How to Make the Most out of Reference Checks
By Julie Lowe

Reference checks can be challenging—TorchLight’s Chief Culture Officer Julie Lowe explains how to dig in and get the information you need.

“Do reference checks really matter? I’ve never gotten a bad reference…”

If potential candidates select their references wisely, they are almost always exclusively positive. While this is great for job seekers, it can be difficult to get objective feedback to determine whether someone is a fit for your position. Despite this challenge, there are ways you can get the information you need to accurately assess a candidate.

To get the most out of reference checks, here are several key areas to consider:

Who is the reference? Did the candidate list a friend/peer, family member, teacher or former supervisor who knows their work experience?  This makes a huge difference in the content of the questions and answers.  Rule of thumb = try to get 3 former supervisors (some junior candidates may not have ‘real’ references so you may need to get creative).  Once you have the reference, you can validate the quality of the reference. Did they hire them? Did they give performance reviews? How long did they manage them? Did they delegate work and measure performance? If not, ask for a different reference.

Note:  If they can’t provide contact information for a former supervisor, probe the candidate to better understand the reasons. If the reference won’t respond to your contact, also ask the candidate to explain. The reference may not understand or even be aware that their name was given to support their candidacy. Situations like this could raise questions about a candidate’s capabilities and judgement.

Establish a rapport with the reference. Don’t launch right into your list of questions. Build rapport as you talk about who you are, what the next few minutes will look like and how long they have known the candidate. If they feel comfortable with you, they will share more information.

Set the stage for the call. Share the type of role the person is interviewing for and the culture of the team/organization.  Ask them how they think they would do in that setting.

Yes or No” isn’t enough. Answers like “yes” or “no” don’t provide enough detail to answer most reference questions. Ask open-ended questions. If the reference’s answers are short, try to understand why that’s the case. If you need to better understand a situation, ask the reference for an example to clarify.

Don’t be afraid to be creative. Even if you are using a standard reference check form, you may need to think outside the box. If you hear hesitation, long pauses or sighs during your reference call, simply say, “Can you expand on that?” or “I hear a bit of hesitation in your voice, would you mind elaborating on that?” If there are areas where you may have questions about a candidate based on the interview or other concerns, take the opportunity to craft a question and see how they behaved in the past.

Example:  Let’s say the candidate has all the technical skills but comes across as a bit reserved.  Craft a question or scenario about interpersonal interaction amongst the team they previously worked with.

Ask for Advice. Approach them manager to manager:  “What advice do you have for me as a potential future manager based on your experience working with them?” This type of question enables you to solicit guidance on how to best manage to the candidate’s strengths and developmental areas and most references are happy to elaborate in that context. And it’s really helpful if you do end up making the hire!

Bottom line, references can help solidify your excitement about a candidate or give you pause to think a little harder about your decision. To make the most out of reference checks, be sure you are contacting the right people and don’t be afraid to break outside of the standard reference form. To really dig in and get the most relevant feedback, sometimes you need to get creative and be flexible. It’s well worth the effort to make sure you have the best person for the job. Best of luck!

Posted in Companies, Hiring Managers

Jobs of the week including PR Manager, Marketing Specialist and more

Seeking talented PR Manager, Marketing Specialist and other qualified marketing and communications pros

Are you a top marketer or PR manager and looking for a great new opportunity? Read on for our latest job openings.

Seeking talented PR Manager, Marketing Specialist and All-around Marketing Pros

PR Manager

Location: Herndon, VA

About the job:

The role requires working with the Director, the PR Manager will lead the development and execution of multi-channel public relations strategies for a variety of divisions and products. They will also serve as PR/media contact and media logistics manager for special events, speaking engagements, and other PR opportunities. In order to stand out, the candidates should be able to demonstrate success in developing and executing B2C and B2B communications plans.

Healthcare Policy Writer & Communications Specialist

Location: Washington D.C.

About the job:

The appointed candidate will be responsible for daily multiplatform communications focused on the healthcare industry. In order to be considered for the job, experienced in healthcare/pharmaceutical-related industry is required. Duties include managing and promoting regular webinars as well as creating digital graphics. Apply if you have a background in the healthcare industry!

Internal Communications Manager

Location: Northern VA

About the job:

The Internal Communications Manager is responsible for the development and implementation of a communications plan designed to engage and retain employees. They will create and manage an editorial calendar and related content development. If you possess excellent written and verbal skills this is a great position to apply for!

