Business Management Recruiting

Update your recruiting practices to attract the talent you need for your business

As someone who works extensively with small, medium-sized, and growing businesses, I can assure you that the difficulty you may be experiencing hiring great people for your business is real! There continues to be what feels like a huge disconnect between companies who want to hire, and people who want to work. Everyone is frustrated! Today, I’m speaking to the hire-ers (although job searches will do well to pay attention!).

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you probably have some assumptions about the hiring process, based on what has always worked. It goes something like, create a job description, assign a pay range, create a job post based on the job description, post it on the job board most appropriate to the level of job, sift through a bunch of resumes, interview the most likely of candidates, hire someone. You’re probably used to this taking anywhere from three to twelve weeks, and it probably ranks on the bottom ten things you like to do, including firing people.

If you’re like many business owners, you probably ALSO have noticed that the above system is not working as well lately. Maybe you’re getting a lot more unqualified people than you used to, or maybe you’re not getting anyone at all responding. Maybe you counter this with sponsoring jobs, paying more money for candidates, or reaching out to professional recruiting firms, which are expensive but hopefully THEY will have more luck than you.

Any of this sounding familiar?

Sanity check: If you’re experiencing any of the above…it’s not just you! This is what the majority of businesses I’m working with report, and it’s tough. I’ve noticed that most of the older way of doing things just aren’t reaping the results we’re used to, and I’ve seen some success with just a few changes. I’d like to share some of the things that have increased the effectiveness of the companies I work with.

Figure out who you are

Why would someone want to come work for you? Usually when companies are recruiting, they want to start with the candidate, but recruiting is marketing, and so it’s crucial to start with the features, advantages, and benefits of YOU. Every company I’ve ever worked with has said about itself that they value their employees, their customers, that they’re honest, and that they have fun, so let’s go beyond that. What’s it really like to work for you? What is quirky, special, or different about you? Do you hire people without much experience and give them sought-after training? Do you pay above market range? Do you have a fun or interesting product? Do you make a unique impact on your community? Spending time fleshing out the ‘why’ someone would want to work for you is the most important thing you can do in your recruiting.

Figure out who your ideal employee is

I’m NOT talking about demographics. In fact, the more diverse you can be in hiring your employees, the better you’ll be for it (assuming you have team-building skills and can cast a vision well enough to unite people from disparate backgrounds). Does your ideal employee love a challenge? Think outside the box? Excel in structure or regulated environments? Love communicating freely throughout the day? Prefer to accomplish work in relative solitude? Do NOT develop your ideal employee profile based on what others think it should be. You and your business are unique, so just because Big Company A has free food and a games room does not mean this would work for you or appeal to your ideal employees.

Be exclusive (sniper vs net-casting)

I’ve written about this before, but the recruiting game has changed, and I don’t think it serves you well to ‘cast a net’ to gather in a large number of applicants to sift through. Instead, spend some time figuring out the profile of the best possible candidate for your business and market directly to that person. To attract your ideal candidate, you should write a marketing piece that clearly defines the benefits of working for you, and clearly establishes the ideal profile.

Market accordingly

There is still something to be said for job boards. I’ve hired from them, as have many of the companies I work with. If you do market your position on a job board, make sure you’ve done the work above. I also think it’s worthwhile to ask your employees for referrals. It’s also a good barometer for you…if no one wants to refer their friends to work for you, maybe ask why. I hope it goes without saying, but don’t hire the friends of the bad employees. On that note, why do you have bad employees, anyway? Depending on your company, network events, social media, and schools may be excellent hunting grounds.

I’m not here today to make a case for or against recruiting agencies. If they’re a tool in your toolbox, I trust you know how to use them effectively. There are some amazing recruiters out there, and some horrible ones. If you’re going this route, talk to your recruiter to get a sense of whether you will work well with them and whether they ‘get’ you.

