Obstacle or Opportunity? Four Ways to Tell the Difference

June 28th, 2013

Very few careers tend to follow a perfectly smooth upward path, or a totally uninterrupted and unchallenged ascent like a walk up a flight of stairs. If you’ve never faced a single distraction, obstacle, or questionable shortcut on your way to career satisfaction, you can consider yourself part of a lucky minority. But for the rest of us, occasional distractions disguised as opportunities will appear on a fairly regular basis as we move forward. And the ability to distinguish a true stroke of luck from an enticing obstacle may have a powerful impact on our ability to get where we’re going. Here are a few questions to ask before you swerve from your chosen course.

1. If you’re offered a job or a way to make money, will the job stand in your way?

People with ambitious goals that require a high training or educational investment often accept “day jobs” to cover the bills while they wait for their investments to pay off. But a day job can easily take eight hours out of a productive day, every single day, and this is not a cost to be taken lightly. How well will you manage the hours your put into the job, and how will you keep those hours under control?  

2. If you have an opportunity to take out a loan, have you calculated the full cost of what you’re buying, including interest?

Loans may look like golden opportunities, and sometimes they are. But don’t sign on the dotted line until you’ve looked past the sticker price of what you’re buying (a home, a college education, a car) and calculated the real price. Are you really ready to pay $30,000 for an item that presumably costs $15,000? Remember, your interest payments are making someone rich. Who is this person (or company) and do they have your best interests in mind?

3. Are there any other—better, wiser, less expensive—ways to accomplish the same goal?

When you find yourself tempted by an opportunity or shortcut, don’t get starry eyed before you identify and list all the other options that will take you to the same destination.

4. Have you spoken to others who have faced this same crossroad before you? What did they decide to do and what was the outcome?

Nobody’s life and decisions are exactly the same as yours. But if you consult with mentors and talk to a statistically significant sample of others who have already made decisions similar to this one, you’ll gain some insight into the best and worst case outcomes of either choice. 

If you’ve asked yourself all of the questions above and you’re still stuck, don’t despair. Reach out to the NC staffing and career management pros at PSU and let us provide some additional information and guidance.

Is Finding the Perfect Hire Like Finding Your Soulmate?

June 21st, 2013

If you’ve been involved in HR or business management for a year or two, you may be starting to notice how the bargaining, courting, offering and negotiation involved in the hiring process can sometimes reflect the world of romance and dating. And there’s a perfectly valid reason for this, since the goals of both endeavors are similar. In both cases, two parties are sizing each other up and preparing for a potentially long term partnership. Both are prepared to make a few compromises in order to gain something in return, and both would rather avoid making a hasty decision, overlooking red flags, and opening the door to trouble down the road.

So if finding the perfect candidate is similar to the quest for a romantic partner, what steps can you take to make your story ends happily ever after?

1. First, attract a wide pool of potential applicants by showcasing your best selling points. The more your job post appeals to your specific target audience, the more options you’ll have and the more the odds will lean in your favor. Picture your ideal candidate and target your post directly to that hypothetical person.

2. Be honest. While you emphasize the perks and benefits of this company and this job, be careful not to stretch the truth. Don’t sell your workplace culture as “fun” or “innovative” if this environment is actually serious and bound by tradition. The further you move into the application review and interview process, the more clear you should be with your candidate about the challenges of this position, not just the free parking and casual Fridays.

3. Ask the right questions. Be sure your interview scripts are meaningful and substantive. It’s okay to go where the conversation takes you, but only up to a point. No matter how much you enjoy chatting with the candidate, keep steering the interview back on track. Incorporate skill tests and technical questions as necessary.

4. Be respectful. Never bait, demean, cross-examine or personally challenge a candidate during the interview process. This is silly and self-defeating. If you alienate your candidates and test them to see if they’re willing to grovel, you’ll be selecting for desperation. The stronger applicants will leave and accept offers with your competitors, because they can. Only the weakest will put up with abuse or show up for fifth, sixth, or seventh round of interviews.  

5. Don’t make lowball offers. If you truly like a candidate and want to close the deal, start the relationship off on the right foot by making an offer that’s generous—or at the very least, fair. If you underpay, you may think you’re getting a bargain, but this is a poor strategy over the long term.

