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Going up?

Recruiting Fitness Checklist

Ready to make a move?

So, you’re ready to make your next move and advance your career? Before you embark on what can be an intense and lengthy process, it’s important to take some time and fully assess your reasons for leaving and what you want from your next role.

The following checklist will ensure you’ve considered all the angles and have done the necessary ground work to start the search process.

  • Assess your real reasons for leaving your current employment
  • Determine if you’ve spent long enough and learned as much as you can in your current role
  • Evaluate what you enjoyed most about this role and what you least enjoyed
  • Generally assess what you've most and least enjoyed about all the roles you have had in the past
  • Consider what types of bosses and organizations suit you best/ least suit you
  • Think about the types of companies you want to work for in terms of size, sector and values
  • List the industry sector you want to explore.
  • Determine what type of opportunities you want to pursue
  • Assess the skills you bring to the table
  • List why a potential employer would hire you
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses
  • Ask your friends to tell you what they consider your top three strengths to be and (if you can take it), your areas of weakness
  • Start updating your resume and ensure it doesn’t come across like a cut and paste exercise where you’ve just added the details of your current role. Look at the overall resume and ensure it flows and is visually consistent
  • Highlight your achievements in your resume and be able to talk about them
  • Accurately reflect your responsibilities in your resume. While a small percentage of "fluff" is OK, 90% needs to really demonstrate what you have done.
  • Step back and evaluate your overall resume. Are you proud of it? Does it do you justice?
  • Consider how much you want to make
  • Assess what you want to learn
  • Map out a plan for where you are going to search for a new job
  • Ask friends/trusted colleagues how they found their last role, what they know about different employment agencies and whether or not they know of any great opportunities.
  • Determine what job boards you will frequent and develop targets for how often you´ll visit them--daily? Weekly?
  • Consider the last time you interviewed and develop a plan to brush up on your skills
  • Write your resume and start your search.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

Offers and Negotiations

You’ve decided to start the job search but do you know what want from your next job? Whether its career or lifestyle motivated, we typically leave our current employment to change or improve a situation. Understanding your motivations and being clear on what you want is the key to negotiating your next job.

This article explores motivations for leaving your current role and things you need to consider when negotiating your next role.

What do you want?

What’s going to make leaving the comfort of your current job worthwhile? While we all typically want to make more money as we move to another job, that isn’t always the sole reason. There are also many other considerations:

  • Are you looking to advance your career and take the next logical step?
  • Do you want more responsibility and more challenges?
  • Are you looking for new learning opportunities?
  • Are you looking to get out of the fast lane and take on fewer responsibilities?
  • Do you want to be closer to home?
  • Are you tired of the road warrior syndrome or do you want to become a road warrior and travel more?
  • Are you looking for a less stressful environment?

Remember the big increase might not mean anything if you are stressed to the max and are not liking the travel. Be clear on what’s important to you and where you want to make the trade-offs. After all, you want to make sure your next move meets your expectations.

Show me the Money

If one of your reasons to move is to make more money, ask yourself how much more do you want to make?

What’s reasonable to one person may not be to the next. Typically the majority of people look for between a 5 to 15 percent increase on their base salary. If you’re hoping for a 20 percent plus increase, you may be disappointed unless you have those "really hot and hard to find skills" or are seriously underpaid.

You’ll want to factor potential bonuses into your overall compensation. It’s important to understand the way a bonus is structured. You’ll need to know what the bonus percentage is, whether it’s earned due to personal performance, company performance, team performance or a combination of any of these items. You’ll want to know the historical story of bonuses. Have they paid out every year and how much has paid out on average over the last five years? Here are some other additional monetary incentives to consider:

  • Signing bonus, repayable within 6/12 months if the candidate leaves within that time frame
  • Guaranteed first year bonus
  • Stock options and employee share plans

What to look for in an offer

In all cases, your offer should list the monetary and non-monetary benefits you will receive. If applicable, the offer should contain most of the following items:

  • Job title
  • Start date
  • Who the position reports to
  • Where the role is located
  • Base salary/annual compensation

Bonus information—explain how the bonus works ie: a percentage of salary, when it pays out -- quarterly, annually, based, whether it’s based on individual performance or company or a combination

  • Review date
  • Probationary periods
  • Entitlement to join company benefit program and when
  • Vacation entitlement
  • Other benefits such as RRSP match, pension, stock options, free gym membership, payment of professional membership fees, etc.

Consider other attractions

You can also consider other non monetary benefits. That value will totally depend on what they represent to you personally.

  •  Flextime
  • Telecommuting
  • Job sharing
  • Growth, learning and development opportunities
  • Recognition for innovative thinking in the form of a points program with rewards
  • Health and fitness programs
  • Additional days off , "well being" days
  • Day off for birthdays or annual anniversary with the company
  • Paid sabbaticals, after a number of years services
  • Additional vacation days, after a number of years service
  • Additional time-off or paid trips if employees hit certain targets.

Weighing your options

Not all companies can offer extra flexible arrangements, so it’s very important to consider how you feel about the role, your boss and the environment. You need to look at the total package and weigh up all pros and cons.

If you receive a good offer that you are happy with and think is fair, do not start to negotiate just to negotiate. While negotiating is more acceptable today, it’s still risky, so don’t jeopardize a good opportunity just because you think you are supposed to haggle over the annual salary.

If you are genuinely a little bit disappointed with the offer, then go back and ask in a reasonable manner for whatever it is you would like to see. Perhaps it's some extra vacation, or a little bit on the base, paid parking, or tuition reimbursement. Outline whatever is most important to you.