Hopefully this helps you think about hiring a bit differently, and points you in the right direction to building your dream team for growth and profitability. If you have any questions, or are interested in a pdf outlining recruiting best practices for small businesses, please feel free to email me at You can also visit us on Twitter and Facebook.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based mentoring and training company committed to equipping managers to overcome the typical tactical, strategic, and personal development challenges facing managers in growing companies. Will a full suite of mentoring, coaching, training, and on-call support available for managers and leaders, we’ve got you covered! For more information, visit our site or contact us for more information about how we help leaders and managers grow.

Recruiting Uncategorized

How to hate recruiting less

I’ve noticed a significant upswing of emotional posts (rants) on the part of recruiters, hiring managers, candidates, and CEOs all on the subject of recruiting. Having been in all of these roles at one point or another, I can easily understand why. There is a strong perception of a general lack of professional courtesy from all sides that stems from a system that was broken to begin with and only gets worse with a reliance on technology. I recently spoke on the subject of recruiting and hiring best practices to a group of small business owners and entrepreneurs, so I’ve been giving this quite some thought.

There are really two camps an employer can fall into. Those who see employees as valued partners in growing and running a business, and those who think people are expendable commodities not deserving of respect or timely communication. I’ve certainly run into my share of both but actually refuse to work with the latter anymore (and don’t suggest you do, either) so I’ll focus on the former.

Unfortunately, an employer can value employees very highly but come across as though they don’t due to broken or damaged processes. Here’s my experience of how the recruiting process tends to work in small to medium sized businesses. Either an employee leaves, or the volume of work becomes overwhelming and the hiring manager and his/her supervisor(s) agree that another employee or two is needed. A job description is unearthed (or created), which is then copied and pasted onto job boards, and HR (or the hiring manager) begins receiving resumes. These folks typically look mainly at previous titles and tenures, ‘weeding out’ folks based on lack of meeting the criteria.

Then either an HR person, or hiring manager conducts a phone screen or in person interview with a candidate. Not always, but usually this falls to either a hiring manager with no interviewing training, or an HR person with no technical understanding of the job (and sometimes no interviewing training either). This allows for the possibility (probability if we’re being realistic) of illegal questions and improper screening. Candidates who are not selected are rarely contacted again. Candidates who are selected are not always given the time and attention they need during the first month to effectively acclimate to their new environment in order to become as effective as possible.

Frustrating (to say the least), but for most companies, that’s the only way they know.

Often companies and candidates choose the recruiter route. Unfortunately, this often just creates another layer for potential miscommunication, and added expense. Before all the recruiters get mad at me (and I often do serve as recruiter for my clients, so I’m not taking shots at you) it’s very difficult for them to provide service when clients don’t communicate changes in their needs, feedback on candidates, or don’t make decisions.

In all cases, the problems are reduced significantly by instituting formalized hiring processes, holding all parties accountable for professional communication, and ensuring adequate interviewing training is provided.

But I think it goes deeper than that.

The problem with this whole system is that it often starts with when the hiring need is recognized. This means that right out of the gate, everybody’s acting more reactively than proactively. Not many people are able to make good decisions when they’re rushed, fearful, or otherwise under the gun, and hiring is a major decision. A perception of scarcity encourages companies to rush through creating the job description, posting, interviews, etc. Candidates who similarly feel desperate apply for jobs they don’t want or aren’t qualified for just to get ‘something’.

We all know that activity reduces anxiety, regardless of the value of the activity. With both parties in the process doing ‘something’ to alleviate their fear, good decisions don’t happen.

To get out of the rat trap, companies can take the first step by taking time when there aren’t urgent hiring needs to craft their hiring strategy (for more information on this, see Bonus 3 – Designing your Hiring Process, in the Leadership Toolbox on my site).

During this stage, companies should take a thorough look at the current structure with an eye for not only today, but also towards what will be needed in one and five years’ time if anticipated revenue goals are hit. If you’re company is in ‘the zone’ of transitioning from $5 million to $25 million, or from $55 million to $100 million over the next few years, you need to be especially vigilant about creating structures that allow for the communication and handoffs that will be required with the added volume, as well as the need to develop more formalized systems and processes. This likely means that the current positions need to be re-examined.

As a result, companies should emerge with an idea of the responsibilities and skillsets that will be required in the future. This will allow for a proactive building of a pipeline in anticipation of future needs.

