How to get the best recommendations for a job

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In a world of increased advertising techniques, technology and social media, many turn to peers for advice. In fact, 90 percent of people trust peer recommendations as opposed to the 14 percent that trust advertising, according to a social media video by Eric Qualman.

This trend of recommendations does not only affect products. Karleen Harp, founder of ResumeSmith in San Diego, Calif., has more than 15 years experience in human resources and knows how important references are to job seekers.

“Everyone wants to say they are a results-oriented team player, but employers aren’t going to take your word for it,” Harp said.

BYU students can receive guidance about references through University Career Services. However, there are a few steps every student should take in securing a recommendation:

1. Clean up. 

Gary Kayye, adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina and owner of rAVe Publications, said the very first step students should take is cleaning up their pasts, especially on social media.

“Things on social media are forever,” he said. “It’s hard to clean up your past in the future.”

Students should take down inappropriate comments, connections or pictures that potential employers and references can find. Kayye said that even networks such as Myspace that are no longer used should be cleaned.

2. Know whom to ask.

Picking the right reference is another important step. Students need both professional and personal references, which show a person’s character. Harp said recommendations should come from people who have seen your work and can talk about it.

“Quality references are given by people who are familiar with your accomplishments, strengths, and goals,” Harp said. “Make sure they are meaningful, or the strong ones will get diluted by the fluff.”

Marguerite Driessen, adjunct faculty and former BYU law school professor, said students should build relationships with professors they get along with and become memorable to them. However, students should only ask from those who can give favorable references.

“Don’t ask for recommendations from people who don’t like you,” Driessen said.

3. Planning is everything.

Students should give an adequate amount of time to a reference to complete a recommendation. Driessen said to know what is required in the recommendation and be able to explain it clearly.

“Make it as easy on the professor as possible,” she said.

Harp said to identify those whom you’d like to ask for recommendations and then have a meeting with them explaining your goals, sharing a copy of your resume. They should know if and when a call will come asking for a recommendation.

“Based on their feedback, you’ll know if it’s a good potential reference and you can ask if they would mind sharing their thoughts with employers,” Harp said.

4. Brand yourself. 

“Showing endorsements on a resume is one of my favorite ways to demonstrate personal brand,” Harp said. She also uses social media to leverage recommendations.

Kayye teaches a class called “The Branding of Me” and said that students should not only get recommendations to put on their resumes, but also collect recommendations on LinkedIn and Facebook. He teaches his students to create a simple website where a portfolio, social media feeds, resume and recommendations can be displayed and shared.

“That becomes your living resume,” he said.

No matter what the discipline or career goals, students can benefit greatly from having a solid recommendations. When used alongside a resume and polished portfolio, students become competitive forces in the working world.

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