Lindsay Olson

Just another WordPress weblog

Archive for Candidate Question

Candidate Question: How Do I Handle Giving My Boss as a Reference?

Check Chk


I have a potential employer asking for a direct manager reference and I'm looking for advice on how to handle it. I've sent him three references from co-workers and clients, so he has good reviews in his hands. Now, he's asked for one reference who has managed me directly. I've been in my current job for four years, and would rather not have my current manager know that I'm job searching. In my last job of 5 years I didn't have the best relationship with my manager, so I'm not confident that I'd get a good reference from him. I'm not sure how to handle this situation. Can I really go back 10 years for a job reference? What have you seen or what would you recommend?


I'm not surprised you're being asked for a direct manager reference. In the PR industry, it's common to be asked for references from a direct manager, a direct report, a client, and a reporter. Most employers will want to speak to the people with whom you have had a working relationship most recently.

It's understandable to be concerned about giving your direct supervisor as a reference at this point in the process. Without a job offer, risking your current position and letting your employer question your loyalty is asking for trouble. I would only give your direct manager as a reference IF he or she already knows you are leaving the company.

Considering you have already given a few colleagues as references, it should give sufficient material to move forward for an offer. The best approach is to be honest and to tell him if you give your direct supervisor as a reference now it will put you in an uncomfortable position and you don't want to risk your job just yet. He should understand. If that reference is really important to him, you could agree to giving it once you have you have received and accepted a formal offer. It's standard practice and should be an acceptable compromise.

Providing a reference from a manager ten years ago is too far in the past. The types of questions and information an employer would ask your manager reference at this point in your career is much different than the information sought early in your career.

This post is part of an on-going series featuring readers job search and hiring questions. If you have a question you would like answered in this blog, please send it to me here. Your information will be kept confidential.

Photo credit: Matt Camran

Candidate Question: How do I overcome the "not having the exact experience"objection?

cones & conos | olympic sports


I have been in PR for the past two years. I have pitched stories to radio and TV producers and hosts, written press releases, and devised story angles. While I have not worked for an "agency," the clients I worked with were mostly large, well-known agencies. I also have seven years of TV producing experience under my belt. Yet, I still seem to get (from recruiters) that they will not even consider me because their clients want "agency" experience. I have the right experience and know I can do the job, but how do I get over that hurdle?


    Remember how recruiters are typically compensated - contingency-based recruiters are only paid if they make a successful placement. A company gives a recruiter specific requirements for screening candidates prior to engaging in a search. These skills are not just based on specific work experience, but also soft skills and cultural fit. By submitting candidates who do not meet all of their qualifications, the recruiter puts his relationship with the client at risk. Too many interview rejections is a sign that a recruiter isn't evaluating his candidates properly.

    Companies choose to use recruiting services because they have either exhausted their own resources or realize the time and monetary value engaging with a specialized recruiter to fill an open, urgent position. These services are not cheap (although in comparison to the cost of not filling a position quickly, it's a steal!), so the companies hold a recruiting firm to high presentation standards. If the recruiter can source three or four candidates who have the exact experience, he isn't going to gamble on someone who doesn't meet all the specifications.

    Recruiters are also careful about how many candidates they present to a client for a position. A recruiter will choose his top candidates to present for the position - the candidates with the highest chances of landing the position. Providing too many candidates to select from causes the company to delay the hiring decisions and results in losing qualified candidates who have already interviewed in the process.

    Bottom line: If having public relations agency experience is important to the agency, the reality is that a recruiter is not going to present you for the position, even if you possess the transferable skills. Your best bet if you are looking for an agency position is to approach the agencies you are interested in directly and make them fall in love with you. Get your foot in the door through meeting agency reps at networking events, connecting through online networks, requesting an informational interview, or calling the hiring manager directly. Make sure you write an interesting cover letter explaining your desire to work in an agency environment and how you can help the agency and their clients reach their goals. Be able to spell out how your skills transfer and let your interest and passion in your industry compensate for the lack of experience.

    Not every company or every position is going to be flexible in their requirements, but by doing a bit of research beforehand about the backgrounds of other people in the agency might give you some insight about the profiles of candidates the company usually hires. I would use LinkedIN as your research site and search by current company. If you find several people who work in the company with non-traditional backgrounds, your chances of landing the interview greatly increase.

    This post is part of an on-going series featuring readers job search and hiring questions. If you have a question you would like answered in this blog, please send it to me here. Your information will be kept confidential.

    Photo credit: Matias Dutto

    Candidate Question: How do I find the best recruiter to help me in my job search?