At the end of the day, this isn’t ‘science’ or processes. It’s people talking to people. If your employees love working for you, they’ll tell other people. If you love your company, you’ll be excited about it. There’s no shame in meeting people now even if you don’t have a hiring need. If you know who you’re looking for, you can start meeting them. Build a network, make friends, and keep in touch. That way, when it is time to hire someone, you’ll know exactly what it will take to fill the position and hopefully you’ll already know someone. And, if you don’t have the perfect person already in your network, and need to search, at least you’ll be calm and prepared, as will your hiring managers and HR team to competently assess the perfect candidate.

And make sure to let everyone you interview know when you’ve made a choice. That’s just good manners.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at


Recruiting Process Outsourcing – THE reason you won’t hate recruiting anymore

One thing I’ve NEVER enjoyed about HR is recruiting. It may surprise some readers that I say this, based on the large volume of recruiting services I provide in addition to resume writing. The fact is, as an HR Executive recruiting was always one of the biggest needs of every organization I was involved in. As a support center, my job was to make it possible for operations to do their job effectively, and to do that they needed quality staff. It is not the best use of managers’ time to source candidates, screen resumes, arrange interviews, etc. The problem was, as an HR leader I had a lot of strategic things to do; compensation bands, review processes, leadership training, employee investigations (sigh) and I simply didn’t have the industry contacts to develop or maintain the pipeline of candidates I needed for rapid growth.

The only options I knew of at the time were to use staffing agencies (who’d ask for 25% to 30% of first year’s pay), temp-to-hire (with extremely high hourly resource rates and/or contract buy-outs) or to staff an in-house recruiting team, with the associated labor costs, benefits, applicant tracking systems (HUGE cost), career fairs, marketing collateral etc. No matter which way I sliced it, finding talent for my organizations was expensive, time consuming and priority-sucking. But organizations ARE people, and so people-finding is always needed.

If I thought my recruiting days were over when I left corporate HR I had another think coming! No matter who my clients are, at one point every one of them has needed my help recruiting. As an outsource recruiter I have a lot to recommend me – I’m ridiculously cheap based on my model and overhead, I’m an awesome interviewer and I have an instinct for understanding what it takes to be successful and how to find out which candidates are good matches for my clients. With all that being said, I am a boutique agent at best and despite some success I still remain loyal to my core business model – which is to work with business owners and leaders to help them love their businesses again. While I LOVE coaching and leadership development, recruiting is always there, needing to be attended to before the fun can start.

Which is why I am totally in love with the Recruiting Process Outsourcing (RPO) model! Imagine if there was a company who could take as MUCH of your recruiting process as you wanted off your plate? Well there IS! We’re talking job posting, social media engagement, branding, job fairs, applicant tracking, resume screening, pre-qualifying and with the economies of scale to have robust pipelines in most industries/positions. It’s so streamlined and so efficient it’s almost unbelievable!

The RPO model really works best for companies who have high volumes of staffing needs, by which I mean if you hire about 10 people a month or more, because that’s where the economies of scale make sense. Less than that and you’re probably served just fine with me or someone like me, or your HR staff doing your recruiting. But if you’re spending anywhere like $150,000 a year on recruiting this is almost certainly the solution for you. I know in my last job I was spending easily $200,000 just on recruiters, not to mention my ATS, occasional headhunters, ads, etc. When I look at the money I could have saved with an RPO model I….well, that’s all in the past now.  If you’re in HR and are struggling to fill 10 or more spots a week, you can probably save your company significant money, too. It’s worth looking into…if you’d like to know more let me know. As you can tell, I LOVE to talk about this!

So take recruiting off your plate and load it up with all the things you’re really passionate about!  


Challenging the ‘net-casting’ theory of recruiting!

By this stage of my career, I have been on every side of the recruiting perspective (other than that of being a national head hunting firm, which I am not). I’ve been an HR Director in charge of recruiting, I’ve been a resume writer, I’ve been an actual recruiter, I’ve been a hiring manager and I’ve been a job searcher and I think I represent the majority of folks when I say that this process is NOT fun, enjoyable, cost effective or particularly efficient.  For the purposes of this article, I’ll be speaking primarily to hiring managers and I think most will agree that reviewing resumes and interviewing candidate after candidate rates right up there with budget cuts, inventory weekend or possibly documenting performance problems.

