12 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Job References

Get the most out of your job references - it can make all the difference in obtaining the job!

Get the most out of your job references – it can make all the difference in obtaining the job!

When it comes to asking for a job reference, there’s a method that borders on an art form. But, it’s necessary to do so because anytime you’re looking for a job, whether you’re in the job search now or in the future, you’re going to be asked for references. And, it’s always good to have them in your back pocket.

Depending on who you’re planning to ask, the situation can vary. A former employer or colleague, for example, is handled quite differently than say, character references such as professors or fellow volunteers.

Remember, whomever you decide you’d like to use as a job reference must give their consent first. You never want someone to appear unprepared or caught off-guard when contacted by a potential employer as it would reflect upon you as both unprofessional and unprepared.

The following are some tips to help you get the most out of your job references:

1. Always Pick Professional Over Personal

When it comes to job references, the rule to follow is always professional references trump personal references. It makes sense seeing as you’re applying for a professional position, not to be someone’s friend or relative.

That means you should never ask a friend, roommate or relative to be your reference – stick to people who can speak to your work ethic and skills. If a colleague also happens to be a friend, that’s a different story.

The “personal” references you ask should never be too personal, like family or friends, because those people are always considered biased. People you volunteer with, community leaders, professors make good personal references – not your buddies.

2. Ask the Right References for Each Specific Job Position

One of the key mistakes people make in terms of job references is maintaining the same job references no matter which job position they are pursuing.

Similar to your resume and cover letter, you should tailor who you use as job references to the position you are seeking.

Think about the skills and qualities that the job title you are looking to obtain requires and choose references that can speak to those specific qualities.

3. Address the Current Boss Issue

If you’re currently employed and are not including your current boss as a reference, make sure to explain why to your employer.

Most likely, it’s because they aren’t aware that you’re currently searching for a new job, which most potential employers will understand.

Not addressing why you’re not including your current boss, however, might send up red flags to your potential employer, so it’s always best to address the issue.

4. Don’t Ask Someone Over E-mail

Think about it: you’re asking someone for a very personal favor and you can’t even pick up the phone and call? Better yet, why not take them to lunch or out to coffee?

It’s important that you maintain a strong personal relationship with anyone who you would like to be your reference, especially because they could hold the key to your future job opportunities.

Additionally, maintaining contact could open the door to future opportunities (ahem, networking) so a little added effort goes a long way.

5. Tell Your References Where You’ll Be Using Them as a Reference

People don’t like to be caught off-guard and being interviewed as a job reference is no exception. Let your references know where you’re applying so that, if they receive a call, they’ll already recognize the name of the company and know that’s why they are being contacted.

If you know the name of the person who may be contacting your references, it’s also helpful to share that information as well.

This will benefit you, as well, because it will help your reference come across as more prepared to take the call.

6. Give Your References Details of the Job(s) to Which You’re Applying

It’s important to give each of your references descriptions of the jobs you’re apply for, including job specifications, what they are looking for in a job candidate and information about the company.

That way, your references can tailor their responses to speak to your strengths that apply to the particular position and company you’re applying for, rather than giving generic responses.

7. Send Your References Your Resume

Once someone has agreed to be your reference, send them your updated resume so that they are able to speak to your experiences, talents and skills.

While they may be able to do so without your resume, it’s helpful to jog their memory on all of your past experience and have a list of your attributes in front of them.

It’s difficult to recall someone’s personal history on the spot, so they will likely appreciate having it on hand.

8. Ask for a General Letter of Reference from Each Reference

Great! They agreed to be your job reference. Usually, that ends with someone contacting them from the job to which you are applying. It’s also true that employers generally prefer to speak to references.

However, it’s smart to ask for a general reference letter from each reference that agrees to be your job reference from now until the end of time.

But, you must make sure these letters include each references name, title and contact information. Otherwise, employers don’t know who wrote the letter (and, honestly, could even assume you wrote it yourself)!

That way, you can build up a stock of reference letters to include with your resume and cover letter, which will look great on your behalf.

It also means you won’t need to go back to them each time you’re applying for a position. You could just provide the employer with the letter and updated contacted information, if necessary.

