Archive for the ‘Hiring’ category

Hiring for Your Startup and Beyond

December 22nd, 2014

As a human resources professional, your recruiting efforts will naturally be different when arranging for personnel for a well-established company that is already known to the public, press, investors and the available talent pool as compared to the work you will do to fill positions at a startup firm. You’ll need to hire people with the specific skills needed to take an idea from zero and turn it into a thriving concern.

What Stage Are You At?

It’s important to recognize what stage you are at in the startup lifecycle, noted a recent report by Henry Kim at The Next Web that describe growing a company from zero to $1 billion. As you start out, you’ll be hiring eager, dedicated individuals who have multiple skills to fill in where needed. You will likely be focusing recruitment efforts on less experienced and younger members of the workforce at this point to bolster product development and acquire new customers as rapidly as possible.

Once you approach the $20 million to $100-million scaling phase, you need to turn your attention to important categories such as branding and marketing, sales, finance and HR to give management a solid infrastructure to accelerate growth. By the time you reach the $100 million to $1 billion scale, it’s time to shift your focus on attracting leaders who have already demonstrated success in growing firms on a massive scale.

The early stages of recruitment can be likened to drafting a team in fantasy football, according to a recent post by Ann Diab at Tech Cocktail.

This means having a solid game plan and knowing what traits you will need the most in your new hires. What’s more, you’ll have to build your team for the long haul. You shouldn’t hire based primarily on who is available as much as you should look for people who will obviously fit in well with your team.

Strategies for Growth

When faced with a lot of competition for new recruits, it pays to have strategies for growth, noted Keith Rabois in a recent TechCrunch post. This includes polishing your mission and selling recruits on the idea of having an impact in the world.

You will want to recruit from outside your normal sources, such as finding prodigies straight from the university or industry geniuses who are not wrapped up in launching their own startup but would welcome the opportunity to be a part of your founding team.

There is so much excitement surrounding companies during their initial startup phase, and you can harness this energy to great effect as you search for your first recruits. Human resources professionals will fulfill their duties much more effectively when they have a concrete plan for cultivating a team that can not only hit the ground running but will have the skills and endurance to ride out the inevitable bumps and shakeups that come as you build the business.


Considering all the Facets of Discriminatory Hiring Practices

December 8th, 2014

One of your primary goals when interviewing promising new candidates for your organization is to keep an open mind and evaluate each person on his or her merits without letting any biases influence the recruitment process. Key to this is making sure that you are not engaging in discriminatory hiring practices. Of particular concern is bias based on racial, family, age or gender characteristics.

Racial Bias in Hiring

While great strides have been made in racial harmony, human resources professional need to remain on guard against discrimination, both overt and inadvertent.

For example, recent research by a group of economists shows that some recruiters, even though they are not biased themselves, have a fear that their customers do hold racial bias and will make their hiring decisions accordingly, noted a recent report at Fortune.

The economists sent in 9,400 false resumes, using “typically black” names in half and “typically white” names in the other half to determine the rate of discrimination in the job market. It turned out that there was more evidence for hiring bias when it came to customer service jobs as compared to jobs focusing on coworker interaction (managers, coordinators and so on).

Familial Nepotism in Hiring

What about nepotism? It’s not illegal, and bosses can fire an employee to free up a spot for a son or a niece, for example, according to a recent post at AOL Jobs. However, nepotism may be prohibited in government positions, or under conditions when your company is subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Businesses that hire mostly family members may get into hot water if they consistently turn down more qualified candidates who also happen to be of a different race or nationality.

Gender Discrimination in Hiring

Recruiters may harbor a bias against genders based on old-fashioned stereotypes, such as the idea that women are unsuited for physically demanding jobs or that men cannot work as nurses or flight attendants.

While these are particularly egregious examples of discrimination, you need to be aware of unconscious bias as you examine resumes for the best match for the position in terms of background, experience and accomplishments.

Age Discrimination in Hiring

There are a number of ways where age discrimination can crop up during recruitment. Does your organization ever advertise open positions while using phrases such as “young-thinking” in the job description?