Usually, when company owners or managers need to hire someone, they pull out the job description and figure out if it’s reasonably accurate.  A good job description will contain the duties and responsibilities as well as the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to do the job. This is posted pretty much ‘as is’ on a job board, and then the hiring manager sits back and waits while sometimes HUNDREDS of people respond to the ad with equally bland resumes. They sift through who looks promising (and after about 20 resumes, it can be very difficult to stay focused and/or tell one from another), make some calls and begin the ‘weeding out’ process.

Now, my professional opinion is that going through this sucks. However, this does NOT mean that finding amazing people for your amazing business sucks. It’s just that it’s a sucky, broken system that we only keep using because we’ve always used it. We are ‘casting our nets’ wide. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have time to weed through thousands of sardines looking for the perfect kipper.

Consider instead approaching this process with professional confidence and pride in your company. No, you may not be BIGNAME CORPORATE GIANT, but not everyone wants to work for them. As I mentioned in another article, maybe you’re not paying off the charts in compensation but the reality is you DON’T want to attract 100 candidates for your job. You want to attract one (maybe two if you’re booming). Maybe, just maybe, you should change your hunting analogy to more of a snare trap than a net (and maybe not use a hunting or otherwise violent analogy for bringing aboard new employees, now that I think about it).

With just a little bit of effort on the front end, you can drastically reduce your recruiting time and probably actually enjoy the process. Instead of a typical, bland, corporate-y job description, approach this as a marketing campaign, only it’s a two way marketing campaign. Most job descriptions focus on the features you are looking for from the candidates and the features you are offering. “You will process payroll, unemployment claims, benefits….blah, blah, yawn, yawn…” “We are a great company….our people are our greatest resource…we have snacks…blah, blah, yawn, yawn…”

Any great marketing coach will tell you it’s the benefits that sell, not the features. Every company (with one big fat glaring exception that I can think of) says their people are their greatest resource. Every. One. Every Payroll Processing job is more or less similar. So what is the unique contribution you really want from your next hire? Will they love creating order and structure where there is none and not go completely bonkers when you re-invent their world every six months? Then SAY THAT!!  There is someone out there who is awesome at that and knows it, and you kind of want to warn off the ones who will run screaming into the night the third time you do that to them!

There are benefits to EVERY feature – especially your company and your target employee. Even features that aren’t conventionally sought-after are benefits to someone. The old ‘lid for every pot’ phenomenon. Employment is much more like a marriage than like a fishing expedition in that we are seeking quality and a symbiotic blending of uniqueness rather than 100 cut cookies falling into 100 perfect cookie shapes.

So…if you’re feeling frustrated with your current process consider the following.

  • Write a compelling, refreshing description of the benefits of the role and of the perfect person.
  • Describe the role and person so specifically that 98% of the wrong people will realize it’s not them, and the right person will recognize themselves immediately.
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor if that reflects your culture.
  • Don’t ask for more than you need in terms of experience or education. Talk instead about where the role is now, and where you want the person to take it, if different.
  • Don’t play the pay guessing game. You have a budget for the role. Unless it puts you at competitive risk, just tell the candidates what your range is. People will assume it’s somewhat negotiable (and it probably is) but if you’re in two different stratospheres it’s probably good to know right off the bat.
  • Let the candidate know the 30, 60 and 90 day deliverables in the role. If you don’t know this, figure it out. How else were you going to know if they were doing a good job? I am recruiting for a very savvy CFO who did most of the above for his positions and the comments from virtually every (very well-suited) candidate was that it was rare and attractive knowing the expectations and working for a company that a) had the expectations and b) communicated them.
  • Ask the candidate for a cover letter addressing how they fit in to all of the above. I personally wouldn’t consider a candidate who ignored this request, but you may feel differently.

Some food for thought that will hopefully make finding your next employee of the year a little easier. Happy hunting…or prospecting, if you will!


