Evaluating a Candidate’s Teamwork Skills

July 13th, 2018

You probably mentioned in your job post that you’re looking for a “team player”, and after publishing your post, you’re probably receiving plenty of resumes from candidates who describe themselves using this term. Chances are, just about every application you receive will use the word “team” at least once, and maybe several times. “Team players” are everywhere. And of course there’s no universal consensus on what this term actually means. So how can you make sure you’re selecting candidates who hold the specific team skills you’re looking for? Here are a few quick tips.

Ask, then check for alignment.

During the interview, ask your candidate to tell you a story. For example, try: “Tell me about a time on the job when you had to demonstrate team skills,” or: “Tell me a story that demonstrates what teamwork means to you.” Let the candidate think for a minute before answering, and compare what she says with your own definition of teamwork. See how well they line up.

Be clear, not vague.

Vague statements might seem safe and appealing in the interview setting, but they really just waste your time and contribute to bad decision making on both sides of the table. As far as possible, be clear and honest with your candidate. If you want someone who will keep quiet about company wrongdoing and execute questionable orders obediently, don’t call this “teamwork”. Call it something else. If you want a candidate who will work long hours and show up on weekends, don’t say you want a “team player”. Say you need someone who can work long hours and show up on weekends.

Teamwork may or may not make the dream work.

How will dedication to a “team” help your candidate, the company, or both? Some employers staff positions in the face of long term projects that require an extended investment, and they need candidates who are willing to stay in their seats for the next several years. Energetic, ambitious candidates who are contributing to teams left and right and working their way quickly up the ladder may not want to park here for very long. They’re great with teams, and their contributions are invaluable…but when the winds change and it’s time to move on, they shift team loyalties as well. Will this kind of teamwork work for you? If not, find out now. If so, make sure your ambitious candidate knows that staying on board for a while will be worth the sacrifice.

For more on how to define “teamwork” and “team players” for your candidate, your hiring partners, your recruiter and yourself, reaching to staffing experts at PSU.

How to Master the Interview

June 22nd, 2018

Despite what some employers want you to believe, most job interviews are more-or-less the same. Some employers want you to assume that an interview with their unique company represents a special opportunity to connect in a special way with a special enterprise. Of course that isn’t true; most companies develop their interview process using research, trial and error, and careful observation of the interviews conducted by other successful companies. As a result, nothing they do is new or special, and every question and observation they apply during the process will be drawn from a long-established set of patterns and formulas.

The good news for job seekers: If employer interviews are research-and-formula based, then employee interviews can (and should) be as well. There’s a science to this process, and a method that works in one case will likely work almost everywhere. This is a dance with known and recognized steps. Learn the steps and you’ll do well with almost every interviewer you encounter. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Settle down.

This tip applies across every industry from food service to surgery. When you’re nervous and uncomfortable, you make others nervous and uncomfortable. But when you relax, you make others feel relaxed and happy. If you can’t calm your nerves or steady your shaking hands by forcing yourself to do so, start thinking of the process as a favor to your interviewer. Help them. Make them feel at ease. Let your calm demeanor reassure them. Turn the tables, even if only in your mind.

Focus on a few key points, not a huge file download.

An interview is a conversation, not a massive exchange of data and information. You don’t need to tell your interviewer about every single accomplishment or A plus you’ve ever earned. They won’t remember these details anyway. Touch on some highlights (maybe two or three) and don’t worry about the rest. If you’re scrambling to blurt a laundry list of facts about yourself and you’re so focused on transmitting that you aren’t listening to your interviewer, something is wrong. Think of the interview as a date. If the two of you enjoy the conversation, you’ll have plenty of time later on to share more facts and details.

Look and sound trustworthy.

When we meet someone new, most of us want to look and speak in a way that makes us seem friendly, stable and pleasant. But in an interview, there’s one quality that exceeds these others in weight and value: trustworthiness. Before you convince your employer that you can expertly remove a gall bladder or design a website, you need to convince them that you will show up every day and present yourself honestly. You’ll do your best and you won’t embarrass the company. If you hit the mark, you won’t have to say these things because your voice, clothing and body language will send the message for you.

For more on how to master the basics and make a great impression in every interview you attend, contact the team at PSU.