It’s very important you ask for what you want in one fell swoop. Don’t keep going back repeatedly to squeeze a little bit more, it won’t impress your new employer who may retract the offer.

Know your parameters. If your offer cannot be increased, is it really a deal-breaker? Remember an extra $1000 after tax works out at about $54 per month in your pocket. If this job and company represents a huge opportunity to progress, consider if it’s really worth turning down.

Essentially, if this is a company that you believe will be great for your career and you’ve connected with your new boss and fellow employees, you’ll want to weigh that above all else. It’s very important to be happy and challenged at work and it’s not always about the money.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission

Preparing for the Interview

Putting your best foot forward

Tips and Pointers.

Every interview represents a potential opportunity so you want to put your best foot forward and go in prepared, focused and interested. The following tips and pointers can guide you as you prepare for your interview.

Do your research.

Ensure you do your research on the company who will be interviewing you. Company websites offer valued information. If you know anyone that works for the company, call them to get some insights.
Know where the interview will be.

Some companies have more than one office. Know where the interview will be held and how to get there. Don’t wait until just before the interview to investigate unknown locations.

Leave time for the unexpected.

Ensure you have booked off sufficient time for the interview itself and for travel to and from the location. Factor in more time in the event of inclement weather or traffic tie ups.

Dress up.

Decide how you should dress. Since you don’t know the dress code for the business, the rule of thumb is to wear a suit. It’s better to over dress, than under dress. A suit shows a sign of respect for the company and yourself. If you know the atmosphere is a bit more casual, it’s still a good idea to wear a suit or at very least very smart business casual wear. Typical interview outfits are good quality work pants/skirt with high quality jackets. Men should wear a tie. If you go for multiple interviews at the same company, don’t suddenly dress down at the final stages, even if your interviewers do.

Check your overall appearance.

It may also sound really simplistic, but your overall appearance does make a difference. Make sure your shoes are polished, your hair is combed/brushed and, for women, makeup carefully applied, not over applied. Avoid splashing on too much cologne or perfume just before the interview. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep cologne or perfume to an absolute minimum. Interview rooms can be small, and interviewers can have allergies. You don’t want to ruin a great opportunity by overpowering your interviewer, however nice/expensive that cologne or perfume may be.

Think of your attire in advance.

If you are currently working in a very casual environment, it may look suspicious if you show up to work in a suit. Leave your suit in your car so you can get changed later, or better still, factor in enough time to pop home and change. If neither options work, do call ahead and explain to the interviewer your predicament as it will show that you have given thought to the subject.

Review resume.

Review your resume to be clear on your employment dates, achievements, remuneration and reasons for leaving roles.

Be prepared with real examples.

Be prepared to give real life examples of where you have delivered. This means you have to do some homework, by thinking about each role you’ve had, what the achievements have been and what situations you've had to deal with.

Are you a good match?

Study the job specification and match your experience against the responsibilities. Again, think about where you’ve obtained the experience that makes you a good match for the role.

Show your strengths.

Understand where your experience does not match up to the job and be able to provide specific examples of other times when you’ve had to pick up new things without prior training or experience. Be able to demonstrate that you are a quick study or a fast learner.

Know why you’re there.

Be prepared to articulate why you want to join this particular company and why you want this particular role. This is very important in helping you assess exactly where it is you want to go next.

Ask questions.

Think about the questions you are going to ask at the interview. Write them down so that you can easily access them. Generally, you’ll want to ensure that you understand what the job entails, but also think about what you want to know about the culture of an organization, the development or progression that employees can make and also the vision of the company itself.

Visualize success.

Visualize your success. Be confident. If you prepare well for an interview, you will automatically come across as a viable candidate who has given thought to the process and how you present yourself.

Good Luck!

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

The Interview

In the spotlight

Tips and Pointers

This interview is your opportunity to make an impression and convince the interviewers that you are a qualified and strong candidate. The following tips and pointers will guide you through the process so that you can confidently deliver a strong interview.

Arrive on time.

Arrive in good time, but do not too early. The ideal is to get to the interview meeting place about 5-10 minutes prior to interview time. Don’t be late.
Be polite.

First impressions count with everyone. Always be polite with anyone you meet at the client site including people who may not be involved in the interviewing process such as the receptionist, HR representative, everyone.

Shake hands firmly.

A firm handshake communicates confidence. A death grip or a weak handshake can give other messages that may not reflect who you truly are.
Make eye contact.

Always make eye contact in a friendly, natural fashion when you first meet people and throughout the interview.

Listen, listen, listen.

Actively listen to the questions is being asked, so that your answers are definitely related to the questions. If you do not answer the question correctly and concisely, you cannot show your abilities to do the job. Marshall your ideas in a collected manner and do not go off on tangents.
Be specific.

Behavioral type questions are usually phrased in the past tense (for example: how did you handle pressure, tight deadlines etc?). Always give a specific example, do not generalize.
Clarify.

If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification.

Be pertinent and concise.

If you have been responding to a question for longer than 3-4 minutes with no break, consider whether or not you are being long-winded.

Acknowledge weaknesses.

While you shouldn’t advertise weak spots in your resume, if they do arise, make sure you acknowledge them. Do not try to cover them up, but rather compensate for them by addressing the question and highlighting strengths in other areas or how you have compensated for them in the past.

Get understanding.

