though they will post the job publicly). Secondly, they will try to fill positions through referrals from employees. Finally, they may or may not post jobs on one of the larger job boards.

Some companies today still do not post the majority of their open positions on job boards and will instead try to fill it in-house, through referrals or by posting on the company’s web site.

In light of this, it is up to you and I to try any method possible to get a foot in the door. When you start considering cold calling companies for open positions, you first should prepare yourself for rejection. I suggest calling smaller companies within a 30 mile radius of home in the hopes that they do not have the hiring and advertising budgets that some of the bigger companies do and will be glad to look at your resume or even talk to you.

I spoke with a friend who was laid off and out of work for almost six months until he started calling the smaller software companies in the area to see if they needed help. Out of the blue, he called a local company that turned out to be owned by someone he went to High School with and he was able to secure a job with that company.

So, while not necessarily the best way to find a job, cold calling for open positions can sometimes lead you to discover relationships with companies that you never imagined possible. So, if your job search did not score you that big job in the first few weeks, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and start making some calls. You never know, it might pay off.

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7 Ways to Save Money During Your Job Search

When searching for a new job, it’s essential to make a good impression. But for those who are unemployed or just starting their careers, finding the money for a first-class job search can be difficult.

Fortunately, smart candidates can still put their best foot forward without blowing a bundle. When you’re on a shoestring budget, you have to be creative to get the help you need.

Here are seven savvy tips career experts suggest for stretching your dollars while job hunting.

  1. Barter for job search assistance

If you need career coaching but don’t have the cash to pay for it ask if the coach would be willing to barter something of value in exchange for career advice.

Another way to barter is to trade your volunteer time for admission into a networking event.An additional benefit to volunteering time at industry events is that you may rub shoulders with decision makers, an opportunity that might not be available otherwise for any amount of money.

  1. Visit the local library

People generally know there’s a lot of research information at the local library, but few job candidates have a grasp of the wealth of resources available for them. Libraries have subscriptions to paid online databases, and you can use this information for free. You can also access the Internet at no cost when doing company research. And don’t forget the free books on everything from resume writing to successful interview techniques.

Along with visiting your county or city library, stop by local college libraries. People don’t necessarily have to be students to access an institution’s media services. You don’t need to live near a major research university to take advantage of school libraries, either. Community and junior colleges can be good local resources.

  1. Visit low-cost community job centers

To save money on skill-building, get in touch with the job training and one-stop career centers funded by your local government. These centers offer computer and Internet access, as well as photocopy services.

They may also offer training in specific office skills at a low or reduced rate. That’s important because if you don’t have the specific skill sets mentioned in a job description, you’re probably wasting time and money applying for that position.

Contact your state’s department of labor to locate centers in your area.

Another good source for help is your alma mater. Try visiting your school’s career center, even if you graduated many years ago.

Look for informal job search groups, too. With these organizations, people come together about once a week to share ideas, resources and experiences without requiring you to spend a lot of money.

The group can keep you accountable in your search, offer encouragement and provide an informal critique, such as double-checking your resume for typos.

  1. Group-related job hunting tasks

Cutting employment-related transportation costs can net major savings. Proper planning can minimize the amount of time and money you spend traveling. Try to schedule interviews during slower periods of the work day, if possible. Interviewing during nonrush-hour times helps you save on gas by dealing with less traffic.

  1. Use free and low-cost Internet and phone services

It’s crucial to have online access when looking for work. The Internet allows you to research companies and get access to job-hunting Web sites. But if you don’t have the budget for costly Internet service, consider dropping it in favor of using the Internet for free at places such as the library or a local job center. You can also sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Hotmail or Google Gmail..

Regardless of which e-mail account you use, remember to keep your user name professional. Stay with using something simple, such as your first and last name or something similar–don’t use a cutesy nickname.

Along with Internet service, evaluate your telephone plan to make sure you’re getting the most value possible for the money.

Most candidates also need cell phone access and voice mail, so they’re always available if an employer calls for an interview. Even so, shop around for the best deal, and consider dropping extra services you don’t need.

