Category Archives: Recruitment

Top interview secrets of the experts

Have you ever had the experience of employing someone who you “just loved” when you interviewed them, only to face future disappointment when they turned out not to be the person you thought they were?

This is what I call “interview infatuation” and I coined the term because I’ve seen it happen so often I thought it needed a name.

Interview infatuation often happens because recruitment is not your main job it can be daunting task. Even if you have a robust process for recruitment, interviewing candidates can have you feeling anxious and confused.

Part of the problem is that candidates are often a lot better prepared that you. Dozens of websites provide sample interview questions and recommended responses. Your average candidate may also be more motivated than you are to perform well.

How do you shift the balance back to being in your favour?

By putting into practice just a few things that experienced interviewers do as a matter of course:

  1. Prepare
  2. Ask behavioural questions
  3. Be consistent

Most candidates come into interviews well-prepared and you’re at a disadvantage if you’re not equally well-prepared.

A quick scan of the candidate’s resume and drafting a few questions related to it does not count as preparation. Preparing thoroughly involves:

  • Revisiting the requirements for the role, especially the essential (must have) and desirable (can live without) criteria
  • Writing an interview plan that sets out the steps you will go through in the interview, including introductions, questions and closing
  • Studying the resume, specifically looking for gaps, inflated titles and anything else that doesn’t add up.
  • Reviewing any additional information such as pre-employment assessments
  • Choosing a suitable time and location where you will have privacy and not be interrupted.

As part of your preparation, write behavioural questions that are relevant to being successful in this role. Behavioural questions matter because past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. Anyone can guess the correct answer to questions such as “What are your strengths?”

Examples of all-purpose behavioural questions

  • Tell me about a time when you have had to deal with a difficult client or co-worker?
  • Can you give me an example of a project you have managed?
  • Was there a time when you were under pressure to deliver an outcome in a tight time frame?

With each of these questions, follow up with more probing:

  • What did you do?
  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What would you do differently if you did it again?

These questions are looking beyond the standard answers the candidate may have prepared. What you’re seeking to understand is not just the good stuff but how they handle situations when things go “pear shaped”. You will also get an insight into their thought processes as they describe what they learnt (or didn’t) from the experience.

When recruiting, you are often comparing candidates with diverse strengths. To do this effectively, it’s recommended that you consistently ask the same questions to all candidates. Naturally, you will ask some different questions as you explore each candidate’s suitability but your basic structure and behavioural question should be the same for everyone. By doing this you will find it much easier to rank candidates according to the essential and desirable criteria for the role.

A simple table of scores for each can help your final decision

One final point that wasn’t on my original list: Don’t feel like you have to do this alone. I always recommend to my clients that they get someone whose judgement they trust to help them interview. Their insight could prove valuable.

Having someone else at the interview may not be feasible for you. In that case, you can still gain help by accessing the many resources available online.

Preparing, incisive questioning and consistency will improve your “hit-rate” at interviews. You may also find it enhances your reputation as an employer.

“Every Saturday I was a crocodile and on Tuesdays, a clown”

When a client – now working in HR – told me this recently, I was both amused and impressed!

Painter and decorator, accounts clerk, children’s entertainer, office manager, hairdresser, executive assistant…

Could you predict what job title would come next? Would you hire this person to look after the HR needs of your company?

Experienced recruiters will see the potential for success in this work history, including:

  • Flexibility
  • Attention to detail
  • People-orientation
  • Continuous learning
  • Ability to communicate with a wide range of people

Congratulations to all those managers who are willing to look beyond the job titles and appreciate the pattern of preferences that make a career.

If you’ve benefited from someone using their imagination in hiring, please let us know below.

You are not your resume, you are your work. – Seth Godin

 

Warning: 13 lies applicants will tell you to get the job

trust

We tell potential employees what we want.  We shouldn’t be surprised if they bend the truth to fit our requirements.

Although slightly ‘tongue in cheek’, the following list is based on actual recruitment experiences in real workplaces.

1. I’m self-motivated

…I applied, didn’t I?

2. I have excellent communication skills

…just don’t read my CV too closely.

3. I have industry experience

…not necessarily in this industry.

4. I love a challenge

…as long as it’s one I choose.

