Take a Closer Look at Your Underqualified Candidate

January 11th, 2013

Rejecting candidates out of hand can become an unfortunately common trend in a weak economy. When some managers see a line of applicants winding out the door, they develop an inflated sense of confidence that makes them decide to “hold out for the best”, or toss out one highly qualified candidate after another because these applicants don’t present themselves as stars. But if you’re tempted to hire only applicants who are currently employed, or only those who have PhDs, or only those who are currently making the limit of what your company can offer, think twice. It may be wise to adopt some flexibility. Here’s why.

Hire for Skills, Talent, Attitude, and Work Ethic, Not Star Status 

You’ll pay a premium for every measureable element of candidate star status. Everything from a four year college degree to the completion of a software training program comes at a cost. At the same time, candidates who possess these credentials and can charge these premiums have no specific reason to cultivate gratitude or loyalty once they come aboard.

On the other hand, if you hire a candidate who hasn’t yet learned to write code or hasn’t completed her level three certification, you’ll be taking her on at a slightly lower rate. And if you provide her with this training in-house, she’ll have every reason to stay, invest, and appreciate a symbiotic relationship for what it is.

Aptitude can be taught, But Attitude is in the Blood

Inflexible managers use a rigid check-off list to measure candidate success potential. Does the candidate have exactly three to five years of experience? Does the candidate have exactly three glowing references from upper managers at Fortune 500 companies? Lists like these are self-limiting and don’t actually measure the real qualities that predict a great hire. While interviewing a candidate and reviewing his or her background, use your non-verbal communication skills, experience, and intuition to discern a genuine work ethic and honest eagerness to learn. Everything else can be taught.

Don’t Voluntarily Overpay for Candidates with Attitude Problems

Taking on a bona fide “superstar” is, in and of itself, a recipe for trouble. Not only are you likely to overpay (market value doesn’t always dictate substance), but you’ll be taking on a candidate who may not see any reason to adapt to your culture, accept your methods, or cease her search for better opportunities elsewhere. Think before you try to pry a candidate away from her current job while an eager, intelligent, and inexpensive alternative happens to be knocking at your door.

Where can you find these qualified, inexpensive candidates with great attitudes? Start by arranging an appointment with the NC staffing experts at PSU. We have access to a broad pool of talented applicants who can help you drive your growing company forward.

Fact Check Your Resume!

December 28th, 2012

If you think potential employers will glance over resume and take you at your word on every item and every claim, you might be right. But if you’re wrong, and a few simple calls and Google searches can verify that you stretched the truth on your application, your resume and cover letter are 100 percent likely to end up in the trash. Even if your false claims go undiscovered and you step into a great new position, your resume will be placed into your personnel file and you’ll be shown to the door the day the truth is eventually revealed. Is an ego-inflating fib on your resume really worth losing the job of your dreams?

In a word: No. It’s never a good idea to lie or stretch the truth on a resume. Resume fibs are harder to pass off than they may seem—after all, your potential employers have been in the business longer then you have, and they know a questionable claim when they see one. And the embarrassment that a few fibs can bring your way may have a damaging impact that can follow you for the rest of your career. Take these quick steps to fact check and clean up your resume before you click send.

Resume Fact Checking Tips

1. Be prepared to answer questions about every item in your education section. Every institution attended and degree earned can be easily verified. If you list your GPA, employers probably can’t obtain this information from the university without your permission. But they can simply ask you to provide proof. And if you can’t produce your transcripts when asked, you may reach the end of the road with this employer. 

2. When it comes to work history, don’t exaggerate your accomplishments. Just don’t do it. It may seem impossible for an employer to independently confirm that your raised department call-completion levels by 35 percent in 2004, but again, managers usually know what kinds of claims align with the rest of your profile and which claims stand out as unlikely.

3. Recognize that some information and claims don’t need to be verified, and an employer who seeks proof is crossing the lines of privacy and respect. For example, if asked about your salary history, you’re allowed to answer however you choose. But at the same time, the truth is usually your best bet. As your grandma may have mentioned, when you tell the truth, it’s easier to keep your story straight.

Remember, most of the skills you claim to possess (from typing speed to foreign language fluency to software competency) can be tested. And if they bear any relevance to your job performance, they probably will be tested. Be ready for a cross examination… or better yet, just stick to the facts from the beginning. You’ll make your own life—and your potential employer’s job– a little easier. Contact the NC staffing experts at PSU for additional job search guidance.


