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Becoming a Better Domestic Employment Candidate

Excerpt from the book, Insider's Guide to Household Staffing, 2ed. Private Staffing Secrets They DO Want You to Know.

There are many approaches to finding employment as a domestic professional. You can respond to classifieds both on and offline, network through friends and former employers, or use a placement agency, to name just a few. No matter which path you follow to find a new job, there are some standard items that can help you rise above the other applicants in your field. Whether you are a Chef, Estate Manager, Chauffeur, Nanny, or any other type of employee, being prepared is the name of the game!

It is also necessary to take a critical eye to the whole job search process and look at the specifics of your actions in each of the relationships of private service. You may be committing errors along the way that ruin your chances of moving forward. This section has a number of items for your job search overall, and the “Working with Domestic Employment Agencies” section contains notes regarding that particular relationship. Keep in mind that while these tips won’t guarantee you get the job, messing up on some of them could eliminate you from a position that you otherwise might be the best candidate for!
Often in the private service industry, the candidates who get chosen in the early stages of the hiring process are not necessarily the ones with the most experience or the most skills, but those who understand basic business protocol in the job search. For example, a Chef may be extremely talented in his or her trade, but offer a very poorly written application package. He or she will stand less of a chance of getting an interview when competing against applicants with an up-to-date, well-constructed portfolio. (This actually seems to be more common among Chefs, being talented in artistic ways, and less focused on the resume presentation skills.) Likewise, should an agency or employer request background information or documents from a candidate, any delays could result in the hire of another applicant. In addition, if the information such as references, dates of employment, and contact numbers are hard to follow or incomplete, the application could seem "fishy" or the candidate could be thought of as incompetent.
For all of the above reasons, one should apply basic business "common sense" to the job hunt process. Spend some time educating yourself about conducting employment searches, interviewing, and writing a resume. Also, if you are planning to go through an agency for representation, the next Chapter, “Working with Domestic Employment Agencies,” offers a behind-the-scenes perspective on the hiring procedure. Read carefully, because any inside knowledge and careful preparation will pay off tremendously as you go through the process of finding your next position.
In today’s private service industry, there are a few specific items that will make you ready for any potential job opening. The list below is a great starting point for your job search process. By preparing all of the items, you will also become more clear in your own goals and choices for the employment you are seeking. For further tips on job hunting, visit sites online like monster.com and rileyguide.com (a personal favorite). Most of their advice and articles apply to all occupations and can be a great help. There’s a tip I like to give before candidate go on interviews that also applies here. Do a web search for “Top 10 mistakes made on resumes” and you’ll have enough material to be sure you don’t mess up on obvious things. When interviewing, it’s best to search for ‘Top 10 interview mistakes.”
As with any endeavor worth pursuing, the job search can be tedious and frustrating. Approach the task with a positive attitude and commit yourself to being ready for any obstacles along the way. Also "put your money where your mouth is" when creating your application materials. You may have to spend a few dollars to have a great looking resume package with clean, legible copies of all your documents (both black & white and color), but the payoff is far greater than the costs you will incur. Also with personal and community access to computers available almost anywhere, it is expected that all your materials can be sent in a digital format and be edited as necessary. It is not acceptable for any top household employee to fax their hand written or hand notated resume to an agency or employer. Another common grievance is that agency applications are all different, tedious, and ask for the same information as a resume. Well, too bad. If you can’t give individual attention to the specific process that a company asks for, then don’t work with them. You only hurt yourself by giving anyone a half-hearted effort in your job search. It may seem like lots of work on your part for little result, but that’s what it takes. Hopefully you will only have to go through this once or twice in your lengthy career.
Overall, preparing carefully and placing yourself in front of all the opportunities available is the only way to get ahead of others competing for the same attention. If you are unsure of how to do any of the essential job seeker tasks then get an industry peer or career counselor to assist you. Here too the internet can be your best friend. There is a treasure trove of information available for free on sites like those mentioned above. Best of luck in your search!
Job Seeker Basics
At a minimum, anyone looking for a job in private service should have the following information on hand in both hard copy (printed documents) and available in digital copy for electronic distribution. As a side note, pay careful attention to document types and sizes for the ability to email and print files.
1. Current Resume
I cannot stress the importance of the resume enough. In many cases, it is the only item an employer will see when deciding on candidates to interview. Some agencies only send the applicant’s resume to a client. Some employers only look at resumes and skip the rest of the pages. Make sure yours is up to date and has a professional look with no mistakes! You can hire a service if you are not good on the computer, and there are no excuses allowed for lack of computer skills or access to a computer. If you are not capable of this on your own, go immediately to your local library, community center, or job center and get yourself some computer training. It is unacceptable in 2013 to lack basic document preparation and online transfer skills. More details about specific formats and computer standards are ahead in this guide.
2. Letters of Recommendation
