Character References – Who to Ask and How to Ask Them

Character References – Who to Ask and How to Ask Them

Employers ask prospective employees for a personal reference or character reference to find out more about their personality, character and people skills. References are often required as part of the job application process. Here’s help deciding who to ask for character references and how to approach them.

Who to Ask for Character References

Character references should come from people who know you well. They should have known you personally for at least a year and be able to speak about your top qualities. Instead of putting too much pressure on yourself to identify the perfect resources right away, relax and jot down some names. Brainstorm potential candidates from the following examples:

  • Co-workers or former employers
  • Clients or customers
  • College professors or academic advisors
  • Family friends
  • Neighbors or personal acquaintances
  • People who have volunteered with you
  • High school or college sports coaches

Avoid collecting character references from your spouse or other family members. Employers will consider them biased.

When you narrow down your list of potential candidates, try to create a diverse group. Don’t request all your references from within one organization or friend group. A co-worker might be able to give insight on your work ethic, while people who volunteer with you can attest to your character.

How to Ask for A Reference

The people on your list are ones you hold in high esteem, so asking them for a reference can be intimidating. Your relationship with the person will dictate the best way to ask. It may be best to contact college professors or clients through a letter or email so they have time to think about your request. Let them know whether you’re asking for a reference letter or if prospective employers will contact them directly.

It might feel more natural to ask for references from family friends and personal acquaintances over the phone or when you see them in person.

Be tactful when you make your request. Ask if they feel comfortable providing a reference for your job hunt. You can also ask if they have time in their schedule to write a reference letter or provide a reference over the phone.

Give the person plenty of time to respond. Make it easier to write the letter or respond to inquiries by letting them know what job you’re applying for and what skills that position requires.

Be Sure to Follow Up

After someone provides you with a character reference, follow up with a thank you note. Sit down and create a handwritten message that tells them how much you appreciate them taking the time to help you in your employment search.

For resume writing tips, dress code guidelines, interview tips and other information, see Brelsford Personnel’s online resources. Or view our online job postings today.

How to Mistake-Proof Your Resume

How to Mistake-Proof Your Resume

When you send your resume and cover letter to prospective employers, mistakes and typos could ruin your chances at an interview. You know what you meant to say, so a quick scan isn’t going to reveal the mistakes that will stick out to recruiters and hiring managers. Use these tips to make sure your resume and cover letter don’t contain embarrassing errors.

Always Use Spell and Grammar Check

Most word processing programs automatically check for spelling and grammar, but they don’t make corrections for you. Go back through your document and review where your program marked errors. Word underlines mistakes with a squiggly red line and Google Docs uses solid red.

Grammarly has a free online grammar and spell checker that catches some errors word processing programs don’t. If you’re not creating your document online, you can upload it for a thorough error scan.

Don’t Edit Tired

If you just spent hours creating your resume, take a break. Come back when you’re rested, you’ll be glad you did.

Print for Proofing

You’ll be better able to spot errors on a paper copy than on a screen. Once you print your resume, use your finger to underline one word at a time as you read. The first time through, look at spelling, grammar and punctuation without editing for meaning and data accuracy. Clearly mark changes with a contrasting color pen so you can add them to your electronic copy later. Then read through again for information consistency.

Check for Common Errors

Spell check won’t catch a word used incorrectly. Make sure the subject and verb of every sentence agree with one another. Only place commas where the reader would naturally pause. Use an apostrophe with “its” only when you mean “it is.” Be careful with the commonly confused “affect” and “effect.” You “accept” offers, not “except” them. Most employees work with a manager, not a manger.

Read out Loud

This proofreading trick will catch errors you don’t notice any other way. Read your resume one word at a time at a pace similar to what you would use when speaking. If something doesn’t sound right, stop and fix it, then read it again.

Verify Hyperlinks

If the electronic copy of your resume contains links to articles you’ve written, online reviews from customers or other materials, click them to make sure they go where you intend. You could have typed URLs incorrectly, or pages might have been moved.

Ask for Help

See if a professional acquaintance or mentor will proofread your resume for you. A fresh set of eyes can make all the difference.

For more resume writing tips, see our dynamic library of useful resources. Our blog also offers help with writing a cover letter, preparing for an interview and having a successful first day on the job.

