Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reliable References

Today's posting comes from Alesia Benedict, an expert in resume writing, who shares some tips on developing reliable references. I must also give credit, once again, to This incredible resource provides insightful and informative articles that any job seeker would find valuable. But focusing on Alesia's article, I found it to be dead-on and one that active and passive job seekers alike should keep in mind. So I hope you enjoy today's topic and I have included a blurb about Alesia at the end of the article in case you want to find out more about Alesia and her resume writing services.

By Alesia Benedict

Every job seeker knows that when applying for a new job, great references are almost as important as a stellar resume. It’s generally the first thing a hiring manager will ask for in an interview, so you’ll have to be prepared.

What’s the best way to develop your references? Can you just write down a few names and contact information of people who’ll say you’re a good employee who won’t run off with the office supplies? Not exactly.

Developing great, usable references does require some work, but it’s not impossible! Here are a few tips to help you create an all-star list of references.

1. Who Makes the Cut?
When compiling your reference sheet, the first question you should ask yourself is the most logical one: who’s on the list? Your first instinct might be to choose someone in your company with an executive job title or strong name recognition to people outside of the organization. But, the last thing you want is for a recruiter or hiring manager to make a phone call to this higher-up and hear a response like "Joe who?" For this reason, director supervisors and others who have day-to-day knowledge of your work performance make the best references.

2. Are They Competition?
While your references should be someone you’ve worked closely with, they shouldn’t be someone who could end up being your competition. They need to have strong knowledge of your work performance, but, for this competitive reason, they should be in a different functional line of work.

3. Ask Permission
You’ve done your investigative work and have your VIP list of strong, knowledgeable references. But, do they want to be on that list? Maybe not. It’s vital that you get the permission of each and every one of your references before handing their contact information to a recruiter or hiring manager. Once they’ve accepted your request, you’ll need to double check their contact information and find out how they’d like to be contacted - via phone or email. Make sure to also ask when they prefer to be contacted, so they aren’t caught off guard when a recruiter calls.

4. Find References’ References
Recruiters and hiring managers know that anyone you reference is going to say good things about you. Of course, right? You certainly wouldn’t list a reference who would speak poorly of you. This is why hiring professionals often ask most references: "Who, other than you, has direct knowledge of Joe’s work performance? Can you give me their number or email?"
So, be sure to ask each of your references the same question "Who would you recommend as a reference for me?" If they name someone who might not give you a glowing report, take the opportunity to steer them away and suggest an alternate person.

5. Get it in Writing
What’s even better than email or phone references? Letters of recommendation. Written references will save you the time and energy that organizing phone references requires. Save yourself even more time by saving every "pat on the back" you get from your supervisor or colleagues throughout the years. When it’s time to job search, these saved accolades will prove invaluable.

6. Proper Presentation
References should only be provided during the interview. Never include them in your resume or send them in with job applications. When you’re called in for an interview, however, it’s best to have the prepared document to present to the hiring manager.

7. Keep it Professional
Your references should be strictly professional - choose colleagues or peers who have direct knowledge of your work performance. The "character reference" from an executive’s friend or family member generally isn’t very helpful for the hiring manager, so including one is unnecessary.

After you’ve landed your new job, it’s always a great idea to send each reference a thank you note to show that you appreciate their help in getting you there.

Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC, is the Executive Director of She’s also been cited by Jist Publications as one of the "best resume writers in North America," quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and is published in 20+ career books. Alesia’s services come with a guarantee -- interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gary Stauble Article

I received an e-newsletter this morning from Gary Stauble that I could not post fast enough. For those of you who have asked why recruiting, today's article will give you the answer. Not too many people wake-up and love what they do - but I do!! Recruiting is an incredible career and when you work for an office like mine, your resume collects dust because you never dream of leaving. So I hope you enjoy today's article -

Gary Stauble is the principal consultant for The Recruiting Lab, a coaching company that assists Firm Owners and Solo Recruiters in generating more profit in less time.

Article: Follow Your Bliss

In my work as a coach and business consultant I’ve noticed a consistent theme with high performers is that they love what they do. Meaning they follow their bliss. They love their niche. They love their clients. They love the process of recruiting.

Consider this quote from Joseph Campbell:

"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a track that has been there all the while, waiting for you. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls."

When I started in the business I worked in Los Angeles for a firm that did contingency IT recruiting. I noticed that when I went on client meetings, I’d often find myself yawning uncontrollably when my clients talked about various aspects of their Information Technology goals and needs. It was boring.

Then by accident, I began doing some searches for large law firms. I found that when I went to meet with department heads within law firms, my ears perked up and I was very interested in learning about their business. To this day, I’m not really sure what the attraction is, I just know that I enjoy working with them.