Legal Marketing & BD Manager

Location: Washington, D.C

About the job:

The position requires the development and implementation of strategies to drive new business and market to new and existing clients. They will be involved in the overseeing of external events (sales events, seminars, and client entertainment) and internal events (employee and executive retreats). To qualify for this job, you need experience in business development and marketing for international law firms.

Marketing Specialist

Location: Rockville, M.D

About the job:

This position calls for the development and implementation of marketing plans for several subscription-based products. They will collaborate with the digital marketing group to develop and execute digital acquisition initiatives. A perfect fit for those with strong analytical skills with high attention to detail. 


Senior Communications Manager

Location: Washington, D.C.

About the job:

The Senior Communications Manager will be responsible for the development and implementation of communications programs across digital and traditional channels. They will present regular performance reports and make recommendations for optimization. If you have knowledge of the media environment in China and the Asia Pacific send in your application! 

Search all TorchLight open positions

Posted in Candidates, Hiring Managers, Marketing Communications Trends

10 must-reads of the week! Employee personality tests, confidence habits and more.

This week’s interesting articles range from how to use employee personality tests to fighting bias in the office and habits that will increase your work confidence.

Do you know how to use employee personality tests or ways to increase work confidence? Read on to learn

The helpful upside of office personality tests

Other than being a fun coffee-break conversation topic, employee personality tests can greatly benefit your communication style in the workplace. Beyond being entertaining, these tests can be quite useful for your own self-development. Knowing your innate behaviors, such as arriving late or forgetting tasks, can help you shine a light on your blind spots. The first step to fixing your less-than-stellar habits is identifying them. Once you realize patterns in your personality that may be infiltrating your work performance, you can manage them more effectively. Furthermore, knowing the style in which you work, whether you prefer a rigid schedule or a more open-ended frame, facilitates communication with your superiors and yourself. Read more about how you and your team can benefit from personality tests. 

The Secrets of Successful Female Networkers

Women often lack access to networking events which restricts them from building important connections. When most of the bonding occurs at the golf course, it can be difficult for female professionals to get in all of the action. With effective strategies, working women can rise above their peers and establish successful networks that will last for life. These include being: efficient, nimble, boundary-spanning and energy balance. Learn the specific ways you can put these to work and expand your circle! 

How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on Their Teams

Research has shown that diverse teams outperform homogenous teams, are more committed and show better decision-making skills. However, bias prevention programs lack supportive evidence of their effectiveness. That being said, individual leaders can make a difference through their leading strategies. Bias is difficult to eliminate, however it can be interrupted much more easily. 

Find out important tactics that you can use in your every day to interrupt bias. 

10 Habits of the Most Confident People

Becoming a confident individual can sometimes take a little “faking it till you make it”. Confident leaders across industries share a variety of habits that make them successful. A clearly defined purpose, focus on the positive, and neglecting to compare yourself to others are all a few of the ways you can invest in yourself. Here are a few habits that you will want to make room for. 

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It

The Head of Industry at Google found that the highest performing teams in a span of a two-year study had one thing in common: psychological safety. Psychologically speaking, safety is one of our most basic needs. In order to focus on higher-importance tasks, we must not have a fear of being punished for our mistakes. A constant fear of being reprimanded restrains creativity and risk-taking in teams. Create an atmosphere that challenges your team, not instills fear. If you want to find out approaches that increase psychological safety, click here for more! 

Posted in Companies, Professional Development, Workplace culture

Communications Recruitment Companies – TorchLight is your top choice!

There are a sea of communications recruitment companies in DC – how do you choose the right one?

TorchLight Hire is a staffing and search firm specialized in communications, marketing, digital, and creative positions and we are one of the best communications recruitment companies in the entire DC area.

But don’t take our word for it!

“TorchLight’s team takes the time to get to know and understand an organization’s capabilities and culture.  They have the expertise and insight to help shape job descriptions based on their knowledge of the organization and the types of candidates that will fit in with the culture.  And, they stay with the client every step of the way — from the first interviews to placement and beyond — making our relationship a true partnership.”


 “My experience with Heidi and her team has been fantastic! I’ve worked with large search firms in the past, and always felt like just a number, often getting placed with employers who were not a good fit. But with TorchLight, I felt like I was talking to a friend. They take the time to get to know you and what you’re looking for. They’re also very responsive. I had some concerns prior to starting a contract writing job, and Heidi responded right away, easing my fears and making me laugh. The clients she’s matched me with have been wonderful!”


Read more testimonials from our clients and candidates.

