Questions to Ask your Skilled Laborers in an Interview

July 15th, 2021

You’re on a hiring mission, and you need a candidate who can do a very specific task. Sure, you also need a friendly, adaptable person with a can-do spirit who can learn new things quickly—who doesn’t?—but in this case, all of those qualities pale in comparison to the one you need the most.

You may need a CDC machinist, a cook, a translator who can speak fluid Hindi, or someone who can step up to a podium and command a crowd with their public speaking skills. You might need a trained electrician, an X-ray technician, or someone who can clean the soot out of an industrial chimney. In all of these cases—and many, many more—it’s not practical to hire a cheerful, smart, friendly employee who lacks these skills and simply train them on the job. These are tasks that take years to learn and a lifetime to master, and you need an employee who can step up to the plate on day one.

So how can you be sure that your candidate has what it takes? Here are a few questions to pose during the interview so you can rest assured that you and your candidate are on the same page and both of you understand what’s required and what’s being offered in terms of skill and value.

Ask them to describe their training.

This is a quick way to get a sense of how many hours (or decades) your candidate has been immersed in this activity. Depending on the nature of the skilled task and the needs of your company, a completion statement for a 20-hour training course or a simple state certification may be enough. In other cases, you may need someone who’s possessed this skill since childhood, or someone who has been taking formal lessons for five years or more. It’s easy for a candidate to say “I can do this”. It’s more helpful if they can say “I’ve studied with a master craftsman for a year”, or “I’ve been licensed and practicing since my early 20’s”, or “my grandmother taught me to do this when I was a teenager.”

Ask for a quick demonstration if the circumstances allow.

Of course you can’t usually ask a candidate to bake a cake or cut a child’s hair for you during an interview, but you can ask them to speak a few words in a non-native language or solve a common

puzzle that the task in question may present. Make the task or demonstration reflect the level of difficulty that the person will be likely to experience on the job.

Use tests.

Simply offering a written test can cover a lot of ground when it comes to skill assessment. But keep a few things in mind: some experts at a craft may not be able to convey that in a written test format, so don’t risk losing an expert candidate because you relied on only one weak metric. Also, it’s essential to use the same test for every candidate who applies for the job.

Ask tough insider questions.

If you don’t know what to ask because you yourself cannot bake a cake, speak Italian, or wire a house, then get your questions from someone else—someone who’s fluent in this area of expertise. Bring the candidate’s answers back to that person or source to find out how valid they are. For more, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

Is Your Team Following These Commonly Broken Safety Rules?

June 25th, 2021

Safety rules are an important part of work, life, productivity and success for any company that operates an active non-office workplace. (Offices can be dangerous too, of course, but that’s a subject for another post.) If your business requires the use of a warehouse, manufacturing facility, shipping and receiving area, press, cold storage, or any other place where the unexpected can and will happen, make sure these frequently ignored safety rules are actively enforced.

Hard hats and protective coverings.

Hard hats, safety goggles, masks, and other items that slip easily on and off without interfering with regular clothing can provide a powerful layer of protection. But only if employees can be bothered to grab and apply them when it matters. Far too often, they can’t and don’t. Once a few managers get away with casting aside this rule, it becomes acceptable for rank-and-file employees to do so also. And since what we wear (or don’t wear) can have a strong influence on social cohesion, a little bit of peer pressure can easily expose employees to grievous harm, and the company to expensive claims. Think a bunch of tough factory workers don’t care how they look and always put responsibility and safety first? Think again.

Certification-only machinery.

If an employee hasn’t received official (and completed!) training on the forklift, meat slicer, box crusher, or chromatograph, they shouldn’t use it. End of story. It doesn’t matter if deadlines are looming and certified operators aren’t present. Employees usually bend this rule when pressured to help “get things done” and motivated to impress their bosses by “pitching in”. Don’t let this tendency work its way into your workplace culture.

No entry zones.

No entry means no entry, even if the forbidden area provides a shortcut between one frequently used area and another. Find a way to re-route foot traffic or physically close the area off to those without keys or digital access cards. If a “no-entry” sign is placed at the entrance and it doesn’t really need to be there, take it down. Otherwise, signs in more important areas are likely to be ignored.