5. I’m very flexible

…so long as I can be out of here by 5.15 every day.

6. I believe in excellent customer service

…if I’m the customer.

7. I’m well organised

…in fact, I can spend all day tidying my desk and sorting my emails.

8. I can juggle priorities

…you’ll notice how I have Facebook and YouTube open at the same time.

9. Money isn’t important to me

…as long you pay me what I think I’m worth.

10. I’m a team player

...oh, you mean at work?

11. I work independently

…as long as I can go around asking everyone else for help.

12. I’m innovative

…just tell me what you want and I’ll Google it for you.

13. I have great interpersonal skills

…but please don’t ask me why I left my last job!

Too cynical? Too harsh?

If you’ve been caught out by any of these statements from a prospective employee, the good news is that there are independent ways to assess every one of  them – if you’d rather get the full picture.

Of course, you may agree or disagree!  I look forward to reading your comments.

Recruitment’s biggest myth

It amazes me how many people still believe:

The more candidates you have to choose from, the better your chance of finding the right person.

This is a fallacy that gives people comfort – while also ensuring they waste time in reading too many resumes, then sorting, ranking, interviewing and notifying too many applicants.

Imagine an alternative reality:

When you advertise a vacancy every applicant is so switched on by what you say that they are already screened to fit your core values.

And they personally deliver their application to your office!

You would receive far fewer applicants but every one of them has already passed through a filter before you even see their resume.

This is not a fantasy.  It actually happened to our accountant, Accounting and Taxation Advantage, when they advertised with these words:

At Accounting & Taxation Advantage our

philosophy is simple. We want to impact our

client’s lives, their families and their communities.

We are looking for a

FULL-TIME ACCOUNTANT

(experience not necessary) that wants to join our

proactive, innovative, award winning accounting

firm. Beware though – we are not normal

accountants.

So if you dream of a workplace where you are

encouraged to share your ideas to grow the

business, are provided professional and on the

job training, where you want to see your clients

succeed, where everyone is rewarded for their

efforts but importantly where you work hard and

are a committed part of a team then we may be

what you are looking for.

Inspired? Then drop your resume in person to

our Glenbrook office by May 31.

How does this compare with your most recent job ad?

If you want to stop wasting time on inappropriate applicants, you need to know:

1.  Why you do what you do;

2.  What makes your organisation or department special;

3.  Where you’re headed and how you plan to get there.

Once you’re clear on those three points  it will be easy to ignore the biggest recruitment myth!

Three things you should know about every new employee

You’ve read the CV’s, interviewed and done reference checks. Could you have missed something?

Assuming your new employee has the qualifications, experience, skills and attitudes required to do the job, there are three basic things every boss needs to know about their latest hire:

1.  How long are they likely to stick around?

Your needs will vary with the job, but the cost of hiring and training someone new usually means you would like them to stay working for you for a reasonable time.

2.  How well do they respond to feedback?

Some people strive to be the best they can while others are quite happy the way they are. What if you hired someone who sees no reason to change and views feedback as criticism?

3.  Are they motivated to put in effort commensurate with the rewards they expect?

If you are paying someone well, you will be expecting them to work at a certain level. It’s useful to know if they are likely to possess the self-motivation required.

These are just 3 of the 156 work-related traits we measure using Harrison Assessments to help you predict performance. 

We call these traits:

1.  Wants Stable Career

The desire for long-term or permanent employment.

2.  Receives Correction

The tendency to accept guidance intended to improve performance.

3.  Pay Minus Motivation

The tendency to have strong desire for money while lacking the personal drive necessary to earn it.

Would it make a difference to you to know these things before you bring someone on board?  Contact us to find out more.

Case Study: Online Recruiting

The first time I met Frank Stillone, managing director of The Silent Partner, he was looking for a ‘robust’ recruitment process.  

Finding the right people was difficult.  Most didn’t live up to what was required for the role.  Mistakes and poor performance from his staff were costing him business.  He needed a better way of finding the right person who would be an excellent fit.  Together we were able to develop a process that delivered the results Frank wanted to achieve.

