Reference Checks – What You Can Learn and How to Conduct Them

December 30th, 2011

You’ve reviewed an applicant’s resume, had her in for an interview, come away impressed by what you’ve seen and heard. In an ideal world, that would mark the end of the hiring process. But in the real world, the next step is conducting a reference check.

What do employers hope to uncover as a result of this process? The answer may vary from position to position, or company to company, but certain essential elements remain the same. These include:

  • Verify basic informationTitles, professional degrees, dates of past employment, compensation, reason for leaving
  • Past job performance – What sets this person apart from others in terms of prior job performance?
  • Past achievements – Did the achievements listed on the resume result from individual or team efforts?
  • The reference’s opinion – What are some of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses? How well did they manage their time? Would you hire this person again?

How do you go about obtaining this information? The reference check process should always start with the job candidate’s signature on a waiver granting you permission to check their employment history and to contact professional/personal references. If the individual declines to sign, you probably know all you need to know before moving on to other candidates.

Get multiple references (three at least) so you can assess consistency among their answers and to feel you’ve been thorough in your efforts. Types of references may include former supervisors, work peers and/or subordinates. The next step is to contact these people by telephone, rather than email. It’s best to hear about the job candidate in their own words and to be able to ask foll0w-up questions regarding specific conditions or circumstances. And, with each separate conversation, try to dig a bit deeper and learn more; don’t just ask the same questions three times or you’ll end up getting the same three answers.

Ask for – and contact – references who can discuss the individual’s past five years of work history. Anyone you speak with concerning time periods beyond that is unlikely to recall specifics or be able to offer the type of information you’re looking for. Also, depending on the job candidate’s age and experience level, anything beyond the past five years may not offer an accurate description of this person’s abilities and experience right now.

During your conversation, try to avoid “yes or no” questions. You want to learn as much as possible about the job candidate, so focus on open-ended questions that require a thoughtful and informative answer. In addition to the questions listed above, don’t neglect to ask, “Is there anything else I should know before I make an offer to this candidate?”

Questions not to ask: Anything to do with race, age, sex, religion, marital status or national origin. This information is protected by law and has nothing to do with the position within your business.

Reference checks are an integral part of the hiring process, both for what they can confirm about the job applicant and for additional information that can help you make an informed decision about whether or not to offer the job.

Your First Day on the Job – How to Prepare, What to Expect

December 23rd, 2011

Congratulations! You’ve landed the job you’ve been looking for. Your next step? Make a great impression.

Nowhere is the first impression more important than on your first day at a new job. What you do, what you say, and the way you do these things will tell your new boss and co-workers a lot about you, so clearly you want to do things right. Here’s a checklist of how to prepare before stepping into the office and what to do once you get there.

Get rest, look good. The night before starting a new job is probably not the best time to go out on the town to celebrate. Instead, eat wisely and don’t drink caffeine late in the day. Get a good night’s sleep so you’re well-rested and alert in the morning.

What you choose to wear is important, but even more so is that you look neat and orderly – no chipped nails, unwashed hair, etc. If the company you’re about to work for has a dress code, be sure to find out what it is and follow it without question. In any case, always dress professionally. For women, this means no mini-skirts or dangling earrings. For men, a long-sleeved shirt and dress pants is the way to go.

Many employees get their photo IDs taken on the first day, so avoid wearing white or light-blue tops, loud prints and thick horizontal stripes.

Time and tools. Whatever happens, don’t be late on your first day! You can avoid this nightmare scenario by test-driving the route to work beforehand so you have a sense of how long the commute will take. (Even so, on the morning of the big day, leave some extra time in case you get stuck in traffic.) The same goes for your morning routines. Budget the time you need for getting ready so you don’t end up rushing into the office, which will impress no one.

If you’re bringing work-related items with you (laptop, supplies, tools), be sure they’re selected and ready to go the night before. The goal is to being able to walk out the door feeling relaxed, confident and ready for anything.

