“It Only Hurt Once… From Beginning to End”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJames “Doc” Counsilman, swim coach to the great Mark Spitz, was the oldest person to swim across the English Channel at the age of 58. What makes this story so remarkable? He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 4 years before that swim. In order to prepare for that amazing swim, he sat in ice cube baths to prepare for the cold water. When reporters asked about his pain level upon his completion, he said “it only hurt once… from beginning to end.”

Last week, I finished a job and hired a fabulous candidate for my client. We interviewed 38 people, had over 100 applicants, then we ran into wall after wall. We had multiple no-shows, offered the job to someone who couldn’t take it, and had someone walk out without shaking our out stretched hands. Upon our glorious candidate accepting the job, my client turned to me and said “Is there ANY way you can make this process less painful?”

The simple answer is no. I wish I could. Frankly, this process is not the most enjoyable business activity. Hence the reason businesses often put it off until the need for someone is so great that they have to begin the interview process. There will be days when you truly despise the process and even me as your interviewing coach. What you will get when you work with me is that I make your life so much easier after you go through this process and after we find the A-list new hire you are seeking. You WILL be able to take days off, you WILL be able to rest, you WILL be able to trust that things get done, and you WILL hurt a lot less once you swim that channel. And just like Doc said, “It will only hurt once…from beginning to end.”

When you know it’s a No

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not hiringI always find the hiring process fascinating, especially when I begin working with people who have had employees on staff for an extended period of time that are not a good fit. They almost always report to me “I knew it was not going to work out” after we get to a place where we are going to let go of an employee and begin searching for the perfect candidate to hire.

As many of my conversations with new clients go, I met with a potential new client who began the conversation with “You have to know that I am BAD at hiring.”

I said, “How do you know?”

He said, “Because I just fired the worst hire EVER.”

I asked, “When did you know that this employee was the worst hire ever?”

He said, “I knew the first day. I just KNEW it was not going to work out. And I have known that for 2 years.”

Now two years maybe somewhat extreme but I hear many of my clients report that they hired someone, knew they were not going to work out almost immediately, then leave the person in the position
for months of not years just to avoid having to interview again. Instead I challenge you fellow business owner to hire differently by really listening to the candidates during the interviews. They will tell you if they will not work out. You just have to listen.

For example, last week, I interviewed a candidate that my client really wanted to hire until we started talking about the language that this person used in the interview. It was always someone else’s fault, they didn’t get enough training, and the traffic was always terrible. The client looked at me with this hang dog look, like I had just burst his balloon. I commented “Do you know this one is a no?” He said “Yes. But I don’t want to know that it’s a no. I want a new employee!” This is the absolute most difficult part of the interview process. You are tired, you need help and you want this person to work out SO bad! But as another client of mine said, “When you shorten this process, you pay the piper.’ And he’s right. The price is an employee who you knew from the start would not work out. Then you have to go through the pain of firing and hiring all over again.

I encourage you to listen to yourself and the language of your potential new hires. You know when it’s a no. Wait until you know it’s a yes.

Rejection is Protection

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rejectionRejection comes so often as business owners. We are often told people are not interested in our products and services. Typically we shrug it off and begin the pursuit of someone else who may really need our offerings. Yet, when we are in a position to offer a new employment opportunity, we are shocked when we receive a no thank you from a candidate.

For example, I was so excited for one of my clients last week when we extended an offer to a candidate. I was equally excited for another client when we invited a different candidate back for a third interview! Both candidates declined which tossed both of my clients into a bit of depression. Imagine how disheartening it was for them both to be so excited about a potential new hire only to have the candidate demonstrate that they are not excited about the position.

Many of my business clients are stressed out, overworked, tired and sometimes completely panicked as they are hiring for a new or vacant position. My best advice is that Rejection is Protection and actually something to be very excited about. If someone does not want to work for you and they tell you that BEFORE you hire them, you win! You are protected from poor quality work, absenteeism, and unsatisfied clients, because when someone LOVES their job, they perform. They give it their all, and both of you are happy.

So, when you feel like you have been punched in the gut after a candidate rejections your position, learn to be grateful. Turn that negative into a positive. Turn lemons into lemonade and get ready to serve that lemonade to your new A-list candidate who is walking your way right this minute.

Cry, Pull Your Hair Out, Laugh… Repeat

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StressLast week, I placed a great employee in the right job with a great company, and everyone is really excited. We all remember those moments in the interview process when we wanted to pull our hair out. You have candidates that just don’t show up. You have the candidate that looks right at you and says “WOW! I don’t like doing that type of work.” (True story) You have the potential employee who shows up late with no apology or excuse and then proceeds to interrupt you for the entire interview. UGH! I have had days where I just wanted to bang my head against the interview table over and over… and over again.

And then? When you least expect it, when you think that you will NEVER find the right person EVER…Your dream candidate walks through the door. They are on time, bring extra copies of resumes, references, and homework. They’ve done their research. They ask great questions and bring solutions, and then they end the interview by telling you that this is their dream job. They make it through the entire process and they love the offer.