Empower Your Employees for Success

June 8th, 2018

In order to succeed at their jobs and make meaningful contributions to the company, your employees need one thing that you may or may not be adequately providing: personal agency. Some inexperienced managers believe the opposite. They assume that the more they ride herd over their teams, the “better” these teams will do. In other words, if they spend their days telling their employees exactly what to do and how to do it, watching closely as they follow through, correcting every mistake in real time, forbidding risks, preventing failure, and scolding anything less than perfect obedience, then every project will end in victory. Employees are like oranges; the more you squeeze them, the more you’ll get out of them.

But this simply isn’t true. Studies and empirical evidence show that success lies in giving employees breathing room, so they can make decisions, solve problems on their own, and (gasp) fail. Leadership means backing off by a step a two and allowing your employees to learn and grow. Here’s how.

Stay focused on the long term.

It’s hard to watch an employee attempt something risky and fail. When we see such a failure looming, our natural instinct is to reach out and steady the bicycle so the crash doesn’t happen. But to avoid acting on this impulse, focus on the future. The quicker and harder the crash, the more the employee will learn, and the sooner you’ll see the day that she pedals confidently on her own. Keep thinking about that day.

Recognize that their real value comes from who they are, not what they do each day.

Your employee might toil along on a Monday afternoon, filing files and processing projects. But as the day and the year go by, you aren’t paying her for each of those little projects. You’re paying her for the knowledge she’s accumulating, the judgement she’s exercising, and the competence she’s gaining in her role. You’ve a hired a person, not a robot. So value the contributions she makes that only a person can make. Give her enough room to exercise her ever-growing critical thinking skills.

Trust is magical.

An employee who feels trusted will rise, as if by magic, to a higher level of trustworthiness. Before taking a risk, the trusted employee will put everything she has into making the smartest possible decision. The employee who doesn’t feel trusted, on the other hand, will accept less responsibility for the results, will not feel as confident, and will probably make a poorer decision. But it won’t matter, because if you hover over her, both the decision and the responsibility for the outcome will be yours, not hers.

Trust brings personal connection.

The simplest reason to trust your employees: If you do this, they will like and respect you more. Employees tend to work harder and stay with the company longer if they genuinely like their bosses. Step back and watch your relationship flourish. For more on how to do this, turn to the team at PSU.

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

March 24th, 2017

Your interview date is coming up, and you’re ready for almost anything. You have a travel plan and a back-up travel plan, and you know exactly how to show up on time, dressed for success. You know how to highlight your strengths, show some flexibility, demonstrate a relaxed sense of humor, and frame key elements of your experience in the form of stories and narratives. You know what to do. But do you also know what NOT to do? Here are a few simple, avoidable blunders that might send the wrong message. Watch your step and don’t fall into these traps.

Don’t blame others.

In the broadest sense, this one is easy. Of course you won’t badmouth your last boss or talk about how the company let you down. But there are suggestions of blame that are not so obvious. Any time the conversation turns toward anything the least bit negative—anything at all—stay on the alert. Edit your language carefully to make sure you aren’t inadvertently casting shade on anything or person who might be implicated in your struggles or setbacks. Not one negative thing in your past has been caused by anything other then your own fumbles. And since your own fumbles may not be to blame either, step out of this territory as quickly as you can. There’s a time for flexibility, nuance, and accepting the basic failings of human nature. A job interview is not one of those times.

Make a point of learning from your mistakes.

If you need to describe a time when you messed up, a missed deadline, a past job that didn’t work out, or a goal you once had that didn’t materialize, don’t just tell your story and call it a day. Tell your story and then shift gears to talk about what you learned. Explain how the experience led to growth and how you’ll handle the same situation if it ever happens again.

Don’t try to be all things for all occasions.

Your interviewer may ask you a question like: “Are you a leader or a follower?” or: “If you have to choose between meeting deadlines and producing quality work, which do you choose?” and if this happens, just answer the question. You don’t have to say you’re great at both. Don’t try to game the system. Provide the information that’s being asked of you. Tell the truth and answer in good faith. If your interviewer says “There are no wrong answers”, take her at her word. Show trust and respect and you’ll reap the same in return.

For more on how to shine during your interview and avoid the kinds of pitfalls that can hold you back, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing team at PSU.

