Archive for the ‘human resources’ category

Finding the Hiring Balance Between Fit and Fact

March 10th, 2014

balanceWhen making the decision about whether to hire one promising job candidate over another, it may be tricky for you to strike a good balance between the facts about each individual and how well it seems that they will fit in your company culture.

Recruiters and hiring managers may be reluctant to rely on the hiring model of using only data, resumes, an applicant tracking system and referrals to make a primarily fact-based decision. They recognize the importance of intangibles, such as ensuring that each new hire will work well with existing teams and will be a good representative of the corporation’s culture.

However, striving for a good fit instead of emphasizing the facts about an applicant’s skills, knowledge and experience can lead to an atmosphere of fraternity and sorority-style hazing, notes a recent Forbes article by Micah Solomon that points out the pitfalls of peer assessments. He cited the example of companies such as Whole Foods, where coworkers vote on whether to retain a new hire after a 30- to 90-day probationary period. You run the risk of only hiring “people like us”, which can lead to reduced diversity.

When the company is populated by a core group of initial hires who made it through the early tough days of the startup period, they may function like immune system antibodies “that attack outsiders who bring in new ideas or methodologies,” notes Barry Schuler in a recent Inc. article.

While you may have achieved great success with your founding employees pulling all-nighters, you run the risk of missing out on a great candidate who has a family at home but is just as talented, if not more so than those who burn the candle at both ends. Schuler suggests that companies build a counterculture to help them develop a diverse melting pot of new employees.

However, you have the power to strike a good balance between fit and fact in the hiring process. Begin by examining your corporate culture, recommends Rhonda Ness in a recent article at Insperity. This will help you determine what makes people want to work at your organization. Details that make up the “sizzle” of your corporate culture and attract candidates include corporate size, benefits, work schedules, and dress code.

You will also want to convey your corporate culture to applicants by crafting detailed job descriptions instead of using generic announcements.

Ness suggests that during the interview process, you should ask applicants what role they played in the team at their last job, and find out how successful they were at working with their colleagues.

Striking the perfect balance between skill set and corporate fit is never going to be an easy task for HR professionals. However, by paying close attention to the messages you send out about your corporate culture and asking better questions during interviews, you will be a lot closer to achieving the right mix for your organization.

Avoid Paying for Bad Hires in 2014

January 23rd, 2014

paying for bad hiresThere’s an old adage in carpentry about how you will benefit if you “measure twice, cut once,” which speaks volumes about the importance of taking your time to do the job right the first time. It also applies to the decisions that you make when recruiting and hiring applicants for jobs at your organization.

Hiring managers need to take their time as they evaluate recruits to avoid paying for bad hires in 2014, as so many companies have done in the past year. Bad hiring decisions can amount to as much as 30 percent of a recruit’s earnings during the first year, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

What’s more, besides becoming a drag on the company’s profits, a bad hire can reduce your team’s morale and productivity, as fellow employees have to take time out of their day to train a fellow worker who really has no business being at the company.

The cost of bad hires can quickly add up, according to a recent interview with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos at Business Insider. Bad hires amount to the biggest category of mistakes, costing Zappos in excess of $100 million, said Hsieh.

The Zappos method for avoiding bad hires now includes using two sets of interviews, Hsieh said. The first set is conducted by the hiring manager, to determine if the potential candidate is a good fit for the team in terms of criteria such as relevant experience and technical ability. A second set of interviews serves to make sure that the job applicant fits in well with the company’s culture. People must pass both interviews before they can be hired.

Ultimately, the total costs of making a bad hire can really mount up. There are hiring costs, compensation and the cost of maintaining the employee. Combine this with disruption costs, a severance package and mistakes, missed business opportunities and failures that will wind up costing an organization as much as $840,000, using the example of a second-tier manager earning $62,000 per year who is terminated after 2.5 years, according to statistics provided by the Undercover Recruiter.

Techniques for Avoiding Bad Hires

Hiring managers have a variety of techniques they can implement to avoid making bad hires. For example, it never hurts to prepare “too much.” A great job applicant will do extensive research before coming in for interviews, and hiring managers should do the same. If you’re hiring for a technical position, it’s a good idea to speak with a member of your team who is an expert in the area to get specific advice on questions to ask the recruit, notes a recent article at Linkedin.

See how the applicant treats everyone in your company. Ask the receptionist whether the job seeker treated him or her courteously or rudely. This is a good way to see how candidates will fit in at your business. Combine this insight with any clues you can glean from the recruit’s social media pages, such as Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds.