Once the interviewer has finished asking you questions, and has talked about the role, you should fully understand the nature of the role. If that´s not the case and you’re unclear on any aspect, ask for clarification or for further information.

Ask questions.

Questions are important. Ask about the role—if necessary—the organization, long term opportunities, the company strategy and why people like to work there.
Express interest.

At the end of the interview, express your interest in the role and the company and ask how you’ve done or where you stand in the process.

Focus on the appropriate items.

Never ask about the hours or benefits or vacation time on the first interview. This does not show the appropriate interest. An interview is an opportunity to showcase your talents and abilities, and you only have an hour to do that. Being overly focused on these details at this point only detracts from your overall presentation.

Be positive and relax.

Don’t be negative or overly focused/bitter about previous employers. While you may well have just cause, an interview is not the correct environment in which to vent.
An interview is an exciting opportunity to move you forward to your next career goal, be positive and relax and enjoy the moment.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

Reference Checking

Nearing the finish line

References authenticate your accomplishments and achievements

One of the last steps in the recruiting process is a reference check. Litigation worries and questions around the veracity of reference statements have cast a shadow over this practice, yet, despite the caution, they remain an important and necessary part of the interview process. For you, they can be a great opportunity to reinforce your strengths and solidify your position. This article guides you through the reference process and what you need to provide.

Your ease or level of comfort with which you offer your references, is an indicator of how comfortable you feel about yourself and what people will say about you. If you appear to be reluctant about producing references, it doesn't necessarily mean you have something to hide, but it may be a signal to employers to further scrutinize your tenure and reasons for leaving your previous companies.

So why would anyone get worked up about producing references if they have nothing to hide? The most common reason is if candidates did not have the greatest relationship with their previous boss. The companies you are interviewing with are interested in talking with your most recent supervisor, so leaving him or her out of the equation can be a mistake and might even look suspicious. It’s important to be honest. If you know your boss can be difficult or hasn't provided great references for others in the past, let the interviewer know about your concerns ahead of time. Make sure you can also provide other great references from bosses with whom you have had a good relationship.

Who are the ideal references and how far back should references go?

Your most recent supervisor is the most ideal reference. If you are currently working and your employer doesn't know you're looking to leave, contact former bosses either at your current company or previous companies, and ask them if they will act as a reference. You can also ask a former boss who worked with you at your current company but who's now left the organization. You shouldn't source references further than five to seven years ago. Recycling references from people you worked for 10 to 15 years ago is not as relevant because, more than likely, your skills will have changed dramatically.

If you have been a contractor at a company for a reasonable length of time (six months), at the end of each assignment ask your supervisor if you can use them as a reference. These type of references should not date back more than three years.

If you know you work at a company where you can only get a standard human resources reference that simply confirms your title, salary and how long you worked there, it’s tricky. Your best bet is to ask your boss or a previous boss if they would be prepared to speak on your behalf, off the record. They may not be able to, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

Providing peer references can be important. Some companies insist on them. In the majority of cases, it will be references from supervisors that count the most, but peer references can really come into play when it’s hard to get a "full" list of references. A peer reference should come from someone that you’ve worked very closely within the same department or have been part of a project team you have both worked on. It should be someone who can clearly speak to the quality of your work and how you handle interpersonal relationships.

Character references are less called upon as individual’s progress through their careers and build up their primary references. They are very useful for entry level candidates and usually come from respected members of the community.

Written letters of reference

Written references are always useful. They do need to be from current / recent employers and most interviewing companies today, will telephone the author of the written reference to check their veracity.
It's very impressive to present a list of references to an interviewer at the end of the interview. It shows that you are confident that previous employers will speak highly of you.

Get Permission

Remember to always let your references know that, with their permission, you´ll be using them. It is an excellent idea to tell them who the company is and what the role is, so they can reflect on your suitability for that particular position. It also helps them understand the need for speed in terms of getting back to companies who call. They can be on watch for any messages asking them to call and speak on your behalf.

Always thank your references. It's a great service they do for you and, if they get quite a few calls, which means they are investing a lot of time.

 © Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

Giving Your Notice

Breaking the news

Tips and Pointers

You have a fantastic offer in hand, it meets your criteria and you’re excited about the new opportunity. Now the moment of truth—the one everyone dreads—you need to tell your boss. The following list of tips and pointers will guide you through the resignation process. Remember all the reasons why you’re leaving:

  • You’ve reached the end of the road and there’s no further development/ progression possible
  • You are over burdened by heavy workloads, with no sign of respite
  • Your values are not aligned with management values
  • The cultural fit is not ideal.
  • Your salary is not commensurate with your experience and effort
  • Too much travel time is required
  • Your commute to work is just too long.

Expect the Unexpected

When you go in to resign, our best piece of advice is to expect the unexpected. In 50 percent of cases, what you think will happen when you resign, probably will happen and what you least expect will also happen. Recognize the dynamics--your boss may be in a real jam when he/she hears you’re leaving and this may result in some knee jerk reactions on his/her part.

Be Professional

Be prepared and go about your resignation in an ultra professional manner. Even if you feel bitterly aggrieved about things that may have happened, the resignation arena is not the correct time or place to vent. Think through your reasons and express them clearly and professionally at your exit interview. Always, thank your employer for giving you the opportunity to work with them.

Ironclad Reasoning

You do not have to give a reason for leaving and some people prefer not to share. However, if you have good relationships where you work, it might appear inconsistent if you don’t share why you are leaving. If you do decide that you must say something, keep it short, simple, logical and compelling. If you’re looking to avoid a counter offer, or an uncomfortable scene, close the gaps and make your reasons for leaving defensible and ironclad.