  1. Pack your own lunch

Save a few dollars by packing your own lunch. Or at least bring along some snack bars. If you have several interviews scheduled, you could spend a lot of money stopping by restaurants to get something to eat after each meeting.

  1. Save your receipts

Whenever you spend money on your job search, save all receipts — you may need them at tax time.

Many of the fees related to your job search could be tax-deductible. Such fees include the cost of preparing and mailing resumes and expenses related to employee outplacement services and travel. Be sure to record your mileage for each trip, including starting and ending odometer readings.

There are a few caveats to the tax deductions. You have to be looking for work in your current occupation, and you shouldn’t have been out of work for a substantially long period of time. Become acquainted with IRS Publication 529 because it explains in detail which job search expenses can be deducted from your taxes, and what the requirements are.

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What’s the Difference Between a Resume and a CV?

In the United States, resumes are the standard form of documentation to display your professional and educational history. However, in some academic circles and internationally, the curriculum vitae (CV) is the standard for job applications. The objective behind a CV remains the same as the resume, but the appearance of the document is noticeably different, enough so that submitting a resume when a CV is requested can destroy an individual’s chance of being called for an interview.

Resume vs. curriculum vitae

The differences between resume and CV can appear quite subtle at the surface, but prove to be quite deep in the variances of information presented. The resume is made up of three simple sections: name and contact information, education and work experience. Each of these is divided into a section with information listed out, but with significantly more emphasis placed on job history and duties performed in each capacity. The resulting format makes the resume an ideal resource when applying for professional positions in the business sector.

In contrast, the CV acts as more of an overview of your accomplishments in life, especially those most relevant to the world of academia. The curriculum vitae becomes most relevant when pursuing a job in academia or research, as educational achievements become more of a focus over regular job duties. In addition, the CV is to be considered more of a living document in need of constant updating as many academic researchers are often involved in and completing multiple projects and teaching duties concurrently.

Another large difference between resumes and curriculum vitae is simple document length. The standard preferred length of a resume is one page for new professionals and up to three pages for those with extensive experience. The CV is anything but brief, starting at two or three pages for individuals beginning their graduate school career and reaching double digits for more seasoned researchers.

Structure of a curriculum vitae

Much like that of the resume, a CV follows a chronological presentation of information with the most recent of accomplishments placed at the top of each section list. The overall structure of the CV differs drastically from the resume and contains the following information:

Areas of interest. List your various academic interests and areas of intellectual or research-based pursuit.
Education. Provide not only a list of degrees earned or progress made, but also titles of dissertations or theses.
Grants, honors and awards. List all grants received, honors bestowed and awards received through academic studies and research.
Publications and presentations. Establish your academic experience with a list of published articles and books in addition to any public presentations given at conferences.
Employment and experience. Separate work into areas of relevance for teaching, laboratory, field, volunteer, leadership and other research-related experience.
Academic memberships. List all professional organizations you’re a member of or associated with, in addition to positions or offices held at each association.
References. Provide a list of individuals who are willing to write letters of recommendation and include their contact information.
One’s measurement of success in the academic world is dependent on the number of things accomplished while working, whether its research papers or presentations. Demonstrating experience by sharing it through these methods is how academia determines an individual’s overall value for a researching position.

How to write a CV

The standards for writing a curriculum vitae are much the same as with a resume. Picking an easy-to-read font type and size will help maximize the legibility of your document. Maintaining a consistent format throughout will likewise convey a theme of professionalism and attention to detail.

Common practices when writing a resume include job descriptions outlining activities performed at each employer. This information isn’t as necessary on a CV because academic search committees will focus more on education, publications and references. The amount of time spent in a position is still quite important as reviewers will want to gauge your level of experience in comparison to the number of accomplishments you’ve made throughout the rest of the document.

Examples

One of the most important things to remember when creating a CV is that there is no one set standard for formatting. Different emphases of academia put more emphasis in different areas, which means taking into account the standard conventions of the job being applied for will drastically help in making a CV stand out. Examples of curriculum vitae can easily be found on major job board websites such as Monster and CareerBuilder.

