Reference Checks: One of the Most Important Pieces to the Pre-hire Puzzle

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We have all heard the phrase, “past performance predicts future performance” and I feel the easiest way to gauge future performance is from relying heavily on reference feedback. Whether you are a recruiter, HR professional, hiring manager or simply conducting interviews for your organization, checking references on potential employees is a must. Below are some tips, pulled greatly from past experience, on how to get the most out of checking references:

 

  • If a candidate cannot provide a readily available list of references, this may be a red flag. Most understandably, candidates that are currently working are not going to list their current employer and shouldn’t be expected to. However, if someone is actively job seeking and interviewing, they should have a prepared list of contacts to provide you to ensure someone can vouch for their work ethic throughout the pre-hire process.
  • A thorough reference list will include a great amount of diversity in the contacts listed. For example, being able to provide more than one contact from past jobs, contacts from all past jobs, and different levels of employees they worked with in those jobs, including both former co-workers and supervisors, is hugely helpful. It is also important that the candidate has made these contacts aware they are listed as a reference on their behalf. Nothing is worse than catching someone completely unaware of the reason for your call!
  • Keep it professional–nothing personal and stick with facts.
  • Remember to start by verifying the information provided by the candidate and then move into questions related to their specific performance in the role and with the company (some examples below). Additionally, when interviewing a candidate for a specific role, be sure to dig a little deeper into how their past performance will relate to what they may eventually do within your organization.

o   Are the company names, dates of employment, and titles correct?

o   How was their overall performance in the specific role? (Does title listed and job duties provided mirror feedback coming from the reference?)

o   How did they treat both fellow employees and external customers?

o   Were they prompt and reliable with work product and in regards to meeting deadlines?

o   Did they adhere to office culture and standards: attendance, dress code, etc.?

o   Are there any concerns? (Concerns are not always negative and may be helpful in determining how to train and ensure immediate success in the new role.)

o   Are they eligible for rehire? (Or sometimes can be phrased as, “would you hire or work with them again?” depending on the relationship of the candidate to the contact).

  • If you do uncover negative feedback in a reference, it may not be a “deal breaker,” but not worth ignoring. In this case, ask the candidate for more reference contacts as it is worth researching further to see if the feedback has validity and is consistently received.

 

Candidates that have done the necessary due diligence in providing prompt, thorough, and detailed reference information will undoubtedly be heavily considered for any job!

Written by: Rebecca Faulk

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You’ve Graduated from College: Now What?

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If you are reading this before you have already graduated, we need to back up a little bit and look at what you should be doing to better your chances while going to college.  One of the best ways to help you determine what you want to do post-graduation and help you land a job is to get an internship or co-op with a company or organization in your field of study during your college years.  This will help confirm or deter you from what you want to do, while giving you valuable work experience to start building your resume.

Next, you want to utilize your school’s career center.  Not only can they help you network with companies, they can get you in touch with alumni and even get you involved with mock interviews for practice. They can also help you build your resume and format it (keep it to one page).   Almost all colleges and universities today have career fairs (fall semester and spring semester).  GO TO ALL OF THEM!  You will network with HR and hiring managers of companies, learn about companies, and sharpen your skills when speaking with decision makers.  You may get opportunities to move onto an interview with one or more companies and potentially have an offer in hand prior to graduation.  A lot of the companies also look for candidates for their internship programs so just another way to get your foot in the door.

If you don’t have a job offer after graduation and don’t want to live in your parent’s basement, you have to go get a job!  Create your resume and build your LinkedIn profile.  Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are very professional and mirror each other without discrepancies (we have tips on this blog on how to create both).  Another very important rule is to make sure you “Google” your name and see what comes up on the internet.  Trust me that this is the first thing most hiring managers do now.  Also, clean up and delete any pictures or posts on your Facebook / social media accounts that are inappropriate.  As a recruiter, I have seen numerous times where candidates who were more than qualified for an opportunity were turned down because of what showed up their social media pages. It’s time to grow up and get ready for the professional world.

While you apply to jobs on job boards or directly on company websites, do not forget that your network of professionals is just as good, if not a better way to land your new job.  Building your network and meeting decision makers in your field is still one of the best ways to land your next opportunity.  I have seen where candidates have found an opportunity with a company due to their network who had never “officially” posted a role, but rather “created” a position for someone they just could not pass up.

Now a company gets in touch with you to move you on to the interview stage: what’s next?  Make sure you invest in professional interviewing attire to dress the part.  Also, I cannot stress enough: GO TO ALL INTERVIEWS!  Even if you don’t think it may be the best opportunity or your dream job, there are a few reasons you want to take the interview.  Interviewing is a skill all on its own and the more you do it, the better and more confident you will get at it.  You may have thought you would not be interested in the role and then after learning more about the opportunity, it may actually be a great one.  Also, you have just met some new decision makers to add to your network.  Don’t forget to get contact information from them so you can send them a thank you note.