Floor protection measures.

Wet and slippery floors can be a leading cause of accidents and problems in the workplace, and these incidents and tragedies are often entirely avoidable. Protect indoor-outdoor thresholds with carpets or rubber floor coverings, and keep danger zones clean and dry. Meanwhile, make sure employees take proper precautions in those areas, such as slowing down motorized carts. Clean up spills and leaks immediately; don’t let them sit.

For more on how to encourage employees to pay attention to the rules under dangerous circumstances, contact the workplace experts at PSU.

What Makes a Great Employee

April 12th, 2021

You’ve just reached the end of a promising interview with a candidate who seems to have it all, at least on paper. Everything looks great; the person is friendly and pleasant, the resume checks every box, and you’re ready to cancel the other scheduled interviews and get the onboarding process started immediately. But before you do, pause for a minute. Are you actually sure the candidate will help your company make money and grow? Or do you just feel a warm sense of personal connection?

Keep these considerations in mind before you sign anything.

Great employees and pleasant new friends are often one and the same. But sometimes they aren’t.

If you’ll be sitting beside this person every day, you definitely want a candidate you can get along with. But you aren’t just going to be sitting beside him or her; you’re going to be counting on her to engage with the tasks of the day and tackle them independently and successfully. Can you trust this candidate to care about the work that you care about? Can you leave him alone and know he’ll follow through? If you aren’t sure, make sure the interview entails a few questions about his personal interest in this industry, this company, and this career.

Tests can help.

Will this candidate need to use a certain program every day, like Excel, Word or Photoshop? If so, conduct a hard (as in, measurable) assessment of his or her skills with this tool. Numbers don’t usually lie. If the candidate is brilliant and friendly but totally unfamiliar with the tools of the job, you’ll be investing in significant training after you hire them. Can you afford that time?

Does the candidate seem willing to invest in you?

The candidate seems enthusiastic about the job, but if she’s hired, how long is she likely to stay? If you want someone who will stay on board for at least one, three, or five years, ask directly if she’s likely to do this. She may shape the truth to fit the needs of the moment and land the role, but she may also

simply tell you the length of time she has in mind. Six months may be fine; ten years may be unrealistic. There’s no harm in asking.

Do you find the candidate threatening?

It can be exciting to sit across from a go-getter who will step in the door and start changing the company right away. But in actual practice, many employers aren’t ready for this kind of change-driving problem solver, especially if the “problems” are things employers are not ready to solve right away (or ever). Will you find yourself at cross-purposes with her enthusiasm and ambition? Be honest with yourself. If you’re looking for a candidate who will sit quietly and stay out of the way, put this one in the maybe file and get ready for the next interview on the schedule.

For more on how to hire the right candidate, not just the “best” candidate, turn to the staffing pros at PSU.

Personnel Services Unlimited Turns 40!

February 4th, 2021

Here at Personnel Services Unlimited, we’re celebrating a big milestone this month: Our 40th anniversary! Our doors have been open since 1981, the year NASA launched the first Space Shuttle mission and audiences lined up to see Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen. Beverly Shurford founded the company that year with a mission to provide staffing and job placement services to companies and job seekers in the local area, and since then, that mission has expanded across three offices and multiple counties in North Carolina. Our second office in Rutherford opened in 1990, and our third office opened in Gaton County in 1995.

As we move forward into the new century, the company keeps growing, driven by strong ethical principles founded in a dedication to quality service, ongoing education, effective partnerships with our clients, and the promotion of safe, healthy workplaces for all employees. In the year 2000, Beverly Shurford retired, and Tim Blackwell took over as president.

Tim remains as committed as his predecessor to the success of the company and its role as a member of the community. “Being independently owned, we answer to our clients and candidates…not our stockholders,” he says. “It is our valued employees that really differentiate us from our competitors. Companies don’t do business with companies…people do business with people! And we are fortunate to have dedicated and committed employees!”

PSU has built a reputation as a principled company in an ever-changing industry. The employment landscape shifts and evolves over time, but our commitment to our workers remains as steady as ever. We find great people and connect them to great employers, and we’re proud of what we do and who we serve. Here’s to the lessons, growth and relationships of the past 40 years, and here’s to continuing success in the years to come!