    Spaghetti is ready


    How do I find the "best" (if there is such a way to tell) recruiters in a particular field or desired work location? I have just started my job search and am struggling to figure out which recruiting companies or recruiters I can target to contact or send my resume to. Or should one just use the buck shot method and hope for the best?


    Recruiting firms are usually either generalists or specialists. Some work nationwide, while others may only work in a specific region or even a single city. Finding the "best" recruiter is really a matter of opinion and who you are comfortable dealing with

    The best way to find a trusted recruiter in your industry is to ask around. Ask your college professors or work colleagues. You can also search LinkedIN for recruiters within your field as well — we′re all there. Most than likely, you'll have the best luck finding opportunities through recruiters who are specialists in your field.

    Remember: A recruiter works for a client company, not the candidate.  Recruiters do not always spend a lot of time with candidates until they have a matching position varies. Some recruiters will take a few minutes to get to know you better for upcoming opportunities, especially if they think there is a good chance of placing you in the near future, but there isn′t always time to speak to each candidate in detail when filling open searches is the priority.

    Ensure the recruiting firm has the information it needs. When you present your details to give the recruiter the pertinent information about your background and your search. Your resume, career highlights, your interests, geographical preferences, and salary range are a good start.

    Don′t use the buckshot method. You do not want just anyone with a copy of your resume in hand. Unfortunately, not all recruiters will treat your information in confidence. There are recruiters out there who will just float a resume around the industry to see if they can get any interest and an easy placement without even speaking to you. You don't want to be the spaghetti they are throwing against the wall to see if it sticks.

    I′ve heard stories of people who are interviewing on their own with companies and all the sudden some unknown recruiter sends the person′s resume as if it were the firms referral without ever having contact with the candidate. It's an uncomfortable situation to be in - so protect your information. This is a unprofessional and unforgivable practice, but it happens — choose wisely!

    This is part of an on-going series of candidate questions submitted through this blog. If you have a question you would like featured, please submit it here. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

    For other candidate questions, see the archive of questions download Before Night Falls .

    Photo credit: Gluemoon [Flickr]

    Candidate Question: How do I contact a company I'd like to work for?

    Resume Overload


    What is the best way to go about contacting a company you would be interested in working for?


    Email is by far the preferred method of companies and recruiters to show your interest and apply for an open position. If there is an open position and you don't have any connection with the company, I'd advise to go through the proper channels- follow the directions on the job descriptions and submit your resume and cover letter to the address provided by the company.

    This is NOT where you should stop. Just because you submitted through the proper channels though doesn't mean you can't follow-up through other means. Some positions receives hundreds of resumes, only seen by the human resources department for an initial review and judgment. Other times your resume will be imported directly in the company's applicant tracking system which may only scan for keyword matches to rank the top candidates for the position.

    If you are very interested in working for a particular company, you'll have to take it a few steps further. Search LinkedIn or Google search to find out who the hiring manager is and follow up directly to show your interest in a position. Many job descriptions state the reporting structure, if not, make your best guess. Finding out this information isn't difficult with a bit of extra effort. Sometimes a simple follow-up can determine whether you land the opportunity to interview or not. Surprisingly, few people take this step because they fear the risk of being too pushy or coming on too strong.

    When following up electronically, your follow-up needs to be specific for the position and how you will add value. There is nothing more obvious than a blanket introduction and follow-up. State why specifically you want to work for the organization and how you will help them be successful.

    If you have friends within the organization, an internal referral is always better than a submission through the website. Ask your contact to walk your resume into the hiring manager or HR department and follow up within a couple of days.

    All of this takes time — a job search can be full-time job in itself. Putting in the extra effort will pay off in the end and set you apart from the majority who don't invest the time in the job search.

    This is part of an on-going series of candidate questions submitted through this blog. If you have a question you would like featured, please submit it here. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

    For other candidate questions, see the archive of questions.

    Photo credit: Michael Marlatt

    Candidate Question: Is it too risky to change jobs in a recession?

    RISK AWR WC T7L LosAngeles Graffiti Art


    In the current economy in the United States, what are the risks with leaving a job and starting somewhere new? Is it a case of high-risk, high-return or can we still feel comfortable even as newbies?


    Change doesn′t come without risks. Leaving one job for another, even in this market, is a perfectly acceptable and normal transition. A common, flawed theory on employment during a recession is the "last one in is the first one to go."  The decision to eliminate a position is determined by many more factors than just seniority or tenure within the company. Companies are laying off employees who have spent decades with the firm meanwhile the recent junior hires stay gainfully employed. And you will certainly find cases where it is the other way around.

    "Safe" companies or "guaranteed" jobs don't exist, it's only the degree of safety that varies. The circumstances are always changing.