New Hire Orientation: A Check-Off List

December 21st, 2012

Once the screening and selection have come to an end and you’ve settled on a first choice candidate for your open position, you’ll need to make sure the onboarding processes goes smoothly. After all, the first few days on the job can have a lasting impression on your new employee and can shape the direction of her long term relationship with both the company and her manager. Check each step off the list below and make sure your newhire receives the personal attention and guidance she needs to get started on the right foot.

1. First, be very clear with all written communication prior to the start date. Give the employee an opportunity to fully understand her new healthcare plan and compensation package. And of course, be very clear about all the conditions and contingencies related to her employment. In the worst case scenario, an employee may walk in on day one without having fully understood all drug test, background check, or health screening requirements expected of her.

2. Arrange to have someone waiting for her on the morning of her arrival. Make sure this person is expecting the new employee and is on the site and ready to greet her when she comes in. This can be the employee’s manager, an HR staff member, or a coworker. But in any case, this person will be the one who shows the new employee to her workspace and introduces her to those with whom she’ll be interacting on a regular basis.

3. Have a printed employee handbook ready, and provide a training schedule that clarifies where the employee will need to be and when during every hour of her first full week on the job.

4. Make sure IT personnel are on hand and available to sign the new employee into the system and help her establish passwords and access codes.

5. Be ready to incorporate the employee seamlessly into ongoing team projects. For example, have a printed schedule available that indicates which meetings she’ll be expected to attend and whether she’ll be playing an active role or just observing. 

6. Encourage both the HR team and the employee’s manager to maintain an open door policy for the new employee as she learns the ropes. Both parties should respond quickly to her questions and be very clear about company policy and manager expectations. 

For more information and advice on creating a smooth and positive onboarding experience for your new hire, contact the NC staffing and HR pros at PSU.

Employee Burnout: What it Looks Like And What to Do About it

December 14th, 2012

The toxic combination of fatigue and boredom may not be deadly to your employees, but it’s certainly unhealthy for your bottom line and the future of your company. The math isn’t complicated: Happy employees are the ones who are motived, challenged and engaged, and happy employees stick around and thrive. Miserable employees are drained, exhausted, overworked, and angry, and they don’t stick around. They find other jobs, often after kicking down the props of workplace morale on their way out the door. Don’t let this happen.

Here’s what a burned out employee looks like:

1. He’s uncharacteristically tense, edgy, sensitive or hypercritical. If you notice an extended and unusual pattern of this behavior, intervene.

2. She’s taking an uncharacteristically high number of sick days and/or she’s showing up late for work, meetings, and events.

3. He’s missing deadlines or dropping responsibilities and he doesn’t seem to care that much about it.

4. She’s mentioned (directly or indirectly) that her efforts are going unnoticed or the demands placed upon her are becoming unreasonable.

If an employee starts showing these signs, how should managers react?

1. Try not to jump to conclusions, and ask questions before making statements. Tactfully raise the subject and ask the employee is everything is okay. Listen for an answer that might suggest family or medical difficulty.

2. Offer an opportunity to vent before offering a solution. If an employee is stressed, bored, or overworked, talking about it in atmosphere free of judgment can be very helpful. Sometimes just maintaining and open door and open mind can provide employees with all they need to release their frustrations and restore their energy.

3. Monotony can be a subtle but powerful enemy. Sometimes employees don’t even recognize that their feelings of frustration and stress are actually just the product of boredom. Reassign tasks when you need to and use teamwork to break up solitude and repetition. Sometimes it’s ironically more cost effective to assign two people to a job meant for one.

4. Avoid burnout in the first place by simply being a good manager. Keep directions and expectations clear and reasonable, stay open to employee suggestions and ideas, and distribute work fairly. Demonstrate respect and appreciation while doing all of these things. If managers beneath you have trouble following these simple steps, don’t just let the problem fester. Step in and actively provide the coaching and leadership training they may lack. 

Reach out to the NC staffing experts at PSU for more management tips that can help you banish burnout and protect your productivity.


Take the Stress Out of Your Performance Review Process

November 30th, 2012

Performance review season is right around the corner, and in keeping with annual tradition in most offices, both managers and employees are gearing up for an awkward ordeal. Nobody looks forward to review time. Employees dread it, managers often resent it, and HR pros aren’t usually excited about the task of adjusting payment and compensation based on subjective employee contributions. But despite their lack of popularity, annual reviews provide a necessary method of keeping salaries fair and employees engaged and motivated to perform throughout the year. So what are some of the steps managers can take to keep this important task from becoming an annual headache? Keep these considerations in mind.

