New In the Office? Brush Up on your Conversation Skills

January 25th, 2013

Kids make friends everywhere they go. College students make friends just by sharing a dorm and sitting beside each other in class. Young adults get entry level jobs side-by-side with other young adults and they go on ski trips and take Zumba class together. But as we make the final transition into real grown-up-hood, the social world around us becomes less homogeneous and when it comes to making and keeping new friends, we’re on our own.  If you’re stepping into a new workplace in the middle of your life, what can you do to establish yourself and start forming new connections? Try these tips.

Conversational Rules for New Employees

1. Be positive. Of course you feel positive on the inside– You’re making a fresh start and you’re happy and excited to be here. But make sure this shows in your speech. For the first week in your new position, make a conscious effort not to say one negative thing. Not about people, your old job, or even the weather. After the first week you can relax and reveal your blunt, forthcoming side, but wait for seven days. Call it the “first week challenge”.

2. Play it cool. Don’t force your company, your jokes, or your opinions on anyone just yet. Listen more than you speak for a little while, and you’ll learn about the backstories and ongoing drama that underlie the projects and relationships happening around you.

3. Ask questions, but do so diplomatically. If you have someone who’s willing to provide you with background and fill you in on the technical and political details that shape the workplace, appreciate this person (or people). Try to make the most of this resource without becoming a burden.

4. Make an active effort to stay relevant. When you see a movie, be ready to talk about it at work. Actually think about what you’ll say if and when the subject comes up. The same rule applies to current events and sports. When you speak about these topics, follow the rules above. Try to stay positive, don’t force your personality on anyone, and keep your remarks from going on too long and becoming speeches or rants.

5. Look for ways to make your presence a welcoming sight to others. Help people who are doing things (from moving boxes to cleaning the breakroom). In conversation, protect people from embarrassment and help them look good in front of those they hope to impress. Try to steer clear of sour apples, negative types, and jerks. These might be complex and interesting people under the surface, but find this out during your second or third week, not your first.

For more on how to polish your image and start your professional relationships off on the right foot, reach out the staffing experts at PSU.

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.

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.

Personal Development Coaching: A Potential Job Perk

October 12th, 2012

In your effort to attract talented candidates, you’re probably wording your postings carefully, reaching out to a select target audience, and gathering a list of appealing perks that can help you present yourself well and get a leg up on your competition. If you haven’t done so already, include every small benefit that your employees will be able to access, like free parking, transportation discounts, or on-site day care. Most important, include continuing education and training resources that employees can use to get ahead.

Great Employees Appreciate Personal Coaching

Let prospective employees understand the basic details of your mentoring program, if you have one
(and if you intend to attract ambitious, motivated team members, you should definitely have one.) A well-structured and well organized mentoring system suggests that you care about an employee’s future beyond the limits of a specific job.

Other forms of structured coaching can include non-job specific training programs in areas like leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and team building. If your HR team has the resources and experience to provide these programs in-house, consider offering optional or mandatory seminars. Otherwise, establish a contract with a professional training firm.

Continuing Education

Managers of small companies often assume that tuition matching programs lie outside the scope of their budgets. But before you dismiss the idea, conduct some careful research and consider the long term benefits. Educated staff members may be more productive, but just as important, the fact that you’re willing to offer the program suggests that you’re willing to invest in your employees futures, and this can help you gain the attention of highly motivated applicants. And your training and certification benefits, while expensive on the surface, can allow you to sidestep the salary premiums that already-certified candidates sometimes command.

Tuition matching is only one possible way to support continuing education. You may also be able to fund an employee’s entire degree program in exchange for a long term commitment of two, three, or five years.  Even small and inexpensive gestures can help you gain the respect of both current and potential hires. For example, consider allowing an employee to work flexible hours so he or she can attend classes during the day.

Arrange a consultation with the NC staffing experts at PSU for more detailed information on training and continuing education resources for promising employees.



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