You’ve arrived on time, looking nice and feeling good about yourself. That’s smart, because there’s still a lot ahead of you.

Attitude is everything. Remember how you focused on being friendly and outgoing during your job interview? The same applies here, but even more so. Many of the people you meet today will be your co-workers (and possibly friends) for some time to come. If you’re an extrovert by nature, give it your all! If you’re shy, push yourself out of your comfort zone and make small talk. Ask questions about the workplace, about what others do on the job and–if they’re willing–a little about themselves.

What not to talk about? Stay away from office rumors and gossip. If not, you’ll quickly get a reputation you don’t want.

Become an expert. As part of your preparation, you should have researched your new employer online and found out all you can about the company. There may be time on the first day to learn more as well. Read the employee handbook. Look through old files on the computer system. Ask for samples of successful projects undertaken before you came. The more you know, the more questions you may have–which is a good way to get to know your boss.

This applies to your listening skills, too. The first day on the job is not the time to control conversations, interrupt others or point out that “this isn’t the way we did things where I used to work.” Today, you can ask questions and take notes, including the names of people you meet. Learn about company policies. Show your enthusiasm for your new job. And smile a lot!

Each new job is different, but certain rules stay the same. Arrive early and don’t run out the door at 5 o’clock. Your new employer has taken a chance by hiring you. Show them you’re worth it.

Learn more about how Meador Staffing’s career advisors can help assess your skills, craft your resume and determine which opportunities are best matched to your skills and goals.

Recruiting Tips for Salaried and Hourly Employees

December 16th, 2011

Not all employees are created alike. And one of the big differences in successful recruiting is knowing the differences between what makes a great hire for a salaried position versus what’s best in an hourly employee. The hiring strategies can be very different.

Start by considering the open position you’re recruiting for. What are the features and benefits and who is best suited to fill the opening? When recruiting for an hourly position, the following features and benefits are generally most attractive:

*   Flexible shift
*   Potential for overtime
*   Good schedule for a person working more than one job

Many hourly positions pay relatively little and are often regarded as entry-level jobs. The work is usually task-oriented, meaning the employee does one or two or a few things throughout the working day, with a beginning and end to the tasks that can be measured as specific achievements. This limited scope of responsibility is ideal for some workers.

A salaried position, on the other hand, is more complex. It comes with additional demands as well as additional benefits. Make sure the person being considered for this opening understands that you, the employer, are looking at the new hire as a long-time investment. Features and benefits for the salaried position may include:

*   Retirement plan, health care plan, profit sharing
*   Additional compensation options such as bonuses

Again, keep in mind the importance of the position. Recruiting for a salaried employee will generally take longer, because you are investing more time and money in selecting the right person for the job. If it’s a managerial position, the ideal job candidate will have a proven track record of responsibility, accountability and maturity – more than an hourly position might require. And this person has to be comfortable knowing that, unlike an hourly employee, there’s not always a clearly defined “end” to the assigned tasks and responsibilities.

For both salaried and hourly new hires, it’s important to clearly define what the position entails and that, in the case of an hourly position, hours may be added or trimmed based on unforeseeable future conditions. This way, both employer and employee know what to expect going in – regardless of the position.

Why Job Offers Go On Hold and What You Should Do about It

December 9th, 2011

It’s a mistake even experienced job-seekers make. An offer gets put on the table, you accept and–nothing happens. Days, weeks, even months go by and you don’t hear back from the company that once said, “You’re the right person for the job.”

Why does this happen?

According to recruiting experts, there are several reasons, including:

Budget priorities change. These days, most businesses operate on limited or restricted budgets. If a new initiative emerges or the company faces an unexpected crisis, resources once reserved for new hires can get shifted elsewhere.

The process takes time. You may be primed and ready to go, but the same may not hold true for the business you plan to work for. Approval of new hires often must come from numerous layers within the organization, an obvious time-consuming process. This gets more complicated if high-level managers–with barely a minute to spare–must sign off before a job offer is made.