Contact us for all your communications and marketing staffing needs–our team is ready to help!

Posted in Uncategorized

New marketing jobs that you don’t want to miss out on!

This Week’s New Marketing Jobs – October 14, 2019

If you’re looking for a new, exciting marketing, communications, creative or digital job in the (DC/Virginia/Maryland) area then look no further! The following is a compilation of the newest marketing jobs we have, all affiliated with vibrant organizations and dynamic projects.

two men working at a marketing job

Integrated Marketing Manager

Location: Washington, D.C

About the job: The Integrated Marketing Manager will develop and execute multi-channel marketing programs for a large portfolio of internal clients and programs. He or she will work with stakeholders and departments across the organization to meet business objectives. Deep knowledge of email, digital marketing, social media marketing, and direct marketing are required! 

Digital Marketing Manager

Location: Washington, D.C.

About the job: Responsibilities will include the development and implementation of acquisition and retention campaigns using a variety of digital channels. They will also serve as lead project manager for the department and will work closely with various team members to deliver on business objectives. Recommended for those who have expertise in SEO and paid search, paid social and digital display advertising. Also apt for those with deep experience with account and creative management, as well as planning.


Email Marketing Contractor

Location: Washington, D.C.

About the job: This position calls for the development and execution of email and SMS campaigns for a variety of business units. The Email Marketing Contractor will work with internal stakeholders and external agencies to meet business objectives. Suited for candidates with 7+ years’ experience managing email/direct response campaigns in agency or corporate marketing setting.

 Marketing Automation Contractor

Location: Northern Virginia

About the job: The job title entails developing and launching email campaigns for a variety of marketing initiatives. The hired employee will work with the marketing team members to support departmental objectives. If you have more than 5 years of experience in marketing automation and proof of successful execution of email marketing campaigns send us your application!

Membership Marketing Manager

Location: Northern VA

About the job: The tasks include developing and executing marketing campaigns, driving membership acquisition and retention, and promoting the brand. He or she will work across the organization to ensure marketing objectives are met. If you have a background of 4+years in membership marketing and proven success building and implementing cross-platform campaigns, this may be the job for you!

Product Marketing Manager

Location: Washington, DC

About the job: The Product Marketing Manager is responsible for the development and implementation of marketing programs that drive demand and revenue for target audience segments. Do you have strong written and communication skills? Are you adept at acquisition/lead gen campaign management across traditional and digital platforms? If so, head over to the application page! 

Partner Marketing Manager

Location: Washington, D.C. metro area

About the job: The hired candidate will be expected to drive customer acquisition and retention through expertly managed client partnerships. He or she will collaborate with client teams to develop and execute innovative, effective B2C marketing strategies and campaigns that contribute to company revenue. This position includes 10%-20% travel! If you have knowledge of HTML and Adobe Creative Cloud as well as experience with marketing automation tools then check this out! 


For a listing of all of our currently available positions click here!

Posted in Uncategorized

TorchLight Referral Program—Refer your friends and colleagues and you could earn $500!

At TorchLight, we LOVE to reward people for good work! That’s why we want to tell you about the TorchLight Referral Program.
Did you know that if you refer a friend or colleague who specializes in marketing, communications, digital, or creative, and he or she is hired, you could receive $500?
Referring someone is easy—simply email with the following information about your referral:
1) Full name
2) Email and phone number
3) Resume in Word format
Afterwards, if the person you refer is hired, isn’t already in our candidate database, and completes the required length of service in their new role—500 hours for permanent and contract positions—you will receive your $500 bonus.
Thanks in advance for sending your talented contacts our way!
The TorchLight Team
Posted in Candidates

Remote work – what it means to the TorchLight Team

To celebrate 2019 National Work From Home Week, TorchLight’s fully remote team shares what working from home means to us both personally and professionally. Read on to hear how remote work positively affects our families, work, health, and happiness!