Background

The Silent Partner, in Sydney, is a provider of virtual office, calendar management and help desk solutions.  The growth of the business requires regular recruitment of additional virtual receptionists to deliver these services.  Frank had previously done his own recruitment, with mixed results.

Designing the job requirements

Using his knowledge of what makes someone successful in the virtual receptionist role, Frank and I carefully selected the essential and desirable criteria, along with those characteristics he would prefer to avoid.

For each of the eligibility criteria – skills, qualifications, experience – points were allocated to each possible answer, depending on the job requirements.  For example, some of the company’s clients are medical specialists and allied health professionals, so bonus points were awarded for experience as a medical receptionist.

For the suitability criteria – personality, motivation, work preferences, interests – we were able to add relevant traits and rate them in terms of their importance and frequency of use on the job.

Setting up the campaign

Once the criteria were in place, Frank was ready to start taking applications.  He placed an advertisement on an online job board with a link back to The Silent Partner’s ‘Jobs’ page.  The advertisement also stated that the only way to apply was by following this link.

When an applicant reached the web page, they could see the job description with an ‘apply now’ button at the bottom.  By clicking on this button, the applicant would arrive at the beginning of the online application form.

The application process

Once they reached the application form, applicants were first presented with details of the job.  If they chose to proceed with an application, they completed their name and contact details before proceeding to the first part of the online questionnaire (eligibility).

Answering the eligibility questions took only a few minutes.  The applicant was then asked to upload their CV and cover letter.  Depending on their score in the first section, they were asked to proceed to the second part of the questionnaire (suitability).  Completing this section takes about 20 minutes.

The results

A total of 269 people viewed the online application form.  Of these, 69 decided not to apply after viewing the job description while a further 27 didn’t proceed after entering their personal details, therefore self-selecting themselves out of the process.

This left 173 applicants who completed the eligibility questions and/or resume upload, including 132 who went on to complete the suitability questionnaire.

The system automatically short-listed 24 candidates with scores over the pre-determined cut-off.  The CVs of the top 15 short-listed candidates were reviewed to decide who would proceed to preliminary structured telephone interviews.

Frank interviewed five people in the preliminary round.  Two candidates were selected for more detailed interviews and both were offered – and accepted – a virtual receptionist position.

The benefits

The Silent Partner’s recruitment process had rewards in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficient

  • Frank didn’t have to receive and respond to 269 emailed applications, saving him days of unproductive work.
  • Once set up, the process was automatic and did not require management or input until Frank was ready to close the campaign and interview.
  • Frank only had to read the resumes of short-listed candidates.
  • Telephone interviews were structured and effective in further screening of candidates.
  • Candidates could be notified of their progress directly from the recruitment system.

Effective

  • Frank was able to monitor the campaign via a dedicated dashboard.
  • By deciding in advance what he did and didn’t want, all applicants were objectively and automatically screened.
  • Frank estimated the new process took less than 20% of the time he’s devoted to similar recruitment exercises in the past, representing a significant cost saving to the business.
  • All applications were checked for consistency by the system, flagging applicants who may not have been honest in their answers to the questionnaire.
  • Only those candidates who met pre-set criteria were considered for the role.

Frank says:  At the end of the day, your company is just a collection of people doing stuff and whether that company is Apple or Merv’s Mowing Services it doesn’t really matter.  If you want to be successful you need to get the right people doing things right.  As small business owners the same applies to us:  We can be experts at many things but we cannot be an expert in everything. That’s why we need to bring in someone with specialised knowledge and tools to help us find the talent we need to grow.

Download the case study

The time to ‘trust your gut’ is lunchtime…

…not when you’re hiring a new staff member!

Managers very often rely on their intuition or ‘gut feel’ when making staffing decisions.  In my experience, it’s amazing how often we hear  “it just felt right”, “she seems like a good fit” or “I feel very comfortable with him”.  There’s a lot of confidence in intuition.

When it turns out the person they hired is just not up to the job, have you ever heard a manager say “I guess my intuition isn’t reliable”?

You’re more likely to hear “he did a great job of selling himself at the interview” or “her referees obviously exaggerated her ability”.

For managers who rely on outdated and ineffective recruitment procedures, the wrong decision is usually someone else’s fault – often the new employee’s.

