2014 / 04

My “Go To” Structured Interview

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 29, 2014

0 Recruiting - Best Practices Behavioral Interviews, Candidate Assessments, Interview, pace staffing, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Supervisor, Temporary Staffing, Work Environment

Most times I prepare carefully for an interview – reviewing what a client has told me about a jobs “key requirements” and then writing out a list of questions to ask each candidate, creating a “structured interview.” My company uses structured interviews not only because they are the most legally defensible way to approach the employee selection process, but also to make it easy to compare one candidate to another based on the attributes considered most relevant to job performance. There are times, of course, when this type of preparation isn’t possible (or needed). When there is no specific job in mind and you just want to get to know a candidate, “at their core”—some questions just aren't that relevant. That’s when I, and likely other employee selection professionals, pull out a "go to” structured interview—a set of questions that can be asked of any candidate, regardless of their skills or the type of job they are seeking. There are THREE "areas of inquiry" that make up my personal “go to” structured interview. (Others of you may select different "areas of inquiry"—depending on your typical reasons for generic interviewing.) I tend to go into each of the areas in-depth, rather than skim over certain areas superficially. I start each area with the same opening question and a few pre-planned follow up questions that can be adjusted depending on what the candidate has already revealed about themselves. As students of structured interviews know, one interview question can produce answers to multiple questions, while some pieces of information you want will take 2-3 questions. I   Previous Supervisor Assessments of a Job Candidates Work.   Start with: When I speak with your previous supervisors about your work, what will they tell me they liked most about how you did your job?   Follow Up Questions: What will they tell me were “areas of improvement”—things about your work they would have liked you to change or improve?   Will some supervisors see things in you that others didn't or will they all tell me pretty much the same thing?    Do you always agree with your supervisor's appraisal of your work? Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor’s view of your work. What did you do? Look For… …information you can use to better understand the candidates strengths and weaknesses in most work situations. Asking a candidate to self-report through the eyes of their previous supervisors is a technique I use because it tends to reveal not only their self-assessment, but the kind of feedback they have been given by others in a position to evaluate their work. To use that line of questioning effectively, you will need to make sure the candidate knows you will be talking with people who know about their work first hand. You would be amazed how a candidate's answers tend to moderate when they know that you will be verifying their self-report. If the candidate has had several supervisors, I look both for common themes and differences in the assessments they talk about. And yes, candidates who “don’t know” or “can’t predict” what their supervisors might say, are suspect – signaling that they may be hiding something. It may also mean they worked for supervisors who either didn’t take the time to give their employees feedback or they were not paying attention to the feedback given. II.    Historical Motivators. Likes. Dislikes. Start with: Are there certain kinds of work environments, supervisors, or work content you know, from past experiences, tend to get your best work? Give me some examples.    Follow Up Questions: What situations have you encountered where you knew you were not as motivated to do well in your job as you could have been? What did you do to improve what you didn’t like? Was there a supervisor who you know enjoyed your best work? Describe how they managed you to get the best out of you? What did they do?  Was there a supervisor who was particularly difficult for you? What did you do to try to improve your relationship with this supervisor? When you have had to learn on the job, what have you found to be the best way for you to learn? I’d like an example of a situation where you had to learn a lot of information quickly, how you did that? Where you had challenges? What ultimately prompted you to leave your last few jobs?    Look for… …those factors in the candidate's work history considered either motivating or de-motivating.  Ask them to describe those situations in some detail so you learn something about the types of work conditions that are likely going to get the job candidate's best work. Are they better working alone, or as part of a team? Do they like or try to avoid change? Are they better in faster paced environments with lots going on? Or do they prefer environments where a slower, more analytical approach works best? How quickly and in what ways do they learn what they don’t know? Also important is to learn something about how external factors have impacted employee’s performance. What are the patterns or trends in their decisions to leave jobs? How did they handle situations that were not ideal? What do they consider important workplace issues and how did they address them – proactively, reactively? How have they handled people and situations they can’t control – a difficult boss, change, conflict? III.   Candidate’s Current Situation.     Start with: What is putting you in a place to be open to a job or career change now?   Follow Up Questions: What are the key things you will be looking for in your next job?  Employer? What have you uncovered are likely to be the key requirements for jobs like that?  What have you done or are you currently doing to prepare yourself to meet these requirements? What in your past jobs has most prepared you for what you want in the future? What types of workplace challenges have you faced and overcome? Look for… …if the candidate is currently working—it is good to know how motivated they are to make a job change. What level of clarity do they have about what they want to do next? How aggressively have they been or are they preparing to pursue their goals? What would prompt them to make a job change? What would prompt them to take one job over another? Summary Observations Notice that none of these lines of questioning or the specific questions themselves are either fancy or tricky. They are straightforward questions that would allow any interviewer to understand the “core” of any candidate quickly. They are also designed to allow the candidate to give honest answers because they are focused on actual behaviors and work experiences, not opinions or speculation. jeanneAt the PACE Staffing Network, we use a wide variety of behaviorally based interviews or conversations with both candidates and hiring managers to make the right matches between jobs and people. We get to know who candidates are, “at their core,” different than the skills, knowledge and work experience they bring to the job. We also work with hiring managers to clearly identify the “key requirements” of the job they are trying to fill—the real key requirements for job success, based on their history with previous employees and their updated analysis of work content and conditions. Only after doing the careful homework it takes to get at both the core of jobs and job candidates can we hope to put the two together in ways that works long term! A match made only at the level of skills, knowledge and experience is never good enough! For more information on PACE’s candidate assessment systems and how we help employers “make a difference” in their staffing outcomes by better matching  jobs and people, contact me at jeannek@pacestaffing.com.  