Any time you leave a job you should get a letter of recommendation. Try to have them written on company letterhead or personal stationery of your employer. The more letters you have, the better. Be prepared to distribute copies that are as clear as possible. Even better, have color copies made of the most recent or most important letters, and like the resume, have scanned, clear, reasonably sized computer versions available for sending. This particular aspect has a few nuances to be aware of. The privacy concerns and confidentiality issues apply when sending out employer names, addresses, and contact information. Before submitting these elements make sure you understand what a company or individual is doing with the information and what their reference verification process is. Sometimes it is appropriate to have “privatized” versions of your recommendations with names and contact information blacked out for security.
3. Reference List
You will have to supply this information on any job application so have it ready on a separate page, laid out as follows: Employer name; whom to contact for the reference; the contact's title; a current telephone number; and any notes about reaching the person. You may also request to be contacted directly for telephone numbers so you can tell your reference in advance who will be calling. Like the reference letters, this is the most sensitive information you will be disclosing. At a professional, top level in the field, we will respect a candidate’s request to hold reference checking until there is a pending job offer. This arrangement is on a person by person basis, so communicate clearly with the agent if you need to maintain a high level of confidentiality. It is not a good idea to send this information to an online job application without first knowing and contacting the representative for the client.
Author’s Note: It is painful to admit how many job seekers will not provide basic reference information for their past employment. In our role as employment agents, references will often determine if we can even work with an applicant. There are several nuances to the reference game, but the basics are unchanging. We need to verify where you worked, when, and how your employer felt about your performance of the job. If we can’t do this, we can’t help you, period.
4. Current Photograph
We sometimes get questions about this from a legal or discrimination angle. It is not within our scope of expertise to give legal advice here, but let’s just say that if you are concerned about showing someone a photo of yourself as a professional employment candidate, you may be in the wrong career. Most, if not all, employers will be critical of the physical appearance of their staff. In addition to providing the service flow of a home, the staff in the “front of house” represents an aesthetic consistent with the employer’s taste and image. Therefore the physical aspect of “fit” in a private home becomes important depending on your place in the service structure. Of course this will vary from job to job, but let it be said that our clients are more than likely to differentiate two equally skilled candidates based on their professional appearance.
That said, have a recent photograph of yourself ready to give out (color photocopies are a good idea) with an application, in addition to a digital copy for emailing, etc. It should show your overall physical appearance with a clear shot of your face. Another nice touch is to be in the uniform of your profession. (For example, a Chef can include a photo of them in action in a working kitchen.) In most cases an agent or employer that you cannot visit locally will want to see your overall physical presentation, just as they would in a face-to-face interview. Though not the same, a quality photograph is an excellent opportunity to show yourself positively. You can stage the picture in your best professional dress with appropriate grooming for the position you seek and offer this as your interview presence when only a telephone meeting is available. Today’s technology is also moving the recruiting industry toward video interviews and profiles. If you are comfortable with it, a video introduction is an amazing way to showcase your physical, professional presence and communication skills. It is like having a first interview before any candidates are even chosen.
5. ID
Usually agencies will ask for your identifying documents upfront to verify you are who you say. This includes driver's license, social security card, passport, green card, work visa, etc. Requirements vary for interviews with agencies and employers, but without exception make sure you have ample identification to prove your identity and the required employment authorization of the job. If you have any questions about acceptable documents, you MUST ask in advance what you will need. The best guidelines for standard employment authorization are found in the US government’s I-9 form. http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf
6. List of Previous Addresses
To conduct background checks, employers or agencies will require a list of the county, city, state, and address of where you have lived over the past 10 years. Have this information available and typed out. Make copies. This is the standard for any reputable background screening company. Sadly most in-depth searches are still performed by hand and this county-by-county listing will guide a thorough background report process.
7. Background Explanation
If there is anything derogatory at all that you know will show up on your: driving record; credit history; criminal background; or any civil litigation cases, have a detailed explanation ready. When these checks are done on you, the reports come back with codes and sketchy details about the events that are difficult to interpret. Your willing discussion of the incident can make certain situations less incriminating as a candidate for employment. Treatment of background information has come under much scrutiny lately, especially in California. There are certain conditions where applicants cannot be chosen based on information in their consumer credit file. You can check with state laws if there is some concern about this. That said, most private employers either don’t fall under the rules or don’t follow them. When the security and wellbeing of their families are at stake you can bet they will want to look at any potentially relevant “skeletons” in an employee’s closet. Ideally the best employees in private service will be quite boring people, having nothing in their histories to even consider. However, there are some exceptions and easily explained circumstances that come up in public record. The perfect scenario is to have nothing on file whatsoever, with a close second being simple entries that can be quickly identified and justified.
 

For more on this topic and others related to private staffing, get the book! The Insider's Guide to Household Staffing, 2ed. Private Staffing Secrets They DO Want You to Know! Click for more information.