You may not realize that this can lead to age discrimination, noted a recent report at CNN Money. It cited research from Clemson University that indicated 30 percent of people aged 53 and up have faced discrimination because of how old they were. Making mattes worse, people who lose their job at the age of 45 may never get another job, noted researchers at the University of Sydney.

Factors leading to age bias include holding the idea that older workers are not good with modern technology or that they might miss work more often because older people tend to get sick more frequently than younger workers.

Recognizing the potential pitfalls of discrimination and taking steps to address these concerns head-on will help you avoid lawsuits due to unfair hiring practices. It’s also important to remember that by avoiding discriminatory practices, you open up your available talent pool to a greater degree, which can only help to boost your organization’s bottom line.


Hiring Managers: Be Empathetic To Applicants, Even Those You Don’t Hire

November 18th, 2014

When you are feeling rushed, harried and otherwise stressed out while performing your duties as a human resources professional, it’s not hard to see how your actions or even inaction can be interpreted as rudeness.

Many business professionals keep in mind the adage about being nice to the people you meet on your way up, because it’s always possible that one day you’ll be encountering them on your way down. This is not exactly the Golden Rule, but it’s a good rule of thumb when doing business.

It’s important to remember to be empathetic to all applicants who cross your threshold, even those you don’t wind up hiring.

Hurry up and Wait

Job applicants are finding themselves having to produce more material than they may be accustomed to during the tryout phase of the recruitment process. Then, after they generate a stack of documents in a brutally short timeframe, they are dismayed because the employer takes months to respond. It’s perfectly reasonable to request materials to get an idea of what the recruit has to offer, but you have to treat them with the same respect you would give a hired consultant or an existing member of your team.

Avoid asking potential employees to rush with unexpectedly fast turnaround times on sample materials, proposals, advises Anne Kreamer in a recent post at the Harvard Business Review. Instead, allocate a reasonable time for deliverables, and make the timing of such requests transparent from the beginning.

Be Honest from the Start

Have you ever prolonged an interview with an applicant because you knew he or she was just not going to be a good fit, but you didn’t have the courage to say so from the outset?

This is an example of being discourteous, noted a recent report by Roberta Matuson at Forbes. You don’t want unsuitable applicants to take up too much of your time and resources. Consider then, that applicants don’t want you to take up their time with a pointless interview just because you are afraid of hurting their feelings.

The Courtesy of a Reply

When you engage with a recruit over the course of weeks or months and then let things trail off without giving them a response about the status of the position they interviewed for, it can leave a sour taste in applicants’ mouths.

Set aside sufficient time in your schedule so you can give everyone a response, and customize your message instead of sending out boilerplate whenever possible.

If you think there is a chance that you may not have been as empathetic as you’d prefer when dealing with job applicants recently, you have the upper hand over other HR professionals in that you are sensitive to the issue and are interested in making a change. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes while evaluating whether they might be a good fit in your organization will make a big difference.


What’s Unique About Hiring for a Startup?

November 3rd, 2014

startup hiringRecruiting and hiring candidates for a position at an established firm with a proven track record is different than finding good prospects for a startup company. If you have recently begun handling human resources to help a new firm gear up or are considering working at a startup, keep in mind that you will be evaluating recruits using different criteria than you would at longer-lived firms that have reached some measure of stability.

Determining the Best Candidates

You might be tempted to hire workers that have been employed at one of the major technology companies, since they must have great qualifications to get past the HR departments at such firms.

However, the skills required to do well and thrive in the stable environment of an established firm are different from what’s needed when an organization is still in startup mode, noted a recent report at Forbes.

Rather than considering inexperienced people who are fresh out of college, though, you would do better by looking for candidates who worked at other startups that have gone onto some success and are ready for another position that requires creativity and tenacity rather than one based on making small improvements to an existing platform.

Look for people who have exhibited a high level of competitiveness, as they will be the ones most willing to stay late and do what it takes to reach your organization’s goals. Many startups have done well by hiring people who play sports or who are former athletes, noted a recent report at Entrepreneur. The competitive nature of sports and the need to set goals and remain mentally and physically resilient are good preparation for working in a startup.

Other traits that are worth considering in candidates for startups include having a sense of humor and fitting in well with your corporate culture, according to an article at Mashable. After all, you are putting together a team whose members will be spending long hours together, and you need recruits who can integrate well with others.

