All too frequently, the job search process is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you are going to get! Just as chocolate obscures the marashino cherries I try to avoid, you can land in a job that isn't a fit even if it seems perfect for you. Lurking under the smooth polish of the hiring manager's desk --hidden Internal politics, mis-aligned job functions, and unhappy previous employees.
I don't know about you, but I don't like surprises. And neither do employers. If you've ever worked in a job that's the wrong fit for you, you know how painful it can be. In order to avoid this, I advocate research: An look for clues on organizational dynamics throughout the application process--from talking to others who've worked there before, to asking questions about work environment and culture--and observing interactions between colleagues during interviews.
This week, I wanted to let you know about a new service designed to help job seekers and employers know "what they're getting into." Come Recommended features job opportunities for internships and entry-level positions that requires all participants--both employers and potential employees--to have three recommendations before you can join. I asked the Founder of Come Recommended, Heather Huhman to explain how the site works, and how to get great recommendations. Here is our Q & A:
1. Tell us about Come Recommended: Why is the site an efficient way to find your next opportunity?
Come Recommended is an exclusive online community connecting the best internship and entry-level job candidates with the best employers. Unlike other exclusive recruiting networks, Come Recommended requires both candidates and employers provide at least three recommendations before accessing the community and its features.
As someone who has been in nearly every employment-related situation possible, I founded the site--in part--as a result of my passion for helping students and recent college graduates pursue their dream careers. I wanted to create a community that made this possible in an easy and affordable way--particularly in this tough job market. Additionally, as an experienced hiring manager, I know the difficulties employers face when looking for that perfect candidate. A community like Come Recommended can help close this gap and make the hiring process easier for everyone.
The idea behind Come Recommended--creating an opportunity for highly recommended employers and candidates to meet and network in an online setting--just makes sense. Internship and entry-level job candidates and employers can “pre-screen” each other via comprehensive online profiles, real-time instant messaging, webcam interviews, and of course, detailed recommendations, all on the same Come Recommended platform.
2. How do you recommend users prepare to "get recommended"? Can you share best practices for job seekers to use in providing information to those who recommend them? (i.e. current copy of resume, example of what they've done in past positions, etc.)
I have two “golden rules” when it comes to references:
Rule #1: Ask your intended references if they would be willing to serve as your references.
Rule #2: Ask your intended references what they would say about you if called by a hiring manager. You don’t want any surprises!
Don’t think you have individuals in your life who could serve as job references? For internship and entry-level job candidates, references can include current or previous employers, industry professionals (who you know well and who know you well), professors/teachers and other non-family members who can speak about you either professionally or personally (i.e., your character).
No one fits the bill? Make it your number-one priority to develop references. Typically you are asked to provide three (at most, one personal reference). While you will likely update your reference list throughout your career as you meet and work with new people, your initial group will help you secure positions throughout and immediately after college. It is essential you make these connections.
3. What's the biggest mistake you've seen job seekers make in terms of "how to get recommended"?
Not following the two rules above, or faking references completely.
4. How does Come Recommended potentially change the hiring process from the employer's perspective? From the candidate's experience?
Instead of the reference check coming at the end of the hiring process, Come Recommended moves it right to the beginning. This is huge, particularly on the employer’s end. Knowing you haven’t wasted your time conducting several interviews with a candidate just to be disappointed during the reference check is game changing, in my opinion.
Of course, most recent graduates leave their first jobs out of college within two years, and the experience typically leaves a very bad taste in their mouths—possibly encouraging them to rethink their career paths altogether. So, if the candidate is more informed before even getting to the application process by reading a profile of the organization not found anywhere else, this situation can possibly be avoided. Again, game changing.
5. What inspired you to create Come Recommended, and how can individuals become part of the community?
Well, it all started when I set out to fill my very first job as a hiring manager—an entry-level position for a small public relations firm. We received nearly 100 applications after posting the position to both Craigslist and WashingtonPost.com. I scoured the stack looking for ways to “weed out” candidates and identify ones with potential.
Finally, I narrowed the list down to five and started making calls. My “phone screens” have always been fairly in-depth because of the position I held with this company. If I brought someone in, he or she would meet with the principal of the firm, and I certainly didn’t want to waste any of her valuable time. I vividly remember loving one candidate for this position in particular on paper and during the phone interview—at least until I asked if she had any questions. Her question? “So, what do you alls do over there?” No, that isn’t a typo.
I remember feeling so frustrated that I had just spent 45 minutes of time on this candidate—not to mention the time sifting through all the applications—that I could have been billing to clients. There had to be a better way.
I think I knew then I would found Come Recommended, although I didn’t have the name picked out or all the details firmly outlined. That moment came much later—after interviewing countless candidates and hundreds of young professionals and hiring managers in my role as the entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com. Even though I recognize there will never be a “perfect” solution or a “one-stop shop” for candidates and employers, Come Recommended is certainly a step in the right direction.
Many experts now claim traditional online job boards are dead. They have become behemoths, bogged down by fake or misleading job ads and résumés of unqualified candidates. And although I encourage candidates not to leave combing the job boards out of their search plan, that action alone simply isn’t enough anymore.
The way hiring managers seek out and employ individuals is changing—rapidly. With the slumping economy, they are experiencing cuts in their staffs, resources and overall budgets. Now, networking, referrals and references reign supreme. And on the flip side, it is taking candidates longer and longer to find internships and entry-level jobs, again because of the economy. But, the problem is, even when the economy recovers—and it will, with time—the days of only posting your position on a traditional online job board or blasting out your résumé to potential employers is over. Both sides deserve more.