Red flags in recruiting


Anyone who has spent any time recruiting knows how discouraging it can be. Some days I feel like I will never fill my requisitions.  Doesn’t anyone stay at a job longer than two years anymore? What happened to proof reading your resume?  When you look at hundreds of resumes on a regular basis it is easy to become very adept at finding the red flags.  On one hand, this is your job as a recruiter, but on the other hand, you don’t want to over screen, either.  Here are some of the common red flags and when they matter:

Job hopping
Maybe I’m getting old, but I am definitely seeing a trend with the emerging workforce and a lack of longevity at their positions.  Back in ‘the day’, transferring from job to job labeled one as a ‘hopper’, which was undesirable and indicated a lack of loyalty and lack of patience.  That may or may not still be the case, but it is also the norm – like it or not.  If you are hiring someone who has graduated college in the last five years it is highly unlikely they have or will settle down at one company and earn their way up the ladder.

Gaps can be a red flag, and they can also be a sign of a crazy economy.  They can also mean a situational life event.  Significant gaps used to mean that someone was either unemployable or had left work to become a parent and was re-entering a workforce that had passed them by.  This is not necessarily as big an issue anymore.  There have been massive layoffs and great candidates have been jobless for lengthy periods of time.  As well, staying home with the kids is not as isolating in this day and age as it used to be so don’t assume a mother re-entering the workforce needs substantial retraining.  These are definitely points of clarification, but not deal breakers.

Cannot give you specific examples
This is more of a deal breaker, in my experience.  If a candidate has said in their resume or cover letter that they are a skilled change agent, and cannot give me a specific example of a change they have implemented, guess what? I’m suspicious.  When I ask them for an example and they use third person “you just do this,” instead of “I did that” I doubt they actually did what they are claiming.  That’s why I love behavioral interviewing.

Is not open to feedback
I have recruited for clients who are pretty easygoing about resumes and I’ve also recruited for clients who are sticklers.  If a candidate gives me a resume that is formatted incorrectly, or has typos, there is no way the sticklers will accept the candidate so I usually end up asking the candidate to fix up their resume.  If they refuse to do so, it’s usually a good indicator that this is not a great fit.

More than one communication problem or unprofessional communication in setting up interview
Maybe it’s not fair, but I’ve been doing this long enough to say with some confidence that if there are glitches in the interview or onboarding process, it’s usually not going to work out.  Sure, Murphy’s Law may occasionally be in effect, but for the most part, if someone can’t manage to get the interview time right, they will probably not end up being your superstar.

Overly concerned with themselves
I’ve actually interviewed candidates who interrupt my opening sentence to demand information about the salary, or hours or working conditions. Usually when this happens, I end the interview pretty quickly.  If the candidate did want to contribute and bring skills and innovation to the organization they hid it too well for me to be excited about presenting them.  


My personal interviewing ‘don’ts’

As a continuation of last week’s post, here are some of my interviewing ‘don’ts’.  These are interviewing techniques that, although common, I have not personally found very effective.   I’m willing to bet a cup of coffee that I’m mentioning one of your favorite, ‘go-to’ questions.  That’s okay.  If these work for you, and help you differentiate a strong candidate from a weak one, keep using them.   Some of these are on my list because they used to be very good questions; so good that everyone started using them and career coaches started prepping people for them, so I found over the last few years the answers are a bit ‘canned’.  You can always re-tweak your question to get a more authentic answer.  Some of these are on my list because they prevent you from finding out good information.  Again, find what works for you and stick to it. 

Talk too much about yourself
This is the worst interviewing mistake, and senior executives are just as guilty of this as novice managers.  While it is important for the candidate to get to know you and your company, it is not okay to spend the whole interview talking about yourself and not ask what you need to from the candidate.  I have noticed that people who tend to do this, also tend to like everyone they interview (because they like talking about themselves)

Ask yes/no questions without follow up
This tends to happen when the interviewer has already decided the candidate can do the job (which can be for various reasons).  They will say things like. “Are you good with Excel?” or “This job requires attention to detail, which I assume is no problem for you given your history?”.  Usually when you ask a yes/no question it’s obvious what the right answer is, so if you don’t ask for follow up, or examples, you’re really leaving a lot unanswered.