Communications – A Short List of “Must Dos” for Change Agents

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 23, 2014

0 Recruiting - Best Practices Communication, Leader, Recruiting, Seattle Recruiting, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing, Staffing Agency

“The single biggest problem in communication is the mistaken notion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw How we communicate, the conversations we have with others, is a key factor in our successes (or failures) as leaders—particularly when it's time to promote, lead, or influence change. Conversations that create misunderstandings or hurt feelings will inevitably create mistakes, lower productivity, and damage team morale. In fact, miscommunications are one of the leading causes of “stress” amongst both employees and their leaders. It's often not the change itself that is the challenge—it's all the failed conversations that go on around and about the change that are most impactful to a leader's effectiveness. Here are FIVE THINGS leaders can do to make the conversations we have with others, particularly during times of change, will produce the results we intend. 1. Be Concise.  Think about what you want to say and say it clearly and directly—with ordinary language, not big words or long sentences. If something is hard to communicate, it's probably equally hard to hear. Take the time to make your message simple. And don’t beat around the bush! Focus on a handful of key points and state them clearly. If you use examples, make sure they are relevant to your message. Communicate to learn something about people and situations; to clarify and inform—not to impress.   2. Be Redundant.  Start and end your message with the most important thing you want others to hear: “I am concerned about __________________ and want to make sure we think of all angles."   “While I'm still concerned about __________________, I think we have done a good job of exploring all angles for addressing this issue."   In this particular case, your message is about your concerns and your need to invite and reinforce the team getting involved in finding a solution. At the end of the conversation, you still have concerns, but you also want to reinforce the team's engagement. Make sure they know what they accomplished! Frame your communications with conversational book ends. Open your message with an announcement of what you will be talking about. Close your conversation with what you did talk about. "What I want to talk about today is your role on the team and how it's changing."  "What we talked about today is your role on the team and all the ways it has changed."  3. Listen More. Tell Less.  To engage people in the work it takes to change, it is never enough just to tell people what you want them to do or know and then give feedback when they don't do as you say, or know what you taught. (Sound familiar?) To be an influential agent for change, the first step is to see the situation through the eyes of others, not just your own. Telling others what they should do (or worse yet "should have done") is a tactic that while quick and easy to execute, doesn't reliably get you the results you need. A frequent outcome is misunderstandings, hurt feelings and confusion. Telling assumes your listeners see the same things you do, which is never the case! Entering into genuine conversations about what others are thinking or feeling about the change, allows for learning—all parties.      “I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this situation. I have been going over what happened and think I have some ideas, but don’t want to get stuck behind some information that you might have that I don’t.”   And when it's time for feedback, make it quick and to the point. Long lectures about the what's and whys of "doing it right" are more likely to annoy than inform.    4. Clarify. Clarify. Clarify. Expecting others to “get the message, or make quick and lasting changes" after one message, is a huge mistake and leads to many dysfunctions not only in our communications with others, but ultimately your relationships as well. Replace “I thought we had already discussed that," with "my bad, I wasn't as clear as I could have been." When it comes to communications, lower your expectations of what's possible. Keep communicating. Observe behavior to see just how much of your message has been turned into action, and what of your message needs more work. Confront those who are openly ignoring what you have to say. Gently guide those who you know are trying, but aren't quite where you are—yet. When time is short, and you need to change behavior quickly, follow up your conversations with the request that they summarize what they just heard and the 3-4 things they want to do differently on the go forward. Discuss their plan until you reach agreement, and then follow up to ensure it is executed. While it is possible for ONE GREAT conversation to produce significant change, in most cases, one conversation lays the groundwork for better, easier conversations to follow! The best communicators are often people with simple messages, repeated often. 5. Check Your Filters... those nasty assumptions about the motives and beliefs of others that keep you from hearing what they have to say or discounting what you are hearing because it doesn't align with your beliefs and assumptions. If you have a filter about others that just won’t go, away address it openly and always with a willingness to learn and/or “be wrong.”    jeanne“It feels like we are seeing this situation from two very different perspectives. Let's spend a little time talking about what we are each experiencing."   The best relationships often grow out of situations where there is conflict between very different points of view; where two people genuinely see and/or believe something very different about a particular situation or event. Digging deep to find those places of agreement—either on facts or goals—can become a powerful base for shared respect and understandings. As leaders, taking the time to improve the quality of conversations we have with our key stakeholders—our boss, our team, our peers and coworkers, will have direct impact on our results—particularly during periods where our real job is to help others change, either their behavior or their perspective.