Where are All the Good Workers?

January 22nd, 2021

Does your candidate pool seem to be missing some all-stars? Maybe the pool is large enough, and the top candidates on the list are okay…but they don’t seem like the best of the best. You expected at least a few applicants who would blow you away. But most of the resumes in the pool offer the bare minimum. What are you doing wrong? Here are a few possible answers.

You’re not looking in the right place.

If you’re just posting your ad on a generic job board, you’re doing the equivalent of putting a want-add in a local newspaper. Everyone can see it, sure, but most of them won’t. And the highly qualified and interested applicants you’re targeting definitely won’t, because they’re looking for postings on more specific sites. In fact, your all-star candidates may not even be spending their time looking online, and may instead be exchanging calls with recruiters and staffing agencies. The best candidates are usually the ones who don’t have to work as hard to collect options and opportunities—the opportunities come to them. So to attract their attention, you have to get there first.

Your post is not appealing.

If your post gives off an aggressive vibe with a long list of all the qualities you’re NOT looking for, that may be part of the problem. By the same token, a long list of demands may also work against you, especially if your demands are confusing. For example, don’t ask for more than five years of experience if you’re looking for an entry-level candidate. And don’t expect a candidate with more than five years of experience to accept an entry-level salary. Don’t ask for qualities that are vague or contradict each other (someone who “doesn’t follow the crowd” but is also a “team player”) and be as clear as possible about the requirements and parameters of the job.

Your post doesn’t offer meaningful information.

These days, you can assume candidates will ask a set of specific questions about the job, so don’t make them ask—Just offer this information upfront. For example, is the job full or part-time? Will the candidate be working remotely or not? (Because of the pandemic, this issue should be immediately addressed to avoid confusion and misunderstandings). And if you can’t give a clear picture of the salary, at least state a maximum that you can’t go above. Explain the title of the job, explain where the company is located, and explain what the company does.

You aren’t selling yourself.

To attract true superstars, you need to offer something…anything. You’re trying to entice a candidate who could work anywhere, so why should they work for you? Say something positive about the job or the company that might grab a busy job seeker’s attention.

For more on how to bring highly qualified candidates into your applicant pool, and eventually, into your company, turn to the staffing pros at PSU.

How a Staffing Agency Can Save Your Company Money

January 8th, 2021

When is the best time of the year to take a close look at your organization and find a way to cut costs? EVERY time of the year. There’s never a season, winter or summer when you won’t benefit by looking for new efficiencies and new ways to get things done. And this winter, it’s a good idea to consider partnering with a staffing agency. Here’s how that partnership can help you streamline your business and do more with less.

Staffing agencies gather candidates from sources you may not have considered.

Professional staffers and recruiters have a wide network of contacts and years of experience building relationships in your industry and your local area. They know where to find top candidates and they can quickly generate a pool of resumes that might take a long time to gather on your own. They often have access to local college and trade school job placement offices, and they have the tools and experience to target the exact candidates you’re looking for.

Staffing agencies screen candidates so you don’t have to.

When we collect resumes and applications from potential candidates, we subject them to an initial review and then a phone screening, during which we ask practical questions that can eliminate the first round of applicants and save you hours of time and hassle. If you’re looking for candidates who live within a geographic area, we can easily screen those who fall outside of that region. We can also have a quick discussion with each one about your must-have qualifications, including abilities, salary caps, and availability.

Staffing agencies reduce costs by reducing risk.

Personality match and cultural fit contribute greatly to candidate success. Sometimes even the most qualified candidate just doesn’t get along with the team or isn’t happy in the role. But hiring is expensive, and a change of heart by either party within the first few weeks can really set you back. Staffing agencies remove some of this risk because, during the initial period, the candidate works for the agency, not for you. If you need a replacement or you need to start over, we can take care of that for you.

Staffing agencies lift the burden.

Because the candidate works for the agency, we take care of tax withholdings, insurance, and other hassles that you may not want on your plate. We also help with background checks, drug screenings and other issues that can free up your time and take the pressure off your budget. For more on how our staffing agency can help you cut costs and save time, contact the experts at PSU today!

