Hiring in a Tight Labor Market

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person-1205140_1920_fearYou would think that having a 3.2% unemployment rate would be cause for celebration, and it is. Times are good, and there are lots of jobs out there. So, why is it that my clients are afraid they will be unable to find great employees?

Lately, I have received several calls from people who are afraid of the tight labor market. “Where am I going to find good people?” they comment. “What if I can’t find who I need? The work is overflowing. I need good people!” I hear consistently. The funny thing is that these are the same comments that I heard in 2008 when the job market tanked.

Are you surprised?

It seems that my clients worry about finding the right employee when they have 1000 resumes for one position or 30. They fear that the right person will chose the next company to work for whether they have interviewed 50 candidates or 5.

Here is what I tell them: There are more people on this earth now than ever before. We have 7 BILLION people on this planet, and you need 1. The articles that talk about a shortage of candidates is short sighted and fear based, and I don’t want you to read them anymore. Don’t buy into the fear, because when you do, you make horrible hiring decisions.

Your job now is to stay focused on your search, and the 7 steps to Hiring your A-list Candidate: 1) Create your Ideal Candidate List. 2)  Write your amazing job description. 3) Write your job ad leading with the mission statement. 4) Review resumes 5) Interview #1 6) Interview #2 7) Interview # 3.

Hiring in a tight labor market is the same as hiring in a loose one: Hold out for the right fit. Period.

The Squatter, the Swinger and the Thrower

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My daughter Katy recently attended a baseball game with a group of friends. One of the pitches hit the catcher in the shoulder and bounced off. Katy cried out in alarm, “The squatty dude is hurt!”

Her friend Jorge looked at her in alarm, exclaiming, “Oh Katy!” and threw his head in his hands. He sat up with a deep sigh, and said “What is the squatty dude called?”

old baseball card-316984_1280“Uhh… I don’t know.”

“The Catcher. What is the guy called who is holding the ball?”

“Uhhh… the thrower?”

“He is called the pitcher, because all players throw.”

“Ohhh!” Katy said.

By this point, all of her friends gathered around for Katy’s education. Another friend asked “What is the name of the guy with the bat?”

“Well, he’s the swinger, of course!”

Welcome to spring training! This is what your new employee feels like on their first day of work. Even if they had experience in their particular role in the past, they don’t know your company’s culture and they don’t know some of the terminology and language that your people use. What’s more, they don’t know the “inside jokes” that come from day-to-day interactions with coworkers and special events with the organization; the new employee barely knows where the bathroom is!

Training a new employee is much more than just showing someone where the files are saved and how to process reports. It’s an opportunity to welcome a new person into the fold and show them the best of your organization: to demonstrate the knowledge and experience of your team members and to showcase the bond that those people have when they’re interacting with each other and doing their jobs.

Bless Katy’s friends for filling her in on terms that she didn’t know. Yes, they laughed at her, but she laughed right along with them. They formed a bond with each other because her friends took the time to train her!

And when Jorge asked her “Do you know who the Kansas City Royals are?” she replied (in true Katy fashion), “Of course! They are the baseball team that won the… uhh… really, big game…”

Jorge has his work cut out for him…

Why my 92-year-old grandmother surpasses most candidates

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pancake smile-961734_1920Last month I flew back to Texas to celebrate my grandmother’s 92nd birthday with the whole family. We had a blast! My favorite part of the weekend was the serendipitous hour-long conversation that she and I shared at breakfast.

My grandmother made her famous pancakes and little sausages on Saturday morning. My family eagerly poured into seats around her kitchen table to enjoy the best pancakes in the world. As luck would have it, I slept a little late and was the last one at the table. She sat down with a cup of coffee and we had one of the best conversations we have ever had.

She is articulate, smart, witty and resourceful. She texts friends and family from her iPhone, she is active on Facebook, and she could write a textbook on how to respond to anyone in a sticky situation. She walks every morning and volunteers with her church. She lives by herself, cooks lunch for several of her children most days of the week and drives herself to the grocery store to shop.

At age 92, she remains relevant. I am lucky to have her in my life.

Virginia Ann (“V.A.”) Rawlins Littleton is a class act, possesses excellent customer service skills and knows how to give advice in a way that is easy to accept. If she were a candidate I was interviewing for a position, I’d hire her in a heartbeat.

The next time you begin a job search, please keep in mind that age means nothing when you are looking for the right candidate. There is ALWAYS an exception to every stereotype out there, and V.A. Littleton is not only that exception… but simply, and in all ways, exceptional.