To see if your candidates are paying attention, Business Insider recommends that recruiters insert an unconventional request in the job application, such as a list of three websites that the candidate often visits. The idea here is that if there is no response or only an incomplete answer, it’s not worth your time to conduct an interview.  By focusing more time on your recruitment techniques, you can avoid having to pay so much for bad hires in 2014.

Are Your Hiring Managers Biased?

December 13th, 2013

hiring manager biasWhen you are in a position to assess people for employment at your organization, you may think that you have an open mind as you consider each applicant. However, it can be easy to hold biases that you are unaware of, according to a recent post by Lou Adler at Business Insider. By keeping possible bias in mind while conducting interviews, you will stand a better chance of finding the best people for the positions you seek to fill.

For example, you may be guilty of anchoring, which happens when you attribute too much value to the initial information you receive during an interview and then come to a conclusion before getting all the information you need.

Adler recommends that hiring managers strive to delay making any yes-or-no decisions for about 45 minutes, ensuring they will give as much weight to details they learn at the end of the interview as they do at the beginning.

Conformation bias is another problem that hiring managers face. They look for evidence to confirm their initial decision about a person, and then fail to see any information that conflicts with the first impression.

A hiring manager might make an effort to find “proof” that the applicants that they don’t like are simply incompetent, while ignoring facts that do demonstrate competence. A good approach here is to pause for a moment during the interview and seek out details that will counter the first impression.

Time pressures can also contribute to bias in the form of a perceived need for closure. When hiring managers feel rushed to come to a conclusion, they do their company and the applicant a disservice. Instead of worrying about how much time you are taking to do the interview, make a point of asking questions until you get all the facts you need to make the best possible decision.

Another problem with bias has to do with the concept of sunk costs. As hiring managers spend more time making a decision about applicants, they will feel the weight of how much time they’ve already invested doing interviews.

The result is a tired manager who will just settle for the next applicant who seems right for the job. To avoid this problem, remind yourself just how important it is to keep interviewing candidates and giving them all your full consideration. The future success of your company may very well depend on the decisions you make. To keep yourself objective, exercise your curiosity to discover the special skills and knowledge that each applicant brings to the table.

Ignorance of personal bias can lead to an increasing number of bad hires at your organization, as well as missed opportunities to bring in highly qualified applicants. By checking yourself for bias, you’ll have a leg up over other organizations whose hiring managers are less aware of their own bias.

Will Machines be our Next Hiring Managers?

October 18th, 2013

automated hiring managerWe are becoming increasingly reliant on machines to take care of so many tasks for us, with computers making suggestions for what next books we should buy online, or what movies we might want to watch next via a streaming video service. Robots assist workers putting together cars on the factory floor assembly line, and some of these cars may be eventually driving themselves rather than relying on humans for navigation and control.

It seems no industry is immune to the effects of computer automation, and this includes area of hiring and employee recruitment. A number of companies are now creating online questionnaires and even video games to help them measure attributes that they are seeking in potential job applicants, according to a recent article at Bloomberg.

With computers able to sift through massive amounts of information more quickly and efficiently than ever before, data mining is enabling companies to automate their processes when it comes to finding the right talent to fill jobs.

It may seem inevitable for us to rely more on automated systems to help us respond to the influx of job applicants. Constant access to mobile phones and the Internet has made it much easier for people to search for and apply to more jobs, which only increases the workload of human resources professionals.

Pros and Cons to the Machine Takeover

There are a number of benefits to using machines to help with the hiring process. For example, hiring managers need to use tools to help them manage the huge torrent of data unleashed by people applying for work, or they stand to miss out on finding the right candidate at the right time.

As many as 3.7 million jobs were not filled in July, the article notes, despite the fact that in excess of 11 million people were looking for work in the U.S., according to statistics from the Labor Department.

Erik Juhl, the head of talent at video advertising startup Vungle Inc. in San Francisco, will start using an online game to help track and record the actions of online players to measure how likely they will be a high performer at a new job.

Evolv is a human resources computer model that helps companies better evaluate their candidates for hourly positions with an online questionnaire.

Drawbacks to using “automated hiring” systems like this include substituting a computer algorithm for your own judgment when it comes to evaluating fresh talent. A program will not be able to determine how well a salesperson functions under high-pressure social situations,  while a seasoned recruiter can make such an evaluation during the course of an in-person interview.

Another problem is that automated systems haven’t been around enough for us to be able to track how well they can do at predicting the long-term performance of applicants, the article notes.

So, while completely automated software can help you filter job applicants for the ability to cover certain  tasks when recruiting to fill positions, these systems are not yet ready to completely replace such time-proven methods of evaluation as the face-to-face interview. This is especially the case for salaried positions that require some nuance, such as how well a candidate might ‘fit in’ with the rest of a team.