Set SMART Goals for Your Team in 2021

December 4th, 2020

The year ahead can be anything we want it to be, and if we set goals, plan well, and aim high, there’s a strong chance we can achieve almost anything we set our minds to. This applies to personal goals, and it also applies to the goals we set for our teams and employees.

So how can we aim for and achieve success, even when the future is unknowable? Start with SMART. When goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, they’re more likely to be met by the end of the year.

Here are a few ways to set SMART goals and make them happen.

Sit with each employee individually and establish a meeting with your entire team.

“Specific” goals can be defined as clear goals that are agreed upon by the relevant parties and written down. In order to achieve agreement and written terms, you’ll need to have clear conversations. Get buy-in from the employee by making sure she understands exactly what the goal—as written—means, and exactly what’s expected of her by December 2021. Don’t use abstractions, like: “Aim higher and do better”. Instead, focus on specific changes like: “Reduce error rates in quarterly reports”.

Measurable means measurable for both parties.

You may have some subjective feelings about your employee’s performance, and you may measure his success using your own terms. If he seems sloppy or lazy to you, that’s fine—You’re the boss after all. But tidiness and energy can’t be measured, and even if they could, you and your employee might measure them with different yardsticks. Choose goals that both of you will measure using standard and identical metrics.

Achievable doesn’t mean settling; it means being realistic.

We’re always taught to reach for the stars and shoot for the moon, but if you actually want to hit your target, you need to choose something else—not the actual moon. Choose a goal that makes sense, connotes a victory, and counts as achievement and forward progress. Don’t count on the interference of unlikely events, or the appearance of capabilities and options that don’t presently exist.

Relevance always matters.

You may wish your employee would smile more while she does her work. But is this relevant to her task completion or the revenues she generates for the company? It is not. Examine your motivations to determine why this matters to you, and in the meantime, keep this metric out of your formal goal-setting process.

Timelines help move things forward.

Every goal, subgoal, and sub-sub goal should come with a clear and reasonable deadline. Every time a deadline is missed, examine the reasons why it happened, try to remove those obstacles, and reset the timeline.

For more on how to put your team on track to success and keep them in motion until the end of the year, turn to the management experts at PSU.

How to Show Your Team You Appreciate Them

November 6th, 2020

Your team shows up every single day, no matter what, and they care enough about your enterprise to dedicate a third of their lives to supporting your success. They put everything else on hold to manage your accounts and orders or take care of your clients and customers, and while you pay them a fair salary (why else would they do this?), you also appreciate their contributions on a personal level. So how can you let them know? How can you remind them—on regular basis—that your company wouldn’t exist without them?

Here are a few simple tips.

Take the time to reinforce your personal bond.

Businesses are built on relationships, and if your employees care about you—and trust that you care about them—your company will thrive. Take a few minutes out of each day to sit with at least one member of your team and check-in. Ask how they’re doing, ask how they feel about their work and projects, and find out if there’s anything they need that might help them do their jobs. Just a quick chat and a moment of connection can go a long way.

Just say it.

Sometimes we wrap ourselves in knots wondering how we can express a certain feeling in an appropriate way, and we miss the obvious. Just speak. Simply tell your employees that you appreciate and depend on them via regular announcements, personal conversations, or small gestures (like surprise half-days). The message won’t be lost, no matter how many times your repeat it.

Acknowledge rough times.

When a huge order comes in and everyone on the team has to work late for a little while, show that you recognize this sacrifice. If a rough season rolls through (a spate of terrible weather, a virus, the loss of a beloved coworker) make it clear that you understand the challenges your employees are facing. Don’t act like nothing is happening and the bar of expectation has not changed.

Gifts and parties cost little and bring big returns.

Throw a holiday party and arrange a company picnic during the summer if you can, but in between these two big opportunities, try to turn ordinary Fridays into minor celebrations. Sponsor happy hours, acknowledge birthdays, and occasionally order lunch for your entire team…for no specific reason. These small gestures create lasting memories and can have an impact that resonates and improves your company culture.

Thank them for appreciating you.