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10 Critical Resume Writing Tips

  1. Smaller fonts convey confidence. Use corporate standard fonts: Ariel on a PC and Helvetica on the Mac. Your name should be 12 points, headers 10 points and the body 8 points.
  2. Having a clearly stated objective on your resume helps to ensure that the right hiring manager receives your resume: i.e. Objective: IT Project Manager
  3. Divide your resume into four sections

Objective

Skills List: recommend a three column, bulleted skills list. Keep these skills relevant to the job that you are seeking.

Work Experience: In paragraph format, list in chronological order (most recent experience first)

Education and Certifications

  1. Before applying for a position, review the job description and embed the required skills as stated in the description in your resume’s Skills List and Work Experience. This step alone will dramatically increase your likelihood of catching the hiring manager’s eye.
  2. Use industry language: i.e. Requirements Gathering, Process Engineering and Re-Engineering, etc…
  3. Provide cell phone and email only on your resume, for three reasons:

If you provide your address they may think it’s too far for you to drive. Maybe it is, but that should be your decision, not the hiring manager’s.

Home phones can be subject to “Reverse Look-Up”. This means your home address can be found using the land-line number. This cannot be done with cell phones.

To protect yourself from identity theft, as well as for security. A legitimate employer will not ask for your home address until you are signing a contract, in most cases.

  1. Where are you going? Including professional goals can help you by giving employers an idea of where you are going, and how you want to arrive there. You don’t need to have a special section devoted to your professional objectives, but overall the resume must communicate it. The question of whether or not to highlight your career objectives on the resume is a controversial one among HR managers, so go with your feeling. If you decide to list them, make sure they are not generic.
  2. Do not include “no kidding” information! There are many people that like to include statements like “Available for interview” or “References available upon request.” If you are sending a resume to a company, it should be a given that you are available for an interview and that you will provide references if requested. Just avoid items that will make the employer think “no kidding!”
  3. Avoid negativity. Do not include information that might sound negative in the eyes of the employer. This is valid for both your resume and interviews. You don’t need to include, for instance, things that you hated about your last company.
  4. Use numbers. If you are going to describe your past professional achievements, it would be a good idea to make them as solid as possible. Numbers are your friends here. Don’t merely mention that you increased the annual revenues of your division, say that you increased them by $100,000, by 78%, and so on. Unless the numbers are small, then leave them out.
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6 Tips for Writing a Highly-Effective Resume

Hiring managers and recruiters alike say they’ve seen more poorly written resumes cross their desks recently than ever before. Attract more interview offers and ensure your resume doesn’t eliminate you from consideration by following these six key tips:

  1. Format Your Resume Wisely “Do the Hiring Managers” Work for Them

No matter how well written, your resume won’t get a thorough reading the first time through. Generally a resume gets scanned for 25 seconds. Scanning is more difficult if it is hard to read, poorly organized or exceeds two pages.

Use a logical format and wide margins, clean type and clear headings
Selectively apply bold and italic typeface that help guide the reader’s eye
Use bullets to call attention to important points (i.e. accomplishments)

  1. Identify Accomplishments not Just Job Descriptions

Hiring managers, especially in technical fields like engineering, seek candidates that can help them solve a problem or satisfy a need within their company. Consequently, you can’t be a solution to their problems without stating how you solved similar problems in other companies and situations.

Focus on what you did in the job, NOT what your job was there’s a difference
Include a one or two top line job description first, then list your accomplishments
For each point ask yourself, What was the benefit of having done what I did?
Accomplishments should be unique to you, not just a list of what someone else did
Avoid using the generic descriptions of the jobs you originally applied for or held

  1. Quantify Your Accomplishments

Q: What’s the most common resume mistake?
A: Making too many general claims and using too much industry jargon that does not market the candidate. A resume is a marketing document designed to sell your skills and strengths rather than just portray a bio of the candidate.

Include and highlight specific achievements that present a comprehensive picture of your marketability

Quantify your achievements to ensure greater confidence in the hiring manager and thereby generate interest percentages, dollars, number of employees, etc.
Work backwards to quantify your accomplishments by asking, If I had not done X, what could have happened?

  1. Cater Your Resume for the Industry

Unlike advertising and design professionals who have greater creative license in designing their resume for those fields, the mechanical engineering industry won’t be impressed and may be turned off by distinctive resume design.