How to Improve Your People Skills At Work

How to Improve Your People Skills At Work

A huge part of how you feel about your job involves the people you work with. Positive work relationships will make you look forward to doing what you do. When the workplace contains undercurrents of tension and dissatisfaction, everyone suffers.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to work on building positive, effective relationships with co-workers and administrators. You may not be able to be friends with everyone but there are always steps you can take to strengthen the work relationships you have while forging new ones.

Evaluate and Improve Soft Skills

Building better relationships doesn’t start with your co-workers and managers. It begins inside when you take an objective look at your soft skills.

Hard skills are the ones you trained for. They’re things like your certifications, degrees, second languages and the number of words per minute you type. Soft skills are harder to measure. Here are a few examples:

  • Leadership
  • Problem solving ability
  • Strong work ethic
  • Strategic thinking
  • Competitiveness
  • Calmness under pressure
  • Compassionate listening

You may not have put them on your resume, but they’re crucial to building strong work relationships. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to improve.

Steps for Better Communication Skills

No matter where you are on the communication skills spectrum, there’s room for improvement. You have the power to build better relationships when you make your goals specific and measurable.

Speak positively about your co-workers and administrators. It’s not kissing up, it’s being encouraging. Look for three ways to provide positive feedback every work day. Set a reminder on your phone to note whether you met your goal before you go home.

Ask questions. If you know your co-worker has a skill you’re curious about, give them a chance to share how they learned it. When working as a team, pause and ask other members what they think, and listen to what they say.

Express appreciation. Thank at least one person every day for something they do. Be on the lookout for little things that might normally go unnoticed. When presenting teamwork, let others hear you be appreciative for their individual contributions. Share credit when things go right, but when they don’t, avoid the temptation to place blame.

Avoid gossip like the plague. Office politics kill relationships. If you have a problem with someone, speak to them in private. If the situation doesn’t involve you, don’t add fuel to the fire by passing on information.

Improving work relationships takes consistent effort, but it’s worth it. When you make an intentional effort to pour good into the lives of those around you, it creates a ripple effect that will spread throughout your entire organization.

Stick to That Resolution, We Can Help

Stick to That Resolution, We Can Help

Year after year East Texans set New Year’s resolutions, but those resolutions quickly fall by the wayside. The most common ones involve eating better and exercising more. This year a survey by Inc.com found 16 percent of Americans are also pledging to find new employment. Brelsford Personnel offers tips on how to keep some of the most common resolutions, whether they involve nutrition, physical activity or a complete career change.

Simple Tricks for Eating Healthy at Work

Once you get to work, your food options are limited to what you brought with you and what you can pick up on your lunch break. Nutrition is an all day, every day thing. Keep yourself on track with these tips:

  • Meal prep – Spend time on Saturday or Sunday to cook and package food you’ll actually want to eat. Try a one pot meal, healthy soup, quinoa salad or something else you can munch over the course of a few days. If you don’t cook, find healthy, prepared protein, raw veggies and whole grains at the grocery store. Pack meals in individual portions so you can grab and go.
  • Snack prep – You’ll be better able to resist the doughnuts in the break room if you have healthy snacks in your desk. Pack fruit, snack bags of nuts, low-fat yogurt etc.
  • Have a backup plan – If you forget your lunch or don’t have time to prepare, decide now what you’ll pick up that won’t derail your diet. Try a salad from Jason’s Deli or an “enlightened” entrée from BJ’s. If you only have time for fast food, a chili from Wendy’s only has 170 calories.

Work Exercise Hacks

It’s always a good idea to park farther away and take the stairs, but there are other ways to squeeze in physical activity, even if you have a desk job. Set a timer for 30 minutes to an hour and every time it goes off, try one of the following for 60 seconds:

  • Stretching
  • Jogging in place
  • Air squats
  • Imaginary jump rope

If you’re stuck in your chair, strengthen your core by raising one leg at a time until it touches the underside of your desk, then repeating with the other. Also, Amazon sells an elliptical trainer that fits under your desk for easy, on-the-job cardio.

New Year, New Job

If you were among the 16 percent of Americans who resolved to find a new position, now is the time to take your first steps in that direction.

Check out the open jobs on the Brelsford Personnel website at https://www.brelsfordpersonnel.com/ . Click on “Positions” and scroll down to review the open jobs. If there are any you wish to be considered for, you may apply online by filling out an employment profile under our “Candidates” tab. We review all incoming resumes and retain them even when there’s not an immediate fit.

While you’re there, you may also want to visit our “Resources” page, where you’ll find resume writing advice, dress code guidelines, interview tips and other tools that might help you in your job search.