Or, you can save your reference letters for an added advantage, should you need it during certain stages of the job application process (say it comes down to you and another candidate). Obtaining such letters speak to your job history and the fact that you have plenty of positive references shows you’re a great candidate for any job.

9. Ensure You Have Your Reference’s Correct & Complete Information

Your list of job references should be listed out and given to your employer on a separate sheet of paper.

The details you should include for each job reference to provide to potential employers should include:

• Reference’s Full Name
• Current Job Title
• Company Name
• Business Address
• Contact Information (Daytime Telephone Number; E-mail; Cell Phone Number, etc.)
• The reference’s relationship to you/ How you know this reference

10. Make Sure Your Reference Knows What They May Be Asked

While you don’t necessarily need to coach your reference, you want to ensure they are prepared for the typical questions job references are asked.

Also, make sure they are able to provide concrete examples to back up their answers, just as one would within a job interview.

Employers typically ask similar questions of job references, such as:

• How do you know this job candidate?
• How long have you known this job candidate?
• What’s this candidate’s attitude toward work like?
• How would you rate this candidate’s communications abilities?
• How well does the candidate work under pressure?
• How well does the candidate take constructive criticism?
• How would you rate this candidate’s skills in XYZ?
• Does this candidate interact with co-workers well?
• Do you consider this candidate to be a team player?
• Can you describe the candidate’s leadership and/or management skills? • What do you feel are this candidate’s key strengths?
• What do you feel are this candidate’s key weaknesses?
• How would you rate this candidate in terms of honesty and integrity?
• How open is he or she to new ideas and procedures?
• Given the role this candidate is applying for, in your opinion, is this candidate a good match?
• If you were hiring for a similar position, would you hire this candidate?
• Do you have any additional information or comments that might help us make a better decision?

11. Make Sure You Know What Your References Will Say

If you’re concerned a reference may not say great things about you, you probably shouldn’t use them as a references.

If, however, your options are limited and you’re in a bind, you do have an option to find out what they will say about you by hiring a job reference verification service. For a fee, the company will contact your reference as a potential employer and report to you on what your reference said.

While this isn’t the best option, it is one helpful way to find out before referencing them for a job, just in case, so you don’t get negatively referenced for the position in which you’re seeking.

12. Always Thank Your References

Since they agreed to help you with your job search, make sure to thank your references – regardless of if you obtained the job. Some companies won’t contact any of your references and some may only contact a select number.

That’s irrelevant to you, however. All of your references kindly agreed to help with your job search and should be thanked, regardless of whether they were utilized or not, or if your job search was successful.

A simple thank you note is common courtesy and it maintains your relationship, should you need further references in the future.

Elizabeth Hoyt, March 02, 2015


31 Money Saving Tricks for Students

Keep in mind that the key to financial success is being aware of how you’re spending your money and cutting out the bad habits.

Keep in mind that the key to financial success is being aware of how you’re spending your money and cutting out the bad habits.

Do you have fine wine tastes on a cheap beer budget? It’s ok – most college students are living on a budget. If not, they’re likely students getting themselves into a cycle of debt.

While neither is fun or easy, you can become smarter about the way you spend your money. Keep in mind that the key to financial success is being aware of how you’re spending your money.

Also, know that there’s a difference between being cheap and having spending savvy. There’s nothing wrong with living within your means, rather than beyond.

Stretch your dollar further with the following money-saving tips:

1. Buy or rent used textbooks and sell last semester’s books back.

2. Don’t make impulse purchases.

3. Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

4. Limit the number of times you eat out monthly.

5. Cut out vices – smoking and binge drinking are terrible for you and expensive.

6. Always pay bills on time to avoid late fees.

7. If you have a credit card, pay it off as quickly as possible. (It’s good to establish credit, but a bad credit score follows you everywhere.)

8. Walk, use public transportation or ride a bike instead of having a car.

9. Live with others so you can split rent and utilities.

10. Cut out expensive cable packages you don’t need.

11. Consider more basic phone packages and plans or plans that include unlimited texting with free incoming calls

12. Don’t buy the most expensive college meal plans. Figure out what you actually consume and get the correlating package.

13. Shop where they offer student discounts. There are so many places that offer discounts to students with a school ID.

14. Look into a campus gym versus a gym in town. Many colleges offer memberships for free or at a reduced rate for students.