Presenting your Letter

Present your employer with a resignation letter. The letter should state that you are giving notice and the effective date. To accompany the letter, consider developing a list of any outstanding project items and delivery dates, including items that will not be completed and may have to be passed to others.

Overcoming the Counteroffer

Now, if all goes well and your boss is genuinely pleased for you, that’s the best possible outcome. If your boss is unpleasant, there’s really is not a lot you can do. Stay positive and professional and focus on your new and great opportunity.

If you find yourself starting to waiver because your boss is devastated, is desperate for you to stay and has started heavy negotiations with you, remember the following important points:

  • Of the people who accept a counter offer, 80% have quit again/lost their job in the following six months
  • Offering you an increase in salary is either an admission that you have been underpaid or it’s coming from your next increase
  • Your underlying reason for leaving will undoubtedly not change. You will be in exactly the same spot 6-12 months from now
  • You have broken trust. A boss may do anything to keep you now, but should there be change of circumstances at work, you could be the first to go. Who are you more likely to promote? A loyal employee who did not resign or an employee who had to be persuaded to stay?
  • Consider the co-worker dynamics. If they knew you were leaving, how are they going to feel when you stay? Will they be happy you stayed or resentful of your special treatment?

Follow your Heart

We are all susceptible to flattery and to that human need to feel important and indispensable. On occasion, it may be right to stay and you must always do what feels right in your heart. Avoid responding to the emotion of the moment. Give yourself time and space to consider your options and really think about the points above. Remember it’s a fact, 80% of people who accept counteroffers are eventually gone from the company within six months of tendering their initial resignation.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission

Employer Resources

Be remarkable

Ready to Hire?

Resource for Employers

So, you're ready to expand your team and hire the next employee? Before you start what can be a lengthy and expensive process, it’s important to take the time to fully assess the role, the requirements and the process.

The following checklist will ensure you've considered all the angles and have done the necessary ground work to start the process.

Determine workload.

If this is a new role, determine if there’s enough work to keep someone 100% occupied.

Check budget and approvals.

Check that approvals and budgets for hiring are in place.

Determine resources as related to timeline

Determine when you’d like your new employee to start. Do you have enough time to hit that date? I If tight on time do you need to bring in interim resources?

Ensure team buy-in.

Check to see if there is anyone on the team who is interested in or suitable for the new role? Do you need to address potential disappointment if someone internally wants the role but isn’t the right candidate?

Identify turnover causes.

Think about what the turnover has been like in that department. Whether high or low, find out why. If high, have you identified the right people to join in the past? If low, find out why people stay and use that as part of the selling features for the new position.

Asses it.

Assess the existing job description to see if it needs to be altered or re-written.

Determine your department needs for this role.

If this is a replacement role, look at why the former employee moved on and what the new person can bring to the role. If it´s a new position, really flesh out what you need/want this person to do.

Determine: growth or maintenance role?

Decide if the role has enough scope to allow growth or if it’s really more of a maintenance role. This helps you identify some of the necessary attributes of the person you are about to hire.

Asses “best fit” employee traits for the role.

Determine overall what type of individual will best fit with the team and with the organization. Think of the people who’ve been successful to date and assess their attributes and personality characteristics.

Consider compensation.

Check out the market for this position and give thought to compensation. To minimize the risk of losing any existing hires, take your market information and assess whether this is the time review everyone’s salary to check all are in line.

Sell it.

Be able to articulate the key selling points of the position and the organization.

Determine support availability.

Ask yourself if you or the person who will be managing the new hire has enough time to settle a new employee into the role.

Check space needs

Ensure you have the space to accommodate a new person.

Map out the interview process.

Who needs to interview, where are they located and how far in advance do you have to book their calendar?

Contact HR.

Contact Human Resources to determine how you/they are going to find the person.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

The Anatomy of a Job Description

Resource for Employers

Descriptions provide structure and clarity

A job description is like a blueprint. It defines the role, clarifies scope and communicates responsibilities. Without it, a person can't be expected to commit to a role or be held accountable. Indeed, every employee should have a job description. From an employer's perspective, writing a well-constructed job description enables you to think about the role and where it fits in the organization. Large organizations likely have templates for the most common roles, so don't reinvent the wheel unless it's necessary.

Crafting a job description requires a lot of thought. If you’ve consistently recycled outdated job specifications, it’s worth taking the time to revisit those documents, as it will help clarify in your mind the type of individual you want to hire.

This article highlights the benefits of creating job descriptions and takes you step by step, through the process.

An Opportunity to Soul Search

Before you write the job description you have a great opportunity to give thought to what type of person you really need and what the role needs to be. Culturally, what kind of person is going to be the best fit for the role and the company? What technical and soft skills will they require to be successful?

When we draft job descriptions we’re usually looking for the "ideal" candidate. By all means, shoot for that individual, but remember if you cling too tightly to your ideal that person may well not exist. It’s important then to sort out the absolute "must haves" for the role from the “nice to haves”. This approach ensures you won’t have to compromise your hiring, but also gives you some flexibility, which will help given the tight labour market.

Other key considerations include:

  • What department requires the role?
  • How many people are in the department and where does this role fit with everyone else´s?
  • Who will the individual report to?
  • Is this a new role? Does it require different personality traits to others in the team?
  • What bigger areas is the new incumbent likely to contribute to or grow into?
  • The Ingredients: What goes in the job description?