    Most firms that hiring right now are doing so because the position is a fundamental piece to the organization′s success. Of course, if you are considering a change, you should always do your due diligence. If you are employed, don′t just get up and quit without having something else lined up. But if you are interested in making a change or approached about an interesting opportunity, don′t let fear keep you from exploring it.

    This is part of an on-going series of candidate questions submitted through this blog. If you have a question you would like featured, please submit it here. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

    For other candidate questions, see the archive of questions

    Photo credit: Anarchosyn (Flickr)

    Candidate Question: Do companies normally use multiple staffing agencies for the same position?



    Is it common for a company to have more than one recruitment agency working on a position for them?


    Yes, it′s very common for company to use more than one recruitment agency. Recruiting firms come in two flavors - generalists and specialists. My agency is a specialist firm - we only fill positions in PR, marketing, and sales. Obviously, companies may have recruitment needs in other areas, so it makes sense to partner with several agencies with different specialties to cover the needs of the entire organization.

    The issues arise when companies work with multiple recruiters though for the same position. This strategy tends to backfire.

    Contingency recruiters firms only get paid for their efforts if they successfully fill a position. Many companies think there isn't a financial risk in using several agencies since they are only going to have to pay for the one candidate. After all, the more recruiters out there working for them, the quicker the position gets filled, right? Not necessarily. This is when the mess begins and it usually goes one of two ways.

    Scenario 1: Multiple recruiters start calling the same people. The candidates are left with the impression the company is desperate and there must be something wrong.

    If a candidate is interested in the opportunity and is contacted by a few recruiters, he may or may not know how to handle the situation resulting in duplicate resume submissions by different agencies. Here′s when it gets really ugly. The recruiter may blame the candidate for not being honest about working with another firm on the same position or the company may think the candidate is desperate and won′t want to move forward at the risk of a lawsuit by the fighting recruiter companies. Nobody wins.

    Scenario two: The candidates tell the recruiters they have been receiving calls from others about the same position. Since the staffing agency is only getting paid for a successful hire, it must evaluate and prioritize its searches based on the realistic chances of filling it. Recruiters lose interest in searches that don′t seem like viable placements and the company ends up with an unfilled position and nobody working on the search. Most recruiters won′t bother telling the company they aren′t working hard on the search because someone might pop up they can submit with little effort and they can still look like heroes. The company thinks they have an army of recruiters working on their search when in reality nobody cares anymore and the company believes recruiters are useless.

    It's a safe bet if you are receiving calls from lots of recruiters, this is what is going on. If you decide it is an opportunity you are interested in, it is common courtesy to let the other recruiters know you are already in the process with the company through another recruiter. Make it clear you do not want your information sent to anyone without your approval.

    The rule is simple as a candidate: Work with only one recruiter for a position with the company.

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Candidate Question: How do I get an overseas PR job?

    globe detail

    Identity movie

    This post is part of series of an on-going candidate question series where the readers post their job search and career questions here and I feature them anonymously.


    I would like to work internationally in either tech or pharmaceutical PR. What resume building steps can I take to best position myself for a job/country change? Are foreign agencies open to hiring US candidates?


    You should consider working for an international PR agency that has offices throughout the world. Many of these agencies do offer interested employees the opportunity to work temporarily or permanently in other offices, especially if you have the language skills. Some agencies have international exchange programs allowing employees to experience what it is like to work in another country office for a few weeks up to several months. You may also be able to apply for a full-time transfer if there is a position open in another agency office or transfer to a sister company's international office if the agency is part of a larger entity.

    The more international experience you can gain while working in the United States, the more viable of a candidate you will become for these overseas posts. If you have the opportunity to work on a team with international clients and interface with international media, you can make a better case for yourself when you approach your company for a transfer.

    Other related Q & A posts:

    When Should You Follow Up on Your Job Application

    When Should You Start Job Searching

    How to Find a Recruiter for an Entry-level Position

    Balancing Multiple Offers

    Photo credit: Patrick Q [Flickr]

    Candidate question: When should you follow up on your job application?

    I asked the Twitter community a couple days ago for their job search and career questions. The response was overwhelming! I will be selecting several reader's questions over the next few weeks to answer on the blog. If you have a job search question you would like to see here, please submit it here. Your name and contact information will NOT be posted.


    If a job posting doesn't specify that they will contact you, how long is a sufficient amount of time to wait before checking on the status of your resume?


    Waiting one week to follow up from a resume submission is good rule if you have emailed it to a general email address or human resources department. Far too often candidates complain their resume goes to the "black hole." If you′re lucky, you might get an automated response from a job advertisement.