If your employees say something positive about the company online or proudly wear the company logo in public, make sure the gesture is acknowledged. Let them know that these small words and actions make a difference. If you can, return the gesture by announcing and celebrating outside accomplishments, like employee achievements in art, sports, or charity.

Thank and appreciate your employees with both your words and actions, and do so as often as possible. For more guidance on cultivating positive company culture, turn to the experts at PSU

Why Hiring a Team Player is So Important

September 4th, 2020

What does it mean to be a team player? And from the management side of the table, what does it mean to recruit, identify, hire, and retain one? Why is this quality so celebrated in our modern workplace culture and what can you gain by setting your sights on team players and actively pursuing them?

Here are a few key answers.

Team players elevate group trust and diminish problems.

When your employees and teams can count on each other and trust that the other members of the team have their backs, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve hired confident adults who can take care of business and get the job done without your relentless oversight. Nobody’s perfect; we all make mistakes and we all have unique sets of strengths and shortcomings, but when we work together, the strengths are amplified and the shortcomings are muted. When your teams recognize this fact, you can turn your attention away now and then and trust that your group will take care of each other and work together to excel. That means reduced backbiting, infighting, and petty competition, all of which form a drain on the team—and on you.

Team players put the group first.

When a given member of your group wants to be rewarded, wants attention, wants to sleep late on a Monday morning, or wants to go home early before the job is done, the impulse can be very human and very strong. Each of these desires can take the wheel at any time (we’ve all felt this), but team players know when and how to overcome them and show up when they’re needed. This can have a powerful influence on your group culture and a positive cascading effect on your bottom line.

Team players are hard to find but worth every penny.

Some employers mistake “team players” for doormats who will cheerfully accept low pay, mistreatment, or poor working conditions in exchange for the “good of the team.” It’s best not to fall into this trap. Team players are not doormats or exploitable resources; they are invaluable workers with strong social

skills, and these skills contribute immeasurably to the workplace. Compensate them fairly and treat them well, and you’ll benefit from having them on board. Take advantage of them, and they will easily find opportunities elsewhere.

For more on how to find and hire team players that can drive your company forward, contact the hiring experts at PSU.

What are Your Job Descriptions Saying about Your Company?

July 15th, 2020

If your job descriptions are working, here’s how you can tell: the candidates who line up to submit resumes are generally qualified for the role and a good personality match for the organization. If your job posts are not working, you can also tell: The candidates who respond to your posts are generally not the kinds of candidates you’re excited to hire…if anyone applies at all.

So how can you receive more of the first type of response and less of the second? First, check your job descriptions and make sure they’re sending a message that’s accurate, positive, and reaching the right ears.

Here are a few tips that can help with your assessment.

Make sure your requirements are accurate and logical.

Say you’re hiring a candidate for an entry-level, relatively menial role that most people in the industry view as a stepping stone or a way in the door. If you require “10+” years of experience, how will that come across? First, you’ll confuse your reader, and the post will sound like it was written by a machine, not a human being who really cares about the future of the role. Second, the best candidates will move on without applying, since they either have 10 years of experience (but are looking for something more advanced) or they’re perfect for an entry-level role (but lack ten years of experience). The candidates who decide to apply may have the worst of both.

Don’t douse your descriptions with meaningless words.

Make sure your descriptions are readable and authentic. If you read your descriptions and see sentences like: “We’re looking for a real go-getter with a can-do attitude”, or: “We’re a team of self-starters with passion, creativity, and the willingness to go the extra mile”, take them out. these phrases don’t mean anything, and adding clutter to your post makes it harder for candidates to assess the role and decide to apply. Include the specific skills you want, and explain what you have to offer that other companies may not have. That’s all.

Don’t be sketchy.

Your company may not be the most fun place to work; not every company is. But as you take the first steps toward a relationship with a new hire, stay honest and aboveboard. Don’t imply that you’re looking for candidates of a certain age, gender, race or demographic. Delete phrases like “We’re a youthful, high energy company and we want a candidate who will stay with us for the long haul” since that suggests you plan to overlook older workers. Don’t lie about the responsibilities of the job or the salary, ever. Don’t lie about what the company does. Be clear and honest about what you want, and you’ll be more likely to get it. For more on how to attract and retain top candidates, turn to the experts at PSU.

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