Ask ‘greatest strength/greatest weakness’
There are people who are very attached to these questions and nothing I say will convince you otherwise but I personally don’t find them very useful.  I’m not sure most people are accurate on their self assessments and/or motivated to share those honestly with their potential employer.  Furthermore, every interview coaching book I have ever read advises candidates to prepare an answer to this question.  You’d have to be born under a rock not to know to answer this either with a strength disguised as a weakness (I care too much) or as a story of personal triumph (I used to … but now I …)

Ask what animal the candidate would be on the carousel…or what animal they would be period, or what kind of tree
People who ask these believe very strongly it can give you insight into a person’s self-concept and values.  For example “I’d be a mighty oak tree because I’m mighty and strong and resist adversity” or “I’d be a weeping willow because I cry all the time” etc.  I’m not sure I know how to interpret the answer and, as above, whether a person’s self-assessment is true.  And because their job does not require them to be a tree, I am skeptical of the predictive validity. 

Ask situational questions as a predictor of how the candidate would do in that situation
This also is a pet technique for many and if you insist on asking it, that’s fine.  I don’t like these questions because I don’t think they have a lot of predictive validity.  Creating an imaginary situation and asking a candidate how they would respond in it just doesn’t make sense.  People who like this technique insist that it tells them how well people think on their feet, are creative, etc etc.  To me, it just tells me how well they respond to imaginary situations.  If needing to respond to an imaginary situation is a job requirement, however, this should be part of the interview


Interviewing Do’s (Don’ts to follow)

I’ve taught classes for managers on interviewing skills countless times over the years.  What I’ve found to be true is that interviewing is like potato salad:  Everyone has their own way of doing it and everything thinks their way is the best.  I know a manager who is adamant that the only question he needs to ask prospective candidates is “if you were an animal on a carousel, which animal would you be?”  I totally disagree but have not been able to convince him to this day.  Making a good hiring choice is so important that most people are highly invested in whatever they think increases the odds of finding a great candidate (or avoiding a nightmare).  I have a personal list of do’s and don’ts that I’ve found over the years to have good predictive validity. Hopefully you have success with them as well.

Absolute Do’s

A job description review for job requirements, competencies and duties
This is probably most important.  Never, never, never interview someone without this.  You’re doing everyone a disservice.  Requirements are your non-negotiables that someone needs in order to do the job.  For example, if you’re hiring an accountant a requirement might be an accounting degree. Competencies are skills someone has acquired, such as proficiency with excel and duties refer to the tasks people will be doing, such as coding journal entries.

Craft behavioral interview questions based on the above
My unshakable belief is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and that if someone has successfully executed the necessary components of the job previously there is a high likelihood they will do so again, so the interview questions should ask what people have done, and not what they would or could do.

Create an interview sheet with each question, rating and notes
This is so important because it keeps you objective and fair throughout the process.  We are all going to find candidates we relate to better than others and having an interview sheet ensures every candidate has an equal chance to provide the same information to you.

Ask clarifying questions
I sometimes forget that the candidates can be very good at hiding their nervousness, and so sometimes when they say odd, off the wall things it can take me aback. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to repeat what they said or to clarify.  In fact, imagine in every interview that you will be relaying the interview to a very inquisitive six year old.  They will have no compunctions about asking why, so you’d better not either!

Address concerns
This goes along with the point above, but it cannot be overstated.  If the candidate has said something that suddenly puts them into the do not hire camp, please address it (if appropriate).  For example, if the candidate has implied that they do not like working directly with customers, and that is part of the job, please say so.  On the other hand, if your concerns are illegal, you may need to look at your own biases.  For example, if you inadvertently learn that your candidate is a member of a protected class and it changes your impression of them, you need to look at you and focus your attention all the more on the job requirements and whether the candidate can fulfill them.

Address salary expectations
By now, everyone has chewed on the old chestnut stating that in salary negotiations, the first person to mention a number loses.  I get it but, please!  It makes recruiting almost impossible when candidates are secretive about their salary requirements.  Just tell what the job pays, and let the candidate decide if that works for them or not.  