Choose Your Model Carefully

The science of performance evaluation grows more sophisticated every year, and with every new behavioral study, managers are presented with new algorithms and metrics for measuring employee success. Whether you choose a nine-box, 360 degree, weighted ranking method, or any of dozens of options, make sure your format matches your workplace culture and your business model. 

Begin With Self Evaluations

Launch the conversation between managers and employees by giving employees an opening opportunity to evaluate themselves. This gives employees a sense of control over the process and it helps managers and employees start on the same page by identifying a shared set of weak points and strengths.

Consistency is Key

Even though employees won’t participate in the evaluations of their peers, the process should be standardized and managers should make a strong effort to be objective as they compare the performance of one employee with another. Of course the bar will be higher for more experienced employees than it will be for new hires, but all standards of measurement should equitable, reasonable, and fair.

Focus on Performance, Not Attitude

Make sure all metrics used to judge employee success are based on output and performance, not attitude. If an employee produces quality work, her attitude should not be brought to the table during review time. Likewise, a struggling employee with a cheery, can-do spirit is still a struggling employee. During the review, stay focused on finding ways to improve her work and raise the value of her contributions.

Conduct Reviews in a Context

Keep the big picture in mind. If reviews aren’t followed by clear actions plans, clear rewards for excellence, or clear consequences for shortcomings, then why conduct them in the first place? The review offers a valuable way to track employee growth and progress throughout the year, and the final product should help create a road map to employee and company success.

For more tips and guidance on getting the most out of your annual employee review process, consult the NC staffing experts at PSU.

Seven Steps to Ensure the Retention of Top Performers

November 9th, 2012

You may be convinced that your staffing and retention strategy is above reproach. But if that’s the case, why are you still losing your top performers? Talented candidates don’t line up at the door every day, even during a job market tipped in favor of employers. When you have a miracle worker on your team, you need to pull out every stop to keep her from drifting away as soon as your competitors make a better offer. Try these seven tested moves.

Hold Onto Your Most Talented Employees: Seven Steps

1. Pay them. Don’t nickel and dime the engines that drive your company forward. Skimping on employee salaries may raise profits by a notch and impress your shareholders, but think in terms of the long run. How easy will it be to impress them after your best employees leave?

2. Engage. You expect your employees to stay awake, invested, and tuned into the larger picture. You expect them to stay focused on what works for the company and turn away from what doesn’t work. So make sure you give your employees the same respect. Watch them, make note of their growth, respect their long term career plans, and keep an eye out for ways to help them move forward.

3. Show gratitude. At every turn, you should be looking for reasons to thank your employees and offer praise. If you can’t find reasons to do this, it’s because you aren’t looking hard enough.

4. Tackle problems at the source. If your best employees appear to be struggling, or they otherwise appear disengaged or unhappy, don’t wait for a small problem to balloon into a surprise resignation letter. Approach the employee in question and be direct. Find out if you need to provide more resources, offer a promotion, or arrange a transfer.

5. Face conflict head on. The same rule applies to managing interpersonal problems. If a great employee can’t seem to work well with his new manager, or vice versa, don’t hesitate to ask questions and offer solutions. Keep an open door policy and encourage your HR team to do the same.

6. Check in frequently. The only people who truly know what your employees need in order to excel at the their jobs are the employees themselves. So ask them. Go to the source to find out more about the tools and training that might help them move forward.

7. Listen carefully. Take all employee complaints and suggestions seriously. If a small inexpensive perk or policy change might have an impact on employee satisfaction, you’ll need to hear about it, and this will only happen if you keep your ears open.

Are you looking for additional ways to keep your best employees happy, loyal, and fully committed to the success of your enterprise? The NC staffing experts at PSU are standing by to help. Arrange a consultation today.

Use Personal Branding To Land Your Dream Job

October 19th, 2012

Small acts of branding can have a powerful impact on a potential consumer’s emotional reaction to a product. This is just as true when the marketer is a job seeker and the product she’s selling is herself.