Top 10 Challenges for Recruiters – 2014

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 10, 2014

0 Staffing News Recruiting, Recruiting Challenges, Seattle Recruiting, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing, Staffing Agency

The following article is an edited version of an article written by Dr. John Sullivan for the ERE Daily on Monday, April 7th, 2014. Those who follow my articles know that I frequently write on the positive trends and big ideas that I think recruiting leaders need to be aware of. I don’t often write about challenges or problems believing that most of us don’t want to dwell on the negative. Since I am predicting that during the next few years we will encounter a completely transformed world of recruiting, it only makes sense to shift our conversation and focus on our upcoming challenges. If recruiters aren’t prepared to mitigate these challenges, they may grow out of control, causing exponential damage to your company and its performance. The Top 10 – in order of priority: 1. Not being prepared for the return of intense recruiting competition. With so many jobless individuals applying for every open position, it has been easy for recruiters and hiring managers to pick and choose from numerous applicants. Recruiting was a relatively easy process. As the economy improves, the power in the recruiting relationship will inevitably shift away from the corporation to the job seeker – changing the “ease” with which the recruiting function can be executed. Most corporate recruiting functions simply aren’t ready for a return to intense competition for candidates. The primarily “active” recruiting approaches that have worked and dominated over the last handful of years will simply fail when the focus shifts to fighting over prospects and candidates. And the “war for talent” will be even more challenging if recruiting resources are short. 2. The increased volume of open positions will overload the recruiting system. In addition to having to fight for individual talent, an increase in the volume of hiring will further stress most existing recruiting systems to the limit. Obviously as corporate growth increases, so will the hiring volume. Challenges retaining talent will further increase that hiring volume. Last year alone, corporate turnover increased by 45% and I am predicting a similar increase for this year and next. Turnover will increase because as the job market opens up in specific industries, regions, and technical jobs, many employees who have been focusing on job security will begin to realize that it’s time to move on. Because most corporate retention teams have been completely decimated and retention approaches not updated, corporate efforts to prevent this increased turnover will have little impact. For recruiting leaders this means that the combination of new corporate growth and high employee turnover will dramatically increase the volume of open positions beyond their capacity to produce the results needed. 3. Rusty hiring managers and underdeveloped recruiters have diminished capabilities. A low volume of hiring and the lack of competition may have caused the capabilities of your hiring managers and recruiters to degrade significantly. Adding to that condition the fact that there has been little money for development or training for either recruiters or managers will mean that in growth mode both are likely to initially stumble under this new environment. 4. A lack of speed will restrict your results. The business world moves much faster today than it did during the last recruiting boom. Unfortunately, recruiting hasn’t maintained its speed capability due to fewer resources, a lack of competition, and less focus on “time to hire” statistics. When top candidates have multiple offers, they simply won’t be around when indecisive managers finally make their hiring decision. In a newly competitive and faster moving world, delays in hiring will be costly, and unfortunately, reducing time to hire is one of the most difficult objectives to achieve within recruiting. 