Four Tips for Better Employee Evaluations

December 11th, 2018

Improving your evaluation process can have a cascading impact on the success of both your team and your company overall. Smarter evaluations leave employees feeling motivated to succeed, they place employees on a clearly marked path to higher productivity, and then generate goodwill, since they let each employee know they are observed, known, and cared about. This feeling boosts retention, retention boosts teamwork, and teamwork brings success. Start this positive spiral by taking these four steps.

Positivity wins, negativity loses … every time.

When you scold or lecture a child, you might accomplish something meaningful or even life-saving (depending on the personality of the child). A sentence like “Never run into the street again, do you hear me?” has a place in child-rearing. But sentences like these have no place at all in a professional environment. Workers are not children. Review your words, both spoken and written, and remove anything that comes across as angry, personally critical, demeaning or threatening. This includes statements that attack the person instead of the action, for example “You aren’t good at this” instead of “You haven’t learned how to do this yet. Let’s get you the training/exposure/mentoring you need.”

Keep feedback informal and frequent.

Company policy may dictate one formal review process per year. But to make this process more effective, spend the entire year providing real-time, informal feedback on the employee’s progress and actions. Don’t watch them make a mistake in June and wait until December to officially criticize them for it. The annual review should formalize the setting of specific, measurable, actionable goals for the year ahead, based on the victories and lessons of the year just past.

Let the employee know why they (specifically) are valued here.

Avoid treating employees like indistinguishable warm bodies in chairs. Even if the job requires minimal training or experience, don’t let the employee feel dispensable. Show respect for the job and show respect for the person who holds it. Remind them why they were hired over other applicants, emphasize the importance of the role, explain the company’s hopes for them, and let them know your goal is to maintain a happy and mutually beneficial relationship. Make this clear during moments of both constructive criticism and praise. If you disrespect the person or devalue the job, expect turnover.

Set a high bar and expect the same.

Treat the employee with calm, professional positivity … and expect the same. Don’t open the door to awkward, angry, apologetic or obsequious behavior. Carefully choose the accomplishments and mistakes you decide to highlight and the terms you use to describe the employee’s journey to success. Don’t follow any turn in the conversation that slides the mood toward personal blame, shame, anger, gloating, empty promises on either side, or fear. Stay cool and collected.

For more on how to get the most out of your review process and prevent post-review turnover, contact the experts at PSU.

Are Your Employees Burned Out?

December 7th, 2018

Great managers wear lots of hats. They’re coaches, organizers, schedulers, budget masters, and when necessary, they’re teachers, speakers, conflict negotiators, and diplomatic liaisons. They’re also great at taking care of the company’s most important and most valuable assets: its employees. Employees don’t just walk in the door already knowing what to do and contributing at maximum levels. They need managers to make sure the right people are assigned to the right tasks and every employee can access the tools they need for success.

Unmotivated and disengaged employees are NOT contributing at their full potential. And when teams are burned out, it’s the manager’s job to step in and set things right. Here’s how to recognize the signs and take action.

What does burnout look like?

Burnout takes several visible forms, but here’s something it DOESN’T look like: an employee walking into your office and saying, “I’m burned out.” That doesn’t happen. The signs are subtle, and it’s your job to spot them. Look for weariness, distraction and vague responses to new assignments. If your employees accept tasks by saying “I guess I can try” or “I’ll see what I can do,” take a closer look at the situation. The same should be applied to excessive sick days, quarreling and chronic bad moods.

Start honest conversations.

If you think your employee may be overloaded or disengaged, ask them to join you for a chat or take them to lunch. You don’t have to say, “You look burned out,” but feel free to diplomatically ask them how they’re feeling and how their days are going. If you hear signs of trouble, make note. Find out what you can do to help.

Keep an open mind when choosing a solution.

Your burned-out employee may be any number of things: overworked, frustrated by specific obstacles, distracted by non-work events, or simply bored and dispassionate about a job they once loved. Each of these will require a different response from you, so listen carefully before you develop a plan of action.