As they hire, interview, and screen candidates, most potential employer decisions are conscious, and represent a logical response to available data. For example, does the candidate have a four year degree or not? Can she or can she not perform the duties of the position, from drafting department budgets to speaking fluent French? The culture surrounding the position is extroverted and highly competitive—will the candidate be able to adapt? Most of these questions come with black and white answers, and the candidate can and should control how she’s directly perceived. But subconscious decisions are also part of the process, and a savvy candidate can control the outcome on both levels—or at least try. Consider color, for example. As a job seeker, are you working a signature color into your branding strategy?

Color and Your Personal Brand

Every time your potential employer sees you in person, consider wearing an item of clothing or carrying a portfolio that displays one chosen color. This will be your signature color. You don’t need an entire outfit in this hue—just a scarf, tie, or shirt will do.  But be consistent. And choose carefully.

Green will suggest innovation, flexibility and ingenuity. Yellow will project a sunny and positive disposition. Blue will suggest that you’re focused and studious. And red is the color of passion, which can translate in a workplace setting into determination, aggression and personal dedication. It might seem smart to present all of these qualities to a potential employer, but if you want to be remembered, choose just one.

Now, as you scan postings for a new position with an employer you have yet to contact for the first time, make sure you consider your signature color before every single interaction you have with this employer. Every time a potential hiring manager encounters your brand, she should experience the impact of your chosen color.

Type the text of your resume, cover letter, and all of your emails in basic black only. But before you write, pause and think for a minute about your signature color, and let that color influence the tone of your message and the words you choose. Your thoughts about your color will have an impact on the consistency of your brand, your message, and the story you’re attempting to tell. Will you carefully gather all the facts before making a decision (blue)? Will you be a pleasure to work with every day (yellow)? Will you make any sacrifice for the company, no matter the cost (red)?

This all may sound like magic, and it is. But it’s also marketing. Put these principals to work for you and see what happens. Meanwhile, reach out to the NC job search experts at PSU for additional help and guidance.

When to Make an Offer to Get a Resigning Employee to Stay

October 5th, 2012

Your staffing strategy has never been better. Your last four hiring decisions have been brilliant, and your managers and employees appear to be thriving busily in an atmosphere of respect, trust, and shared dedication. When you walk through your workplace, you see cheerful workers in every direction, and your bottom line suggests that you’re clearly doing something right. But you haven’t done this on your own. You can easily count off a handful of people throughout the company who hold this entire operation together. Regardless of their management level, these invaluable employees are natural leaders and you know perfectly well that you wouldn’t be where you are without them.

Just as you’re patting yourself on the back for the efficiency and productivity of your staffing strategy, one of your very best employees walks into your office with a dreaded announcement. She’s about to leave.

Counter a Resignation: Simple Steps

First, don’t give up just yet. There’s a strong possibility that your next few moves can change her mind and keep her onboard. But be careful. There’s a fine line between a happy, productive employee and resentful, conflicted prisoner trapped in golden handcuffs. Ask a few tactful questions, then act accordingly.

First, find out why she’s leaving. And listen to her tone, not just her words. If her answer is abbreviated and dismissive, you’re odds of keeping her are slim. A strong personal component, like a family obligation, may also elicit a clipped and determined explanation. But if there’s any chance that she hasn’t fully made up her mind, her answer will be longer and more detailed, and may even sound open-ended, as if she’s not making a declaration but asking for advice.

If another local company is luring her away with a higher offer, ask her to give you twenty four hours to counter it. Then work with your accounting and HR departments to see what you can come up with. But you’ll be lucky if her decision is only about money. More likely, many factors will be involved, including her long term career goals and how they may conflict with the opportunities she’s finding here. She may also be unhappy with some aspect of this job in ways that she’s kept hidden or handled on her own until now.

If she’s dissatisfied for one simple reason, pounce on the problem, and do it today. If her relationship with her manager isn’t working out, for example, take decisive action to open communication channels and resolve the issue. If she has commuting difficulties or workplace access problems, don’t just wave goodbye. If you do, you may be letting a simple obstacle take away one of your most valuable company assets. Is she struggling with housing, childcare, or a health issue? Test the limits of your creative problem solving skills and find a way to restructure her benefits and perks to bring her back on board.

Just don’t make promises you can’t keep. In your rush to secure this employee, consider all long-term costs, and don’t set her—or yourself—up for a future of resentment and compromise. If worse comes to worse, just have faith in your staffing strategy and remember that whatever you did to find her, you can probably do again.
Before you put together a last minute deal to keep a valuable employee on your team, contact the NC staffing experts at PSU. We can help you limit potential mistakes as you move forward.