To sum it all up for getting that first job out of college:

  • Get an internship or co-op during college relative to your field of study
  • Go to all job fairs and utilize career services at your university or college
  • Update your LinkedIn profile and resume
  • Review, update, and edit all social media sites to make them professional
  • Utilize and build your network
  • Go to all interviews with companies and dress the part for the opportunity

Written by: Zandr Tesolowski

 

How to Help Newly Hired Employees Hit the Ground Running!

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You’ve put an incredible amount of effort into hiring the right match for your position, your offer was accepted, and now you’re anxious to see the results.  Your work is done, right?  Not quite!  A few easy tips for helping your newly hired employee get off to the right start:

  1. Give them a warm welcome! Whether or not you provide a formal orientation, introduce them around so that coworkers will know who they are and where they are working. Allow some time for interaction via the water cooler or a personal introduction.  Give them information about customs that may be unique to your firm.  Have someone invite them to lunch the first day if possible.
  2. Make sure the newly hired employee feels you are ready for them. Are business cards in? Is the computer set up? Do they have office supplies?  Little things matter.
  3. Be wise in choosing the trainer. Like most small businesses, if you don’t have a formal training program, be cautious not to assume that the employee with the most expertise is also the best trainer. Often, you will want to involve multiple people in the process so that the newly hired employee understands how their role fits into the organization.  For example, sales professionals should spend time with customer service or technical support professionals so that they understand the customer.  Also, be aware that people have different learning styles—some need to “do” rather than just hear or see.
  4. Set clear expectations. This is your chance to start with a clean slate.  Let the new hire know what is expected of them and how they will be measured.  Let them know how often you will meet with them and how to have questions answered.
  5. Put their success in the hands of the entire team. When the team feels it is in their best interest for a newly hired employee to be successful, they are more likely to support them and give the newly hired employee the best possible chance for success.

 

Written by: Julie Godshall Brown

Julie is the president and owner of Godshall Professional Recruiting and Staffing. She has been with her family business full time since 1995 and remained as president and owner when her parents retired in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Clemson University and a Master of Personnel and Employee Relations from the University of South Carolina. In addition to leading her firm and several industry related organizations, she is a very active community volunteer who has made an impact on the future of the Upstate.

How to Market Yourself for a Job When You are Overqualified

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Here’s the scenario: You see an interesting job posting online. You think to yourself, “I have this experience, and I could be great in this role.” You’re considering applying for the position, but then you pause and reflect, “Wait, what will they think? I did this two steps back in my career. I’m overqualified!”

Believe it or not, this is a common dilemma for many job seekers. Talented individuals go through many stages in their careers, and at times, they find value in taking one or multiple steps back. People consider this scenario for a variety of reasons. This post is not designed to answer the question why, but instead to provide direction on the question: how does someone who’s overqualified garner strong consideration from hiring managers?

 

First, it’s important to understand why a company would shy away from overqualified candidates. There are many potential reasons, but I’ve listed a few commons thoughts below.

  • The person is too far removed from doing the hands on work required for the role.
  • This is a temporary step back for the person applying and as soon as an opportunity at their level emerges, they will leave.
  • There’s no way this person would be willing to take direction to do a job they used to supervise. They’ll feel the role is beneath them.
  • They won’t be willing to learn how to do the job “our way” because they’ll insist that their process is superior.

These are just examples of thoughts going through a hiring manager’s head. None of these assumptions may apply to you, but they exist nonetheless. Your goal should be to justify your motivation and interest in the role and, to the best of your ability, persuade them that you are the best person for the job.

 

A few things that may help you in your mission:

  • Instead of a traditional resume format, consider one that bullets your skills. You’ll want to list your places of previous employment as well as titles, of course, but lead with your skills. Focus primarily on the skills that the job posting requires and how you succeeded in those areas.
  • In your bullet points, be sure to highlight your unique accomplishments and provide some quantifiable details related to those accomplishments. Example: As an accounts receivable clerk with ABC Company, I successfully reduced our 90 day accounts by 80% within a 6-month period bringing over 75 customers into current status.
  • Use your objective to communicate a viable message to the company as to why you are looking to make this change in your career and why it would benefit them to consider you. Be brief but honest. Do your best to dispel their concerns about your motivation.
  • Utilize your network. There is nothing more powerful than a referral. Think about how many times you’ve asked friends, family, and co-workers to recommend a store, service, product, etc. People like helping other people. If you know someone associated with the company you’re applying to, ask them to put in a good word for you. You can deliver a message in a resume all day long, but having a neutral party speak on your behalf can speak volumes.

In summary, being overqualified does not mean you are not the perfect fit for the role. What it may mean is that you need to take additional steps to help that hiring manager understand why they would be doing themselves a disservice to not call you.

Written by: John Riddle

John joined the Godshall team, having previously spent 9 years in sales and management as well as 4 years in recruiting. After earning his Bachelor of Business Administration from James Madison University, John spent the last 13 years working and living in Washington, D.C. He most recently managed a recruiting team in the D.C. office for SPARKS primarily supporting HR and administrative roles. John is a member of the professional team at Godshall and recruits for administrative, accounting, legal, Banking, and HR.  A recent transplant to Greenville, John moved here with his wife and two sons. His wife, Laura, is a native of Greenville and Wofford College graduate.