Keep career development on the table.

If your employee is overworked, take some jobs off their plate; that’s easy enough. But if they’re unmotivated because they’re outgrowing the job or in need of new challenges, bring the full force of your training and connections to bear. Find new ways to help them advance within the company, provide training in-house, provide resources that can help expand their education outside of the workplace, or learn more about their goals, so you can help them reach them.

Get burnout under control before you have to deal with a bigger problem: high turnover. Start by contacting the management experts at PSU.

How to Impress Employers During Your Interview

November 23rd, 2018

When you step in the door for your interview, you want to reassure the employer that you’re trustworthy, honest, hardworking and qualified. But every other candidate in line for the role will also be aiming for the same goals. So, you don’t want to just meet that bar of expectation; you want to soar over it! To truly stand out, you’ll have to blow your employers away. You’ll have to provide more than the minimum and make a truly lasting impression. Here’s how.

Bring everything you need.

When something comes up during the conversation about your past projects, your references or just the everyday details of your resume, will you be ready? Employers are typically impressed by candidates who can just reach into their portfolio folder—or phone—and produce the item, evidence or visual aide in question. It’s a polished gesture that makes you come off as ultra-prepared.

Ask the right questions.

Most employers will provide you with a chance at the end of the interview to ask your own questions about the role, the company or anything you choose. So, ask questions that elevate your profile. Don’t just say “No, but if I have any questions later, I’ll contact you.” Instead, ask about room for advancement. Ask if this job will provide you with the training or exposure you need to advance your career. Ask anything that’s on your mind and do it boldly.

Demonstrate you’ve done some research.

Of course, you can also simply just tell your employers you’ve been spending some time online learning about the company (not many candidates do this, especially at the entry level, so this move alone can set you apart). But it’s also nice to show—not just tell—when you share what you’ve learned and how you processed that information. Based on what you independently discovered, how would you describe this company’s needs, and how are you uniquely prepared to meet those needs? How can you contribute in a positive way to the better aspects of this company’s brand and reputation? How can you alleviate the negative aspects? How can you help this team meet its long- and short-term goals?

Think, talk and listen at the same time.

Most candidates can do one of these. Many can do two or three of them as the moment requires. But how many candidates can listen to what the interviewer says, process that information, and provide intelligent insights, responses and contributions to the conversation at the same time? Surprisingly few. Intelligent conversation is an art form, and it’s a task that happens to be especially difficult during times of anxiety or pressure. If you can stay poised, smart, verbal and tuned in, let it show. You won’t be forgotten.

For more on how to impress your interviewers and land the job you need, turn to the staffing pros at PSU.

Should I Perform a Background Check?

November 9th, 2018

As a newly minted employer for your own company, or a hiring manager burdened by time and budget pressures, you may think of background checks as expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary. After interviewing a candidate who seems quite decent and friendly, you may think, “Why should I waste time on this? My candidate surely isn’t some kind of criminal.”

That’s fine, and you’re probably right. The odds are low your candidate has a shocking, violent history of grifts and murder sprees. But misdemeanors, petty theft, anger problems, sexual harassment, drug abuse and a host of other far more common red flags could influence your hiring decision and save you from a mistake … if you know about them. Here are a few reasons why a background check should play a role in your hiring process.

Background checks are simpler than you might think.

It doesn’t cost much or take much time to request a criminal background check on a candidate. And as far as tedious paperwork is concerned, don’t worry; at PSU, we can handle that for you. In fact, we perform background checks on all our candidates prior to hiring and we recommend that all employers do the same.

Avoiding a bad hire is easier than letting go of a problem employee.

Even if your hiring agreement clearly states you can release a candidate at any time for any reason, this decision is rarely so simple and clean cut. Employees often ask for—and legitimately deserve—second and third chances after an incident or performance problem, and social connections can complicate the process. You’re free to hire whomever you choose for your own reasons, but you should have the information you need to understand and manage the person you’re bringing on board.