Managing a Team with Varying Personalities

December 9th, 2016

In a perfect world, our jobs are easy. Employees skip into the office on day one knowing exactly what to do and how to do it perfectly, and mangers earn the love and respect of their teams simply by showing up and smiling. Teams are easy to manage; they all respond to the same rewards and pressures, and the coaching tips that motivate Employee X also work for Employee Y. And of course, X and Y get along beautifully and work together in perfect harmony every single day.

But in the real world, things don’t always fall into place so easily. Employees respond to very different coaching styles, and they don’t always get along. Sometimes, the gestures that support one actually undermine another. So what’s a manager to do? Here are few simple guidelines for managing diverse personalities.

There are no simple answers.

Keep in mind that great managers never really “get it all figured out”. There are no secret keys to successful motivation and training. If you find a secret key, recognize that your key only applies to one person—or personality type—and as soon as the next one appears, you’ll be back to square one. Stay humble and flexible, and be ready to disregard what you’ve learned when your circumstances change.

Be kind.

This simple rule applies to a multitude of management scenarios. If your employee appears to be squaring off with you, misunderstanding you, not following your directions, or willfully creating problems for you and your team, back up. Something is wrong, and escalating the conflict won’t help. Listen and strive to understand what’s happening on the employee’s side of the table. A small amount of patience and empathy on your part can go a long way.

Personalities don’t change, but behaviors do.

If an employee happens to be a narcissist, or excessively shy, or a terrible listener, you can’t change any of those things. And dismissing all employees who fall short of personal perfection will leave you with an empty office pretty quick. Don’t attempt to change core personalities; instead, attempt to understand and work with them as they are. Unlike personalities, behavior and words can be modified. Start there, and work toward an achievable goal: employees who get along well enough to get the job done (without compromising their mental health).

Draw the line when necessary.

Again, you can’t regulate personalities, but you can—and should—recognize and regulate appropriate behavior. A bully will always be a bully, but bullying behavior in the workplace should mean firm disciplinary action and eventual termination. A shy employee will always be shy, but if public speaking is essential to the job, make sure your shy employee gets the coaching, training, and/or eventual transfer that he needs.

Learn more about the coaching and management of the unique personalities that populate your office; turn to the Cleveland County staffing experts at PSU.

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Job Failure: What have You Learned?

September 23rd, 2016

During your interview session, your employer may ask you to directly address some of the stumbles and setbacks from your professional past. In some cases, your interviewer may ask you to explain a resume gap (which can be tough to do if you were fired). In another common scenario, you may be asked to describe the “greatest failure” in your working life, or simply discuss a time in which you let your team down, missed a deadline, lost a client, or otherwise fell short of the expectations placed upon you. What should you do when these questions come your way? Start by keeping these tips in mind.

Go all in.

When you answer this question, don’t hedge. Jump in with both feet. Instead of timidly choosing an event from your past that doesn’t qualify as a “failure” (“I was almost five minutes late to work once!”), choose a serious disaster. Going all in will help you achieve two key goals: it will demonstrate the depth and breadth of your experience, and it will also get your interviewer’s attention. The bigger the failure, the better the story.

Stay positive.

Your darkest moments and biggest failures felt truly terrible… at the time. Five minutes after they happened, you may have wanted to go home, crawl back into your bed, and never come out. But no matter how bad they felt, those dark moments are long in the past now, and your story has arrived at a happy ending. So focus on the rain that followed the rainbow. Before you even begin telling your tale, recognize that this is a tale of triumph, not tragedy.

Emphasize the personal qualities that turned your ship around.

When the worst happened (you lost, failed, crashed, etc), you had nowhere to go but up. And you climbed back to victory by relying on your rigorous training. Or your hard-earned experience. Or your tenacious nature. Or your special talents. Or your innate courage and determination. Let this quality—whatever it may be—become the hero of your story. Explain how the better elements of your nature came to your rescue.

Share the credit.

Of course you’re great (that’s why your story ends happily), but you’re also aware that you couldn’t have pulled
out of your spin without the help, knowledge, generosity, kindness or competence of those around you. Whatever you do, don’t throw anyone else under the bus or blame another person for your shortcomings and problems.

Describe what you learned.

No matter how your story plays out, make sure your take-home message is clear: your failure provided you with valuable lessons that you won’t ever forget. Explain what the entire experience taught you about the nature of your industry, the keys to success, or what you might have done differently and will surely do differently the next time the situation arises.

For more on how to grab the spotlight and ace your interview, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing team at PSU.