When was the last time you heard a manager use “it just felt right” as justification for an equipment or software purchase?  Of course, few would.  Yet many are prepared to take a gamble on their gut feeling when it comes to the major investment of hiring a new staff member.

A recent survey by the recruiter, Hudson, found that 44% of new hires were described by their managers as ‘not good’*.

Would a 44% failure rate be acceptable in any other area of their businesses?

The managers who regard recruitment as more art than science are ignoring the research and resources available today that enable much better predictions of employee performance.  For example

1. Past experience is a poor indicator of a candidate’s ability to perform well in a new role;
2. Motivation and cultural fit are the best indicators of future performance but only 6% of hiring managers assess these objectively*;
3. Matching the right person to the right job by measuring their ‘fit’ to the role is easy and inexpensive – especially when compared to making the wrong decision.

Next time you see someone recruiting without adding appropriate rigour to the process, suggest they just toss a coin instead.  The odds of getting a good employee won’t be much worse than 56%  – and it’s a lot less trouble!

*Hudson 20:20 Series:  New Generation Recruitment: Battle Strategies For the Talent War at http://au.hudson.com/2020/node.asp?kwd=latest-2020-whitepaper  Read more here: http://www.afr.com/p/national/work_space/why_you_can_get_good_staff_stP5BDsy9SJ2C1F9NqjsOO

Writing an effective job advertisement

The development of a job advertisement is a crucial part of the recruitment and selection process to enhance the employer’s capability to attract the right pool of applicants for their role.  

This extends to where you advertise and under which category you post the advertisement.  This article will step you through writing your advertisement and will provide you with some sample wording in key areas.

Recruitment Strategy

The first decision you need to make is where you advertise.     Factors will include the:

  •  Seniority of the role
  • Type of role – example IT role or HR role
  •  Location of the business
  •  Employment category – full time or part time (there are now web sites for part time jobs, job share).
  • Advertising budget
  • Time frame to fill the role
  • Main components of the role – this will determine the category and sub categories.

Requirements of an effective advertisement:

The advertisement should:

  • Attract attention from a sufficient number of potential candidates
  • Provide an honest picture of your company
  • Display the image of your company
  • Create an impression of credibility
  • Contain accurate information
  • Provide information for follow up by the perspective candidates – example contact details, your web site.
  • Closing date – this is a personal choice however I always prefer to have a closing date.
  • Salary range – again this is a company decision.  Some companies have a policy that they will not advertise the actual range.  Others simply select the range in the tools for searches by candidates who can select jobs within their range.

Content and Layout of your advertisement:

Write your advertisement in the following flow of information:

Headings –  job title and a few key bullet points to attract candidates’ attention; such as:

Administration Manager

  •  Fabulous Leichhardt location, close to coffee shops, delis etc.
  • Varied role managing a small team
  • Flexible Work Arrangements possible

The Company – a brief description of your business

Limit to one paragraph, enough for the prospective applicant to know what your main purpose is.

The Job – describe what the job entails – this is critical.  You do not want the whole job but avoid vague descriptions, be specific.  Use wording such as:

  • Manage a team of two – an accounts clerk and receptionist
  • Process a weekly payroll of 20

Person SpecificationWhat knowledge, experience, skills and personal attributes must candidates possess – be specific and avoid vague descriptions.  Be careful not to stipulate criteria that you do not need for the role which may be a concern in discrimination issues.

Don’t use               –                               Good computer skills (you wouldn’t want bad!)

Use phrases such as            –               Must be able to demonstrate advanced skills in Excel

Package informationinsert information about package, benefits etc.

Closing information –  closing date for your advertisement, contact details.

Equal Employment Opportunity:

 Due care is required to avoid discrimination against potential candidates.  For example avoid wording such as:

  • 3 years experience  –  use “candidates must be able to demonstrate …” or “candidates must have a demonstrated track record in …”
  • Office Junior – can become Office Assistant
  • Foreman – can convert to Supervisor

For more information on equal employment opportunity in advertising or elaboration on any other aspect of this article please do not hesitate to contact Victoria Sciacca on 0408 602 240 or info@hrcsolutions.com.au or visit hrcsolutions.com.au

Why job fit matters for business

Career guru Kate Southam, wrote on her Cube Farmer blog last week  “Whether it is a pair of shoes or a job role, wrong fit hurts”.