The following is a simple template to guide you as to what information you need to gather and include for the job description:

Job Title:

This explains the type of professional you are hiring.

Based at:

Business Unit, Section — if applicable.

Position reports to:

Line Manager title, location, and Functional Manager, location if matrix management structure)

Job Purpose Summary Ideally one sentence:

 

Key responsibilities and accountabilitie:

Ideally 8—12 items

Main responsibilities:

Outlines the most important duties

Secondary responsibilities:

Periodic versus daily routines

Core competencies required:

Skills and attributes required to perform the job well

Experience required:

Number of years experience in general. Any experience required to perform the duties of this job. For example; industry specific experience (technology, consumer goods etc), role specific experience (PR/Media Relations, Copywriting etc.), team leadership experience and experience within a skill set (Public Speaking, Webinar Development, Lead Generation)

Qualifications or Educational background:

 

Dimensions/Territory/Scope/Scale indicators:

The areas to which responsibilities extend and the scale of responsibilities — staff, customers, territory, products, equipment, premises, etc)

Compensation & benefits
Date and other relevant internal references:

 

Conducting the Interview

Resource for Employers

Tips and Pointers

The interview is your opportunity to meet potential candidates face to face and explore who they are, what they´ve done in their careers, what they can bring to the organization and whether or not they´ll be a good fit.

Good interviewing is more about listening than talking. It´s about asking relevant questions and understanding how to accurately assess the answers you receive.., If you want to secure the candidate of choice, it´s also about successfully promoting the role and your organization and “closing” the candidate wherever possible.

The following list of tips and pointers will guide you through the interviewing process.

  1. Whenever possible, please try to be on time, it shows respect to the individual who maybe taking time out of their own workplace
  2. Greet the candidate in a friendly non threatening fashion. While they need to make good eye contact with you, it works both ways. When you are walking the candidate to the interview room, take the time relax the candidate by asking some general, low-key questions
  3. If you know the interview is going to be up to an hour, offer some refreshments.
  4. Ensure you have a copy of the job description and the candidates resume with you
  5. Remember to take full notes when interviewing, so that you can reference them later
  6. Take the candidate through your agenda and ask if they are okay with it.
  7. A typical agenda might involve:
  8. A very short overview of the company and the role
  9. A review of their resume, highlighting areas or interest
  10. Discussion on culture and work environments
  11. Expanded discussion on the role and company
  12. Opportunity for them to ask questions
  13. Next steps
  14. Start by talking about the company and the role. At this stage, keep your comments to about five minutes. You need to be general here rather than specific, as your goal is to glean unbiased answers from the candidate.
  15. Start to review their resume, work chronologically from their first role to their current role. Spend more of your time focusing on experience in the last five years, as that is more relevant. However, it is important to cover the earlier years to gain insights into how the applicant has progressed, reasons for leaving and overall stability.
  16. Aim to gain both insights and information -- here´s the type of things you´ll want to ask about:
    1. Any gaps in employment -- confirm employment dates and ask about employment dates, if missing.
    2. Reasons for leaving roles/companies.
    3. Significant achievements at each company.
    4. Primary responsibilities at each company
    5. Current remuneration, including bonuses and benefits.
  17. Start to expand on areas of particular significance. For example, if you want to get insights into a particular skill or project they worked on; ask questions that are designed to give real life examples of behaviour the candidate has demonstrated in past roles.
  18. Ask candidates what they most enjoyed about their current role and organization and also what they least enjoyed. Repeat the question, but this time relate it to specifics in past roles/organizations. This will help you understand their likes and dislikes and whether or not they would be a "fit" for the role and your environment
  19. If you feel at this stage you have a fairly exhaustive idea of what this candidate can do and what they are seeking and you´re interested in progressing them to the next stage, then spend some time talking about the role, the environment, the team and the company. Your goal here is to give the candidate a well and rounded view of the role and the company so they buy into all aspects. So while you´ll want to emphasis and expand on the really interesting parts, you also need to touch on (but not dwell on) some of the more mundane aspects of the job.
  20. Relate why most people, including you, really enjoy coming to work every day. And talk about what the candidate can learn and how they can grow. Promote and sell the role and organization. Be balanced and realistic but always positive. Your goal is to give the candidate a sense of what your organization is like to work for and ensure that by the end of the interview, they´ll have a good sense of the company and what you´re all about.
  21. If you feel you have all the information you need, ask them for their questions. If you really are interested in the candidate, express that to them and talk about next steps. You can even ask them how they feel about the process thus far. If you are unsure about the candidate or need more time to assess then, conclude the interview by thanking them for their time and outline the next steps in the process.
  22. When the candidate has left, take a moment to write down a quick summary and your overall impressions of the candidate. Highlight any notes you may want to further investigate at reference stage
  23. If you think the candidate is a good fit and you liked them, then ensure next stage interviews or offers follow as quickly as possible.
  24. If you feel the candidate is not a good fit, then as a courtesy, let them know as soon as possible so that they do not entertain false hopes.

General Points

The information in this document does not discuss any specific interviewing techniques, such as behavioural or competency based interviewing. If you really want to focus on improving your interviewing skills, there are many excellent courses available, including seminars offered by Vantage Resources. The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that “past behavior is the best predictor of future performance”.

It´s not that difficult to construct interview questions around past behaviors in different competency areas. The real gift is to understand and assess the answers to the questions to see whether or not you have a valid answer. As a general rule of thumb, always ask for specific examples that will demonstrate that the candidate has actual experience in a given area.

