Use Testimonials To Promote Your Job Candidacy

In her book Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It, Peggy Klaus tackles the touchy topic of self promotion. Specifically, she goes head to head with our tendency to avoid bragging about our accomplishments because it's outside of our comfort zone. In the immortal words of baseball legend Dizzy Dean, as noted in Brag!, "It ain't bragging if you've done it."

Still having a tough time reconciling with promoting yourself to potential employers? One away around this is to use third-party testimonials. We all know what testimonials are. People in marketing salivate for these. Why should they brag about a product when satisfied customers will do it for them? Who would you believe -- a hired gun or a happy customer?

Third-party testimonials for the career seeker come via performance development feedback, letters from satisfied "customers," and awards and recognition. There are four effective ways to use third-party testimonials in your job search:

  • On your résumé
  • In a cover letter
  • In an interview
  • Through networking

Résumé: As you pull together information for your résumé, dust off your past performance evaluations, your brag file of nice letters and e-mails from past clients or vendors, and any letters that came with awards and recognition you've received. Select comments from these various documents to place along the left side of your résumé. To do this, create a two-column résumé and pull out comments from customer thank you letters, past performance reviews, and e-mails he had saved that praised his sales, service and problem-solving skills -- all important skills in a sales profession, for example.

Cover letter: You can choose to take a similar approach here as you do with your résumé and list one or two select comments that reinforce your candidacy for the position. Another, less obvious approach is to gain a referral from a third party to your targeted contact, and ask that person if you can use his or her name in the opening lines and mention why that person is comfortable referring you (i.e., Jack Adams suggested I contact you. He believes my 10 years of accounting, coupled with my business analyst skills, would be an excellent fit for the Senior Analyst position available in your Metro Office location.). While you're at it, ask "Jack" to contact that person also and do a preliminary introduction.

Interview: At some point in one of your interviews you're going to be asked one of the following or something very similar:

  • What would your last boss say about you?
  • Define a strength for me.
  • How do you work in teams?
  • What would you say your greatest asset is?

If you are lucky enough to get one of these questions, you can answer and incorporate a third-party testimonial. For example, in answer to the strength question, you could say something like, "My last employer consistently praised my ability to perform under very stressful circumstances and was always impressed with how I managed to get the job done without losing my cool. I would agree that it's pretty hard to ruffle my feathers." You've just provided a third-party testimonial and noted a pretty desirable character quality at the same time!

Networking: The best way of all to get powerful third-party testimonials working for you is to network and get your network proselytizing for you. If you're building strong relationships with people and they know you, like you and trust you, they'll gladly hook you up with other people and sing your praises as they do it. They'll also gladly let you drop their names into cover letters, prospecting phone calls, and as referrals.

If bragging is not your bag, but you know you need to do it more, think about using third-party testimonials in your career search marketing materials. As Klaus notes, brag is not a four-letter word and we need to quit treating it like one.

Sharon DeLay is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and Certified Professional Career Coach. You can visit her at Permanent Ink Professional Development Services and check out her blog at []

You can also e-mail her at