So after several years of being bored by IT searches, I decided to take a bold stand and declare my firm a firm that only works with law firms, and on a retained basis. This seemed like a bold move at the time but it was where my passion was leading me and I felt excited by the challenge. My billings and enjoyment of the business skyrocketed when I finally decided to follow my bliss and work the way I wanted to and with the clients I wanted to.

How to apply this to your desk or office:

1. Follow your bliss when selecting the clients you'll work for.

2. Follow your bliss when deciding what niche or sub niche to focus on.

3. Follow your bliss when it comes to the parts of the recruiting process to focus on vs. the parts you'll outsource to others.

4. Follow your bliss when it comes to the new projects, strategic alliances or business relationships to take on.

5. Follow your bliss when deciding what terms you'll accept.

6. Follow your bliss when setting goals and deciding how large or small your business should ought to be.

7. Follow your bliss in regards to work/life balance and time off.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Make an Impression

I read an article last night in one of the many business magazines I receive and it talked about how emails dominate our lives and we need to set boundaries so we do not become email "junkies". The article really hit home since my wife and I are passionate about our careers and check email frequently at night and on the weekends. So I told myself I would come into work this morning and try my best to delete/respond/file half the emails I have in my Inbox. (This is a huge undertaking, just so you know.) During my efforts, I read an article by Dr. Michael Kannisto from that I thought appropriate to share with you all. I hope it leaves a good impression!

How to Make a Good First Impression:
A lesson in candidate management from the world of psychology
9/18/2007 by Dr. Michael Kannisto
Dr. Michael Kannisto
Global Staffing Director
Bausch & Lomb

This is a true story. Years ago, I interviewed for a job with a well-known, multi-billion-dollar global company. I was flown in the night before, and interviewed with the hiring manager, the hiring manager's boss, and the hiring manager's HR partner.

The interviews ended at noon, so around 1 p.m., the agency managing the search called me to ask how it went.

"How did it go?" I answered. "I honestly have no idea!"

The interview with the hiring manager had gone well, and she even suggested that we get together at the end of the day for an unscheduled debrief, so I was feeling good about the job. At the end of the last interview, though, the HR manager abruptly walked me to the elevator without asking me if I had any questions. I was sent on my way without so much as a "thanks for visiting."

I probably looked ridiculous standing there on the sidewalk in my suit, staring back at the building with my little file folder of extra resumes in my hand! As I recovered, I realized that no one had discussed next steps with me, let alone given me a timeline. I hadn't even received a company brochure! Mama mia, what had I done wrong?

It's so difficult to do everything right when you're working with a candidate. Not a week goes by that you don't read about the shortage of talent, so there's just no room for mistakes in managing the "candidate experience."

In addition, finding talent is now quite complex, and best-in-class companies and recruiters are doing more proactive sourcing, so the process is likely to include more steps. This means potentially dozens, even hundreds, of emails, phone calls, discussions, and interviews before a hire occurs.

The point is, with so many distinct interactions with candidates, simple statistics make it unlikely that you'll be able to ensure every single step comes off flawlessly. Instead of trying to be perfect, I recommend you concentrate on making the first and last interactions count the most.

In studies going back to the 1920s, scientists noticed a peculiar pair of phenomena now known as the Primacy Effect and the Recency Effects. These effects were noted when experimental subjects were asked to look at lists, then recall as many items as they could. It was observed that people tend to recall items from the end of the list first, and when attempting to recall earlier items, they recall the first few items best.

Subsequent research led to many fascinating insights about how our memory works, and most psychologists and sociologists acknowledge that the phenomena probably result from the processes our brains use to store information.

Primacy occurs because as we begin filling our short-term memory with items, there are fewer items to remember, allowing them to make a stronger impression on the memory center. Earlier items are also more likely to end up in our long-term memories.

Recency is probably just due to the fact that the items memorized last are freshest in our mind, and are stored in our "working memories."

As I recall my visit to that company years ago, these two phenomena are definitely at work. The first memories that come to mind are the call I received when I was first told about the job, and the odd sensation associated with being unceremoniously escorted from the building after I thought things were going so well.

Can you recall a similar experience from a past interview experience? If you're like many people, you'll remember things that happened at the end of the process, and then things that happened right at the beginning.

From First Impressions...

Whether you run an agency, perform contract recruiting, or work for a large company, it's important to make sure all your candidate interactions are awesome. However, the old adage about making a good first impression is more that just a piece of quaint advice. In fact, it is a scientific fact that your first impression is one that will stay with your clients.