Kathryn Bailey, Recruiting Manager

Working from home is a winning formula for Kathryn. “Not commuting to an office saves me time that I use to: 1) work more, 2) prepare dinner and 3) occasionally take a walk around the neighborhood to clear my head after a long day. Working from home benefits my employer, my family and the environment – everyone wins!”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek  #NoCommute #TorchLightHire

Julie Lowe, Chief Culture Officer

Julie has worked from home exclusively for the past 7 years. “I have truly enjoyed the experience because it has offered me flexibility as a busy mom raising a child with special needs. I love the comfort of my home and I have lots of time to speak with (and see via teleconferencing) my colleagues so I don’t feel isolated.  If I need some facetime with people, I schedule lunches, coffees and in-person meetings.  I am so accustomed to my work at home lifestyle, I can’t ever imagine going back into an office every day.  This arrangement has allowed me to have a great work-life balance many talk about, but I get to live it!”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek  #WorkLifeBalance #TorchLightHire

Samantha Nguyen, Marketing, Client Services Project Manager

Sammy enjoys many aspects of working from home:  “I have the time and environment I need to focus on my job duties and goals at hand—I am better able to apply myself in the comfort of my own home. There is also the benefit of being able to put in more valuable hours of work because I do not have to worry about or deal with a commute. Personally, this allows me to have the ability to take care of my home, see my husband who works demanding hours, and, of course, spend more time with my dog!”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek  #BetterFocus #TorchLightHire

Heidi Parsont, CEO and Founder

During National Work From Home Week, Heidi shares what remote work means to her … “I founded TorchLight to give myself and others the flexibility they need to be good employees and even better parents. In today’s world, when so much happens outside of core hours, it works better for my team and my family. I never want our team to feel like they need to choose between being at a child’s event and being present in an office. Flexibility and WFH also helps attract and retain talented employees when they feel trusted and valued.”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek #WorkLifeBalance #TorchLightHire

Heather Pederson, Director of Recruiting Operations and Engagement

Why does Heather loves working from home? … I get along with everyone in the office and I can show up in pajamas with no make-up every day. In all seriousness, being a TorchLight Hire employee and being able to work from home is such a blessing. It gives me the freedom to get creative with how I collaborate with my team and be productive, while at the same time stay leaned into my family and be present for those special moments. I’m a better employee, wife, and mom because I work from home.

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek #BeingPresent #TorchLightHire

Stephanie Ranno, Director, Enterprise Business Development

Stephanie loves working from home:  “It can be good for your health, the health of your family, and the health of our world. When your kiddos are magically ready EARLY for school and the weather is just PERFECT, you say “YES!” to your 9-yr old’s request to walk to school. This was 15 minutes that I couldn’t have done if I had to be in the office for my 9am meeting. This was 15 minutes of extra hand holding, extra conversation, and extra exercise that ranks up there with one of the top reasons I LOVE my work.”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek  #BetterFamily #Torchlighthire

Beth Ranzer, Account Director

During this year’s National Work From Home Week, Beth reflects on what she sees as the benefits of working from home … “I love being able to focus on specific tasks and priorities rather than sitting in meetings all day and/or being pulled into things because I happen to be at my desk and available. I also love being able to go to a doctor’s appointment or kids’ school function as needed—and not feel guilty about taking that time since I can easily get back online and make up the hours.”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek  #Focus&Flexibility #TorchLightHire

Amy Tsuchitani, Account Director

For Amy, working from home is *EVERYTHING!*  She writes … “Not being bogged down by a commute, so many more hours in the day being productive. Feeling trusted by your employer to be accountable–to own and take pride in the work we do.  Being able to fully experience a work/life balance–it is a true comfort to work in my home while thriving professionally.”

#NationalWorkFromHomeWeek #ThriveProfessionally #TorchLightHire

Posted in Candidates, Flexible Workplace, Hiring Managers, Hiring Trends

Get that entry-level job and thrive in your last year of college!

By Gabrielle Gramont

Young Female Student Celebrating Graduation Senior Year to get an entry level job

Your final year of college is finally here. Where did the time go? Everyone keeps mentioning the dreaded “J” word (job search!), and you feel like dropping out of school is becoming a more appealing option with every passing day.  Are you trying for an entry-level job in DC? Law school in LA? A Gap Year abroad? No idea?

Senior year brings on a lot of responsibilities and stress, which can drive you insane if you don’t learn how to handle it. However, a quick change of mentality will make you realize that this is a year for opportunities! You can still enjoy the last year of youthful freedom while preparing for your future. Here’s a Senior Year Checklist to help get your job hunt started, as well as any other future plans that you may have.

Know your degree requirements

Your last year leaves you with two semesters to fit in any remaining required courses so that you’re actually eligible to graduate. Check with your advisor and make sure you have enough time to take the classes that you need to complete your major(s) and minor(s). Try to balance out the heavier course load classes so that you’re not drowning in work during one of your semesters (especially your last!). 