Mention any background checks or pre-employment drug tests
Different companies have different philosophies on this, but if you will be administering a pre-employment drug test or background check, tell your candidate and let them decide if they want to continue the process. It saves time and money to give them a graceful out.

Again, these are just some things that I have found to have good predictive validity.  There are also some don’ts that I’ve done well to stay away from that I’ll be sharing next week.  Until then, happy hunting!


From the Recruiting Desk – Tips for your job search

Part of the services Limitless HR Solutions offers is recruiting, so part of my job is matching job searchers to people who are hiring.   From a recruiting standpoint, there are really three things to take into consideration: Does the skill set of the candidate match with what the company needs; is the culture a ‘fit’ for the candidate, and lastly, does the candidate demonstrate social/emotional intelligence?  Much of the time, it’s like gold mining, and sometimes it’s like gold mining in reverse.  

As a Certified Professional Resume Writer, I am well aware that a resume is a marketing tool and sometimes it’s not an entirely accurate one.  Behavioral interviewing is my best tool for determining whether someone has actually done what their resume claims.  For example, the resume might say ‘Managed customer accounts worth $250 million’.  Behavioral interview questions will address what specific things they did when they say ‘managed accounts’ and you may find out they did exactly what you need them to do in this role or (reverse gold mining) by ‘managed’ they mean ‘took orders when established clients called them in’.  

So tip number one for job searchers:  You will greatly increase your chance of an interview if your resume makes it easy for me to determine the things you did and the results you got.  I’m sure I’m not the only recruiter who is also a resume writer so please do not ‘fluff’ up your resume to make it sound more impressive.  We can tell.  And do you really want to land a job that is way above your experience level?  

Recruiting for cultural fit is as important as skill (see previous article).  This is relatively easy to get a sense for; and especially when both sides are honest.  I firmly believe that in any relationship-dating or working, there is a lid for every pot.  If not having established policies for things gives you a rash, please don’t say you thrive in chaos.  

Tip number two for job searchers:  If you haven’t done so, please take some time to figure out what you’d really like to be doing.  If you’re feeling desperate to land a job, this may seem like a luxury you can’t afford but trust me.  You’ll stand a much better chance of getting by the me’s of the recruiting world if we sense this is a good fit and not that you’re saying whatever you have to because you’re worried you’ll never, ever get a paycheck again.

The last thing is emotional or social intelligence.  I’m not sure if this can be learned or not.  After some of the candidates I’ve spoken to I’ve wondered if they are playing an elaborate joke on me.  Why would someone go to the trouble of applying for a job they clearly don’t want?  

Tip number three for job searchers:  Unless a recruiter calls you out of the blue, you will be aware that you have an interview.  If you don’t at least do a cursory google search of the company you are interviewing with as well as a review of the job description…of the job you have applied for…you will NOT endear yourself to the gatekeeper…ERRRR recruiter.  

Tip number four for job searchers:  It’s a good idea to be pleasant to the recruiter.  If you berate them for information, or demand a higher salary before the interview has started, or complain about the job description, we will think you are a jerk and will not recommend you for hire.  It saddens me that this cannot remain and unstated rule, but alas, it cannot.

Happy Hunting!


“We Value People” Series Part 2: Recruiting for Culture

In the last post, we discussed what it means for an organization to ‘value people’.   When recruiting for an organization, hiring for cultural fit is arguably the most important factor. Obviously skill vies strongly for number one, but if you’ve ever had a technically brilliant person in a wrong cultural fit, you may argue for culture (I do).  If your candidates are truly great, they have options for employment and I will guarantee that they are hearing from every organization a version of “People are our number one resource,” “We value our people” and “We work hard and have fun”.  Everyone says that.  