Employee References

Resource for Employers

To know the future is to understand the past 



A relevant and valuable tool for employers


Are employee references still valuable today? Litigation worries and questions around the veracity of reference statements have cast a shadow over the practice of giving and taking references. Despite the caution, references remain an important and necessary part of the recruiting process. They can give great insight about a candidate and can confirm your hunches, whether positive or negative.

This article guides you through the reference process from the type of references you need and the questions to ask.

Early Warning System

It’s advisable to warn potential candidates early on in the process that you´ll be asking for references if they are short listed for final stage interviews. This gives the candidate advance notice to organize their references and ensures a seamless process. As part of your interviewing methodology, you may note some behaviors or answers that might need some additional insight from the candidate’s references. Make sure you follow up when checking those references.

Offering references—is reluctance a red flag?

The ease or level of comfort with which references are offered often indicates how candidates feel about themselves and what others might say about them. The candidate who's reluctant to produce references is not necessarily hiding anything; it might be there was a personality clash or lack of communication between the candidate and their last direct supervisor. It's important to note that not all interactions are positive and that's life. It's a very rare person who'll completely destroy an individual's opportunity, but sometimes candidates are over anxious and fear the worst. If you do encounter someone who seems reluctant to provide a particular reference, just explain that you'll take all information within a larger context.

That said it's also important to listen with a balanced ear, as reluctance or personality clashes might be a signal to carefully scrutinize tenure at a company or the person's reason for leaving. If you really like the individual and one reference doesn't add up, take more references to see if a consistent message or theme emerges. If so, what is it? Is this a limitation for you? Look at the individual, the role they'll play, your management style and weigh everything out. Who are the ideal references and how far back to you go?

A reference from the supervisor the person last reported to is always the best bet. Avoid being fobbed off to indirect references such as peers or managers, where there was no reporting relationship. It’s the direct relationship that counts.

Now getting a direct supervisor isn’t always practical especially if the candidate is still working for the company and requires confidentiality. In that case, if the candidate has been at one company for a fair amount of time (ie: 5 years), there may be others that they have reported to in the past. If that’s not the case, make your offer subject to references and once the candidate has resigned, do the reference with the current supervisor with the permission of the candidate.

If the candidate has been at a few companies in the last five years, make sure you reference all their direct supervisors.

Generally, recent references are the best but a reference list can be made up of people from the last five to seven years. If the candidate produces references from another era (ie: 10 to 15 years ago), this should raise a red flag.

Peer references and character references can be viable, but should never replace the supervisory references. They are useful for entry level candidates, for the candidate who can genuinely only produce one or two supervisory references or where someone is currently employed and for confidentiality reasons, you´re unable to speak to their current supervisor.

Asking the right questions

A thorough reference should take between 30 and 40 minutes. Let the person know how much time you'll need and determine if it's a good time to call. If the reference is not currently working at the same company as the candidate, ask where they are working now and confirm their current title and when they left their former company.

While it’s very unusual for someone to provide fake references, it's not outside the realm of possibility. It’s best to get a current work number for the reference and if they are working somewhere else, it’s worth calling the switchboard of the company where both parties previously worked to check that indeed the reference is genuine and did at one time work there in the capacity stated. If possible, confirm when they left. If the candidate you are currently trying to hire is still at the same company, you need to respect confidentiality and be very discrete and careful in how you confirm that information. It’s best to be very casual and informal. If both parties are at the same company, you can always call the switchboard at different times or days to ask for an individual’s title.

Information you want to confirm:

  • Name of reference
  • Relationship to candidate
  • Time worked together and length of reporting relationship
  • Dates of employment 

  • Salary 

  • What were the candidate’s daily responsibilities? 

  • How did they perform in that role? 

  • Did they work on any special projects? 

  • What was the most complex piece of work they did and how did they achieve their results?

  • Technically, what are their strengths and weaknesses? 

  • How did they manage their relationships with peers, subordinates and bosses and what were their relationship strengths and weaknesses? 

  • Ask for examples of how they handled conflict. 

  • What was their reason for leaving? 

  • Would you rehire? 

  • And, is there anything that you have personally missed in taking this reference that would be important to know with respect to hiring this candidate?

It’s important to know that references typically only volunteer information if they are asked a specific question. If you don’t ask the right questions you may not get the right answers. The last question on this list above is a very important “catch all” question. You may be surprised at what information it elicits right at the end of a reference.

Know that it is illegal to ask any questions that could be construed as discriminating. Avoid asking questions about marital status, religion, gender, age, nationality etc.

Restricted mobility — when you can only confirm dates of employment

If a candidate tells you the company policy is they only give dates of employment and not references, you still need to call the company to verify the policy and confirm the start date, end date, title and anything else you can. Ask the candidate if anyone is prepared to give them an "off the record" reference. If they've been with the company for a few years, there might be a former boss who'll be willing to act as a reference. It might be more difficult if the candidate has only been there a short time. In that case, look at the big picture. If the candidate can produce plenty of other relevant references, you’re likely in good shape. If, on the other hand, their reference list is sparse and sketchy that may warrant further thought.

Background Checking Firms

If you do not have a company policy on reference checking, it’s always a good idea to speak to your corporate lawyer to get some insights into current legislation. Because this area is quite prevalent to changing legislation and new case law, it’s best to be current.

If you do plan to outsource your referencing, it’s a good idea to ensure you audit the service that is selected. While there are very professional companies out there offering this valued service, there are unfortunately some that do not do a quality job. The spectrum varies.

