When it comes to job search, it is important to make your application stand out from the rest of the crowd. This can be done through a well-designed online portfolio, a detailed resume or a convincing cover letter. Often overlooked during the job search process are testimonials. Are they really useful?
What is a testimonial?
In the context of a job search, a testimonial is a document of recorded statements that supports your level of expertise, experience and credibility. It can be written by a school teacher, a university professor or your previous employer, meant to position you as a viable candidate in the job market.
You can provide different testimonials from various references as part of your job application, whether as printed documents, PDF files or published together with your online resume and portfolio.
What is the difference between a letter of recommendation & a reference letter?
Reference and recommendation letters are testimonials but they serve slightly different purposes. A reference letter is a general endorsement of an individual’s experience, knowledge, skillsets and character. These are perfect for first-time jobseekers like fresh graduates looking for job opportunities.
Often for such candidates, reference letters are written by their past internship organisations towards the end of the contract or academic professors just before graduation.
On the other hand, recommendation letters are specifically tailored for a job opportunity. It is written by a credible individual whose recommendation is more likely to be acknowledged by a prospective employer based on his/her credentials.
Do letters of recommendation help you get a job?
Letters of recommendation are definitely important for the job search process for various reasons but whether they can help you get a job depends on several factors.
1. Specific & credible
A recommendation letter is more likely to get you a job than a reference letter owing to the level of specificity the former offers and the credential of the person vouching for you.
2. Detailed examples
That said, the letter should not be a mere regurgitation of your resume but rather detailed examples of your work that the author of the letter finds truly remarkable. With that, it is essential to back these examples, wherever possible, with a portfolio of works.
3. Quantity vs quality
Another crucial point to note is the number of letters to provide. While having many letters may seem like a good option to convince the prospective employer of your capabilities, they may not be useful if they do not offer a good variety. What employers look for is versatility.
This goes the same for reference letters – since they are largely generic by nature, having multiple letters depicting the same may not offer the employer much information about you.
If multiple credible persons are able to vouch for your skills albeit from different industries, you have a higher chance of showing your worth.
What if you have no letters of recommendation?
If you do not already have recommendation letters to power up your job search process, it is time to reach out to ask for one. Here is what you can do:
- Get in touch with your past employers, via LinkedIn or email, and request a recommendation letter for the particular job you intend to apply for.
- You may also request a general reference letter as a backup for other job applications you wish to explore.
- Speak to your college or university professors for a possible recommendation or reference letter.
- Request for a reference letter from a close friend or family member unless they have professionally worked with you.
- Fake a testimonial and sign it off under your past employer or professor’s name.
It is important to note, however, that any type of testimonial, be it a recommendation or reference letter, is not a substitute for the qualifications or specific work experience the prospective employer requires. In the event that you are unable to get any type of testimonial ready, focus on finetuning your resume, cover letter and portfolio.