5. Long Ignored employer brands will begin to negatively impact recruiting effectiveness. In a down economy, with applicant surpluses, recruiting leaders did not pay much attention to their external employer brand image. Few have taken the time to measure their employer brands, and as a result, recruiting leaders often don’t realize how their “talent failures” (including layoffs, pay cuts, promotional freezes, etc.) have hurt their employer brand image. Once competition for top talent becomes intense, leaders will realize that a weak Internet or social media employer brand will prevent top talent and innovators from even considering applying at your firm. Unfortunately, most recruiting leaders define employer branding incorrectly and rebuilding an employer brand is both time consuming and expensive. 6. Your current recruiting process may not have the capability of recruiting innovators. One of the things that executives have learned from the success of firms like Google and Apple is the value of innovation and innovative employees. Unfortunately, most recruiting processes are not designed to effectively identify or recruit innovators who expect to see innovation and technology as an integral part of the hiring process. Without a strong employer brand and a separate sub-process designed specifically for recruiting innovators, the chance of recruiting a top industry innovator to your firm may approach zero. 7. Your recruiting strategy may be years out of date. Obviously without the direction provided by a strategic plan, your firm may suffer several years of weak results. Surprisingly, most recruiting functions actually operate without any written and distributed recruiting strategy. But even if you have a strategy, it is rarely updated to meet the needs of a new and much more intense global recruiting market. The strategy must also include a competitive analysis of your recruiting competitors to ensure that your firm’s strategy and approach produces superior results and a measurable competitive advantage. 8. Antiquated recruiting metrics lower your credibility with executives. Whether you have a seat at the table or not, recruiting leaders simply will not be listened to and funded unless they have the right metrics to quantify the dollar impact that high-performing new hires have on corporate revenue. And of course the biggest corporate metric omission is the failure of the majority of firms to accurately measure the quality of hire. As a result, few corporate recruiting functions can convincingly prove that they hire top performers and innovators with advanced skills and high retention rates. Only a handful of functions have predictive metrics that are necessary in order to alert recruiters and hiring managers about upcoming recruiting issues and opportunities. 9. A shortage of effective recruiters is on the horizon. Everyone knows that this long period with a down economy has decimated the ranks of corporate recruiters. Many of those who were laid off have left the profession. And the bad taste that it left in their mouths may cause most never to return. Since there are no college programs that turnout recruiters, recruiting leaders need to prepare for the time when competition for top recruiters will become intense. Existing employed recruiters will be in such a demand that they will be “bid on” by other firms, and finding effective replacement recruiters on the open market will be extremely difficult and expensive. Training new recruiters themselves may be the only effective option available to many firms. 10. The lack of recruiting resources. Unless you work at Google, the odds are that your function has already suffered numerous dramatic budget cuts over the last several years. You’re going to need a significantly higher budget if you expect to have a reasonable chance to increase your employer brand, recruiting volume, recruiting speed, and quality of hire. Unfortunately, most recruiting leaders simply don’t have the capability of building a strong business case that quantifies the tremendous dollar impact that recruiting has on corporate revenue and results. Additional Challenges  There are several additional strategic problems that didn’t make the list, because I determined that even though they are important, they had a lower impact. But since every industry and company faces unique problems, add your unique problems to your “keep an eye on list.”