15. When planning meals, make dinner with friends and split the cost of groceries. Often times, you’ll be cooking too much for one person anyway!

16. Sell what you no longer use or need. There are plenty of stores and web sites, like Poshmark and Craigslist, where you can sell your used clothing, furniture or tech items.

17. Don’t buy unnecessary school supplies. Why buy cumbersome notebooks when you can type on your laptop? It’s better for the earth anyway!

18. Don’t buy books you will only need for a short period of time – check them out from the library instead.

19. Take advantage of what your campus has to offer in terms of activities, rather than spending money on going out. Many campuses have an array of museums, offer movie nights and other social events for cheaper or, sometimes, for free.

20. Skip expensive spring break and summer trips – look into alternatives, like volunteering, instead.

21. Wait to get a pet until after college – a pet can become very expensive. Not only do you have another mouth to feed, but veterinary bills are costly. If you love animals, there are plenty of shelters that need volunteers.

22. Go to class. You’re paying for it and skipping is like throwing money out the window!

23. Drink water. It’s free and better for you, anyway.

24. Make your own coffee. While coffee shops are convenient, they charge hefty prices that really add up over time.

25. Open a savings account that earns interest. Credit unions have fewer fees and are great for students.

26. Use a free tool, like FinAid’s Student Budget Calculator or the one offered by Mint.com, to keep track of your finances. It’s harder to be frivolous when you see where your money is going.

27. Never take out a loan for anything that’s unrelated to your education.

28. Don’t buy music. Use the free services like Spotify or Pandora offer.

29. Look into class requirements and the options for testing out of classes. Why pay for a class you could easily test out of?

30. Consider becoming a resident advisor. Many get free room and board.

31. Avoid buying name brand items. Purchase generic items whenever possible. They are exactly the same item, at a highly reduced price. You can even check the ingredients to make sure!

Written By: Elizabeth Hoyt, July 31, 2015

How to Survive on a Student Budget

With a few tips and tricks, budgeting can become second nature.

With a few tips and tricks, budgeting can become second nature.

Students often find themselves in a pickle: they’re used to that cushy lifestyle they’re accustomed to with Mom and Dad.

Once they have to begin budgeting, they find it’s not as easy as it looks.

It gets better – honestly!

With a few tips and tricks, budgeting can become second nature. You just need to know how to begin.

So, here’s how:

Utilize Technology –

With a smart phone, who needs a recipe book or an alarm clock? You can also use helpful apps and web sites, like Mint.com, to create and stick to a budget.

Utilize the Web –

Before making a big purchase, do your research on the web.

Compare prices online, check out web sites that offer used or items and look into sites that list which places offers student deals.

Also, you can looks for cheap ways to entertain yourself because, on the whole, college campuses offer plenty of activities for free (often with free food, too) and they’re often listed on your college’s web site.

Utilize Your Student Status –

Did you know that a lot of places, from grocery to retail stores, offer student discounts?

Ask everywhere you go – from the movies to buying a new top – just in case they give a student discount.

Utilize Carpools –

If you’re going home to visit often or if you live off-campus, gas can get expensive.

Offer to ride with friends so you can share the gas costs.

Utilize Coupons –

We’re not suggesting you become a coupon-crazed maniac but, when every cent matters, coupons can make all the difference when added up to dollar amounts!

Check out websites for coupon codes when shopping online or printable coupons when shopping in store.

Utilize Meal Planning –

It’s pretty difficult to cook for one person. Why not plan meals with friends and roommates, share in the cost of ingredients and enjoy a meal together? It actually sounds pretty fun!

Utilize Bulk Discounts –

If you go in on everyday items shared with roommates, like toilet paper and paper towels, it can be a lot more cost-effective.

Bonus: you’ll be prepared with massive amounts of dish detergent should the apocalypse arrive.

Written By: Elizabeth Hoyt, July 07, 2015

What to Do About Senioritis

Does your senior have senioritis?

Does your senior have senioritis?

If your once-motivated child seems to be losing interest in academics, the reason could be senioritis. This all-too-common malady sometimes causes even the most dedicated students to slack off and tune out their senior year. Unfortunately, this can be the worst time for taking it easy. Colleges may make admission dependent on continued academic performance. Many look at senior-year course loads and grades to make sure applicants are up to college-level course work. What can you do to help your senior stay motivated? Just reminding your child of the importance of senior year may help. It also takes your nonjudgmental encouragement and continued support to keep your child focused on success.

