update from the reader applying for a job with someone she’d previously worked for

Remember the reader back in January who asked about writing a cover letter to someone who you’d previously worked for (#6 at the link)? Here’s her update.

First of all, I would just like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your fantastic blog. Without the wonderful and extremely helpful advice from you and your commenters, I am sure that I would still be lost beyond belief at this point. Instead, now a year and a half after graduating, I just accepted my first permanent job offer in my field!

You answered a question of mine about the tone of a cover letter to someone with whom you’ve previously worked. Thanks to your answer, I went on to rock the cover letter as well as the interview, but ultimately lost out on the job due to something completely beyond my control (they needed a native Spanish speaker who would be comfortable talking on the phone in Spanish with Cubans, and that just wasn’t me). However, I took the rejection graciously and kept in contact because they had given me my start in DC with an internship, and they’re all just such great people that I couldn’t possibly be upset with them for too long!

After that, I finished out the other internship I was working at the time, although I was pretty unhappy with the 40-hour/week workload on top of the part-time serving job I needed to make ends meet. Once that ended in May, I took up temp work while continuing to apply and interview for permanent positions. Finally, in the past month or so, I interviewed for a job with a wonderful, highly-regarded organization doing exactly the kind of work I want to get into (communications in the nonprofit NGO world), and just yesterday, they came through with an offer, which I accepted! Oh, and I had applied for this job way back in July, proving that you really can’t hold hiring managers to any one timeline.

As it turns out, what made the difference for me was my references. I had previously been in denial about the importance of having stellar references, and it wasn’t until I finally asked one of mine if she had been contacted that she told me she wasn’t comfortable giving me a reference because of my admittedly less-than-great attitude at the aforementioned internship. Instead of negotiating with her, and realizing that my third reference was no longer reachable at the number I had provided (oops!), I chose to ask two other people if I could list them, and they very enthusiastically obliged. When called, all three raved about me to the hiring manager, and one even went so far as to attend the event the organization was hosting the next day to tell them in person how great I am! I am convinced that my references were one of the biggest factors in the decision to offer me the job.

Once again — and I do apologize for the length of this — thank you so much for all of the lessons your blog has helped me learn over the past year. I am a more dedicated reader now more than ever, although still a very seldom commenter! Maybe now that I’ve been blessed with an offer I’ll be able to pay it forward to other confused, frustrated recent grads and help them realize their potential.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. Jake*

    Awesome op.

    References are the reason I have my job. I could tell after the interview that I’d probably get an offer, but not anything great. He pretty much told me that explicitly. We closed the interview with”I’ll call you Friday.

    4 hours later he called me saying he had checked 3 of my 4 references and he wanted to get me an offer asap. He went over the original posted salary range, and he told me I’d have gotten an offer in the 60 to 70 percent range if I had average references.

  2. Not So NewReader*

    Conrats, OP.
    This is an excellent reminder for all of us to double check each stage of our job search. Although no one particular thing lands us a job there are things that push us, individually, out ahead of the pack.
    You considered the interviewer’s perspective, tweaked what you were doing and you WON.
    Very cool. Wishing you many happy years on your new venture!

  3. Mary*

    Gosh I am surprised that a key element of the job, native Spanish speaker, did not knock you out at the screening of CV’s

    But many congrats on landing your dream job. Onwards and upwards.

    1. Chinook*

      I am not surprised as they probably advertised for a Spanish speaker but, when given the opportunity to horse someone who is a native speakers (and possibly someone who even speaks Cuban Spanish), it was the obvious way to go. We run into the something in Canada – often the job advertises for French speaking but there is a world of difference between grade 12 French, French immersion, native French speaker from abroad, francophone from outside of Quebec and Quebecois francophone. It is much easier to advertise for French speaking and narrow it down from resumes and interviews.

    2. OP*

      OP here – I was a bit surprised too. I think they moved me forward because I had interned with them and they loved me (it’s a very small organization), and they knew I could speak the language, but my verbal skills were not up to par and I’m still far from native-level. In retrospect, I don’t think it would have been a good fit for me.

      And thanks for the congrats :)

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    Maybe the need for the native Spanish speaker was something that only got pointed out at a much later stage during the selection process?

    1. Bwmn*

      I’ve been in a situation where applying for jobs in the nonprofit world that have said XYZ language a plus, or fluency in ABC a plus. Either not having the language skill or fluency level, I’ve applied and a few times made it to the second stage of interviews. At that point, I didn’t get the jobs because there was a candidate (that they possibly didn’t expect to find) that did have those language skills and now the hiring manager is coming up with new/expanded tasks for the job based on actually having such a candidate. Therefore, in the middle of the application process a job I could have done becomes a job with tasks I couldn’t do.

      I would also just like say how much help it can be for a new job seeker to have a reference tell you “I can’t serve as a reference for you”. I’m sure that such a conversation can be very awkward for the reference to give, but I know that early in my job hunting it really helped out. Having a reference just disappear and not respond to emails/calls on some level always allows the job seeker to think “maybe their just busy or it’s something on their end”. However receiving a direct answer can really help someone change their act and build better relationships with other references.

  5. A Teacher*

    This very post reminds me why I tell my kids in the career classes every year why good connections are so impotent! Congrats to you.

      1. A Teacher*

        As long as our public record on. Comment board isn’t held against us…

        Agreed. I actually had a situation where one of my students went off and was really rude to her peers and myself, after I wrote her letter if recommendation and did the survey for the common app. She’s applying to some big time schools and had me write the recommendation because of my health care background. After she did that, I had t decide if I should pull the recommendation or not…my assistant principal thought I should because losing a good reference is a life consequence. I ended up not doing it because I don’t want to mess up someone’s future but I did us it s a teaching moment for all if my students.

  6. Anonymous for this one*

    References are also why I have my job. I was laid off awhile back. 47 days after layoff, I got offer #1. 7 days later, I get offer #2. While I sourced #1 on my own, my old boss knows the VP which pretty much sealed the deal for me.

    I never applied to #2. My old HR person used to work with HR person at #2 and sent my résumé over when the second company had heard we were doing layoffs and asked for resumes. My new boss is also neighbors with a VP at old job and I was informed during the interview with new boss that “he knew what my deal was.”

    I accepted #2. All in all, it represents a 25% raise over old job, and TBH, I’m fairly certain I would have left old job voluntarily for it. I just wasn’t looking, so didn’t know they were hiring. In fact, #2 reached out to me before they even posted the ad.

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