How to Write Better Job Descriptions

March 8th, 2019

Want better candidates? Try writing better job descriptions. Even if your company has a strong reputation, your product practically sells itself, and the job comes with great perks and benefits, you’ll still need to confront a universal truth about job seekers: They tend to place themselves in the job as they imagine it, and if they can’t see themselves doing this type of work day after day, they aren’t likely to apply.

So make sure they imagine themselves into a role that’s appealing, challenging in a good way, and a necessary step on the path to larger career success. Here are a few ways to make that happen.

Be honest and descriptive.

Too much text can backfire (more on this in a minute), but within bounds, provide as much honest information as you can about the daily realities of the job. Using vague, empty terms won’t help. For example, skip phrases like “a dynamic environment” or “We need a real go-getter” or “Looking for a high-energy individual with the skills it takes to succeed!” What skills are those, exactly? You’ll accomplish more if you can be more specific.

Keep your description short and readable.

You don’t want your readers to tune out and move on before they reach the best part. So keep each sentence and phrase short and packed with substance. No empty, endless rambling. Your best candidates are busy and they’re in high demand. They can get jobs anywhere they want, so don’t expect them to read five long pages of obvious or non-valuable information. Start with three short paragraphs: 1) why your company is great, 2) what the job entails and requires, and 3) the perks and benefits that come with the job.

Offer what others can’t.

Of course, this can be challenging if you genuinely don’t have anything to offer that sets you apart from similar employers. For example, maybe you expect the candidate to file reports all day, and you intend to pay a fair wage and standard benefits in return. Big deal, right? Not really. But think hard; what is it about this place that makes your company special? And what can you offer that might light a spark of interest or help your reader understand that this job could boost her career? Will she learn a unique skill while serving in this role? Will she be up for advancement within one year? Will she be able to travel or set her own hours?

For more on how to add something special, catchy, or attention-grabbing to your job description that can help you nab strong candidates, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

The Impact a Bad Hire can Have on Your Team

February 1st, 2019

When you calculate the cost of a hiring mistake, you can easily add up the obvious costs: the post you’ll need to publish to attract replacement candidates, the cost of background checks and interviews for those new candidates, and the cost of onboarding for the replacement you ultimately choose. But there are few costs and expenses associated with a hiring mistake that are intangible—They can only be estimated, and while difficult to precisely measure, these costs can be shockingly high.

For example, a hiring mistake (usually defined as a candidate who leaves within one year) can have a dismal impact on the productivity and morale of your entire team. Here’s how.

An underprepared candidate lowers the bar.

Your new hire came on board unprepared for the job and lacking the skills necessary for the role. He struggled for a while before he left, and though he tried, it was unrealistic to expect him to gain meaningful expertise during a six-week training period. What does this hiring decision tell your other employees about an “acceptable” level of competence in the missing skill area (for example, SQL, Photoshop, customer service, language fluency, written communication, or basic math)? The bar of expectation drops with every day the unprepared hire stays on the team.

Attitude problems are contagious.

If your candidate failed because he was sullen, uncooperative, or had anger issues, that’s unfortunate, and a contagious bad attitude doesn’t always show up during an interview. But even more unfortunate: the impact of his sulks and complaints may stay in the air even after he’s shown to the door.

“Work ethic” is a shared metric.

What would you call an appropriate work ethic in an office where most workers leave at 4:00 pm? How about an office where the “slackers” are still at their desks at 7:30? “Hard work” is a relative term, and if you introduce an employee who vanishes in a cloud of self-congratulation at exactly 4:59 each day, others are inclined to follow suit.

Bumblers create roadblocks.

Sometimes the nicest candidates in the world arrive in the workplace and spend more time standing in the way than helping the team. If you hire one of these, you’ll have messes, mistakes, and derailed projects to fix after they leave, plus all the back-ups and work-bottlenecks you’ll need to re-open.

The hidden cost.

Unfortunately, hiring the wrong person can also put tiny cracks in something very valuable: trust. Your teams trust you to make smart decisions when it comes to assessments of character and background, and their success depends on your ability to get it right. One mistake can be easily forgotten, but with each additional misjudgment, the task gets harder. Choose the best candidates available, and your existing teams will thank you.

