Will you be my Reference “Valentine”?

Similar to asking someone out for a date, when calling a potential reference person we’re usually just happy they said YES! It’s rare that we go beyond the initial excitement and actually ask questions to find out if they’re really the best person for the job.

In reality, a bad reference can mean the difference between getting hired or not. So it’s definitely a good idea to do a bit of prep work beforehand. Not only will it take some of the guesswork out of what they may or may not say, but many referees may actually welcome the practice. Don’t forget that most HR professionals are experts at asking open-ended questions that cause referees to spilling the beans… so make sure what they spill is good!

10 of the most common questions HR asks References

  1. First verify the candidates’ employment dates, title and role
  2. If you could rehire the candidate, would you? Why or why not?
  3. What was the reason for the person leaving?
  4. What kind of duties and responsibilities were assigned to the candidate? Did he/she complete them to your satisfaction? Did he/she show initiative and go beyond what was required of them?
  5. What would you say were the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
  6. How would you evaluate the employee’s performance with the tasks likely to be assigned in the new position?
  7. Was the candidate punctual? Were there any issues with absenteeism?
  8. Did the employee get along with their peers, how about managers? Customers?
  9. How did the employee handle conflict or pressure?
  10. 10. Is there anything else I should know about the candidate before we hire them?

Just like in a new relationship, you wouldn’t want your date standing at your front door without any notice; you likewise wouldn’t want your references to be receiving calls from employers without a heads up! Also as a courtesy, ask them how and when they prefer being called.


Since giving references is now mandatory, you don’t have to include the statement, “References available upon request”  at the end of your marketing material and PLEASE don’t include your reference contact information on your resume!! You wouldn’t write your date’s phone number on a bathroom wall now would you? It’s private and confidential and only given at the interview.

Now go out there and find that one er, I mean five special people…Happy Valentine’s Day!



Finding That Dream Job (Part 2)

Do you remember your first resume?  I certainly do.  I was fifteen years old – applying for my first summer job at the company my father worked for.  I didn’t have access to a computer and printer at the time, so I typed up my resume on my mom’s typewriter.  I actually used stationary paper with a flower motif along the border.  I never took a word processing course at school, so needless to say, my typing skills were pathetic.  In the end, my resume was riddled with globs of white out and quite illegible in spots.  But, I had a resume and was on the way to financial freedom!

I’ve learned a great deal about resume writing since then.  In fact, I’m still learning.  My resume is a work in progress – constantly evolving and being updated.  It’s a good idea to revamp your resume every three or fourth months.  That way, you’re always ready to submit your resume should your ideal job be posted.  It’s never fun going into panic mode and struggling to submit your resume at 11:59 pm – one minute prior to the deadline!

Below, is a short list of some of my recommendations for resume writing – the do’s and don’ts from a currently unemployed, stay-at-home mom.

  1. Resist the urge to use fancy stationary paper with a flower border.  It’s best to stick with plain white, non glossy, paper.
  2. In your personal information section, include a professional sounding email address that you check regularly.  For example, don’t use an email address with a cute nickname such as mamabear@cogeco.ca!
  3. Consider including a profile section to highlight your qualifications.  Try and sell yourself to potential employers using five to six bullets.
  4. List education achievement beginning with the most recent.  Include the date, degree/diploma, institution and location.  You may also wish to include courses you have taken, even if you haven’t yet completed your degree/diploma.  Consider including special awards, scholarships and bursaries.
  5. If you’re an educator, don’t forget to include your additional qualification courses with the date, course title, and name of institution.
  6. When documenting your work experience, use bullets to list your most important responsibilities and accomplishments.
  7. Regarding references – leave them out unless you’re called in for an interview.  At the bottom of your resume, add the following: References and portfolio available upon request.
  8. Avoid errors.  Double check, no, triple check your resume.  Email your resume to friends and family members and have them check your resume for spelling, grammar, and format errors.

Although there is no one way to write a resume, always make sure your resume is easy to read, well structured, and cleanly presented.  Consider taking your resume to an expert for advice.  Contact MCACES and arrange for Lidia Siino, Employment & Communications Specialist, to go over your resume with you.  She can offer suggestions and guidance and even help with practicing your interviewing skills!

 ImageRenee Morley is a Continuing Education Student currently studying within the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACES offers a comprehensive Employment Advisement program for our students. For more information about Employment Advisement, please visit the MCACES website, www.mcaces.ca or contact Lidia Siino, Employment & Communications Specialist at Lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.