These new workers should be flexible as well, since startups usually require people who can wear different hats every day. They will be able to take direction and then work independently to carry out their mission as effectively as possible. Risk-takers who are ready to hit the ground running and show passion and endurance will be more capable of dealing with the unrelenting grind of startup mode.

Your job hiring for a startup will go more smoothly if you focus on the chief characteristics required for success in a dynamic and sometimes chaotic environment. Selecting candidates who are curious and enthusiastic and who demonstrate a passion to compete while maintaining high standards of business integrity will serve you well during the birth of your new company.

Software Engineer Salaries Exposed

October 19th, 2014

Hiring software engineers? Get ready to pay big salaries as demand continues to soar.

Gigaom, a leading blog dedicated to emerging technologies recently released data that sheds light on the most popular technology skill sets. They aggregated data from Payscale surveys on the top seven job descriptions associated with a software coding languages. The languages included iOS, Android, Node.js, Java, Python, .Net and JavaScript. Not surprisingly, the highest paid developers are those that build apps for Apple’s iOS with a principal software engineer earning on average $128,250 per year.

Mean software engineer salaries by title and skill

In addition to exploring trends in salaries for different programming languages, Gigaom also examined data comparing software engineer salaries across major cities in the US. It’s no surprise that the Bay Area ranked #1 in salaries. The nearest competitor to Bay Area was Seattle which still trails the Bay by nearly 15% comparatively. The most surprising find in the survey likely opened some old wounds for the tech community in New York City where software engineer salaries are nearly 25% less than in the Bay Area. Sorry Gotham. Or, should I say congratulations?

Average software engineer salaries by city

For folks that are interest in exploring more on software engineer salaries, visit  On this site, they’ve created a dataset made possible with salary survey data from Payscale. A selection of skills were compared for mean, average and top salaries.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Old vs. Young Employees

October 3rd, 2014

old vs youngAs a busy hiring manager who needs to be able to quickly assess the capabilities of applicants and determine how well they might fit in your organization, how does the age of potential recruits figure into your decision making process?

Issues of talent, enthusiasm, expertise, wisdom, judgment and working habits all come into play as you consider each potential recruit. Of course, you don’t want to get into trouble by favoring one applicant over another based just on his or her apparent age. However, there are some pros and cons of hiring old versus young employees that you will want to keep in mind.

Young Blood and Exuberance

With youth comes excitement and exuberance, and enthusiastic new employees are revved up, looking for challenges and a chance to prove themselves, noted a recent post at Fast Company.

Younger workers typically are more accustomed to working with technology, having used it all their adult lives, often becoming adept during their formative youthful years. This means you may not have to spend as much time training them compared to more seasoned workers.

When you hire younger workers, you also have an opportunity mold them from the start instead of taking time to weed out the bad habits that some older employees develop.

However, younger workers may seem to be less vested overall with their jobs, wanting to leave once they have put in their hours for the day, compared to older workers who have more experience staying later to finish something because they are motivated by a sense of pride, according to a recent article posted at Entrepreneur.

Older, Wiser and Experienced

It’s very likely that older employees will behave more responsibly, having learned through hard work and experience what happens when you fail to show up on time, as well as the consequences of being careless when checking details on a project.

One negative aspect to hiring older workers is that they will often expect higher salaries than younger workers because of their experience and expertise. While the cost is often justified, your organization may prefer to hire greener workers for less and then spend more time in training.

The maturity and (hopefully) wisdom that comes with older workers is beneficial not just because of what they do themselves each day to boost your bottom line, but also the examples they can set for younger workers on your payroll, noted Entrepreneur. The magazine also cited the fact that older workers are typically better at communicating (and knowing when not to speak) because of their advanced understanding of office politics.

As long as you continue to be honest in your assessments of candidates and steer clear of discriminating against potential hires for being “too young” or “too old,” you can help build a better workforce at your organization when you pay attention to the pros and cons of hiring old versus young employees.

Is Your Company’s Time to Hire Too Long?