    It's important to remember, some ads generated hundreds of responses a day and many companies have tools to automate the entry of resumes into their applicant tracking systems. They may not be looking at every resume individually. The hiring manager may not even be involved at this stage and instead she is relying on the human resources department to pre-qualify and pre-screen candidates.

    The best way to make sure your resume gains the attention it deserves for the position is tweak it to fit the job description. Think about what keywords someone might use to search a database to fill an open requisition. Your goal is to be on that short-list.

    If you know someone within the company you are applying, it′s always better to have an internal recommendation. If your contact can walk your resume into the hiring manager or the HR department directly, your chances getting an interview improve greatly. Ask your contact to let you know when your resume has been received and follow up directly with the hiring contact in a day or two on the phone if possible or by email.

    The Last Samurai release

    In both cases, your follow-up should be concise, yet reiterate your interest in the position, and highlight your accomplishments and qualifications that make you a good fit for the open position. Don′t assume the company knows who you are or remembers what position you applied for. As wonderful it as it would be to hear a yes or no, don′t take it personally if you don′t hear back.

    Photo credit: Mdezemery [Flickr]

    Candidate question: When should I start job searching?


    Batman: Gotham Knight move

    Episode list for How I Met Your Mother download

    I am a college senior, planning to graduate this upcoming May.  I am reasonably worried about the current job market and I am eager to get a jump start on my search.  I am concerned about how soon is too soon to begin contacting companies before I am able to immediately fill a position.

    Is it appropriate to begin contacting companies this early?  Would it build positive contacts and possibly lead to job opportunities when I graduate or would it be more likely to annoy them?  I do not want to waste any company's time, but many of my friends who graduated last year still do not have jobs in their field and I don't want to share their fate.

    What is my best course of action at this point?


    Most experts agree beginning a job search four to six months prior to graduation is a good an ideal time frame. It's not too early to annoy hiring managers and it should give you sufficient time to find something. If possible, try to get a part-time internship with an agency (I assume you are planning to go into PR). Many times these internships turn into full-time positions and if not, you have spent several months building a network of PR professionals who have contacts in other agencies and companies who could recommend you for any other entry-level positions.

    With five months left until graduation, you should start building those relationships and being proactive. Go to your local networking events, Meetups and Tweetups, and ask for informational interviews with companies you would like to work for. Just because a company isn't posting their open jobs doesn't mean there isn't something available. Work on building your online networks and continue to develop those relationships off-line.


    Candidate question: Find a recruiter for an entry-level position

    Fiat Federal

    Connie and Carla full movie
    Photo credit: Matias Dutto


    I am seeking my first full time job. I'm new to the whole headhunter/recruiter thing. Do you have any tips for how to go about this? I'm in Dallas, but I'm up for new places and adventures. Should I look for a national or regional recruiter?

    My degree is in communications and I have two internships worth of PR experience at boutique and corporate agencies. Some of my work is on my blog.


    Since you are seeking employment in a specific industry sector, you should consider working with a recruiter who specializes in the communications industry. While there are several online directories, I find the best referrals come through experienced colleagues or professors who have some industry contacts.

    It is important to understand though how a recruiter works. Search firms are contracted by the employer to find candidates who best fit an open requisition. This means a recruiter is not focusing solely on a candidate's job search. It's the other way around - the recruiter selects you as a candidate for the search. Contingency recruiters are only paid for their efforts when they successfully fill a position, so the first priority is their current work load and finding the best candidates for the job.

    Keep your expectations reasonable when working with a recruiter. Recruiters will have positions you would never hear about through other channels and will be an extremely valuable resource and relationship for you to have throughout your career.  But realistically, the most your can expect is to get into their database and be considered for a matching position. You can secure your relationships more by taking their calls promptly, sharing information to help them recognize your talents, being cooperative, and representing their decision to put you forward well in an interview process.

    You will find a mix of regional and national recruiters. Again, I think the most important criteria in selecting a firm to work with is its specialty area. I would look at both local and national firms.

    By no means, especially this early in your career, should you base your entire job search strategy on one or two recruiter's leads. Unless the recruiter asks to represent you solely and that recruiter has taken quite a bit of time to understand you and your needs should you even consider it.

    Companies and agencies usually come to my firm to introduce candidates with at least a year or two of relevant work experience (not including internships) and they invest in the relationship with a search firm to find candidates who have the exact experience they are looking for (from a competitor). At this point, you are looking for an entry-level job so a recruiter relationship should only be a small portion of your strategy.

    Other relevant posts:

    Recruiter relations: Help us help you


    - Lindsay Olson

    Seven things you need to know about recruiters -


    WordPressCreative Commons

    © Lindsay Olson 2017 | RSS Contents | RSS Comments. Proudly powered by Wordpress. Web development by SocialSnack.