For more, contact the hiring and staffing pros 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Engage Your Employees and Reduce Turnover

May 18th, 2018

If you’re still reeling from the last resignation notice you received when the next departing employee shows up in your office to break the news, you may be dealing with more than just a bad week. You may have a serious turnover problem. If you keep losing valued and trusted employees, and you’re seeing promising new hires come onboard only leave within a single year, take a close look at your engagement strategy. Don’t ask how you’re losing them; ask what you’re doing to keep them. Start with a few simple moves that keep your employees loyal even when they’re lured away by other offers.

Provide something your competitors can’t.

Every workplace culture is different, so what does your culture have to offer that others don’t? What sets you apart? Is it an inspiring, collaborative atmosphere where great ideas come to life? Is your workplace friendly and welcoming? Can your teams trust and count on each other during times of stress? Do your workers think of each other as friends and family? Maybe your culture has an elite, driven vibe that makes employees proud to be part of the energy, or maybe your workplace is goofy and fun loving. Work to bring out the best in your culture and dial down the worst.

Do your workers feel appreciated?

After a long hard week of dedication to a project, there’s nothing quite like having the project cut from the final proposal and swept off the table without a word of acknowledgement from upper management. Of course the employee who put in that work will be paid either way, but sometimes work isn’t just about the money. When your teams go the extra mile, make note of it and thank them, regardless of the long-term results for the company.

Listen to their needs and interests.

Encourage your employees to share with you when it comes to their career plans, their personal goals, the subjects they’d like to learn about, and the things they hope to get out of their relationship with your company. As you help them to excel as employees and contributors, make sure they’re also satisfied with their side of the equation. They should be getting returns from the job that are equal to their contributions and sacrifices. If they aren’t, make note of it and provide them with training, compensation and support before they find another employer who can give them what they aren’t getting from you.

Resolve conflicts before they drive employees away.

Sometimes employees leave due to unmanageable conflicts or constant exposure to toxic people. And when this happens, you’ll probably never know. Exit interviews rarely contain statements like “I didn’t get along with my officemate” or “I had to work every day beside a real jerk.” Keep an eye out for these kinds of problems and fix them before they push talented workers out the door.

For more on how to keep engagement high and turnover as low as possible, turn to the Cleveland County management professionals at PSU.

Establish a Company Culture that Makes an Impression

March 9th, 2018

You want your company culture to send a positive message, and you want your employees to enjoy coming into the office every day. What manager doesn’t? But there’s one thing that attracts and retains top employees even better than a good company culture: a GREAT company culture. Plenty of employers can boast that they treat their teams fairly and maintain clean, functional and professional places of business. But can you make your own company stand out by offering more than the minimum? Can you set yourself apart and create a culture that leaves a lasting impression? Of course you can! Here’s how.

Apply visible effort.

Show your existing employees that you care sincerely about their job satisfaction and growth and show them that culture matters to you. Take frequent surveys, do regular check-ins with individual team members, supply training opportunities, and keep your door and your ears open to suggestions related to culture. If some aspect of your process or management seems to be holding back the flow of positive energy around the workplace, take care of it with speed and honesty.

Address complaints.

There are few things more frustrating than a company that boasts about its culture in ways that are clearly inaccurate. For example, an “innovative” company with rigid, arbitrary rules about process or protocol. Or a company that boasts of diversity but won’t hire a balanced mix of race or gender. Or worst of all, a company that celebrates teamwork but won’t address complaints of bullying or toxic managerial behavior. Don’t be that company. If something isn’t working, listen and resolve the issue—Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.

Don’t squash the fun.

Too often, companies back instinctively away from any activity that carries the slightest hint of “risk”, either brand risk or risk of legal exposure. This means requests with no immediate financial benefit are rejected without consideration. No funny hat day, no Saturday miniature golf outing (someone might get hurt), no onsite parties (someone might behave badly), and no ice cream socials (someone might choke on a sprinkle). No time wasters, no hack days, no tomfoolery. Don’t be that company. Lighten up and reap the benefits of stronger relationships and greater trust.

Be kind.

Giving an employee a break, forgiving a mistake, allowing an extra bereavement day, asking about a family member’s health, or letting a flu-ridden employee stay home without demanding a note from a doctor are all small steps toward a positive culture. Respecting your own humanity and the humanity of your workforce will bring financial gains over time, not losses. Be fair– don’t give breaks to some while withholding them from others– but be reasonable. Your employees will give you their best if you can accept them at their worst.

For more on how to retain your best workers and get the most out of their contributions, contact the Charlotte staffing professionals at PSU.

©Year Personnel Services Unlimited, Inc.
All Rights Reserved. Site Credits.