Harley in a Fish Bowl 2.0

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A few years ago, my daughter came home with Harley, a fish that she saved from certain death in her science class experiment. Reviewing the saga of Harley in a Fish Bowl and Harley in a Fish Bowl continued gave me a great reminder about the power of investing in your employees.  I am sad to report that Harley is now swimming in the fish bowl in the sky after a long, productive life at the Smith house… May he rest in peace.

betta-fun-factsAfter the fish bowl was thoroughly drained and cleaned, it sat on our kitchen counter for a few weeks. Finally, I said, “Let’s get rid of the fish bowl. There is no reason to have it without a fish in it.” My family’s response was noncommittal, so the fish bowl continued to sit on the kitchen counter. I tried again asking, “Should we move the fish bowl?” Still no response. Then, recently out of the blue, Randy says to Katy, “Let’s go get a fish.” She screamed “YES!” and they scurried out of the house. One hour later, we had Coby, short for cobalt, a blue betta who is now swimming in the fish bowl on the counter.

All too often, we may need to quickly remove an employee. We tell ourselves that we HAVE to have that desk filled ASAP, and we frantically start looking for a butt for that seat. This can (and often does) lead to poor hiring decisions. To find the A-list employee that is ideal for the position, there must be space between the old employee that left and the new one that is coming in; the fish bowl must remain empty for a period of time. Don’t rush into anything new until you are ready. Take the time to contemplate and explore the options: Maybe you don’t need that position any more, or maybe that position should morph into something else. Or maybe, just maybe, it is time to hire the absolute BEST employee EVER! When you give it space and time, you and your team get the opportunity to review the job description, determine the ideal candidate… and only THEN begin to search for the next employee.

This newsletter is dedicated to Harley, who provided hours of entertainment and fodder for my most read blogs. RIP Harley!

Why Your BAD Hires are GOOD for You

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One of my long standing, most beloved clients called wanting to meet with me to discuss some potential new hires for her company. I had not heard from her in several months, so I was grateful to hear her voice. Over chips and salsa, the conversation started like this:

woman frustrated office cropped-899357_1920“Do you remember that woman that you interviewed for me 4 months ago?” she said.

“Vaguely,” I said.

“You told me not to hire her,” she replied.

“Ummm… okay,” I replied, thoroughly confused. If I remembered correctly, the candidate had not been a cultural fit for the rest of her team. I wasn’t a part of the actual hiring process for this individual and had instead been invited into evaluate her top three candidate selections.

“Another consultant told me to hire her, so I did.” My client sighed deeply, threw her head in her hands and wailed “I am in HELL!” She promptly ordered a margarita and began to tell me the horror stories related to her bad hire.

First of all, I have such empathy for this woman. There is nothing worse than making a bad hiring decision and then have to watch how it effects the rest of your organization. From employee morale to bottom line results, a bad hire creates turmoil that feels very much like a slap in the face every time you go to work.

Second of all, my best advice to her was be kind to herself and remind her that some lessons need to be learned despite other people’s insights and experiences. Remember: interviewing and hiring is a skill set and any new skill takes time to learn. You don’t just wake up one day knowing how to staff your company. You have to practice, and that means making mistakes. A bad hire is a mistake, and just like any other mistake, learn from it, correct it and move on.


Do you want to see better? Take off your glasses!

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About 5 years ago, I had an injury to my eye, and the eye doctor said that I could never wear contacts again. What a shock! I wasn’t happy about it, but the diagnosis was very clear. I had no choice. I bought a pair of glasses that I really liked, and I never looked back. Then, at my annual eye exam last week, my doctor suggested contacts. I couldn’t believe it. Apparently, contacts have dramatically improved, and there was a healthy option for me to now use. I was ecstatic!

eyeglasses_medicalSo, imagine my surprise when I began wearing my new set of eyes, and I felt like something was missing. I would walk by a mirror and think “Who is THAT?” I noticed that I pushed my no-longer-existing glasses higher on my face several times a day and even poked myself in the eye. I smeared my mascara multiple times, and one time, I put my glasses on AFTER I put my contacts in. OOPS!

The adjustment period for me after I ditched my spectacles was at best unexpected, and at its worst, really uncomfortable. However, now that I am through the transition, I am loving life and seeing clearly!

In business, we often expect an adjustment period after an employee leaves. But honestly, the bigger adjustment happens when a new employee starts. Adding someone new to your team is a big change that can be awkward, even when you have hired the ideal A-list employee. The adjustment period not only affects you, but also the new employee, the other employees, clients and vendors. Now you may walk by their desk and think “Who is that?” or even poke yourself in the proverbial eye a few times while you all adjust, but as the employer it is your job to make that transition easier for all parties involved. Be patient with yourself and your team. As a result, you will all be able to see more clearly.

Grammar, Boys and Resumes

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grammar-390029_1920My daughter, Katy, received a text from a potential suitor that said “Your so pretty!” She showed me the text with a horrified look on her face and said “I’m sorry. If he doesn’t know the difference between your/you’re and to/two/too, then I am not interested!”

