Resumes - Use A Testimonial To Make A Great Impression

Expert Author Lorraine E. Wright
Testimonials. You see them everywhere. Quotes in a magazine ad from people extolling the virtues of a new diet, a TV ad where someone is raving about the difference a new anti-wrinkle cream has made to her life, or perhaps a photo and short quote on the Internet from someone who has found true romance through an online dating service. Testimonials have long been part of the advertising business because they're so effective. But have you ever seen a testimonial on a resume? Possibly not, because they're still somewhat uncommon.
It may seem strange to suggest you use an advertising technique on your resume, but remember: a resume is a marketing tool. Its whole purpose is to market you as a great employee. It shows that you are a tried and true investment, and projects an image of a competent, experienced, valuable employee. Ultimately, it can persuade a hiring manage that it is well worth the time to interview you.
Why do testimonials work?
  1. They're eye-catching and different: Hiring managers can look through 200 resumes or more to fill one job, and they're only human. After a while their eyes start to glaze over, seeing the same cookie-cutter resume format over and over. A well-written, well-placed testimonial will jump out at them, and wake them up a little!
  2. They're third person: Of course you're going to say you're a team player with great leadership skills who thinks outside the box and gets great results - it's YOUR RESUME!It's much more compelling and meaningful if a third person, preferably a former boss or manager, is willing to go on record as saying really positive things about you and what you bring to the job.
  3. They bring in the human element: On their resume, people tend to use words like hard-working, detail-oriented, enthusiastic, etc., to describe themselves, but a testimonial can highlight certain qualities you have that you might not feel comfortable attributing to yourself. A good testimonial, while emphasizing a person's professionalism, may also refer to his or her great sense of humour, compassion, or popularity among co-workers and clients.
Where can I get a testimonial? The best sources are awards, letters of reference, former employers, professors (if you've just graduated), satisfied clients, or business associates. If you don't have something you can use, call up a former boss or business associate you feel comfortable approaching, and explain what you need. Assuming you left the job on good terms, people are usually happy to help out. Don't tell them what to say, because that would border on unethical, but ask them to write a few sentences, and mention you may only use selected parts of their testimonial. Very Important: Make sure you have the person's permission to use this information on your resume. No exceptions.
What should a testimonial look like? Here are some guidelines, with examples:
The testimonial must be relevant to the job or field you're applying to: For someone applying to be a Sales Manager:
Good: "John was a loyal and enthusiastic sales manager, and because of his focused and competitive style, his division led the field in national sales for 3 years running."-Peter Topguy, C.E.O., Giantico Company
Bad:" John was the best landscaper we ever had. Too bad he left to go into sales, we could have used 10 more like him!"- Bill Groundsman, Pleasantville Golf Course
The higher level the job you're applying to, the more impressive your testimonial should be: For someone seeking a job as a Plant Manager:
Good: "John Jobseeker played an integral role in identifying inefficient processes and transitioning work to an outside vendor, thus reducing plant costs by $1.5M in 2009." -J.P. Magnate, President, Magnate Inc.
Bad: "John Jobseeker was always a great guy to know. He was always friendly, and never too busy to give me the time of day." -Jake Guy, Elevator Operator, Magnate Inc.
It doesn't have to be stuffy, but it shouldn't be too informal: For someone seeking a position as a Research Assistant:
Good: "I appreciated how Sarah always showed an eye for detail, a willingness to go the extra mile, and impeccable ethics. I would hire her again in a minute." -Mary Manager, Supervisor, Smith Labs.
Bad: "A good employee? Man, Sarah's the best. Funny, smart, very cool." -Lily Coworker, Lab Assistant, Smith Labs.
Make sure the testimonial isn't bland or generic, and adds something extra to your resume: For someone applying for a job as an Executive Assistant:
Good: "Rebecca was always efficient, punctual, and dedicated to making my office run like a well-oiled machine. Her sense of humour and innate ability to handle difficult situations with tact will be greatly missed." -Joan McBoss, C.F.O., Smith Industries Inc.
Bad: " When Rebecca Jobseeker was my assistant, she did the filing, answered the phones, did all the correspondence, and also various other stuff." - Paul Oversight, Chief Accountant, Smith Industries Inc.
Make sure the testimonial is from a work-related source: For someone applying to be a chef in a restaurant:
Good: "Michael Jobseeker is a chef with immense flair, dedication and creativity. He had a gift for creating dishes that were unusual yet very popular among our clientele." -Pierre Maitre, Head Chef, Chez Paris Bistro
Bad: "Everything Michael Jobseeker cooks is a delight. The dinner he cooked me on Mother's Day was a dream come true!" - Maria Jobseeker, Mother
What kind of format should I use? Basically, you need a few sentences in quotes, followed by the name, title and company of the person being quoted. Some people include a phone number as well for easy confirmation.
Where should I put it? Some people put the testimonials in a separate box somewhere on the first page. Others put it between two horizontal lines, in a slightly different font, perhaps italics. Really, though, it's up to you. Just keep it clear, easy to read, eye-catching but not obtrusive.
Final note of caution: Used correctly, a testimonial can be very effective. Used badly, it can be just plain embarrassing and look amateurish. If you feel you're up to the challenge, great. If you're not good at formatting or design, the words "Don't try this at home" may apply to you. If this applies to you, it's probably best to leave it off altogether or ask a professional resume writer for help.
If you do decide to use a testimonial, you may find it's a powerful weapon in your job-search artillery.

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