Here are four ways you can ensure people have a great "first impression" when you contact them:

Do some research before you contact people. This one is so easy now that there's simply no excuse for not doing it. A quick Internet search can reveal information about where someone has worked, how long they've been with their current employer, and even information about hobbies and interests. Identifying patterns in people's behavior can also help you understand their motivation when it comes to what they want out of a potential employer. For example, someone who has spent their entire career in the IT world and also runs a website devoted to technology will need to be approached in a particular way depending upon what job opportunities you plan to discuss with them

Ensure your message is powerful, consistent, and memorable. Another way the Internet has changed how people look for jobs is the way it allows complete and total access to the "real truth" about your company. Calling one person and telling them your company is all about teams and teamwork, then calling someone else and describing your company as being all about the individual contributor, is very likely to come back and bite you. Try spending the next week listening to people talk about job opportunities. You'll likely hear things like "I've heard it's really hard to get resources there," or "I understand that you can only get to a certain level unless you've been with that company a long time." Establishing a clear and compelling recruitment brand will help you understand what's idiosyncratically unique about your company. Keep that unique brand message strong and positive whenever you interact with people.

Know your outcome. I remember a call I received when I first started recruiting. The caller left a message on my voicemail telling me he had a "great employment opportunity" that he wanted to discuss. I called him back, only to discover the "great opportunity" was merely the chance to hire one of his clients! His outcome was to get me to call him back promptly (which I did). Of course, I never called him again. Make sure your outcome is something like "I want to discuss a particular job with this person but establish a long-term relationship with them even if the job isn't a fit."

Anticipate obstacles. If you recruit for a company, have you ever "lived" the candidate experience you ask your job-seekers to live? Have you ever tried to catch a cab at your local airport after 11:00 p.m.? Have you tried to bid on a job through your own website? Are your hiring teams trained to ask relevant, legal questions? Optimizing a candidate's first look at your company is critical, so get your team together every six months to review the message you're sending. Some teams I know turn the process into a type of game, and brainstorm all the ways that the candidate experience could possibly go wrong. They then go back and build mechanisms into their process to prevent the mishaps.

How important is it to manage your company's first impression? Consider your candidate database and determine how many names are in it right now. Thousands?

Even if you're the busiest recruiter in the world, most of your candidates will not get a job with your company. However, every one of them will remember their first interaction with you, even if it's only a visit to your website.

To Last Impressions...

Leaving people with a great impression is also important, and I believe this is the area of greatest opportunity for most of us.

Here are four suggestions for leaving candidates feeling good:

Always leave people with a clear idea of next steps, timeline, deliverables from them, and deliverables from you. Even when you are in a strictly "sourcing" mode, and end up talking only briefly with someone who is not a match at all for a particular job, you should end the call by discussing next steps. "I don't see you as a match for this job, so I don't plan to forward your resume on. However, I do anticipate some hires in your functional area in 2008. Let's stay in touch." Similarly, if you can't move to next steps until you receive a piece of documentation from a candidate, or until a background check is started, let them know.

If you've had success, circle back with your client after a few weeks to relive the experience together. The best recruiters I know make this a priority. Say you place someone in a great job. Circling back and talking through the experience with the hiring manager accomplishes several things: (1) it allows you to make the client aware of all the things you or your organization did to make them successful, and (2) it allows you to "package" their final impression of you. In the chaos of switching jobs, it's amazing how quickly people forget how hard you worked to increase their sign-on bonus, re-negotiate a start date, or extract some obscure piece of benefits information for them. Linking all these positive memories together and associating them with your efforts is a great way to leave a good impression.

A thoughtful, tasteful gift can go a long way. Some companies give every candidate who interviews with them a small gift related to the company's business. Other companies give college interns a small gift like a USB flash drive or a pen. The value of the gift is irrelevant. The important thing is to leave the client with a gift that reminds them of the good experience they had with you. I once commemorated the conclusion of an extraordinarily difficult search for a pension fund manager by presenting the hiring manger with an old civil war era widow's pension certificate I found on eBay. The gift cost virtually nothing, but the manager loved it, and whenever he looks at it hanging on his wall it reminds him of our successful search together.

Ask job-seekers what they thought about their experience. Best-in-class companies survey their candidates to ensure they had the information they needed, that they understood the hiring process, and that there were no unpleasant surprises along the way. On-line survey tools are cheap (or free!), and easy to use. What better way to find out what kind of a "final impression" you're leaving your clients with than to simply ask them: "On a scale from 1 to 10, how positive an impression did the company leave you with?"