The future of hiring may not ever wind up being completely automated, but recruiters and hiring managers can still take advantage of some of these automated tools to assist them in their recruitment process.  The best of both worlds is likely the current solution; a live human being (recruiter or hiring manager) utilizing high tech recruitment software to make their job more efficient.  In this scenario, the software can best handle the data by efficiently finding, processing, organizing and checking on potential candidates, while the person can do what he/she does best – handle face-to-face interviews and provide a ‘human touch’ that could not currently be outsourced to a machine.  In a sense, a recruiting ‘android’ that utilizes the best assets of human and machine is an optimal solution.

Building a Company Customer Service Culture through Hiring

September 24th, 2013

customer service cultureIs your company doing everything possible to maximize the level of customer service you provide?

As a human resources professional, you have a lot to do with building your company’s customer service culture because of the decisions you make about whether to hire each job candidate. That’s the contention of a recent post by Micah Solomon at Forbes, who notes that there are two primary reasons that determine how your hiring decisions will affect customer service.

The first  is the fact each worker interacts with customers on a face-to-face basis, and the second point has to do with how your employees influence one another through peer pressure to give good (or bad) customer service.

Customer Service on the Front Lines

It may seem obvious on the face of it, but it’s important for you to keep in mind that every person you hire will have a big impact on the customer service your organization provides. The people on your front lines interact with customers the most, and each encounter can lead to increased customer loyalty or drive people to leave if they are ignored or treated rudely.

For example, the Forbes piece notes that at the Mayo Clinic, the needs of patients come first, and this attitude is reflected in the behavior of everyone in the organization, including the people who do the hiring and those who mentor new hires.

At Apple, fanatically devoted employees not only enjoy creating new products and showing other people how they work, they also are driven to protect intellectual property.

Southwest Airlines employees are well-known for going above and beyond the call of duty for their customers, including agents at the gate moving luggage and pilots assisting disabled people moving about in their wheelchairs. This is the result of a corporate culture that embraces a “can-do” attitude at every level of employee, and customers are taking notice.

In a hiring environment like Silicon Valleys that his chock full of competitive start ups – customer service for a new app or website can make the difference between failing and succeeding.  The first few hiring decisions will likely determine the ongoing customer service pathway for a start up.

Peer Pressure Affects Customer Service Too

Peer pressure is a major influence on the level of customer service an organization offers, the Forbes piece notes. Basically, if a new employee sees how well his fellow workers treat each customer, he will be more inclined to treat them well too, because of his desire to fit in with the other employees.

At Disneyland, people marvel at how janitors rush in to pick up trash nearly as soon as it hits the ground. This is not because Walt Disney would legendarily fire people on the spot for failing to pick up litter, but because so many old-timers modeled this behavior to their fellow workers.

When you see a successful employee doing something like leaping to pick up discarded popcorn boxes, you will be inclined to do the same when you see a guest drop trash. The same principle applies to providing excellent customer service. If those around you habitually go out of their way to help each customer, you will find yourself behaving the same way. On the other hand, if employees slack off when it comes to customer service, they could infect their colleagues with their negative attitude, and we all know how bad that can be for business.

The next time you are evaluating a group of candidates to fill a position, you should remember to consider the customer service ramifications of each new hire. The hiring choices you make will have a long-lasting effect on the quality of your organization’s customer service.

Looking for Talent: Inside or Outside Your Organization?

September 6th, 2013

hire internally or externallyMichael Ducy’s article “Hire Goats, Not Outside DevOps Engineers” on advocates sourcing candidates from within an organization rather than externally. He compares DevOps, with their unique blend of bridge-building and multi-disciplinary skills, to goats, which constantly test limits and boundaries when they are fenced in.

Goat analogy aside, Ducy hits home in the crux of the matter: can an outsider really make effective cultural changes in an organization? In making the decision to re-position employees or hire externally, you must consider organizational health and culture as well as the specific job requirements.

Sourcing from Within the Organization

Promoting from within saves costs and time just in terms of the recruiting process. Other advantages are:

  • Candidate knows the organization and its structure
  • Connections and relationships already exist
  • Candidate is a proven asset
  • Improved employee morale as peers recognize career opportunities; retention tool
  • Better acceptance of new ideas within existing team

On the negative side, you’re drawing from a smaller talent pool. There is also the risk of stagnancy, training and learning curve time.

A well-developed and strategic succession plan will help identify candidates for open positions. Besides experience and technical expertise, the plan should include soft skills like leadership and teamwork strengths as well as the ability to negotiate and build bridges.

