References Can Make or Break You

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Cece just sent her application in for a position as a marketing director in a small midwestern company.  She was excited to apply for the position, but was also glad to have this part of the process behind her.  She can now cross this item off her “to do” list.

During work the next day, she was having lunch with David in the break room.  Since they were the only two people in the room, Cece shared with David that she applied for a position as a marketing director at a company near her hometown.  David has more experience than Cece when it comes to the job search process.  He has had three positions since college and had taken a job search orientation class at the local community college.

As the two were discussing the position, Cece became concerned when David asked if she had listed her former boss as a reference. David knew that despite how good Cece is at her job, he also knew that she and her former boss didn’t see eye-to-eye on things.  Cece’s former boss didn’t get along with anyone.  Cece responded “Of course I listed him as a reference, he was my boss for three years.”  David countered by asking “Did you ask him if he felt comfortable in providing you with a great reference?”  With that, Cece looked strangely at him and responded – “no, should I have?”

David went on to explain how important references are to the job search process.  He told her that references can make or break your job search.

David is correct.  A poor or negative reference will almost always keep you from getting the job.  If you have any question in your mind if a reference would be negative or even mediocre, either do not use them or ask them if they feel comfortable in providing an outstanding reference for you.

Whomever you select to be a reference, make sure they give you a positive recommendation and can positively influence the hiring manager.  You are better off using a reference that you know will give you a positive recommendation, than taking a chance on a negative former boss.  While a former supervisor would be a good person to have as a reference, they are only good if they can sell you.  In other words, select your references wisely.

In the end, Cece didn’t get the job.  She doesn’t know for sure, but she believes that one of her references had been negative.  Even the smallest mistake, like a poorly selected reference, can affect the outcome of the job search process.

Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is best prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS! For more on the basic fundamental skills needed for the job search process, check out our book Getting Hired in College Sports at www.SportsCareersInsitute.com.

 

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 8 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition.  For more information on our sports careers blog, go to www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

 

 

 

The Importance of a Cover Letter

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

I was having dinner a while back with a friend who is the president of a professional sports team.  One of his major duties is to hire the administrative and sales staff.  Since I had been an athletic director at the Division I level, and had written a book about the proper techniques people should use during the job search process, I wanted to compare notes between hiring at the major college level and at the professional sports level.

I was truly shocked when he shared with me that many of the resumes that he receives are submitted without a cover letter, and of the cover letters that he does receive, many are addressed with a generic salutation such as – “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager”.  I really shouldn’t have been too surprised because I had received my share of those types of letters during the several hundred job searches I conducted.

As I was shaking my head in disbelief I asked him how he handles the applications that come in with the non-existent letter or with the generic written salutation.  Quickly, without even a bit of hesitation, or a blink of an eye, he said that they automatically go into the rejection pile.  This, too, is how I handled these types of applications at the collegiate level.

An application without a cover letter is almost always rejected.  An application with a generic salutation such as “To Whom it May Concern” has a better chance than no letter, but still you’re fighting an uphill battle.  The purpose of the cover letter is to show the search committee how you meet the qualifications, why you’d be a good fit for the job, and it allows you to sell yourself.  If you don’t properly sell yourself in your cover letter, you are missing a huge opportunity and you’re putting yourself behind your competition.  So next time you apply for a job, take the time to find out who to address the letter to and then sell yourself.  Show the search committee how you’re qualified and why you’re a good fit.  Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is best prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 8 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition.  For more information on our sports careers blog, go to www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

Follow-up: The Key to Getting the Job

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

It’s been a week since Rick interviewed for an operations management position at a university in California and he is anxiously waiting to hear back from the hiring manager.  Rick was one of four who interviewed for the position and thought he interviewed very well.

Just then, his cell phone rang and he recognized the number – the chair of the search committee was calling.  Many thoughts rushed through Rick’s mind as he thought about the job.  This is the job he’s dreamed about, and he really wants the position.  His first thought was – he knew they were going to offer him the job.  Now, should he just accept the position or should he negotiate the salary?  Many more thoughts surfaced as he answered the phone.