In today's recruitment market, no one can get away with randomly interacting with job seekers and simply hoping for the best. While an unbroken chain of perfect interactions is the goal we should all be shooting for, making the first and last interactions the best interactions is the next best thing.

By the way, in case you're wondering how my adventure in the big city turned out all those years ago, you're not alone. Believe it or not, I never heard back from the hiring manager, nor did I ever hear from the agency with whom I was working.

Every once in a while I run into a colleague who works for that company, and she always promises to find out "what ever happened with that job." She needn't trouble herself, though. Whether I like it or not, my brain has already stored some very powerful memories about my experience!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maximizing The Onboarding Process

Not too long ago, ran an article by David Lee on organization onboarding and outlined thirteen questions that could drastical improve an employee's onboarding. I thought the article was incredible and definitely something I should bring to your attention. Please find the article below, and as always, your comments and feedback are welcome. Enjoy -

13 Questions to Maximize Your Onboarding Efforts
Common-sense steps you can't afford to ignore
9/12/2007 by David Lee
email bio

If you're serious about upgrading your new-hire orientation program and onboarding process as a whole, here are 13 questions you need to ask. Ask them of yourself, your HR department, your management team, your frontline supervisors, and most important, your new employees.

  1. Do we make our new hires feel welcome? Analyze step by step the first few days on the job that your new employees experience. Do you do things that communicate "We're glad you're here" or is it more "All right get to work, we've got things to do here?" Ask new hires who've been on the job a month or two how welcome they felt the first day, the first week, the first month. Ask them what you did that made them feel welcome and what you could do to create a more welcoming experience. In overhauling a call center orientation program, we had all the team leaders sign a welcome poster and put a sign in the lobby welcoming our new crop of call-center reps. In our evaluations, new hires reported that they never felt so welcomed in any of their other jobs.

  2. Do we inspire pride? The first application of this question requires brutal honesty. Look at how well-run both your orientation program and the onboarding process as a whole are. Are they thorough, organized, compelling, and state of the art, or are they a slipshod, haphazard mess? Most organizations tolerate a level of professionalism and efficacy in their onboarding process they would never tolerate in their overall operations. The other aspect of inspiring pride relates to the next three questions. If you want to inspire your new hires, rather than leave them with buyer's remorse, make sure your orientation program lets them know they joined a great company. The next three points explain how.

  3. Do we connect them with the big picture? The more new hires understand the mission, vision, goals, and uniqueness of your organization, the more engaged they will be from the outset. If the centerpiece of your orientation program is rules, regulations, and logistical minutiae, you can guarantee they will have second thoughts about their job choice. Orientation programs that don't emphasize the big picture rob the organization of perhaps the greatest value new hires bring to their new employer: enthusiasm and the desire to make a difference.

  4. Do we show them how much they matter? Engaging employees from the outset requires more than just communicating "This is what we're about and why we're a great company." It must also include "This is how you help make it all happen." Communicating this is especially important if you want to attract and retain Gen Y employees, who place an extremely high priority on work that matters and being able to make a difference. At the call center I worked in, the original orientation and training focused on the technical side of the call center reps' jobs for the first couple of weeks. The message? "Your jobs are about processing transactions. In this company, you're a worker bee." Mindful that what we emphasize communicates a message to employees about what's important, we changed the order of topics. Day one was devoted to how important their jobs were and how, to our customers, they were Acme Insurance (obviously not the real name of the company.) Think orientation programs you've attended and what difference it would have made for you if you heard how vital your role was from day one, rather than hour after hour of transactional, technical information.

  5. Do we collect and share stories? Great companies communicate their greatness through great stories. Whether it's Nordstrom's legendary customer service stories (remember the one about the customer returning the tires?) or Southwest Airline's legendary customer service and work environment, greatness is communicated not through PowerPoint lectures, charts, and graphs, but through stories that touch the heart and capture the imagination. One of the best things you can do to upgrade your orientation program is collect stories from your employees about experiences they've had that embody the unique personality of your company; convey what it's like to work at your company; illustrate the great things your company does; and demonstrate how employees make a difference. Share these with your new hires. Better still, have the people who told you these stories come in and share them. Doing so accomplishes several useful objectives. First, it creates a more engaging, inspiring orientation programs. Second, it communicates to current employees they are an important part of helping new hires come onboard. Third, it gives frontline employees the chance to be a star and informal leader.

  6. Do we make our orientation program interesting and interactive? Many, if not most, orientation programs are about as interesting as watching cement solidify. Besides being boring, such programs send a disturbing message to your new employees. Such programs say "You just joined a company that doesn't know how to do things right." Think of boring orientation programs you've attended and what you thought about your new employer. There's too much information available on how to make learning fun and interactive to excuse old-fashioned, boring data dumps.