And the kicker? They can start on Monday.

Every single time I begin an interview process I know that I am in for a roller coaster ride. I am going to laugh, cry, pull my hair out, bang my head on the table, but then… I am going laugh, because I’m so happy for my clients and the candidate that they have found. I feel proud, because we got through the process and it is the right fit for all. Then, I am going to shed a little tear, because the job is over. It is time for me to leave and go work with others, and the process starts all over again. Sniff!


The Boss is ALWAYS the last to know

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QuitMany people may not be aware that before I became an interviewing specialist, I owned and managed a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. When I owned the restaurant, I hired a manager who committed several crimes right under my nose. I really had no idea how bad it was until my 2 best managers at the time came to me to turn in their notice together. They sat us down and told us horror stories about what it was like to work at my place of business and ultimately mine and my family’s second home. We fired the manager effectively immediately. After the fired manager was gone, the complaints really started pouring in… My employees suddenly felt they could freely speak about this former employee. We had lost really good staff and continued to have turn over as a result of this incident. If it were not for the courage of our two managers, who at the time were ready to quit, I still would not have known.

I had heard complaints before from other staff members, but I didn’t really take them seriously. Looking back on it, I should have. So, why didn’t I? Because the complaints seemed so minor. “He didn’t do his side work right.” “He didn’t wipe down the counters.” “He makes me do his work for him, even though he pays me for it.” I simply thought people were just blowing off steam.

After we fired him, I asked my staff: ‘Why didn’t you tell me that he was stealing money/inventory/food?”  And the answer was always the same: “Beth, I tried to talk to you about this.”

The biggest complaints that I hear from my clients is that they wish their employees would be more forthcoming about problems in the business/department. But, the employees say, “If you don’t take my small problems seriously, how am I supposed to talk to you about the big stuff?” In other words, those early, seemingly minor, complaints are opportunities for employees to see how you handle the little stuff. They are trying to figure out if you will hear them with the big stuff. They will talk to you about the tip of the iceberg as a way to begin the conversation about the bottom of the iceberg.

Your job as the boss is to take complaints very seriously, even the smallest of them. Usually, if you have an employee who is willing to come talk to you, the problem is bigger than they indicate. Use this opportunity to really look at the work environment that you are providing and make sure it is operating the way that you intend. Don’t ignore it, or you will be “the last to know”. 

Harley in a Fish Bowl continued…

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In my last newsletter, I shared with you the story of the fish that my daughter “fish napped” from a science experiment and nursed the fish, Harley, back to life. Here is the REST of the story…

Light FishLast week, Randy and I went to parent/teacher conferences and met with Katy’s science teacher. He began by asking if we had any questions that we specifically wanted to address, and I asked him if he was aware that Katy had stolen the fish from the science experiment. He laughed and said no. He thought that the fish had died and that someone had just thrown him away. I told him the story of Harley and how Katy had nursed him back to life, and I asked him if she was going to fail her experiment.

He said “Absolutely not! The goal is to learn how to collect data every day in a scientific experiment that the kids set up themselves.” Then, he smirked and said “That story is AWESOME.”

I am asked all the time by my clients about how to encourage their employees to be more creative and innovative, and you do that by letting your employees try new ways of doing things, even if the outcome isn’t what you wanted. Mr. Leary is a wonderful example of a teacher who allows innovation and creativity in his classroom. He is flexible enough to let outcomes unfold without micro managing the process. In fact, he is thrilled to encourage passionate displays.

Katy’s science teacher is the epitome of a great leader, and we can all learn something from him: innovation comes from trying new things, and sometimes, that means failing. We learn from both trying AND failing. And, in addition, Katy learned to stand up for something she believes in with the support of the adults around her. You can’t ASK for a greater experience than that.

Thanks, Mr. Leary!

P.S. Harley thanks you, too!

Harley in a Fish Bowl

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FishBowl_2gallon_70-8_zoomLast Friday I came home to a fish in a plastic cup on my kitchen counter. My daughter named him Harley.  She promptly went out and bought him a really nice bowl with beautiful blue rocks then filled the bowl with fresh water. I thought the fish was dead… really. He laid on the bottom for awhile and then he floated to the top. I tried to tell her that Harley was not going to make it – that he was dead in the water. She did not believe me and kept at it. She kept watching this half dead fish, trying to keep it living through pure will. We watched this fish for hours before he really began to swim around and attack the way-too-may- food pellets that we dropped in his new home. Two days later he is thriving – he looks like he is a brand new fish with a new lease on life.

A client called last week frustrated with his employee of almost 3 years… things were not getting done, balls were dropping and clients were not happy. I coached my client to sit down with his beloved employee and explain how he was feeling. Explain to your best employee ever that balls are getting dropped. Turns out, this really great employee needed fresh water and some attention. Remember, our employees are not us. They do not learn the job through osmosis; they learn it from their boss. And they continue to perform and perfect as a result of that leadership.