  • The new Internet and social media approaches need to be assessed in terms of their potential to enhance recruiting results.
  • The globalization of the talent marketplace.
  • The high volume recruiting technologies need to be assessed in order to find the very few that really impact quality-of-hire results.
  • Employment-related legislation. The rights of applicants in all countries will likely increase.
  • Increasing pressure to separate recruiting, retention, and onboarding from the rest of HR.
Final Thoughts Although it’s certainly more fun to explore new opportunities in recruiting, failing to identify and resolve existing recruiting problems may actually have a larger negative impact on both long term and short term results. Almost everyone is aware of the tactical day-to-day problems in recruiting, but very few recruiting leaders take the time to forecast strategic “big picture” problems that are on the horizon. If you are a corporate recruiting leader, I hope my “biggest-challenges list” at least started you to think about the major shifts that are ahead in recruiting and the problems that will occur as a result of them. Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of Talent Management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations / organizations in 30 countries on all 6 continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR and the Financial Times. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring”, Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics” and SHRM called him “One of the industries most respected strategists”. He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked #8 among the top 25 online influencers in Talent Management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

A Quick Look At Flexible Staffing Strategies 2009-2014

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 2, 2014

0 Staffing News contract staffing, contract worker, Job Growth, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Temp to hire, temp worker, temporary agencies, Temporary Staffing

As we have been reporting for the last several years, the “industry category” that has been consistently growing since the 2007 recession ended is the “temporary help” industry, which includes employees of agencies providing temp and contract workers to employers. Current indicators suggest that this trend will continue into 2014, with the Department of Labor projecting that the number of flexible employees who work in short term temporary jobs will grow at double the rate of core jobs over the next decade. In the years between 2009 and 2013, “temps and contract” workers accounted for 15% of all job growth in the US. In 2013, 2.9 million people worked in temporary roles, representing an increase of 28% since 2010 compared to a 5% growth rate for all other jobs. In many regions across the country, the share of job growth credited to temporary and contract jobs were even more significant. In Cincinnati, for example, the increased number of temp and contract workers accounted for over 65% of overall job growth, 51% in Milwaukee, 46% in Kansas City, and 40% in both Chicago and Philadelphia. In fact in most metro areas of the US, a significant percentage of local market job growth came from temporary or contract jobs. According to a recent Career Builder survey, the temporary/contract jobs that will grow at the highest rate in 2014 will be:

  • Human Resource Specialists, which is a job category that will grow by 4%, representing the folks the temporary help industry hires to provide services to their clients. Average earnings for these HR professionals are targeted to be close to $27/hr.
  • Customer Service Reps will grow by 3%, with an average pay rate of $14.70/hr.
  • Admin Assistants will grow by 3%, with an average pay rate of $15.58/hr.
  • Help Desk personnel will grow by 3%, with an average pay rate of $22.32/hr.
Other temporary job categories scheduled to grow by 3% or more include Construction Workers, Registered Nurses, Bookkeeping or Accounting Clerks, Maintenance and Repair Workers, Inspectors/Testers, Truck Drivers, Machinists, and Sales Reps... which speaks to the growing diversity of the new flexible workforces. NancyA different Career Builder survey found that 42% of employers plan to use (more) temporary and contract workers in 2014, with 43% intending to hire their temporary employees into full time permanent staff. The “temp to hire” employee auditioning strategy is definitely alive and well. There is no question that since our last recession, the growth in flexible workforces and the staffing strategies that are creating them has far outpaced the growth in core employment. This trend is targeted to continue and suggests the need for employers to expand their use of flexible workforce strategies as a way to stay competitive both in terms of costs and profits. The drivers of this shift to workforce flexibility are the usual culprits—the need to optimize workforce productivity, to lower fixed operating costs, and to move quickly and nimbly in volatile markets. For more information about how to create a temporary workforce, and/or develop or apply flexible workforce strategies in your work environment, contact our Vice President of Partnership Development at nancys@pacestaffing.com or call Nancy Swanson at 425-454-1075 ext. 3010.