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Welcoming Generation Z into the Workforce

September 9th, 2016

On the heels of the baby boomers, Gen X, and Generation Y — also known as Millennials — a new generational cohort is about to step into the professional workplace. Get ready for Generation Z! These are the entry-level employees of the not-too-distant future, and since they fall between the ages of 16 and 22, they’re working their way through high school and college right now. Their sights are set, and the first wave of them will likely be submitting applications for internships and lower level positions within the next year or two. Are you ready to welcome them onto the team? Here are a few moves that can help you and your young employees get to know each other.

These are the real digital natives.

Members of Generation Z were born after the year 2000, so if you thought millennials were comfortable with technology, you haven’t seen anything yet. Generation Z, by contrast, will be uncomfortable without it. They played with smartphones and tablets in their cribs, and they can’t imagine a world before the internet. Leverage this to your advantage, and allow them to connect and communicate using their preferred resources.

Generation Z will be anxious.

These young people grew up in the early 2000’s, an era of economic uncertainty, stagnating wages, college debt, and an unreliable job market. They’re been pressured to “succeed” at all costs or face a life of dismal prospects, so their worldview may be slightly anxious and negative. If you encourage optimism and make them feel secure and appreciated, they’ll be more willing to take risks, grow, thrive, and contribute.

Let them make mistakes.

All young people and entry level employees should be encouraged to learn and bounce back from their mistakes, but for Generation Z, encouragement and coaching will have an extra impact. If you crack down on them for small mistakes, prepare to lose them quickly. But if you help and guide them with an eye on the long term future, you’ll benefit and so will they.

Help them make decisions.

Generation Z will face an unprecedented variety of options as they map out their careers, so if you can help them assess their strengths, choose a path, or pursue a certain branch of the industry, they’ll appreciate your input. If they stay with your company for several years, your investment and interest will pay off.

Be patient, generous, and optimistic.

If you treat members of Generation Z as the valuable future assets that they are, they’ll be far more likely to treat you and your company with the respect you deserve. Help them make the transition into the adult working world and they’ll apply the full force of their youth, energy, and enthusiasm to your enterprise.

For more on how to cultivate and retain the youngest members of the workforce, contact the Cleveland County staffing experts at PSU.

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Reasons Your New Employee Will Fail

August 19th, 2016

After years in the business, experienced managers have had plenty of opportunities to watch promising candidates make the transition from hopeful applicant to full-fledged employee. And as these seasoned managers know, some applicants make the transition better than others. Even with the best screening techniques available, most candidates are still wild cards; once you bring them on board, their ability to thrive may be partially based on skill, but it may also be influenced by luck, cultural alignment, outside events, communication, and personal chemistry. Here are a few of the reasons why seemingly perfect candidates might struggle after they step in the door.

They misunderstood the job and its expectations.

Some candidates happily accept a position because they believe (and have been told) that the position will leverage their interests and skill sets. But sometimes this expectation just doesn’t pan out. Marketing pros, for example, may expect to spend their days analyzing customer data and planning product rollouts. But if the company is on the smaller side and the positon requires many hats, some of the hats may not fit. As a result, a marketing expert may have to spend her days engaged in sales, or clerical tasks, or leadership and administrative responsibilities that don’t suit her talents or career goals.

The onboarding process was a flop.

The first five days of a new position can make or break a candidate’s success. If things don’t go well, it can be hard to recover that lost footing. For example, if the candidate isn’t welcomed, supported, or trained properly, a sour first impression on both sides can leave a lasting impact.

The candidate overreached.

Some candidates have a natural talent for selling themselves, or convincingly demonstrating skills and abilities they don’t actually have. Usually this works out for both parties in the end; the overconfident candidate falls into deep water, but learns to swim quickly. On the other hand, this scenario can also lead to disaster. Underqualified candidates who can’t swim tend to sink, and they can take teams and projects down with them in a whirlpool of miscommunication and unrealistic expectations.

The candidate wasn’t provided with essential information.

Talented, highly skilled experts can still struggle if they aren’t provided with all the information and training the need. Before you let a “failed” hire walk out the door, make sure you’ve done everything you can to help them find their footing and gain the tools they need for success. Don’t give up on a seemingly excellent candidate for at least one year. Use that time to straighten out communication kinks and connect the candidate with appropriate resources and mentors.