The wrong fit hurts employees and the companies they work for, their colleagues and their customers.  The discomfort they are feeling radiates in all directions and can have substantial negative impacts on your business.  Discomfort degenerates into real pain when you have to deal with a resignation or dismissal.

Why choose to go through the pain when there’s a much easier way?

Kate says:  …with shoes, you are more likely to know your size.  With jobs, people don’t often sit down and work out their ‘size’ before they go shopping for a new role.

We say:   Far too often, managers don’t sit down and work out what they’re really looking for before they go shopping for people to fill roles.

We see the results of this ‘mutual mystification’ around us daily with disinterested and unmotivated staff. 

The most common manifestation is in poor customer service.  Other symptoms are bullying, absenteeism and even outright sabotage.

If you’re serious about avoiding pain, this article is a good starting point.

If you need more convincing that the upfront work will be worth the effort, see this article about customer service (SMH, 28 July 2011).

And if you really don’t think you have a problem because your staff aren’t complaining, it might be time to revisit this blog post.

We would love to help you ease the discomfort.  Better still, we can show you how to avoid it.  Contact us for more information.

 

Critical skill shortage 5: Technical skills

Welcome to the final article in this series based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles on this topic.

All the skills we looked at previously in this series – communication, problem solving and decision making, strategic thinking and people management – are of limited value to a business if they are not accompanied by the requisite technical knowledge.

There is a growing demand for professionals who possess relevant and transferrable technical skills.

This current skills shortage will become critical due to the following factors:

  • Baby Boomers are retiring, taking critical skills and knowledge with them,
  • Products and services offered to clients are growing in numbers and complexity and
  • Customers are expecting more sophisiticated advice and more individualised services.

The smart organisations in the sector are building their talent base in all the skill areas we’ve examined in this series.

According to the Kelly study, they are attracting and retaining mid to senior level talent with the right skills in the following ways:

  • Attractive and competitive pay and benefits (83% of respondents)
  • Talent and career development training (71%)
  • Internal promotion (62%)
  • Work life balance initiatives (42%)
  • Hiring from other organisations (25%)
  • Attracting younger workers (17%)
  • Attracting older and more experienced workers (17%)
  • Increased reliance on foreign talent (9%)
  • Delayed retirement (8%)
  • Temporary and contract work arrangements (7%)

Most organisations will find that some of these approaches are less sustainable than others.

What’s your talent attraction and retention strategy?  How well is it going to serve you in the longer term?

As always, I’d love to know what you think.  Please add your comments below.

 

Critical skill shortage 1: Communication

Last week’s article on the ‘Top 5’ critical skills in short supply in Banking and Finance generated a lot of interest.

As a result of your feedback, we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at each of the 5 areas of skill shortage in turn – beginning with communication – and give you some practical tips for survival.

For a quick summary of what you can do right now,  see our earlier post ‘The five step skills shortage strategy’.

Without excellent communication skills in all your staff, you will find they can’t:

  • build good relationships with clients
  • provide customer service that meets your clients’ expectations and needs
  • explain things well to clients
  • understand what clients need
  • sell your services and/or products
  • work together productively

From just that short list, imagine what poor communication could be costing your business!  But how can you know?

Signs you might have a problem:

  • customer complaints or (worse) losing clients who just leave without telling you why
  • low levels of business referrals (see previous articles on this topic)
  • lack of cooperation and teamwork, maybe some bullying
  • careless and/or expensive errors
  • losing good staff to competitors

What can you do about it?

1.  Be a positive role model

Communicate regularly and openly with your clients and staff.  Make sure this includes listening to what they have to say to you.

2.  Diagnose communication skills gaps

There are many tools and approaches on the market to help you do this.  We would be happy to help you find the right one for you.

3.  Fill the gaps

This may require drastic action that involves one or all of the following:

  • putting poor communicators where they can do the least amount of damage
  • improving the skills of your existing staff through training and coaching
  • hiring staff with the communication skills you want

If there are communication problems in your team, I guarantee without your intervention things can only get worse.  What do you plan to do about it?

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
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