Hiring Externally

An external candidate can be a catalyst for change in processes, and can also:

  • Bring more experience and education to the job, as well as up-to-date technical knowledge
  • Have a fresh outlook with new energy and new ideas
  • Reduce your training needs

However, external searches are costly and time-consuming. The incumbent will need to learn the organization’s culture and structure. Morale could dwindle as other employees see fewer promotional opportunities and resist new ideas. Dealing with an unknown may be risky in terms of experience and performance.

Is there a middle ground? Perhaps an employee referral of an external candidate would be the best of both worlds. Your employee could judge the fit as he knows the candidate as well as the organization and its culture.  In addition, employee referral programs often provide good incentives to those employees that the referral stems from, which can also improve morale.

Is There Only One Answer?

Of course not. Each hiring decision must be made based on a position’s requirements and overall organizational health. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I concerned about retaining key leaders? Is our organizational culture very strong? Is employee morale and acceptance of new ideas important? Think about repositioning from within.
  • Is it a turnaround role? Do I want a catalyst for change? Do we need to invigorate the function with new competencies? Consider looking externally.

Whether you promote from within or hire externally, always seek the best candidate from the job, not only for experience and technical skills but also for organization and cultural fit.

Filling Positions Diversely Will Benefit Your Company

August 23rd, 2013

diverse hiringDiversity helps companies achieve business goals and, in an inclusive environment, 20% more employees state that they will stay at their organization, according to Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research. These findings and others were reported by Jean Martin in a recent “Harvard Business Review” article.

Martin observes that diversity initiatives such as mentoring, diversity councils and affinity groups are supported by management even during tough economic times. But is this investment paying off?

There are few firms with particularly diverse and inclusive populations. CEB research identifies bias, whether unconscious or conscious, as one of the key problems in moving qualified diverse candidates into leadership roles.

Innovative Processes to Counter Bias

Martin cites two examples of companies that utilize “objective-fit analysis” tools. These organizations succeeded in modifying their promotion processes to build diverse candidate slates and neutralize biases.

At Charlotte’s Duke Energy, managers prepare a candidate list for a specific position. At the same time, HR prepares its own slate by querying their data against a detailed position profile. Both lists are used to create the candidate pool. The combined list of qualified candidates may include some not known by the hiring manager.

CEMEX, a cement manufacturer headquartered in Mexico with 42,883 employees worldwide, developed a data tool to analyze employee profiles. Four factors in the profile – experience, knowledge, potential and performance, and personal – are created through lengthy testing and assessment processes. These leader profiles are matched against detailed position profiles to create a candidate slate.

EEOC and OFCCP Compliance Software

Duke Energy and CEMEX’s solutions are good innovations, but the newest technology in compliance should also be considered.  EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) compliance software can automate and streamline the hiring process, with functions such as recording voluntary EEO information (race, gender, ethnicity) as well as capturing a wealth of information needed during compliance audits, like applicant logs and flow data.

Take Advantage of Compliance Tech to Assess Candidate Diversity

When you’re ready to create your short list of candidates for interviews, a report from your compliance software will show qualified candidates (measured against minimum job requirements) with their EEO characteristics. If the candidate pool shows few or no benchmarks of diversity, you’ll know in advance that more work is necessary before the interviews start; for example, explore diversity job boards.

Is Your Candidate a Superbowl Contender or a Playoff Fluke?

August 6th, 2013

joe montana

According to an article on, Don Moore, an associate professor at Berkeley-Haas, says that hiring managers often ignore the context of past performance. This can undermine the hiring process because past performance  provides context into what a candidate has truly done as opposed to seeing what they look like on paper.

Because football season is almost here, it’s easy to think about past performance in the context of the NFL.  Think about those teams with great records towards the end of the season.  Sure, a 10-3 record looks pretty on paper, but what teams did they play?  Did the majority of their opponents have losing records, or did they get through a gauntlet of tough teams?   Contextual differences like these make all the difference in the world between a true Superbowl contender and a team that will likely be eliminated in their first playoff game.

On a more academic level, a GPA is a common score used to determine whether a person is a good student or not. However, the GPA alone doesn’t say too much because it  depends on the leniency of the grading system. Students who have a lower GPA from a school with a stricter grading system may actually be the better student.

Professor Moore refers to this as correspondence bias. As a hiring manager, it’s important that inferences aren’t drawn based upon a disposition without looking into the surrounding circumstances first.

Looking at awards is another great example. If a hiring manager sees a large number of awards on a resume, it may help to boost the candidate to the top of the list. These awards may be superficial though. There may have only been a handful of people in the running for the award or a certain company may hand out more awards than another company. If another candidate works for a company where awards are never given, that candidate may not be considered – when in fact that is the person could be the better hire.