Pay a visit to the career center

This is one of the most helpful places you can go! The resources they provide are amazing, and they know exactly what you’re going through. If you think about it, every year a new batch of seniors rolls into their office with an existential crisis about their post-graduation plans. Allow them to give you guidance about your resume and cover letters–and where to begin your job search. If you’re not even sure what it is you want to do, talk through your options with a counselor. Identify a general industry that appeals to you and go from there. They can also help you with grad school applications if that’s the path you are considering. Ask about resources in your major department as well– they often have employment opportunities, office hours to help with portfolios and other events to assist you with your post-graduation plan. 

Talk to your professors
At the beginning of each semester, many of us claim we’re going to attend office hours religiously and become buddy-buddy with our professors. Instead, we may choose an hour of Netflix over getting to know them.  Your professors are here to help you and have experienced what you are going through. They can help you network, brainstorm ideas for your next steps and even write you a recommendation letter for your future job applications. It definitely pays to get to spend time with them!

Work on your resume
Don’t wait until the last minute to get started on this crucial part of your job search. Many of us continue sending in the same outdated resume that we crafted hastily our first year. Take time to review your work experience and eliminate the sections that are no longer relevant. High school clubs and extracurriculars may have been acceptable when you were applying to internships in your freshman year. However, at this stage in the game, your potential employer probably won’t be blown out of the water because you were the student body government treasurer in high school. With that in mind, start crafting up general cover letters that can be used as a template for your future job applications. Obviously you will have to tailor the letter for each specific company, but having a foundation makes the process of applying much easier.

Clean up your social media profiles
Your last four years have been the most fun. You don’t, however, need a picture of you at a tailgate ruining your chances at a top agency. Go through your public profiles, switch your privacy settings and check how easily people can find you on the web. Then switch your attention from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and start investing time on LinkedIn. An updated LinkedIn profile pays off when potential employers are skimming your past experiences. 

Prepare and practice interviewing
Interviewing can sometimes be a hard skill to acquire. Practicing frequently asked interview questions and learning how to carry yourself during a professional interview makes it ten times easier for when the real deal comes. Set up a mock interview at your career center, reach out to an advisor or practice with a professor–they will all be glad to help you. Test runs allow you to have material to fall back on, so that next time you’re asked about a weakness that you have you don’t blank for five minutes and then follow it by “I’m too enthusiastic?” 

Thinking about grad school instead of getting a job right away?
If you are considering going to grad school, this is the time to get those applications ready to go. Find out important deadlines and get ahead of the process so that you’re not scrambling last-minute to complete them. You also want plenty of time to have peers and mentors review your applications. 

Lastly, enjoy!
Although a whole lot of uncertainty may lie ahead, it’s nothing you can’t deal with! Don’t allow the hecticness of senior year transform you into a big ball of anxiety. Instead of equating “hectic” with “stress”, equate it with “excitement.” You have the opportunity to experience you’re most beloved college traditions one last time and an exciting road of surprises lies ahead. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal to prepare in advance for your next career steps and get the most out of your last year! 

Posted in Candidates

This week’s Hot Jobs from the D.C. area’s top marketing recruiters

At TorchLight, the D.C. area’s top marketing recruiters, we have a variety of exciting roles at top companies right now. Whether you are interested in marketing, communications, digital, or creative roles, we have a position for you. Here are this week’s Hot Jobs:

Contact us at if we can be of assistance!

Search All Jobs

Posted in Candidates

Looking for a top communications manager job? Test your PR/communications know-how with our quiz!

By Samantha Nguyen

take the communications manager quiz


To get a top communications manager job, you need deep knowledge of PR, media relations, writing, measurement and other areas of communications. Take our quiz and see how you stack up!


Congratulations — looks like you have your communications knowledge down! You are definitely top-notch communications manager material. Keep up the good work.

good job on the quiz post it note

Thanks for taking the quiz! Looks like you know some important communications and PR info and have some areas where you could improve. The good news is that there are a ton of free resources out there to help you brush up where needed. Good luck!


#1 Which of the below is NOT a key PR metric?

#2 Identify the error in the sentence below: We went to the amusement park, the lines were long.

#3 Which of the following is part of a strong media pitch to journalists?

#4 What is the social media site with the largest number of users?

#5 Which of the below is not part of an effective crisis communications strategy?

#6 What does ROI stand for?

#7 Which score shows how likely a customer is to recommend your business?

#8 Top Influencers with over 10 million Instagram followers will receive “likes” on their posts ____ of the time.

#9 Which of the following is an important area to measure for social listening campaigns?

Posted in Candidates, Tips for Job Seekers

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