Recruiting is a lot like dating.  For example, suppose your idea of a perfect life is living in a secluded log cabin in the mountains, hiking and reading thought-provoking books alone with your spouse.  You get online and start sifting through matches.  You find someone who meets many of your requirements in a perfect spouse. Same career aspirations, income level, geographic location, attractive, and sense of humor.  Sounds good, right?  Then you read that their ideal life is jet setting between New York and Paris attending gala events and social soirees.  Here is a quick multiple choice quiz:  This match is likely to a) develop into a satisfying long term relationship because both people will change and meet in the middle and have the best life ever or b) develop into a swirling vortex of bitterness and resentment where you can’t possibly imagine hating someone as much as this person? In case you are in any doubt, the answer is likely b.  Yes there are exceptions but the reality is YOU probably will not be that exception.  You are only wasting your time and their time even pursuing this match.  This is not to say they are not a great person, just not great for you.   The same is true for recruiting.  Never hide who you are to get what you think is a great candidate.  A great candidate in the wrong culture is just an acrimonious termination waiting to happen.  

Even if you’re a small employer, it’s important to define your ‘brand’ and to articulate your culture.  Don’t worry if, when you do this, you become aware of some disconnects.  At this stage the important thing is to define your culture so that you can attract the people who fit that culture. Next, and in subsequent posts, we can review what to do if your practices are out of sync with your desired culture.  There are benefits to every culture and there is a perfect candidate who will find your culture engaging and stimulating (unless you have a toxic culture.  If you have a toxic culture, keep on the lookout for subsequent posts).  

For example, small companies are appealing because candidates can have a direct impact there.  People who like to effect change and thrive on developing systems and who don’t mind (or like) lack of structure look for small companies.  Large, established companies attract people confident in their ability who appreciate the opportunity to improve their skills.  People who don’t mind (or like) established structures are more comfortable in large companies.  
Hopefully, you believe that you value your employees.  What does this mean to you?  Do you pay above market level?  If not, that’s okay.  Do you encourage open exchanges of ideas and allow people to try new things?  Do you have office events?  There’s probably something you do that you think is different or better than other companies.  Can people bring their pets to work?  Do you let them work from home occasionally?  Will you support their further education?  Do you offer the chance to advance from within the company?  There are literally hundreds of things a company can do that values employees.  Define this and your recruiting just got much more effective.  Now, when you are recruiting, you can give a very factual account of the environment and you can also ask the right question to determine whether the candidate will thrive in this environment or not.  This is a critical foundation to building a great company, vs importing headaches. 

Next, time, Part 3: Cultural Disconnects



Finding Great People: The Pre-Interview

In a previous post, we discussed how to more effectively post ads and screen resumes.  If you follow those tips you will be much more likely to interview qualified candidates so as not to waste anyone’s time.  But what makes for an effective interview?  First, consider making use of a qualifying phone screen.  Interviewing takes time for both yourself and the candidate so it is smart to make sure you’re only interviewing those most likely to succeed in your organization.  After you have determined the candidate has performed similar tasks in the past and that they seem to be a cultural fit, the next step is a qualifying phone call. 

The purpose of this call is basically to determine whether your impressions from their resume and cover letter seem accurate, whether there is ‘chemistry’, and if the candidate’s basic requirements match what your organization has to offer.  You should schedule about thirty to forty-five minutes for the phone interview with the candidate so an email invitation is best to ensure the candidate is prepared.  During this interview you will want to review their skills and ask questions to get a feel for their proficiency in necessary skills. 

Behavioral interviewing is the best way to determine whether a candidate has actually performed certain tasks. So, ‘tell me about the various ways you’ve used Excel in previous jobs’ is a better question than ‘What level of Excel are you?’ or ‘This job requires extensive spreadsheet skill.  Are you okay with that?’  You should also verify that the reporting location and working hours are a fit for the candidate.  After the phone interview you will have an idea of whether this person will fit in your organization and you can decide whether or not to schedule an in person interview. 

If you have many phone interviews, it is a good idea to wait until they are all concluded before you schedule the interviews, unless someone is so outstanding there is no doubt in your mind.  After your phone screens, it is best to be courteous and inform candidates you have not selected that they will not be moving forward in the process.  IT is worth your time to do your due diligence with this step to ensure you are getting the best possible candidates into your organization.  If you have additional questions about interviewing, please feel free to contact us at your convenience.