Resumes, cover letters, interviews and reference checks won’t reveal what a background check will.

By the time we’ve reached adulthood, almost all of us have been taken in or manipulated at least a few times in our lives. This can and does happen to everyone, and when it comes to staffing and hiring, it happens all the time, everywhere. Even highly skilled experts have trouble determining whether they are hearing the whole truth. As a company manager, it’s your responsibility to trust but verify.

Criminals don’t look like criminals, ever.

If you think you can spot a candidate with an undisclosed criminal past based on visual cues alone, prepare to be surprised. And recognize that this belief places you in a double bind: Not only are you more likely to allow a smiling, well-dressed troublemaker in the door, you’re also more likely to let excellent employees slip away because you misinterpret visual signals. Think the tattooed candidate is the one with the sketchy history? Think again.

Turn to PSU for staffing and hiring support, including background checks, sourcing and screening interviews.

Why You Should Work With a Recruiter

October 26th, 2018

You may be searching for a new job and not finding success just yet. Or you may be scouring the market and not finding a job match that’s quite right for you. Or you may be experiencing a little bit of both. In any case, if you haven’t started working with a professional recruiter, now may be a great time to start. A recruiter can add energy and focus to your search, and their years on the job and deep experience with searches just like yours can help you reach heights you wouldn’t be able to reach on your own. Here’s how.

Recruiters can find job openings you can’t find on your own

Not every job is publicly posted on a website you happen to use. And no matter how wide your social network may be, your recruiter’s network is wider AND more relevant to your job search. Most recruiters have been in the business for a long time. They can access and open doors you may not even be able to see.

Recruiters know their clients better than you do

You may find an open job with your target company … but other than the information you find online, you don’t know very much about the company, or the hiring manager, at all. Here’s a tip: Your recruiter does. They can help you make a connection with a certain employer by highlighting your most relevant accomplishments and skills.

Recruiters can advocate for you

Advocating for yourself is a necessary skill during your job search, but it’s not easy. Making your own personal sales pitch will always be an uphill climb. When you have others who speak for you and can provide support and testimonials, you move from the stairs to the escalator. Your recruiter can present you to their clients and make sure they see your best qualities.

Recruiters can steer you away from trouble and wasted time

If you’re barking up the wrong tree, or chasing a job that just isn’t a match, your recruiter can often see it before you do. Sometimes the salary will be far too low. Or the advancement opportunities won’t take you where you’d like to go. Or the employers need a skill set you simply don’t have. Your recruiter can find you something better.

Recruiters can help you polish your resume

When your recruiter gives you advice about your resume, you’re wise to take it. Again, they know what your target employers are looking for and what they need to see.

For more on how to connect with a recruiter and boost your job search, turn to the experts at PSU.

 

Interviewing for Soft Skills

October 12th, 2018

Assessing a candidate’s “hard skills” during an interview can be fairly straightforward (depending on the circumstances). Since hard skills typically include demonstrable abilities or simple facts, you can always ask the candidate to demonstrate the skill or ask if they possess it. Can you speak a foreign language? Did you win this award? Are you certified in this subject area? Have you held this role before? Easy. How you weigh the candidate’s response is up to you, but by asking the question, you place the ball in their court.

By contrast, soft skills can more difficult to assess. Asking a candidate direct questions in this area won’t get you very far. For example, “Are you easy to work with?”, “Are you a team player?” and “Do you like to work hard?” are silly questions, because the answer will always be yes. Try these moves instead.

Ask for stories.

If you’re looking for leadership, ask your candidate to describe an episode in which they were required to demonstrate leadership under challenging circumstances. If you’re looking for resilience, ask the candidate to describe a time they failed at something. What happened and what did they learn? If you’re looking for teamwork, conflict resolution or negotiation skill, ask for stories that can give you a sense of these traits. As the candidate responds, read between the lines.

Consider the interview a stress test.