You’ll learn a lot if you are called to provide a reference. The services that only require about five minutes of your time, or that skim over important questions and do not proactively listen to your answers and dig further where appropriate, may not be serving your needs. Proceed with caution and good luck with your hiring.

Making an Offer They Can't Refuse

Resource for Employers

Understanding motivations is key to securing top talent

The candidate is perfect for the role, now all you have to do is genuinely convince them that yours is the right company for them. In a time where the battle for top talent is extremely intense, a well considered offer can make all the difference.

This article gives you insight into what you need to do, know, understand and demonstrate when putting together your offer.

Time is of the essence

Once you identify your candidate of choice, do not delay in getting that offer out to them, particularly if this person brings a unique skill set. If you haven’t seen a lot of candidates to date, moving to the offer at this stage can be difficult. However, it’s wise to follow your instincts. If you believe this is the right candidate and are genuinely are interested in working with them, then snap them up!
It’s not always all about the money

You’ve likely put in a lot of effort to get to this point, so before you start to enter into negotiations, you need two crucial pieces of information: What is the candidate is currently making? And what do they really want to make? You also need to be realistic about the market and industry standards, what the candidate can make and whether or not you have sufficient budget to hire.

While money is a factor, candidates may be motivated by a combination of things - the challenge, increased responsibilities, company culture, the leadership - to name a few. Don’t kid yourself though, just because money may not their main motivation, the reality is the majority of individuals want to see a salary increase when they move. If the candidate is particularly strong, they may have many offers to compare, so yours needs to be as competitive as possible.

In 95 percent of cases, it’s never just about the money but if the candidate you are interested in seems to be ‘all about the money’ only, then take a close look at this. Depending on the role, this could be a benefit or a detractor.

Correctly understanding the candidate’s motivation is the crucial element at this stage. Look at their track record and examine how long they’ve been with their current company and explore their reasons for leaving. You might learn that they were genuinely underpaid at their last company and this time, they’re not prepared to sell themselves short. Or you may find they have made a succession of moves purely to increase their bottom line. Again this bottom line focus is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to definitely consider when hiring.

Show them the “love”

One sure fire way to let the candidate know you´re interested and have a real desire to hire them is to be prompt, courteous and do what you say you´re going to do. A speedy offer letter with simple and welcoming language demonstrates and reinforces your interest. While you want to protect your company legally, wherever possible avoid legal jargon and make the offer letter as welcoming and informative as possible.

Give them something to talk about

A good idea is to present the offer verbally first, for two reasons: One if there are to be some negotiations it makes more sense to finalize the details before sending anything in writing and two; it’s a great opportunity to clarify all the details of the offer and it allows you to really sell the position and company again and reconnect with the candidate’s interest. Reinforcing details such as the autonomous nature of the role, the unique culture, opportunities for growth and your onsite wellness facility etc. are important as they factor into the decision making process.

After you’ve finalized things verbally, you should follow up with a formal letter and any other company.

What should the offer cover?

In all cases, your offer should list the monetary and non-monetary benefits. This is particularly important if you can’t be as competitive as you’d like, yet you have lots of non-monetary benefits to offer.
If applicable, the offer should contain most of the following items:

  • Job title
  • Start date
  • Who the position reports to
  • Where the role is located
  • Base salary/annual compensation
  • Bonus information. Explain how the bonus works ie: a percentage of salary, when it pays out -- quarterly, annually, based, whether it’s based on individual performance or company, or a combination
  • Review date
  • Probationary periods
  • Entitlement to join company benefit program and when
  • Vacation entitlement
  • Other benefits such as RRSP match, pension, stock options, free gym membership, payment of professional membership fees ,etc.

Highlight other attractions

If you’re having trouble attracting your candidate of choice, you may wish to consider the following options:

  • Signing bonus, repayable within 6-12 months if the candidate leaves within that time frame
  • Guaranteed first year bonus
  • Stock options and employee share plans

Other non-monetary benefits to consider:

  • Flextime
  • Telecommuting
  • Job sharing
  • Growth, learning and development opportunities
  • Recognition for innovative thinking in the form of a points program with rewards
  • Health and fitness programs
  • Additional days off, "well-being" days
  • Day off for birthdays or annual anniversary with the company
  • Paid sabbaticals, after a number of years services,
  • Additional vacation days, after a number of years service
  • Additional time off/or paid trips if employees hit certain targets

The Close

Do put an expiration time on the offer to show you want to get some closure and to prevent a candidate sitting on your offer, while other companies still continue the courtship dance. Putting a time limit shows that you are serious and professional. Typically 48 to 72 hours from the date of receipt is reasonable.

Be open to negotiate

Don’t take it personally or as a sign of disinterest if the candidate wants to negotiate for more dollars. Asking is fine. You’ll either be able to accommodate them or not. It might be the candidate really wants the job, but your offer is lower than a competing offer. If the candidate is "hot" you can be sure they’ll have other offers.

If you do encounter an applicant who seems to be very reluctant to accept your offer, try to find out why. It’s very important to understand both the motivations and the objections to the role. Ignoring the reluctance in favour of buying a candidate who has some serious doubts, could be potentially very damaging in the long run.