  7. Do we make our process employee-centric or employer-centric? Borrow from the playbook of great customer-service companies: design the customer experience from the customer's perspective. In this case, analyze your onboarding process from the new hire's perspective. When you've been with the same company for awhile, it's easy to forget what it's like to not know what's going on, who to go to for help, and the desire to not be seen as a high-maintenance employee. To design your process from the new hire's perspective, ask them for their perspective. Smart companies, like Northeast Delta Dental, awarded the Fourth Best Small Company to Work For in the U.S., do this. They continually ask new employees for feedback on how to make their onboarding process more user-friendly and how to more effectively address the needs of their new employees.

  8. Have we broken our orientation program down into bite-sized chunks? Think of times you've endured orientation programs that were info-dump ultra-marathons. How much did you retain? How impressed were you with your new employer? You knew that was a stupid, ineffective way to impart information. Your new hires will have the same opinion. As one manager I interviewed wisely noted, "With today's employees, just as you're rating them, they're rating you." By breaking your orientation program into digestible chunks, you not only communicate, "We're a company that does things right," you also communicate, "We care about you and respect you enough to spare you a lousy, nonsensical training experience."

  9. Are we offloading as much information as we can onto our intranet (or non-digital equivalent if you don't have an intranet)? Have you ever had someone give you detailed, step-by-step instructions days, weeks, or months before you would actually need them? How helpful was that? By offloading as much information as you can so it's available in an "as-needed" basis, you are being more efficient and effective. You're also once again communicating to new hires that you know how to do things right.

  10. Do we make it easy for new hires to get the information they need? Having a comprehensive intranet gives your new hires a greater sense of security that they can find the information they need when they need it. This, combined with a culture that makes it ok to ask for help, reduces the anxiety of being in a new environment, not knowing the ropes, but not wanting to be considered a pain in the neck. Do you have both a comprehensive knowledge base and a friendly, "glad to help you" culture? If you do, your new employees don't waste valuable time and energy fretting about how they are going to find the information they need.

  11. Do we make it easy for new hires to tell us how they're doing?and how we're doing? In companies that have a "suck it up" and "sink or swim" mentality, new hires learn quickly that it's best to keep their mouths shut. Their employer never hears about what they do that alienates their new hires (until the exit interview, and often not even then). Designer Blinds, an Omaha-based company, reduced turnover from 200% to 8%, in part by instituting what they call the "Entrance Interview." After analyzing its turnover statistics, it discovered that most of its new hires were leaving between 90 and 180 days into their employee experience. So rather than wait to find out why they were leaving in the exit interview, the company decided to prevent them from leaving in the first place. It did this by instituting the Entrance Interview. These are now held prior to the 90-day "witching hour," so they could find out what their new hires needed, how they could help them be successful, and so on. At Northeast Delta Dental, at 90 days, new hires get to have their "20 Questions with Connie" meeting. At this meeting, new hires sit down with Connie Roy-Czychowski, VP of HR, and give her feedback on every aspect of the onboarding process and their work experience.

  12. Do we have an effective mentoring program? A good program also lets the person doing the mentoring win, since recognition plays a major role in employee engagement. Mentoring also provides tremendous value to current employees because it gives them a chance to develop coaching, supervisory, and leadership skills. Given that professional development and skill portfolio expansion are especially high priorities for today's workers, a mentoring program also aids your efforts at retaining and engaging your current employees.

  13. Do we help our managers do their part well? As Gallup's research has shown, when it comes to employee engagement and performance, it's all about the boss. More than any other factor influencing employee engagement and performance, an employee's supervisor plays the most important role. Helping supervisors understand how to create a positive, productive, inspiring work experience is not only the foundation of a high-performance workplace, it's a "must" if you want an effective onboarding process. If HR simply asks supervisors to help their new hires get started without helping them do it right, they won't. Make sure your supervisors receive training, support, checklists, and so on, so they cover all the bases. Companies like Bensonwood Homes, a New Hampshire-based company, and Northeast Delta Dental have detailed checklists for supervisors that outline what they should do the first day, first week, etc.

One Final Point
Business sage Jim Rohn has a simple saying that conveys much wisdom: "It's not what you know, it's what you do with what you know that makes a difference in your life."
My hope is that as you read through these questions, you didn't simply ask yourself if you knew these factors were important. They're pretty common sense (yet despite this, rarely done). Ask yourself, your HR department, your management team, your frontline supervisors, and most important, your new hires whether you are actually doing these. Then involve all to make sure you can answer each with a confident "absolutely."