Never bully, intimidate or behave rudely to a candidate—that goes without saying. But keep in mind that all interviews, no matter how friendly and professional, are inherently stressful. Monitor the candidate’s response to this baseline stress. Pay attention to body language (are they twitching and sweating?) and pay attention to how the candidate bounces back from the little hiccups of the process (awkward pauses, minor disagreements, misunderstandings).

Ask questions with no wrong answers.

Questions with clear right answers (like “Are you a hard worker?”) just waste time. But when all answers are equally valid, the truth can come to the surface. Try either/or questions like these: “Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?” “Do you prefer leadership or team roles?” “If you have to choose between turning in excellent work OR meeting a deadline, which do you usually choose?”

Share some unpopular aspects of the job.

Tell your candidate about some of the more difficult, unpleasant, tedious, disgusting, boring, frustrating or unglamorous aspects of the job they’re targeting; then observe their response. A cringe followed by a long silence can speak volumes. So can a candidate who lights up and leans forward. Cleaning grease traps, dealing with angry customers, spending lonely days on the road and working odd hours are daunting to most people. If your candidate isn’t one of them, that’s a good sign.

For more on how to choose the best candidates for your position, talk to the team at PSU.

How Should I Communicate with a Recruiter?

September 28th, 2018

The relationship between a recruiter and a job candidate can be nuanced and subtle, and since recruiters have often worked in the field for years, they sometimes take the nature of this relationship for granted; they don’t always clearly explain to candidates exactly how the interaction works, and that can leave candidates feeling confused and not sure what to expect from the recruiter or how to behave in turn. Here are a few points that may clear things up.

Recruiters work for their employer clients, not for job seekers.

Your recruiter will smile and demonstrate a genuine interest in your job search goals and your qualifications. But she isn’t working for you, and you aren’t paying her. Instead, she works for employers who have open positions and need to fill them with the right candidate at the right time. She’s been sent to find you, but if you aren’t the right fit, she’ll need to move on, sometimes without explaining why. If this happens, don’t take it personally.

Don’t give your recruiter a hard time.

Again, recruiters must be quick, sharp, and responsive—to their employers. Not to you. If you call your recruiter and she doesn’t call you back right away, don’t worry. At the same time, if she asks you for some information or leaves a message requesting something from you, you’ll need to respond as soon as possible. If she gives you some advice prior to an interview she’s scheduled for you, take the advice. She knows the employers and their needs better than you do, and she wants the two of you to form a connection.

If you need information, speak up.

Sometimes job candidates (especially inexperienced candidates) have trouble standing up or voicing needs and concerns to employers. We’re often counseled not to make salary demands during an interview, or to avoid saying things like “How much vacation does this job offer?” or “Will I be able to work from home?” or “I don’t want to deal with angry customers. Can you assure me this job won’t require that?” But if you have these questions, you need answers, and you deserve them. If you can’t ask your employer, ask the recruiter. She’ll tell you what you need to know and she won’t pass judgement. Again, she wants both you AND the employer to get what you need.

Share everything that might help.

You don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) tell your recruiter anything you wouldn’t share with an employer, for example, your religion, family, or marital status. But you CAN tell her as much detail as possible about what you’re looking for, why you left your last job, exactly how far you’d like to commute, and where you’d like to take your long term career.

For more on how to talk to and work with your recruiter, reach out to the team at PSU.

Warning Signs of a Bad Hire

September 14th, 2018

Your candidate may smile brightly and dress well for the interview, but these superficial signs of engagement can conceal traits that might lead to trouble ahead. Job candidates almost always have two layers: the shiny exterior and the substance beneath. And shining up the surface layer comes more easily to some candidates than others. As a hiring manager, you’ll factor both into your decision; after all, excellent candidates don’t usually come packaged in inappropriate clothing or a slouching, mumbling demeanor during an interview. But you’ll also need to look closely at what lies behind a sparkling smile. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Second-degree anger or resentment

Most candidates won’t behave in a directly angry or resentful way to an interviewer (if they do, end the candidacy immediately). But they may reveal signs of anger in the way they speak about past jobs, coworkers, clients, or former bosses. It’s okay to explain why a previous job didn’t work out (“The company and I had differing visions of success”). But watch out for a candidate who engages in heated or personal venting.

