Goodbye traditional job references, hello testimonial sheets

I have named this tool the “testimonial sheet,” and it’s basically just a document that lists short quotes (one paragraph of two to three sentences) you receive from patients, employers, co-workers, and possibly others familiar with the professional you. The idea is to include the testimonial sheet with your cover letter and resume, making the entire package more of a kit that you send to potential employers.

Perrytestimonials

By Doug Perry

When dental hygienists hire me to help with their resume, I interview them to get a feel for who they are, and to learn things I can use to help differentiate or position them in the job market. Many hygienists comment on how patients “love” them, or the hygienist will have received “high praise” from co-workers, employers, and others. That’s awesome!

We all love receiving positive feedback in any form, from verbal pats on the back to formally written reviews. It makes you feel good, and it motivates you to want to do more, be even more spectacular.

So how you can you use this information when seeking a new job? Live (phone or in-person) and written references have been the traditional format, and they have a place as some employers still use them.

But, I’ve been encouraging my clients to take a slightly different approach and it has been very effective. I won’t say it’s a clincher; let’s be honest, there’s lots of factors that play into the decision of who to hire. However, it is evident that this easy-to-create job-hunting tool really adds to the professionalism and depth of your entire presentation as a job seeker.

The Testimonial Sheet

I have named this tool the “testimonial sheet,” and it’s basically just a document that lists short quotes (one paragraph of two to three sentences) you receive from patients, employers, co-workers, and possibly others familiar with the professional you. The idea is to include the testimonial sheet with your cover letter and resume, making the entire package more of a kit that you send to potential employers.

Here are some guidelines to follow when creating the testimonial sheet:

  • Make it match: Make sure it matches the design scheme (graphics, color, fonts) of your cover letter and resume.
  • Gather throughout career: Gather as many quotes as you possibly can over your career. Just keep a running file of them. Make it a goal to gather a new one each month.
  • One page: Only include a page worth of your best quotes. You should be able to fit between about six and nine quotes on a page, depending on the length of each.
  • More is better: It’s way better to have lots of different quotes than a few really long ones. Show potential employers you have lots of fans, not just a few.
  • Written or verbal: Don’t worry if you don’t have it in writing, it’s perfectly fine to take something that was said to you verbally and write it down. But I would suggest you ask for permission to use their quote (what they said to you) on your testimonial sheet.
  • Name and date: Include the name and possibly the date the feedback was given. But be extra-sensitive when using names. You need to verify with each person that it would be okay to use their quote and name on this document. If you still feel uneasy about it, only include their first name. You could put “name withheld” as sort of a last resort, but a sheet full sheet of “name withheld” isn’t as meaningful. You can get a pass for doing it once or twice, but not for everyone.
  • Relationship: Include your relationship. Was this person a patient, employer, or co-worker (or even someone else, such as a sales rep)? In some cases it may be helpful to put the quote into context by adding brief background information.
  • Letters of reference: Can I use letters of reference I already have? Absolutely, just don’t use the whole letter. Pull out the best quote from it and add it to your testimonial sheet.

What’s So Great About Testimonial Sheets?

I’ve helped many clients create testimonial sheets and have several great stories. Recently, I urged a hygienist to go out and gather as many as she could. She was very diligent and received enough to fill up two pages, which was great because she could then be very selective about the ones she wanted to use.

We added the testimonial sheet as part of her resume kit (click here to view it). Next, she wanted me to create a resume website for her (which I did: see www.debbywisner.com) and we added the testimonials there, too. As a third strategy, I created a postcard for her and she mailed it out to a targeted list of potential offices in her area. The postcard included her website address.

Within just a couple business days of the postcard going out, she had received three invitations for job interviews. Here’s a quote from the first one she received, which I am happy to report eventually interviewed and hired her:

“I received a postcard advertising your availability, and have been impressed with your unique approach to your job search, as well as the testimonials here. I would like to meet with you for an interview as I am searching for a new hygienist at this time.”

Deeper Reasons Why They Work

Aside from all these people pointing out how great you are, there are several deeper reasons testimonial sheets are so effective. Here are a few I think are the most important:

  • It’s different: Hardly anyone creates a testimonial sheet. So it stops an employer. They press “pause” and spend extra time on you. It’s very hard to deny an interview with a candidate that impresses others so much (regardless of age or experience).
  • Social proof: There are countless studies about the power of third-party validation or “social proof,” as it’s called in the world of psychology. Simply put, it backs up all the great things your resume and cover letter say about you, and it comes from someone other than you. This makes it much easier for employers to “buy into” what you claim on your cover letter and resume.
  • Saves employers time: Testimonial sheets save employers the time it takes to make reference calls. In most cases, they simply won’t feel it’s necessary to pick up the phone. If you can overwhelm them with lots of them, most will conclude, “What’s the point? It’s evident she is an extraordinary hygienist.”
  • Highlights your strengths: Testimonial sheets show you have two very desirable traits in an employee: First, that you are proactive (a go-getter) and, second, that you go the extra mile. Again, for the simple reason that you will likely be the only applicant that has offered up a testimonial sheet.
  • Simple and professional: Testimonial sheets, as I have outlined them, offer a more professional, compact, and succinct presentation. Compare that to a short stack of photo-copied, lengthy, mismatched batch of letters of reference. Most employers would likely agree, a testimonial sheet is much better.

I always tell hygienists that job hunting is all about standing out, highlighting your differences. Help potential employers see that you are something special or that you bring a higher-end set of skills to their office. A testimonial sheet is just one of the many tips, tools, and tactics that do exactly that.

Doug and Tracie Perry are co-authors of the 2012 e-book “Landing a Great Dental Hygiene Job. Together, they own GetHiredRDH.com, a career website for dental hygienists, where Doug writes new tips each week and offers his dental job marketing expertise as well as one-on-one coaching, resume writing, and several other related services.


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