September 5th, 2014

clockHow long has it been taking you to bring in new recruits these days? If you’ve been frustrated with the amount of time it’s been taking your company to bring in new hires, you’re not alone. Employers in the United States are taking an average of 25 days to fill jobs, the longest time frame in 13 years, noted a recent report at the Wall Street Journal. In fact, companies with more than 5,000 employees are taking even longer, or about 58 days to make a decision on new hires.

A number of factors seem to be affecting the nationwide slowdown in hiring. For example, companies that are already feeling skittish about the economy may have adopted higher standards than usual, such as requiring applicants to have advanced degrees or much more experience in their field before being considered for an interview.

Economic downturns may have also thinned out the recruiting staff. With fewer personnel in the HR department, it will necessarily take longer to recruit and vet candidates.

Companies seeking top-notch candidates will conduct more background checks as well as require physicals and drug tests to screen applicants. In the meantime, if potential recruits grow weary of waiting for the results, they may move on to another opportunity.

There are a number of steps you can take to speed things up. For example, you can begin by adjusting the job end dates in your future employment notices. A recent post at the ERE website suggests that HR staffers should try cutting their posting times by 20 percent and then see how it affects the hiring process. It’s also a good idea to get your team to start sorting and qualifying resumes sooner, such as well before the job ad deadline.

Another tip: train for expedited hiring, at least for your highest priority job listings. This means focusing on the most promising applicants first, while simultaneously instructing your team about the dangers of dragging their feet. In fact, you should consider taking resumes away from your slowest hiring managers. Once you set up benchmarks for how many days they have to read applications, send the unread resumes to other, faster managers.

It’s also a good idea to pre-qualify recruits by turning to your employees to make referrals. Posting job announcements in prominent locations (the lobby, for example, instead of just a bulletin board in the break room) can make a big difference in how quickly your team can make recommendations of suitable friends and colleagues for your open positions.

Speeding up the hiring process at your company may require efforts on a number of fronts. From boosting the amount of staffers in HR to finding a better third party to conduct background checks or posting jobs with tighter application deadlines, you stand a better chance of recruiting and hiring people at an accelerated pace.

Have You Hired a Supporting Cast for Your Company’s Lebron James?

August 22nd, 2014

lebron jamesWhen gearing up to hire for a new startup, you’ll want to consider the timing of how you recruit for top leadership. In many cases, it’s better to make sure that you focus your efforts on developing a great team to be the supporting cast for your star player.

Doing so helps you on multiple fronts. For one, having a great team in place will make potential executives more inclined to consider working with you. Establishing a great support team also helps ensure that the organization will continue to not only thrive but also innovate and expand even after the loss of a key player.

In fact, developing a “team behind the founding team” is of paramount importance, noted a recent article at Entrepreneur. A PR scandal or the injury or death of a founder will rock your organization to the core, but having a good support team will help prevent the whole enterprise from going down in flames.

What’s more, you never know where your company’s next great idea is going to come from. Instead of counting on just the CEO to drive innovation, you can build a creative culture that encourages contributions from every level in the hierarchy at your firm.

Consider the world of sports, where high-pressure deals and immense competitive pressure drive the search for talent just as much as it occurs in the corporate world. A recent post by Neil Paine at FiveThirtyEight notes just how beneficial it has been for the Cleveland Cavaliers now that LeBron James has announced his return to the team after four years of playing with the Miami Heat.

James specializes in helping any team he plays with to score big, having won more than 60 games per season three times already in a career of 12 seasons to date. Statistics reveal that his new team at Cleveland is so talented, they will be his best support team yet, which could bring the team to even greater heights.

Just as it’s ludicrous to think one person can win a pro basketball game, it would be folly to imagine a business will do well on the backs of an enormously talented CEO without the best available support team. This is what you should keep in mind when hiring for your startup.

It’s understandable that companies would focus on their star founders, mythologizing and romanticizing them for PR reasons and to help attract new customers and new talent. But a company shouldn’t leave itself so dependent on one person, no matter how much star power he or she brings to the table. This is the case for the boardroom just as much as it is on the basketball court in the NBA. A support team composed of people with a broad range of expertise will help you weather the inevitable storms that come as your company begins to grow and expand.

Is It Time to Ditch the Ridiculous Interview Questions?