The internal candidate wins out. Some companies make a show of interviewing external candidates, when they really have an internal person in mind. Or it may not start out that way, but an internal candidate throws her hat in the ring and suddenly everything changes. You may be the last to hear when such things happen.

The company is looking ahead. In today’s highly uncertain economy, businesses aren’t hiring as much as they might want to. But they still want to keep their pipeline full of eligible and qualified individuals, so that when things turn around, they can hire new people quickly and efficiently. Sometimes job interviews take place and tentative offers are made, when in fact the time to move forward just isn’t right.

What’s important to remember is, it’s not necessarily a case that they’re just not that into you.

So what do you do? Again, experts urge job-seekers to keep all of their options open.

In a situation where an offer has been made or appears imminent, try to stay in touch with your contact person at the company while the process plays out. Take time to learn more about the business and related industry trends. From time to time, drop an email to your contact attaching articles you’ve read about the industry, along with your comments or suggestions. And if you have gaps in experience or knowledge, now’s the time to plug those gaps so you appear even more qualified later on.

If you’re intent on pursuing a position that’s been put on hold, always be professional about it. No one responds favorably to constant and haranguing voice-mail messages. Instead, keep your contact brief, upbeat and confident. You’ll demonstrate your ongoing interest while at the same time come across as someone with a genuine interest in following through.

Most importantly, keep your job search going. The more time that passes with no new developments, the greater the chances are that it’s just not going to happen. You can’t afford to delete your resume, file all your contacts or abandon your network. Keep these activities in motion, so you’re not caught unprepared when the expected doesn’t happen.

Remember, nothing is certain until you have received a job offer in writing, signed and returned the document, and actually been on the job a week or two. Everything else is “maybe” or “maybe not.”

Let Employees Gripe on Facebook

December 1st, 2011

Earlier this year, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge ruled that five employees fired by a non-profit after airing complaints about their jobs on Facebook must be rehired.  Hispanics United of Buffalo terminated the employees for criticizing work conditions on a Facebook comment thread. The NLRB judge determined that the National Labor Relations Act protected these employees’ off-hour gripes about working conditions. Furthermore, he noted, employers who seek to punish workers for speaking out on Facebook may be violating the law.

No one can say yet if this ruling marks a judicial precedent covering all cases involving free speech and social media, but employers have been warned. Although going online and complaining about working conditions may be legally acceptable, even the NLRB judge cautioned that divulging confidential company information or defaming a supervisor is still grounds for termination.

But before you start furiously scrolling through every Facebook thread that includes the names of your employees, take a deep breath.  It’s actually a good thing to have the legal ramifications of this spelled out. With this in mind, your HR department can specifically indicate that–as part of your company policies–restrictions on the use of social media should not be interpreted as limiting an employees’ right to discuss conditions of employments online. Instead, focus on a policy that forbids online speech that discloses proprietary information or defames members of the executive team. Make it explicitly clear that this will not be tolerated. Just be sure you understand that, per the NLRB ruling, online dialogue about working conditions is regarded–for the time being, at least–as “protected speech.”

Bring back the complaint box?

Dissatisfied employees may be less inclined to use social media to grumble and complain if there’s an alternate outlet on company grounds. Making a complaint box available is “old school,” but it can send a powerful message as well: Is there some aspect of working conditions that prevents you from doing your job the way you’d like to?  We want to know.  Of course, this means someone in your HR department has to take ownership of the complaint box–reading employee complaints regularly, encouraging more input and, most important, acting on complaints whenever possible. All it takes is one or two situations where you or your executive team acknowledge an existing problem and take steps to correct it.

Once employees see that complaints dropped in the box actually get listened to, they’ll be far less inclined to air their dirty company laundry online.

Meador Staffing’s comprehensive Staffing Resource Library offers an array of resources to help you become a “best-of-class” employer.  Find out more.