Alternative priorities

Almost all well-adjusted human beings feel torn between their jobs and their families, and it’s actually a promising sign if your candidate places family first and work second in this eternal and universal conflict. But if something else comes first—like a hobby or a dream career that isn’t this one—pay attention. This may be a sign of a complex and well-rounded person, or it may be a sign of a competing goal that will pull the candidate out the door eventually.

False confidence

Competence in some areas can be easy to prove. For example, fluency in a foreign language, artistic competence, or a straightforward technical skill can all be easily proven, sometimes right there in the interview setting. But other competencies (IT, marketing, accounting) can be much harder to demonstrate. You’ll have to take your candidate at his or her word, but recognize that many people are experts at throwing smoke and fluffing their feathers in ways that conceal huge knowledge gaps. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions or request proof of ability before you make a commitment.

Artful dodging

Does your candidate try a little too hard to steer the direction of the interview? If he smoothly avoids answering certain questions, glosses over things he doesn’t want to talk about, or keeps grabbing the wheel and bringing the conversation back to topics he’d like to emphasize, make note of this behavior. Note of the subject of these swerves, both the sore spots and the points of personal pride.

For more on how to look past the polished surface and examine the true capability and personality of your candidate, turn to the staffing and hiring pros at PSU.

How is Attitude Impacting Your Job Search?

July 27th, 2018

You may be showing up for interviews with a bright smile and responding to questions with a blast of sunshine (“I loved my last job! I’m not in it for the money! My weakness is that I work too hard!”) and you may be throwing yourself into every networking opportunity with an eager handshake and a level of enthusiasm that peels paint from the walls. But if you aren’t finding success with your search process, your attitude could still be to blame. Here’s why, and here are a few tips on what to do about it.

The corporate world is full of fakery— But that doesn’t mean you have to be.

The job search process and the corporate world are full of manufactured smiles and cheerful small talk. Positive language fills every room and people generally try not to reveal their true feelings or upset each other, at least on the surface. But it’s wise to recognize the difference between cheerful expressions and genuine satisfaction. If a job isn’t right for you, it isn’t right for you. If the culture isn’t appealing, if the salary doesn’t meet your requirements, if the business model doesn’t reflect your values, walk away. Smile if you wish, but don’t be taken in by your own smiles, and don’t fall for your own positive chatter. A bad deal is bad deal. A mismatch is a mismatch. When the answer is no, it’s no.

Honesty is the key to real positivity.

If an employer wants a candidate who can code in HTML or speak Italian and you can’t do these things, be honest. Honesty—even if it sounds a little negative—will get you where you need to go faster. When your current goals no longer work for you, drop them. When your actions aren’t helping you, give them up. Sometimes “losing” is winning, and vice versa. Unhappy careers (and lives) often start with people frantically and compulsively chasing things they don’t really want.

Open communication matters.

If you have a suspicion or a doubt, share it. If you have a question, ask. Be open with your potential employers and expect them to be open with you. Again, it does no good to omit a burning question that could help you make an important life decision (And for the record, it doesn’t impress anyone.)

Shake off setbacks.

In our modern world, most of what we call “setbacks” really aren’t. A few generations ago, for example, a rejected resume or a layoff might have been considered a serious disappointment or a career “failure”. But this isn’t the case anymore. Most candidates submit many resumes before landing an interview, and most people have been laid off at least once (often multiple times) by the mid-career level. The average employee maintains a job for about 2.4 years (certainly not for life), and mid-career pivots are far more common now than they were for our parents. Don’t let meaningless upsets get you down.

For more on how to make sure your “positive” attitude is truly positive, turn to the career management team at PSU.

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.

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