July 25th, 2014

bad interview questionsIt’s natural for human resources professionals to want to go beyond asking such boring questions as, “What is your biggest weakness/strength?” when interviewing candidates. In the scramble to discover the best person for the job, many prominent firms have made it a practice to ask fairly ridiculous questions to avoid getting a programmed response.

A strategy of asking silly questions may seem to make sense on paper. After all, a job interview is not an ideal place for job seekers to present their true selves. Strange, out-of-the-blue interview questions are supposedly designed to catch candidates off-guard because not only will they not likely have prepared to answer them ahead of time, you get to see how their minds work when confronted with unusual situations.

For example, Google would rely on brainteasers, asking potential recruits questions such as “How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane?” Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations, said that such questions only serve to waste time and don’t predict anything, noted a recent article at Business Insider. Google switched to asking behavioral questions along the lines of how candidates solved tough problems at their previous job to improve their hiring process.

It seems like there is no shortage to weird questions asked by HR interviewers at a variety of firms. Consider “If you were shrunk down to the size of a pencil and put into a blender, how would you get out” (said to be asked at Goldman Sachs, according to a recent Fortune article) or “How many bricks are there in Shanghai? Consider only residential buildings” (attributed to Deloitte Consulting).

While these questions could force a candidate to “think outside the box” and come up with a unique or creative solution, they typically have little or nothing to do with the actual work the employee would wind up doing. In fact, Bock says these kinds of ridiculous job interview questions serve more to make the interviewer feel intelligent than to get a useful response.

Kristi Hedges offered some useful interview questions in a recent Forbes article that you might want to adapt for your own organization. Ask candidates to tell you about your company and provide high-level analysis. Have an interviewee walk you through the first five things he or she would do upon being hired. It’s also useful to ask a question along the lines of what was the candidate’s proudest moment at the previous job.

If you have been relying on ridiculous interview questions to no avail and are hoping to get more out of the time you spend with job candidates, you will want to come up with sets of questions that will better address the needs of your organization. It may take you a while and some trial and error before you settle on a better mix of questions, but in the long run, you stand to get much better responses and a more capable workforce.


The Right Way To Turn Down a Job Applicant

July 11th, 2014

Turn Down Job ApplicantsIt’s not easy to give someone disappointing news, especially for people who prefer to avoid confrontation out of fear of hurting another person’s feelings. Unfortunately, this can prompt HR leaders to avoid communicating with job applicants about the status of their application.

Being strapped for time and resources can also lead to silence from HR, of course. It’s not uncommon for overburdened HR departments to fail to get back to each job seeker, especially when there is a deluge of candidates. As many as 75 percent of job applicants never get a response from hiring managers, according to a survey from CareerBuilder.

Keeping the lines of communication with job seekers is more important than ever these days, especially when so many applicants are accustomed to using social media and websites to do research on firms. In fact, almost 60 percent of applicants surveyed in 2013 for the Candidate Experience Awards indicated that they felt they had a relationship with a company before even applying for a position there, according to a recent post at Forbes.

What’s worse, there are websites where people can post anonymous comments about companies they deal with. If people who have applied for work at your organization and never got a response decide to post negative feedback to warn other job seekers about their experience, there is nothing to stop your current employees from seeing these comments and thinking less of your HR department. They may even reconsider working at your firm.

Coming up with a good rejection letter requires art and tact, noted a recent post at Business Management Daily. At the very least, personalize your template-based message to include the job seeker’s name and the position applied for, and indicate that while his or her qualifications were good, you found another applicant who was more suited for the position.

Just as smart job candidates will follow up with a thoughtful thank you letter to HR after an interview, savvy HR professionals will send thank you letters to job seekers, according to a recent post to the blog of Newton Software, an applicant tracking software company. Newton cited the many positive messages it saw from applicants who were fortunate enough to get a reply from their recruiters.

You will do your organization a disservice if you fail to communicate with every job seeker who approaches you. Resorting  to automatic responses distributed from an applicant tracking system, it’s still better than absolute silence. And, some applicant tracking systems actually allow you to tailor your responses by the stage of the recruiting process.  Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to include a personal touch in your response, such as a line of constructive criticism about the applicant’s resume or performance during the interview especially if you have met with the job seeker. After all, keeping the lines of communication open is part of being a good member of the community.