So, if you are feeling like your staff is half floating through their work, it is time for some attention. Show them that you are committed to their success by asking them how they are feeling about their work. Simply ask what you can do to help them enjoy their job better.  And you know what? It is shocking to me how easy it is to keep your employees engaged and happy with a committed boss who cares enough to ask “Do you need some fresh water?”

And Harley? Well it turns out that he was the subject of a science experiment in my daughter’s science class. She “fish-napped” him because she said he looked dead. I said “Won’t your teacher be mad that you stole the fish from the experiment?”

“Mom,” she said with an eye roll. “The class is called ‘Life Science’, emphasis on LIFE!”

Well said, kiddo. 

The Hiring Hangover

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tumblr_inline_mrkpyfH8o11qz4rgpLast week, I met with a new client who suffers from what I call “the Hiring Hangover”. He had just fired a long time employee and had to hire someone else quickly. The whole experience left a really bad taste in his mouth and he was having a hard time getting over it. He kept trying to change his policies and procedures to make sure that he did not get into the same position with a new employee that he had experienced in the past. In other words, he wanted to punish the new employee for the sins of the old employee. While it is completely understandable, it will not work. When you hire a person while “hungover”, you will make a bad hiring decision. You have to feel good about bringing a new person onboard. You have to be excited. 

So, how do you recover from a bad hire? 

  1. You take a deep breath. Do not hire too quickly. If you need immediate help, hire a temp. Jumping in to a situation with a new hire when you are not ready sets you both up for failure. 
  2. Create your ideal candidate list. Put your head in the clouds and dream BIG. And I mean really big, like roses and rainbows and unicorns. You cannot have what you want unless you know what it is and how to identify it. So until you are ready to write a list of what you want, then you are not ready for a new hire. 
  3. Be patient. Do not start the interview process until you feel excited again. 

Every manager has had a bad hire. It feels awful and firing someone should never feel good. So give yourself time to recover and breathe. Things will look better tomorrow. And your next amazing employee is right around the corner. I promise.


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handshakeThe end of the year is always a time of reflection for me. I like to look back and see the difference I have made in the lives of others and plan for how I will continue to bring value in the coming year. 2014 should be an exciting year, as my plan to publish a book about interviewing in a new era has taken shape and well on its way to being realized. During this process of publishing a book, I was given the rare opportunity to interview my clients to learn more about how I have assisted them with better hiring practices. Below is one such testimonial I received that brought tears of joy to my eyes. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I….

One of my clients, The Doss Heritage and Culture Center, hired me 2 years ago to find them an Executive Director. “Our Board had a very poor hiring record,” said James May, the Board President at the time of the hire. ”We floundered for a number of years. We would hire folks because they were local, and we’d sit down with them for a chat. This is not the best way to do business.”

“The whole experience with A-list Interviews was so different for us, in that we sat back and observed, and let the expert keep us on track. We made decisions very quickly. We now have a successful operation that runs seamlessly, and we are reaching goals that we never dreamed possible. “ 

Heather Castagna, the Executive Director, said “How has A-list changed our organization? I now have a cohesive team of people, and our budget has increased by $300,000 in the two years since I got here. Our attendance has doubled, our events have doubled. I now understand the importance of looking past experience and skills- I need to find the right fit and develop them. It has worked out fabulously!” 

What a great way to end 2013! 

Happy Holidays to all of our clients and here’s to a prosperous 2014! 

Yours in success, 


The Experience Trap

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BearTrap_01.jpga203455b-ef09-4c5a-be36-5fe7351fd23fLargeEvery client that I begin to work with wants a certain level of experience for the position that they want filled. They say, “Beth, they have to have 5 years experience. Not negotiable.” The problem with experience is that it is a mixed bag. According to the book Talent is Overrated, “…people with lots of experience were no better at their jobs than those with very little experience.” Are you shocked? The book goes on to say, “Researchers from the INSEAD business school in France and the US Naval Postgraduate School call the phenomenon ‘the experience trap’”. Their key finding is that while companies typically value experienced managers, rigorous study shows that, on average, ‘managers with experience did not produce high caliber results’”. 

So, if experience does not make for a good hire, what does? Basically, you are looking for 3 traits in good people: 

  1. Can they handle conflict resolution? Whether there is conflict with the boss or conflict with a team member, how does this person resolve it? Basically, if your employee needs to you to solve their problems for them, then that is what you will spend your time doing. It is called management. 
  2. Can they do the job? This sounds like experience, right? It is not. It is more about basic communication and team work. Do they want to help the customer? Do they take ownership of their work? Do they ask for help when they need it? These are the qualities of the employee who is self sufficient and motivated to get the job done. 
  3. Do they want the job? Are they passionate about the work they do? If so, then they do not mind the occasional drudgery of the job. They love to solve the problems of the position and motivates them to innovate. 

If you want to hire good people, do not get caught in the experience trap. Find the person who can solve conflict, has basic customer service skills and the passion for the job, then train, train, train. In the end you will then have to manage less. You will be so glad that you did!

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