Help Your Child Make Senior Year Count

Your senior has worked hard for three years, taking tests, completing projects and preparing for college admission. At this point, many seniors are tempted to just get through college applications and relax before heading off to college. Warn your child not to yield to this temptation.

Taking it easy during 12th grade — or developing senioritis, as some call a senior-year slump — is likely to do more harm than good. Although your child’s goal is in sight — graduating from high school and entering college — school isn’t over yet and college admission officers are still paying close attention to your child’s performance.

Senior-Year Grades and College Admission

Many students mistakenly believe that preparing for college ends after the 11th grade or the first semester of senior year. However, senior year — the entire senior year — is actually of particular interest to colleges.


Many college applications require a list of senior courses, including information about course levels and credit hours. It will be obvious to admission officers if your child has decided to take the year off.

As part of the application process, many colleges include a midyear grade report form. The school counselor completes this form with first-semester grades and sends it to the colleges to which your child has applied. It then becomes a crucial part of your child’s application.

If Your Child Is Accepted

Often, college acceptance letters include warnings to students such as “Your admission is contingent on your continued successful performance.” This means colleges reserve the right to withdraw an offer of admission should your child’s senior year grades drop. Colleges ask high schools to send them the final, year-end transcripts of the students they’ve accepted. Again, a senior slump will be obvious.

Keeping Your Child Focused Senior Year

Senior year is your child’s opportunity to strengthen skills and broaden experience, in school and out, to prepare for all the challenges ahead. A successful senior year can help launch your child on the path to a successful future.

As Stanley E. Henderson, associate provost at the University of Illinois, explains, “Just as you would want to be in top condition for the start of an athletic season, so, too, do you want to be in top condition for the academic season … The habits you form now — your academic strength conditioning — will either help or hurt you in your transition from high school to college.” (College Counseling Sourcebook, 6th edition, College Board)

Maintaining a Challenging Course Load

To gear up for college, your child should take the most rigorous courses available and be sure to continue taking college-track subjects. Encourage your child to consider taking AP® courses and exams, which can also earn credit at many colleges.

Colleges check seniors’ transcripts not only to make sure that they’ve maintained their grades but also to see if they dropped any classes in senior year. They want to make sure that there have not been any major changes to the applicant’s academic program.

Staying Active and Involved

Continued involvement in activities, sports and volunteer work helps your child stay active and focused throughout senior year. A great internship or career-focused job opportunity may motivate students to start considering career options. Meaningful and significant experiences help prepare your child to make informed decisions about education and career goals.

Trying Out College Early

If your child is interested in pursuing a subject further, and has excelled at high school classes so far, encourage taking a class at a local college. This challenge can prevent an academic slump, and stimulate interest in the possibilities of college.

In many areas, schools allow students to spend their last two years taking classes in both college and high school. Early exposure to college classes introduces your child to the rigor of college work while easing the transition from high school.

6 Tips to Sticking to Your College Budget


6 Tips to Sticking to Your College Budget

As you’re prepping to head off to college, it’s likely that budgeting is on your mind. You have a budget but how do you stick to it? We scoured our team here at American Express Serve for tips on sticking to a budget in college. Here are some of the best suggestions we heard:

Keep your receipts

The last thing you want to do is make a budget only to look back at the end of the semester and wonder where all that money went. Black hole? That same ghost that steals 1 of every sock pair? Make sure to track your spending either via keeping the paper receipts or by signing up for an account, like an American Express Serve® Account, which allows you to track your spending online.

Use the buddy-system while shopping

If you’re headed out shopping for some dorm room supplies — make a list, share it with your buddy, and make a pact not to buy anything that’s not on your list. It sounds simple, but using peer pressure for good (saving) instead of evil works.

Give yourself a fake due date

Late fees (un-needed spending with no return) are a huge enemy of a budget. Instead of counting on conquering your procrastination – set your due date for payment to 10 days before any bill is due. You can do this by setting up notifications in your calendar or setting up regular payments with the merchant. You can also make quick payments using your American Express Serve Account online bill pay feature, by storing the merchant information for recurring payments.