Err on the side of being conservative stylistically
Your accomplishments, error-free writing, grammatically-correct, clean, crisp type and paper will make the impression for you

  1. Replace your Objective” with a “Career Summary”

A Career Summary is designed to give a brief overview of who you are and what you do. Most Objectives sound similar: Seeking a challenging, interesting position in X where I can use my skills of X, Y, and Z to contribute to the bottom line. Not telling at all.

Grab a hiring manager’s attention right from the beginning, remembering you
have only 25 few seconds to make a good impression
Spend time developing a summary that immediately gets their attention, and accurately and powerfully describes you as a solution to their problems

  1. Network. Network. Network.

For unemployed candidates, handing out resumes should be a full-time job. The majority of mid- to senior-level positions are filled through networking, so contact absolutely everyone you know in addition to recruiters who are in a position to hire you or share insights. Networking can include

Personal business contacts, people you’ve worked for or who worked for you
Vendors and sales representatives you’ve dealt with in the past five years
People listed in the alumni directory of your alma mater
With a solid resume in hand you’ll greatly increase your odds of earning a closer look and getting that interview.

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Confessions of an Executive Recruiter

After three years of economic aches and pains, the employment outlook by companies in the United States has improved to a 12-year high, according to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics. If you are an executive or mid-level professional who is looking, or plans to look, for a new job in 2011, that can be pretty encouraging news. But are you really ready for a job search? From a seasoned suffer-no-fools executive recruiter, here are seven secrets to help fire up your search and fuel your success:

  1. Recruiters spend 10 seconds “reading” your résumé

Odds are, you can lose up to a third of the words on your resume without compromising the content. So put your résumé on a word diet and eliminate the bloat. Remove extraneous words and phrases and generic mom-and-apple-pie references (“strong team player”) to bring your experience to the forefront. Additionally, bring your résumé alive by branding yourself from beginning to end and by using active verbs to describe accomplishments relevant to your target job.

  1. Recruiters look for specialists, not generalists

Today, companies want specialists who have done the job before. Develop a personal brand, distinguish your skills and strengths, and design your job search around industries or functions targeted to your background. For inspiration, study real-life job specifications online. Recently, for instance, a well-known software company was seeking a seasoned marketer “skilled in developing online video for B2B marketing.” Translation: specialize!

  1. Recruiters search for candidates who know where they’re going

Have a long-term career strategy or, at the very least, a strong sense for where you’re headed. Ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in five to 10 to 15 years?” Then figure out what steps you need to take to get there. Having a clear, concise understanding of your career path can demonstrate your leadership maturity to potential employers.

  1. Recruiters care about how you present as much as what you present

Your communication skills can make — or break — your job search. For every situation, from interviews to networking events, know your key points in advance and be crisp and organized in communicating them. Practice your responses to common interview questions, determining the “just right” length to illustrate your strengths and experience, and using interesting, impactful examples as much as possible.

  1. Recruiters anticipate well-crafted exit statements

Be well-versed in discussing the movement on your résumé. If you’ve jumped around a lot, prepare your “exit statement” for every move. Also, if you have gaps between jobs, have an explanation for what you did during that time.

  1. Recruiters have finely tuned “BS” detectors

Be open, honest, and authentic. If you aren’t, you won’t fool recruiters or employers, at least not for long. They will sense something isn’t adding up and will get to the bottom of it. If you’ve had a bump or two along the road, personally or professionally, be upfront about them. Also, focus on the facts of any situation, not the emotions surrounding it.

  1. Recruiters “watch, look, and listen” on social media

Nearly all employers look at your profile online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media Web sites. Leverage that opportunity and have your online presence tell a story. Sure, you watch the appropriateness of what you post online, but take it a step further: tell your story and tout your brand.