Attract the most talented candidates, court them successfully, bring them on board and retain them as your company grows. Reach out to the NC staffing experts at PSU for specific guidance at every stage of this process.

Translating Your Employees: What are they Actually Telling You?

June 14th, 2013

If you’re a manager or business owner, especially if you’re new to the process and still finding your feet, it may sometimes seem like you and your employees are speaking entirely different languages. When they speak, you may hear and understand every word, but you still may get the odd feeling that you’ve somehow missed the point or overlooked some essential non-verbal clue.

There are several very likely reasons for this, since the workplace is an environment built around subtle politics and artful diplomacy. In a place like this, words that are spoken are not always to be taken at face value. Here are some of the phrases that employees may use when they’re trying to tell you something else altogether.

1. “I’m fine. Everything is okay. I can handle it.”

Each of these phrases by itself can mean trouble, but when all three of them are strung together like this, something’s wrong. In fact, you can bet cash money that everything is far from okay, and whatever may be going on, the employee in question can’t really handle it and it’s time for you to step in. investigate further. Is there an internal conflict in play that requires a referee? What does the employee’s work load look like? Are there obstacles in place that are preventing her from completing her work successfully?

2. “When do you need this by?”

An employee with reasonable deadlines and a manageable workload won’t usually ask for a due date if you haven’t offered one. If his schedule is flexible, he’ll simply set himself to the task right away and complete it as soon as he can. So if he asks a leading question like this, follow up. Find out what other deadlines he’s dealing with and help him work this project into his existing schedule.

3. “Do you have a minute?”

An employee with a simple request to make or a routine report to deliver won’t usually ask for a minute (or a “sec”) in a loaded tone like this. When you hear this question, it usually means your employee has something important to say that may have an impact on her productivity and make take longer to explain than a literal minute. This phrase translates to something like “Can I sit down with you for an hour or so and talk about something that matters to me?” And when you hear it, take it seriously. Drop what you’re doing if you can, and if you don’t have time right then, make a formal appointment with her later.

For more tips on understanding your employees and finding out what motivates them and keeps them engaged, arrange a consultation with the NC staffing and business management experts at PSU.

How Successful Companies Navigate the Hiring Process

June 7th, 2013

All companies have a hiring process. Even if they only stay in business for a year before running themselves into the ground, struggling companies can still manage to secure employees, especially during a difficult economic cycle when the hiring balance tips in favor of employers. But just because a company can attract a few candidates and get them to sign on the dotted line doesn’t mean the candidates are a great match for their positions, and it certainly doesn’t mean the company is on the path to glory. Here are a few moves that tend to separate average organizations from truly successful ones when it comes to finding and securing top talent.

1. Great companies leverage their current teams.

If they’re satisfied and engaged, your current employees make the best possible brand ambassadors for your company. After all, who’s in a better position to explain what this company needs or what it’s really like to work here? Ideally, you’d like your current employees to love their jobs so much that they actively encourage their friends and family to apply. So in addition to managing them well, motivating them, and paying them fairly, incentive them to bring others on board with an appealing referral and bonus program. 

2. Great companies turn their websites into a gathering place for talented through leaders.

 You may have a “careers” tab on your website that lists current open positions and offers instructions on how to apply, and that’s a good start. But why not turn this section into an active community? Engage visitors by publishing regular updates with news, industry information, and commentary on hot button issues relevant to insiders. Encourage feedback and comments. Invite recognized voices to publish guest posts. Talented candidates who visit may not be in a position to apply for a job right away, but give them a reason to come back when they are.

3. Great companies take succession planning and pipeline building seriously.

The best possible hiring decisions take place when current employees are identified, groomed, and promoted to the next level as appropriate positions open up. But this kind of internal candidate cultivation doesn’t happen by itself. Real and effective pipeline building takes years of advanced planning and a well-structured training and mentoring system. The sooner you put this system in place, the better poised you’ll be to simply hire from within and sidestep the recruiting, screening, and interviewing process altogether.

For more information on streamlining and risk-proofing your hiring strategy, reach out and arrange a consultation with the NC staffing experts at PSU.

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