Make your budget top of mind

The only thing that reminds you of your budget shouldn’t be going online or to your spreadsheet to check it. Put a visual reminder on your desktop (an image that represents saving to you or a picture of that spring break trip you want to take) or set up automated emails to send to yourself bi-weekly on Monday morning. The best way to exceed your budget is to forget about it.

Only pay your share of the bill

Whether it’s utilities for your apartment, or dinner off-campus — splitting the check will become your norm in college. Make sure to always have a way to pay only your share. This sounds straightforward, but it’s more difficult than you think. Check out cards or services that provide peer-to-peer payment capabilities. An American Express Serve® Account allows you to send and receive money notifications by email and text(1). Or, you can take it back old school and carry cash.

Reward yourself!

Positive reinforcement has applications beyond your first Psych 101 exam. Create a positive association to sticking to your monthly or semester budget by rewarding yourself. Whether it’s a movie night with friends or dessert after dinner, even the smallest of rewards can help.

Sticking to a budget is always easier said than done but we hope that at least one or two of these tips helps you out!

The Basics of Developing a High School Resume


The Basics of Developing a High School ResumeA résumé is an important part of your college application. The high school résumé is a snapshot of YOU, a concise summary!

Maybe you think a résumé is something that is only used for a job interview. Not so! A résumé is an important part of your college application. In fact, everyone should have a high school résumé.

A high school résumé summarizes your achievements, talents, and interests. It is a great way to showcase what you have done during your high school years, who you are, and what you can contribute to a college campus.

But, how does a high school student create a résumé? It’s easy! Just follow these steps and when you have finished, you will have a clear, easy-to-read anecdotal history of your high school career.

Let’s begin by listing the major sections of a high school résumé.

  • The Heading: (contains personal information)
  • Academic Profile: (contains high school information)
  • In-School Activities
  • Interscholastic Athletics
  • Academic/Other Recognitions
  • Work Experience
  • Summer Programs/Community Activities
  • Volunteer Services
  • Avocational Interests
  • To complete the first 2 major sections (Heading and Academic Profile) requires only factual information.
  • First type The Heading in bold. Then type your full birth name, social security number (“x”ing out the first 2 sets of numbers and only stating the last 4 for security reasons), and name of high school in one column on the left; then type your street address, name of city, state and zip code, telephone number, and email address in another column on the right hand side.
  • Between the 2 lists, insert a copy of your graduation photo to personalize your résumé. (To SEE what this should look like contact Erinn at info@granted4u.com for a sample )
  • Next type in bold font, Academic Profile. Under this section title, state the name of the high school(s) that you attended and the dates of attendance; the type of curriculum you studied (Honors? AP? College Prep? General? or Vocational/Technical?); your GPA through your junior year; your class rank, and your SAT and/or ACT scores.
  • Now for the remaining sections, start brainstorming!
  • Hopefully, you have kept an on-going brag sheet of all of your accomplishments since you entered high school but if you haven’t, it might be wise to sit down with your parents and friends so that they can help jog your memory as you compile your list.
  • Take each section listed in #1 above one at a time and simply list everything that you have done that is appropriate for each section. These sections should be listed in chronological order, but organize your extracurricular activities and avocational interests in order of importance to you.
  • Fill in the details!
  • Beside each activity or achievement, state the school year that you participated in the activity or received the honor. Then describe the purpose of the club/activity/honor and most importantly briefly describe your specific contribution(s) to the activity.
  • Tip! Any leadership or honor from your involvement in any activity should be italicized to emphasize its importance, and the year that you were selected for the position or honor should be noted.
  • Finally, denote the number of hours per week per year you devoted to the activity.Review your final product.
  • Tip! Do not include those activities in which you spent one hour or less per week.
  • Make sure your high school résumé is rich with details and personalizes your college application! This is the time to brag, to sell yourself, to make the admissions committee want you on their campus! Be truthful, but DO NOT undersell yourself!
  • Perhaps, you should even consider using professional resume writers like Resume Edge give it one final polish so you will truly have a perfect product to submit with your application.
  • Note: Because your résumé will have lots of details it may take more than one page. For each new page make sure to put in your name on each page, in case pages are separated. Also make sure to restate the heading under which you were working from the last page: Work experience Cont.