For more on how to remove expensive errors and missteps from your hiring process, contact the Cleveland County staffing experts at PSU.

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Shy? You Can Still Make a Bold Impression

August 5th, 2016

If the thought of public speaking puts you into cold sweats and you’d rather do almost anything (anything at all) than be cross-examined and challenged by a stranger during a job interview, then the traditional job search process may be a long and winding road for you. But interviews are among our most entrenched cultural traditions, and they won’t disappear from the hiring process any time soon. Employers will always want to meet with candidates in person before they bring them on board, so the best you can do right now is make the most of the situation. Work around your social anxieties, or even better, use them to your advantage. Here are a few moves that can help shy candidates project confidence.

Own your shyness.

Instead of hiding or denying your anxiety, simply own it from it from the start. Explain that you’re a little shy and you intend to work around it. This might prevent confusion if you happen to give off mixed signals in an effort to hide your true feelings. Besides, most employers will completely understand that your anxiety has nothing to do with your competence on the job.

Work on one problem at a time.

If your shyness runs from head to toe and influences almost everything you do and say, focus on controlling just one aspect of your body language. Don’t try to tackle the entire project at once. You aren’t a professional actor, and completely faking your entire persona won’t get you anywhere. Try focusing on eye contact,
for example. Or work on maintaining a level voice.

Bring the conversation back to your areas of strength.

Shy people often feel a wave of confidence and interest when they’re talking about something that inspires them or lights up their passions. Do yourself a favor and push the conversation toward areas that will bring out the best in you. If you know a certain topic will help you shine, bring up the subject and let your inner light do the rest.

Ask questions.

People like to talk about themselves, even employers during a job interview. Asking polite, genuine questions can serve as a legitimate way to keep the spotlight from blinding you while still creating a meaningful dialogue that can help the two of you understand each other. Make sure your questions are serious and listen carefully to the answers.

Don’t worry.

If you’re already worried about landing the job, worrying about how worried you are won’t help you. Worrying about your shyness won’t help you either. Try to stay in the present and enjoy the moment (even if it seems impossible).
Don’t focus on the outcome; focus on the process.

For more on how to overcome shyness and let your competence and confidence shine through during your interview, contact the Charlotte job search experts at PSU.

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Preparedness: A Candidate’s Secret Weapon on the Job Hunt

July 8th, 2016

You’ve shoehorned hours of job search time into your already busy day. And you’ve been fielding calls with recruiters and network contacts all day long. Now it’s time to check out and leave the job search alone for another day—maybe a couple of days—while you redirect your focus to other responsibilities. Nothing can go off the rails while your attention is diverted for a little while, right?

Wrong. Once you start your job search, you flip a switch that stays on all day, every day, until you land your next position. Even when you’re asleep, your online profiles are still visible, and your voicemail message, email address, and public persona are still awake and active. The job search process is an adventure, and as with any adventure, from the moment you sign on, anything can happen at any time. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re ready.

Keep your messages tight.

You can’t control when potential leads, employers, recruiters and network contacts will reach out to you. So record a professional, friendly voice message that tells callers who you are and what you’re about, no matter why they’re calling. While you’re at it, adjust your phone habits. Instead of ignoring numbers you don’t recognize, train yourself to answer. And never answer the phone with a rude, sleepy, inarticulate single syllable. Practice these words: “Hello, (insert your name) speaking.”

Check your email.

Make sure your email address looks professional and serious, and if it doesn’t, get a new one. Check your messages at least two or three times per day during your search, and review your spam folder as well. If you check your spam folder very rarely—or not at all—don’t be surprised to discover that your dream employer tried to contact you six months ago.

Keep your schedule flexible.

Prioritize your job search, even if it means putting some other aspects of your busy life on a temporary hold. If an employer can only meet with you during a time slot in which you’ve scheduled a dental cleaning, a date with your spouse, or a casual get together with friends, don’t hem and haw. Just reschedule your date. Your spouse, friends and dentist will still be there later. Your potential employer probably won’t.

Keep your resume updated and on hand.

Once you’ve edited and polished your resume, be ready to send it off at a moment’s notice. This may mean buying an app that can help you send documents on the go, or it may mean creating business cards that direct readers to the blog or website where your resume is posted and available.
For more on how to keep your job search active, even when you’re not, reach out to the Charlotte career management team at PSU.

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