So how can a hiring manager check up on past performance? Watch the tape on your candidate.   Even if there isn’t actual video footage of them working,  do those reference checks thoroughly and talk to the person’s supervisors to see how they have actually handled difficult experiences.  How tough were there previous jobs and what sort of obstacles did they get through to succeed? Just as you would when making your NFL playoff picks, make sure you consider what your candidate has been put up against to get where they are.


How to Hire Silicon Valley Engineers – What Do the Experts Say?

July 25th, 2013

Silicon Valley HiringWhen the success of your business depends at least in part on hiring the best engineers in Silicon Valley, you should know that it’s not always about high salaries and stock options, according to a number of hiring experts from top Silicon Valley companies.

Recruiting highly talented engineers in this region is always intensely competitive. To that end, the Commonwealth Club’s Inforum recently hosted an event in San Francisco to discuss the various strategies that local technology firms are using to recruit the best talent, according to a recent article at ZDNet.

On hand were hiring professionals from Cisco Systems, Collaboration Group, Google and Twitter.  The following are some of the top hiring points they made:

Cater to the Generation

Members of the generation born after 1981, often referred to as “Gen Y,” may seem to require a bit more coddling, with expectations of perks such as transportation, house cleaning and free beer and food.  Although wanting these perks may seem like the candidates have a sense of entitlement, keep in mind that these extras make them feel welcome at a company on top of the high salaries and multiple benefits.

You need to acknowledge that your applicants will have an expectation of some perks like these, at the very least so they can have a bit more incentive to come on board as well as have some bragging rights among their peers. Besides, offering employees free bus rides to and from work is a good way to ensure that they will get to the premises on time.

Working at Home

Tech-savvy workers may feel hamstrung if their companies require them to always work on-site.  If your corporate culture can accommodate it, you will definitely want to consider offering the option to work at home to your most promising engineer candidates to sweeten the deal. Twitter’s representative, for example, said the company welcomes its employees to work at home, as long as they continue to do their work.  This trend is continuing to proliferate the engineering space as many coders do their best work at strange hours that are more conducive to working at home.

Coaching for the Future

Potential employees want to have a sense that they can continue to grow in their field, the article noted, emphasizing the importance of offering coaching to your engineer candidates.

When an engineer feels that the company is taking an active role in helping him/her develop for the future, it can go a long way toward job satisfaction. The representative from Cisco said that in fact, coaching is more important than salary for people who believe they will grow with their company.

As a human resources professional, you need to make sure that you are providing the most compelling options for attracting the best of the best when it comes to your engineers.  No longer can you feel secure by focusing on incentives such as stock options and big salaries.  Although these items should surely be up front during the hiring process, don’t forget about those other perks that might stick with the candidate when they are considering the position.

Should All New Hires Know How to Code?

June 10th, 2013

hiring developersHR professionals need to constantly evaluate the standards by which they judge potential recruits for their firms, especially when it comes to all things digital. For hiring managers and recruiters working in the areas of digital media, marketing and the tech space, an emerging question is whether all new hires should know how to code, or at least be a little bit savvy with computer programming.

It does make sense that hiring managers should know how to look for this ability, even if they are hiring a person for an open position in a very different field, because nowadays, everything does boil back down to the basics of coding.

Unfortunately, programming knowledge and skills are decidedly lacking amongst college graduates in the United States, and bosses in tech firms are becoming less likely to hire those who don’t understand computer programming, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, a Manhattan ad tech company. McDonald points out that high school students in the U.S. are being educated in a school system with eight times as many football teams as schools that offer advanced placement classes in computer science.

At the university level, McDonald notes, 40,000 students are expected to graduate with a B.A. in computer science, while experts predict that companies will establish 120,000 jobs requiring this type of training, which means that there will only be enough graduates to fill one-third of computer science-related positions.

McDonald doesn’t mean to imply that all students need to become hard-core programmers. He suggests that at the very least, students should learn the basics of programming so that they can understand the principles of computer coding in the course of their non-computing jobs.

For example, a recent hire is meeting with a client who wants to know how long it will take to complete a digital project. Without a fundamental grasp of the work that programmers and engineers do, the hire will not be able to give the client a good answer and will have to settle for guessing, which isn’t good for anyone.

Even people who work in sales, marketing or other relatively non-technical departments should familiarize themselves with basic computer language skills.

As a recruiter, you are advised to determine whether your job candidates know at least something about the logic and grammar of computer languages, so they will be able to see their work flow in context.