When is it Time to Start Looking for Candidates?

September 21st, 2012

When managers calculate the best time to hire new employees, their decisions will depend on range of factors including available budget resources and the nature of the company’s business model. Here are three popular approaches to timed hiring and the kinds of companies that tend to embrace each one.

Just-In-Time Hiring

The leanest, meanest and most efficient way to time hiring decisions is typically known as just-in-time or last minute hiring. This model is based on the idea that companies rarely make money when there are too many people walking around in the office. To avoid even the slightest chance of a budget-busting overstaffing scenario, companies often wait until their current staff are overworked, over-burdened and teetering on the brink of total burnout before bringing on new employees. Only when current personnel resources are pushed to the limit and literally bursting at the seams will last-minute hiring managers publish a posting for a new position and begin screening applicants.

The economic advantages of this model are clear, but the risks may outweigh the benefits and can undercut the amount of money saved. If your business can’t afford a single extra dollar lost on staffing and your managers are great at navigating and calculating risk, this strategy offers a promising option.  

Long Range Planning Based on Sales and Other Data

Cyclical businesses and companies that can draw a clear line between sales data and staff size may benefit from long range planning based on careful predictions of company growth and future needs. To make this model work for your firm, you’ll have to find a way to gather data that’s accurate, clear, and directly tied to personnel requirements. Growing sales that are likely to keep rising at a steady rate may warrant the acquisition of two, six, or ten new employees during the coming year. But only adopt this model if past performance can be expected to align with future results.

High Potential Hiring

“High potential” hiring is a strategy often embraced by companies with flexible hiring budgets and those that need to compete aggressively for top talent. With this model in place, extremely skilled applicants who respond to a posting are contacted whether their skills match the posting or not. These candidates are then brought on board and positions are designed to match their talents, rather than vice versa.

The risk of overstaffing can be significant for companies that use this approach. But these tend to be organizations that embrace innovation and flexibility and they also tend to be firms that can afford higher risk as long as that risk comes with the potential for high reward. 

Are you interested in hiring new staff but uncertain about the timing of your decision? Temporary staffing can provide qualified help with minimal hiring risk. Contact the NC temporary staffing experts at PSU and find out what we can do to move your company forward.


Are Phone Interviews the Best Option For Narrowing Down Candidates?

September 14th, 2012

A meticulous candidate search can reduce hiring risk and yield great rewards, especially over the long term. But no staffing strategy is 100 percent perfect, and while screening with a fine tooth comb can produce excellent employees, it can also require considerable time and financial investment. You can cull a stack of resumes down to the top twenty candidates, and then call each of the twenty in for a full interview, which may require transportation costs and necessitate pulling interviewers off the floor for hours at a time. Or, you can make use of an inexpensive tool that’s already in place: the phone.

Phone Interviews: Making the Most of a Simple and Powerful Communication Tool

Phone screenings require little more than about fifteen minutes per candidate, and can be conducted with no transportation or overhead costs. Dozens or hundreds of candidates can be screened in an hour (depending on how many screeners are involved), and the process can be standardized and streamlined for efficiency and fairness. Just make sure each call follows the same format, and that phone interview questions are tightly focused on the needs of the position.

Have your screeners listen for clear red flags and yes or no answers to simple questions, such as the following:

1. Do you have a BS degree in computer science or a related field?
2. Are you interested in a job that will require you to travel at least 50 percent of the time?
3. Are you willing to be on call at night and during the weekends?
4. Have you ever managed a staff of at least five people?

Potential Pitfalls of the Phone Interview

Be aware that a phone screening and a true interview are separate endeavors with separate goals. While a real interview allows a hiring manger to assess a candidate’s personality, character, deep background, and cultural aptitude, a phone call offers a very limited window into these areas. The phone screening should not be used for final round hiring or real skill assessment. Among its limits, the phone can reveal false signs of promise and can also allow great candidates to slip away.

Instead, use the phone simply to refine a huge population of candidates into a narrow and manageable pool. Filter out those who are not interested in the challenges of the job, hold less than the minimum qualifications, or have no plans to accept the position if it’s offered. Keep things simple and don’t allow your phone screeners to make assumptions or overreach.

If you need specific guidance while developing your phone screening questions and protocols, contact the NC staffing experts at PSU. Put our experience to the test and make sure you get the most out of your screening and interview strategies.


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