After all is said and done

It’s very important to stay in touch with the candidate after they’ve accepted the offer and before they join your organization, especially if they have a longer notice period. If an individual is in very high demand, they’ll continue to receive calls from other interested parties. It doesn’t mean they’ll listen to them, but it’s worth your while to maintain and solidify the connection you have worked so hard to establish.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

Welcoming the New Team Member

Resource for Employers

Checklist

You've selected the ideal candidate for the new role and they've accepted your offer. To reinforce the candidate's decision to join your team and to make them feel welcome, you'll need to do some advanced work.
The following checklist provides guidance on what to consider as you welcome your new team member.

  • Confirm things are still on track by calling the candidate a week before they are due to start and express how you are looking forward to them joining.
  • Ensure you confirm that office space is secured for the new employee
  • Order the appropriate passes, passwords, equipment, office supplies etc. 

  • Tightly plan the first day with new hire orientation and critical training also ensure your calendar is cleared to settle the new person in.

  • Plan to take the new person out to lunch on day one with you and or other members of the team.

  • Provide guidance on who they should meet with in week one and outlines the documents they should review. 

  • Check in with them at the end of week one to ensure they have what they need and all is okay.

  • Book the person's first review date and stick to it.

© Sheila Carney of Vantage Resourcing. Used with permission.

Keeping it Real

Resource for Employers

Authenticity is the key to employee loyalty

A cryptic email from a friend working for a company newly ranked on the “Top 100 Employers in Canada” list, read: “... who were they comparing us to – Federal Penitentiaries?”

While funny, this sentiment reflects the all too frequent cynicism of employees who don’t buy the company story because they live the reality. We’ve all been sucked into jobs through the “fantasy interview” where promises of fame, fortune, a great culture and growth opportunities dissolve into a reality more akin to a Dilbert cartoon.

BC is now facing the much-anticipated skills shortage and the war for talent is on. Holding onto valuable staff is critical, and earning the commitment of new hires is just plain strategic savvy. Yet revolving doors keep turning. Lists of vacant positions are long. People need jobs, but why is finding and keeping them so hard?

Mind the gap

The Economist (October 7, 2006) reported that “...three-quarters of new recruits feel that their employers are failing to deliver on their promises...”

Anyone who has used the UK underground will know the “mind the gap” recording that echoes in stations alerting passengers to, well, mind the gap as they step onto the train. Companies that don’t deliver on their stated or implied promises should consider such a recording as new recruits (and employees) step through the front door, if only to be somewhat transparent.

And that’s just it. Employees aren’t looking for perfection. What they are looking for is authenticity. They want to work for companies they can trust to be who are who they say they are, and do what they say they’ll do. Companies whose stated values are actually evident in the way they operate. Sound gooey? Numerous studies deliver hard data to support it.

In today’s workplace, employees rate meaningful work over compensation. That is not to say they will tolerate unfair wage structures, but what motivates them and connects them deeply with their employer is to be able to buy into and believe in the vision, avail themselves of the opportunity to do what they are good at, contribute meaningfully to the success of the company, and grow. And in the current market, if they don’t find this, they will leave.

That sad truth is that most companies talk about staff as their most valuable assets. They promise growth opportunity and job satisfaction but either seriously delay in delivering it, or simply cannot. Rankings on “top employers” lists are worth nothing if companies manipulate what they do just to be ranked, without really delivering. Indeed, it’s better not to make empty promises. So even if the job ad sounds less attractive, it reflects authenticity, and employees are looking for just that.

The authentic brand

A brand is a personality and an experience. Most companies focus their brands on attracting and retaining loyal customers. These days more companies, particularly those in BC’s tech sector where competition for knowledge workers is particularly fierce, are realizing the need to have brands that will also attract and retain talented employees. This means brands have to have an external experience and an internal experience, and while there may be differences, they need to be aligned. What the vast majority of companies fail to realize is that it is the internal brand that powers the external one. After all, it is the employees who deliver the brand experience to the customers. Why would they deliver “on brand” if they are not experiencing it themselves?

Take the company that says it values its people assets and treats customers like kings and staff like slaves. The contradiction might not be immediately apparent to clients but you can bet employees will notice, and will resent the discrepancy. They will not only talk about it to others but the sentiment is likely be reflected in the way they treat customers or in their loyalty to their employer.

It is a worthwhile investment for any organization to develop and deliver an internal, or “employer” brand experience to its employees. Ultimately, it is this authenticity that will truly engage them, inspire them, keep them and motivate them to deliver the brand experience to customers.

Employees network, convey unspoken messages, inform and influence the employment decisions of new talent. A truly engaged employee is prepared to put his or her personal reputation on the line by recommending their employer to their friends and networks – whether or not they are paid a referral fee. If they so much as sniff a lack of authenticity, you can count them out for referrals as it jeopardizes their own reputations. For better or worse, your staff are your brand ambassadors. Great employee ambassadors are magnets for attracting new talent and engaging customers through the brand experience. If you look after your employees they are far more likely to look after your customers.

So here’s the big idea: If you want to retain and attract employees and customers, get real.
Employees who can trust the authenticity of their employers, who are informed, engaged and committed, are productive because they are intrinsically motivated. to see their company succeed. And fulfilled employees will give of their best and remain loyal to your organization.

This article was written by Catherine Ducharme and Sharon Habib

Outsidein Communications is an integrated brand and communications company that specializes in developing internal and external brands, marketing and communications programs. Principals are Catherine Ducharme and Sharon Habib.

Edited version of this article appeared in the March 2007 edition of BC Business: Big Ideas page 25

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Employee References

Resource for Employers

To know the future is to understand the past 

 A relevant and valuable tool for employers
 Are employee references still valuable today? Litigation worries and questions around the...

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