In my business, we receive hundreds of resumes for jobs per week and at least half of them have some sort of grammar and/or spelling error. Sometimes we interview them anyway because they have the experience that we are looking for, they wrote a “nice” cover letter or we decide to forgive that “one tiny mistake.” But here is the hard and fast truth: The easiest way to determine if the candidate is serious about the position is whether or not they took the extra 2 minutes to run spell check and proof their work. It really isn’t hard. It really doesn’t take much time. It really does make a difference.

So for those candidates that are continuously asking me for interviewing help, my best advice to get the interview is to please do a review of your materials before you send them. Better yet, have your neighbor, friend, significant other read your resume and cover letter, just for that extra set of eyes. And for my clients who ask, Yes! Grammar counts! Just ask my beloved teenage daughter!

P.S. May all boys within dating age of my daughter make grammatical errors like these. Amen.

Time To Clean House

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janitor-99814_1280Traditionally in January, people start thinking about cleaning house, both literally and figuratively. Articles pop up online about how to deep clean your dishwasher (is that a thing?!), how often to wash your comforter and, of course, a myriad of content about how to be a better self in the New Year. At our house, we are cleaning out closets, attacking dust mites with a vengeance, and even getting the carpets cleaned. We have replaced pillows, bought new rugs for the hallway, and scrubbed the floor tile until it shines! Personally, we want to clean out the old to make room for the new!

In addition, we are also helping companies’ clean house at work. Now is the time that we often hear from organizations who want to ramp up during the next few months and know that staffing will be critical. Along with replacing the last year’s files with this year’s in the filing cabinet, many companies also begin to hire for open and new positions. The downfall is that we often do not move into a new space with new tools. We read the article on deep cleaning the dishwasher, then fail to make the steps to actually clean it. We examine the people on our teams and clearly see improvements, yet we fail to move into action. This year, we encourage you to review your interview and hiring process. Revamp job descriptions and determine ideal profiles for your positions.

The power of refreshment is invigorating as we are often making space for something new. It just feels so good to clean up! Our mantra has always been that you can’t move forward until you clean up the past, and you can’t create something new until you make room for it.

Here’s to a cleaner, more streamlined 2016!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

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katy_bethOver the Thanksgiving holiday, my daughter and I were listening to the radio. A song came on that we both love. I began belting out the tune at the top of my lungs and sang along to the chorus of the Zac Brown Band song. I sang “Long Gone” along in perfect pitch (to me at least).  My kid laughed uproariously. “MOM”, she yelled, “Those aren’t the words!” I said, “Yes they are!” She giggled “No, really. It’s not ‘Long Gone’. It’s ‘Home Grown’!” She had to google it for me to believe her.

This misunderstanding happens in interviews for new employees all the time. Someone on the interview team will recount what the candidate said and someone else will have heard the words from the person completely differently. The very first step in the analysis of an interview for the hiring team is to agree to what the candidate actually said. The actual choice of words that they used are very important. For example, “My boss is really great to work with”. Did they really say “with”? Are you sure they didn’t say “My boss is really great to work ‘for'”? That simple word changes the entire meaning of the sentence as well as the intent of the comment. The word “with” denotes that the candidate doesn’t acknowledge their bosses’ authority, and if they don’t acknowledge it in the interview, they really won’t when they have direct deposit.

I talk about listening to the exact words all the time to my clients to ensure they get to hire someone who will fit with the company culture, leadership style and even the position itself. If you are not paying attention, you can miss something really important in an interview which can lead to a bad hire. You can also really embarrass yourself in front of your teenage daughter.

Your Strength Comes From the Struggle

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woman pushup

My personal trainer is Christine Neff, (a.k.a. Marquis de Sade). She has this wicked sense of humor as she gleefully kicks my butt all across the gym. I looked at her with this evil stare and she yells “Now there is that ‘I love you, Christine’ look!” Last week, she made me do push-ups. I hate push-ups! The reason that I hate push-ups is because I really struggle with them. They do not come easy to me. So, she says to me one day that the push up that I only ½ do is the very best one… Huh? “Your strength comes from the struggle,” she replied.

Finding the right person to hire is always a struggle, which is why my clients have difficulty with interviewing. You cannot just go online and place a special order for the right fit. You especially cannot get any deals or shortcuts when it comes to finding the right employee. You have to go through the 7 step interview process fully and completely, and yes, you may struggle. The person that you hire out of desperation, out of fear or out of panic will never work out for you. You have to complete the interview process in order to hire the brightest and the best; then when you finally do hire, it is SO satisfying!

When I met with Christine before Thanksgiving, I was able to finish 4½ whole push ups! The ½ push up was by far the hardest. But with arms shaking and sweating profusely, I struggled and I continue to get stronger.

Fist bump!

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