“Rick, this is Mike Phansey from the search committee in California.  I wanted to call and let you know that we have hired another candidate for the operations management position.”  Stunned, Rick’s excitement quickly turned to depression and the only question Rick could muster was “What went wrong, I thought I interviewed very well”?  Mike was helpful as he shared that all four candidates were qualified and would be a good fit within the organization, but the candidate whom they hired did a great job of following up after the interview.

In the days that followed, Rick decided to conduct some research into how a person should follow up after an interview.  What he found was that most search committees are looking for someone who can solve their problems.  If a person asks the correct questions during the interview, they will know what problems and concerns face the organization.

Secondly, what concerns does each search committee member have about you as a candidate?  You will need to address each of these concerns in a personalized thank you letter.  Since you don’t know which committee member has the greatest influence on the committee, you will want to try to influence each committee member into believing you are the right candidate for the position.

The third finding is that a person will want to properly time their follow-up correspondence.  For example, if you are the first or four candidates to interview, you will want your letter of influence (thank you letter) to arrive the day before the final candidate interivews.  The strategy is that you want the committee members thinking of how great you are while they are interviewing the final person.  If your letter arrives too early, you lose impact due to the passing of time.  If your letter arrives too late, they might have already offered the job.  However, if you are the fourth of four to interview, you will need to send notes of influence very quickly.  In this situation, you might need to send an e-mail instead of a letter.  Regardless of when you interview, you will need to develop a letter of influence, addressing their concerns, and solving their problems.  And this letter needs to be timed properly.

The final finding from his research was that quite often the person who gets the job has outlasted the other candidates.  In other words, they didn’t allow their ego to convince them to withdraw from the search.  Sometimes other candidates are offered the job and they turn down the offer.  Outlast your competition and be ready for the offer when they turn to you as a candidate.

 

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 8 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition.  For more information on our sports careers blog, go to www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

Five Types of Interview Questions

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

During an interview, you will be judged on the answers you provide to interview questions, the delivery of your answers, and how you present yourself.  Therefore, in order to have a successful interview, you must be prepared to effectively answer each of the interview questions.

There are five basic types of interview questions:

  • Personal questions
  • Competency-based questions
  • Performance-based questions
  • Company-based questions
  • Position-specific questions

 Personal Questions

Personal questions are focused on you and your personality.  This includes information on your background, your character, and your value system.  The intent of these questions is to find out if you will be a good fit within the organization.  An example of a personal question is “Tell me about yourself”.

Competency-based Questions

Competency-based questions are designed to determine if you are qualified for the position.  They are focused on your skills, abilities, strengths, and experiences.  An example of a competency-based question is “What are your strengths (or weaknesses)”.

Performance-based Questions

Performance-based questions are also known as behavior-based questions. They are focused on how you have performed in your previous positions or how you would handle a specific problem.  These types of questions are also designed to see if you are qualified for the position and to see if you are a good fit within the organization.  An example of a performance-based question is “What is your greatest accomplishment”.

Company-based Questions

Company-based questions are designed to see if you will be a good fit within the organization.  They are focused on why you want to work for that particular company.  Company-based questions can include “Why do you want to work for us” or “What distinguishes you from the other people we are interviewing today”

Position-specific Questions

Finally, the fifth type of interview question is a position-specific question.  They are designed to test your knowledge about the actual job.  An example of a position-specific question is “What is your management style”.

In order to ace your interview, you will need to be prepared to answer questions from each of these five categories.  You will want to prepare yourself by writing out each possible question that could be asked during an interview, and your corresponding answer.  This is where your sales pitch will come into play.  You should be able to answer most interview questions by using a portion of your sales pitch or the pitch in its entirety.  To find out more about the various questions that you might be asked in an interview, refer to the book “Getting Hired in College Sports”.  Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 8 books.  Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition.  For more information on our sports careers blog, go to www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.