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How to Get Good Employment References

Most people don’t give much thought about references until after a potential employer asks for them. After all, searching for a job is very time consuming and doesn’t give you much of a chance to think about anything except getting interviews. But reference checks are a very important part of the job search process: both for job seekers and for employers. For employers, references are a chance to add depth to the information they have learned about you from the interview and from your resume.
At a minimum, your references should confirm the information the employer has about you and that you are a competent employee. However, you should strive to provide references who can be as enthusiastic about you and you would be about yourself. A great reference makes the hiring manager feel good about their decision to hire you and sets a positive tone for your first few days on the job. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression and your references can help you do that.

Getting Your Ducks In Order
It’s a good idea to get a reference letter from your manager as soon after leaving a position as possible. Getting a reference letter right away makes it easier for your manager to recall specific contributions you made to the team. Even if you don’t end up needing a reference right away, having the reference letter provides you with something to fall back on in the event you are unable to contact your former manager at a later time. Plus, if you decide to go back to the manager a year or more later to ask them to provide a phone reference, you can remind them about the reference letter they wrote for you.

Before asking someone to take the time to write a reference letter or provide a phone reference, it’s a good idea to get a feel for what they would say about you. One way to do this is to say “Do you feel you know me well enough to write a good reference letter?” instead of just “Could you write a reference letter?” This way, if the person doesn’t feel they could say something positive, they have an easy way to decline your request.

Employers who ask for references want to confirm dates of employment and position titles at a minimum. They will also try to find out if your former boss would rehire you given the opportunity. And many employers will ask the reference to grade your abilities in the specific areas that will apply to your new job. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a manager, the employer may ask your reference to rate your managerial skills on a scale from 1 to 10. Having a sense of the types of questions employers are likely to ask your references, you should try to gauge the potential reference’s response to these questions before deciding to let them vouch for you. For example, you could say “I’m curious – if you had the chance, would you hire me again to work for you?”

Using Non-Employer References
If you don’t have a lot of good references from former employers, non-employer references can be helpful too. Generally, a potential employer will want at least two references from former employers. But if they require three references, you may be able to provide two from former employers and one from someone else. Professors, former co-workers and customers can all be good references if they know you well. If you have a choice between providing three lukewarm references from former employers or two lukewarm references from former employers plus one glowing reference from someone you didn’t work for, the latter is probably the better choice. A survey done by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found more than eight out of ten human resource professionals regularly check references, so don’t count on an employer not contacting a lukewarm or bad reference.

Legal Issues
There are a lot of misconceptions about the legal issues surrounding reference checks. Some job seekers mistakenly believe that former employers can only provide dates of employment, position titles and salary history. Even though many companies have established regulations specifying that managers are only to confirm dates of employment, position and salary history, many managers are either unaware of these regulations or simply ignore them. Legally, an employer can provide as much information as they want about your tenure with their organization.

As long as a former employer does not knowingly provide false information in a reference check, it is fair game. An employer can legally say or write negative things about you if they are just opinions. For example, the employer could say “John was a horrible manager.” What is not legal would be for an employer to knowingly provide false information. For example, if a former manager didn’t like you, they could not say “John started a fire in our office building that caused thousands of dollars in damage” if it was not true. Regardless of the legal rules, you do not want your references to say bad things about you. There are companies that for a small fee will call your references and provide you with the results. If you suspect a reference you’re using is saying unfavorable things, you may wish to consider using a reference checking firm. A simple google search will lead you to companies who perform this services.

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Resume Writing Tips for Teachers

The resume and cover letter, along with an application and letters of reference, provide the source of credentials that most district personnel use to screen teacher candidates before scheduling interviews. Thus, an effective resume and cover letter are critically important tools of a successful job search. Feel free to use the following tips for documenting your qualifications effectively.

An Outstanding Teacher Resume:

Begins with a focused objective, targeted to as specific an audience as possible. Example:
An elementary education teaching position which will utilize my pre-professional training in the developmental education of the whole child, to inspire students to learn and become lifelong learners.
May contain a Skills Summary of teaching competencies, condensing those qualifications that are most relevant to the position you are seeking. Employers can then view, at a glance, your training in multiple teaching techniques, strategies, or methods and exposure to different teaching styles, population groups, or settings.
Provides evidence in the body of the resume that reconfirms your Objective/Skills Summary and convinces the employer of your competence and expertise.
Doesn’t merely focus on duties and responsibilities. Offers specific examples of your unique strengths and accomplishments, which demonstrate the quality of your classroom performance and allows you to stand out above the competition.
All teachers have to complete specific educational and student teaching requirements. However, each person has his/her own unique style of teaching, way of motivating students, working with colleagues and parents, creating and implementing lesson plans, etc.. The following list of questions represents some of the desirable qualifications that employers look for in teachers. It may help you to reflect on your own significant experiences and unique accomplishments relevant to teaching:

What is your curricular expertise (specific concepts and units taught)?
Do you possess personal and professional self-esteem, commitment, and behavior?
Is your love of teaching, fondness and effectiveness with age groups apparent?
How do you manage classrooms effectively or help pupils self-manage their behavior?
Do you provide opportunities for students to practice and apply skills?
Are you a team player who enjoys interactions with colleagues?
How do you involve parents in their child’s educational process and deal with their concerns?
Do you use various techniques to address multiple learning styles?
Is your educational philosophy compatible with that of the school your applying to?
Is professional development and continuous learning important to you?
What are your abilities and willingness to contribute to extracurricular activities?
Do you have appropriate computer skills needed by a school?
Can you effectively meet a school system’s delivery of special education services?
What is your experience with diverse socioeconomic and multicultural populations?
Do you stress and model good work habits (promptness, courtesy)?
Do you have good organizational and planning skills?
Do you emphasize and try to develop the communication skills of students?
What techniques do you use to motivate students to learn?
Have you demonstrated initiative in trying to solve a classroom or instructional problem?
When offering examples of skills and traits relevant to your job objective, include where possible any qualifying evidence of a positive result or outcome. Highlight accomplishments that illustrate your expertise, strengths, and contributions, which are most relevant to your objective. Ask yourself, “What challenges did I face?” and “What solutions did I find?”

Use the following STAR technique:

S = identify the Situation that existed or
T = the Task you were completing
A = describe the Action taken
R = describe the Results of your action (which could be a skill demonstrated or an outcome of your action)

Was the classroom climate enhanced? Did individual or group behaviors improve? Did positive academic gains result from your interventions? Here are some examples:

Assisted cooperating teacher in helping three children who were exhibiting volatile classroom behavior and had challenging personal circumstances, to settle into their teams and contribute significantly to the class.
Created various physical education units for different ages including: K-6 parachute unit, early childhood manipulatives unit, K-2 rhythms unit, and a 6-7 track and field unit; enhanced the development of cooperative learning, fitness, and lifelong leisure activities for students.
Taught Spanish lessons in both English and Spanish, and reinforced material by involving non-English speaking parents in classroom and school activities.
Taught hands-on computer applications in electronics, drafting, robotics, engineering, and audiovisual productions. Designed student centered modules to provide realistic experiences and career-related information as part of a school-to careers initiative.
Incorporated simulations, media, guest speakers, and small group activities into social studies unit on Africa and Latin America, increasing students’ understanding of issues and problems confronting lesser-developed countries.
Maintained frequent parental contact through conferences, telephone conversations, and weekly newsletters; increased parental involvement in students’ educational development.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to include in your experience section, think about the achievements you are most proud of:

Look at your educational highlights, student teaching practicum/s, full and part-time jobs, travel and/or studies abroad, volunteer work, and leadership positions.
Focus on the most relevant skills, knowledge, and personal attributes you’ve used that directly relate or are transferable to the teaching position you’re seeking?
Frame your experiences by briefly describing the unique characteristics of the schools, age groups, classroom sizes, ethnic cultures, bilingual populations, special education issues, etc..
Mention if your supervising teacher has special skills or knowledge in a particular area.
Research schools/districts of interest and match specific requirements with your abilities:
— What kind of candidate is being sought?
— What is the school’s educational philosophy? What are the school’s challenges?
— What is the specific curriculum being taught? What age groups are taught?
— What is the size and socioeconomic make-up of the school and community?
— Are special ed students mainstreamed? What level of expertise is expected?
— What computer expertise is expected? Are computers used in the curriculum?
— What are the school’s extracurricular coaching or advising needs?
— What learning theories, teaching methods, and discipline approaches are used?

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