September 2010

Are You a Firefighter or a Forest Ranger?

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“Putting out fires” has become a rather popular expression. When you hear it, you know that someone has been dealing with a series of little emergencies that distracted him/her from whatever was planned for the day. Those little fires threaten to become roaring infernos unless we take immediate action.

This topic came up in a recent session with Beth, one of my clients, who all too frequently found herself putting out fires. I suggested that her current job title was firefighter and asked her, “What would happen if you instead became a forest ranger?” I had her imagine what it would be like to have a tall tower that overlooked her business, just like one in the forest.

There’s nothing relaxing about fighting a fire…you’re on full alert with adrenaline pumping through your system. For firefighters, that’s part of the job. Although they’ve been trained to minimize the dangers, risk is unavoidable. Forest rangers are also well trained to fight fires, but it’s not their primary focus. Their actions are designed to keep the forest safe from fires through education, watchfulness, and, when necessary, intervention.

As Beth discovered, there are firefighters and forest rangers in the staffing business, too. The difference is that staffing and recruiting professionals don’t typically don’t sign up for those jobs. Beth realized that she was spending far too much time playing firefighter. As a result, she was feeling stressed and overworked.

By changing her title from firefighter to forest ranger, Beth became proactive rather than reactive. She gained a sense of control and mastery and was able to handle the occasional brush fire calmly and quickly. How did she do it? She viewed her job from a higher vantage point, just as the ranger oversees the forest from a tall tower. She also adopted the forest ranger’s job description:

1. Maintain excellent physical and mental condition

If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be effective in anything you do. Being rested, alert, and ready for action are essential if you’re going to prevent business blazes.

2. Educate others about fire prevention

You can’t prevent all fires on your own. By letting others know of the dangers and giving them ways to help, you’ll multiply your effectiveness. Set up a simple system of guidelines for others to follow.

A typical staffing fire is client dissatisfaction within days or weeks of a contract or full-time employee starting a job. By creating and teaching a client follow-up system, such as placing quality assurance calls at the end of the first day, first week, and then each week thereafter, you and your colleagues will be better positioned to spot problems before they turn into major hot spots. Your attentiveness can lead to more business opportunities, as well.

3. Ensure compliance with safety regulations

No matter how much information you provide, there will be people who inadvertently start fires because they don’t follow the guidelines. When that happens, you’ll have to remind them what’s at stake.

In temporary and contract staffing, a common fire is ignited when staffers do not turn in timesheets when they’re due. By implementing a step-by-step policy for staffers and contacting them immediately when they don’t follow through, you can keep a minor annoyance from becoming a big problem.

4. Patrol the area

Awareness is the most important aspect of your job as forest ranger. Keep your eyes and ears open so that you can act before a problem gets out of hand.

Beth used this idea to ensure that clients were being contacted on a regular basis to avoid missing opportunities to be of service. By using her company’s contact management system to run a report twice each month, she could easily “patrol” which clients were being overlooked and then take immediate action to correct this oversight.

5. Monitor dangerous conditions

When conditions are favorable for spontaneous fires, it’s time to be especially watchful. Keep an eye on any volatile situations and be prepared to act, if necessary.

Believe it or not, one of the most dangerous times in our business occurs when times are good. When orders are plentiful, it is common for people in sales roles to neglect regular, consistent business development activities. The fire breaks out when the current orders have been filled and there is little or nothing to follow in the pipeline. By ensuring that marketing activities are being done on a daily basis, this common fire can become a thing of the past.

6. Extinguish smaller fires

If you’ve been monitoring your area, you’re likely to spot small fires quickly so you can put them out before they create much damage.

Examples of smaller fires in staffing and recruiting can include a client being a few days late with a payment, a candidate not providing references when promised, or an internal staff member not documenting information at the end of a conversation. By dealing with these issues the moment they come up, you lessen the likelihood that they will grow into an inferno that is difficult, if not impossible, to control.

7. Serve as crew chief for larger fires

Have a plan in place for the unlikely event of a fire that, despite your steps to prevent it, grows out of control. Yours may be the only voice of reason in a forest fire.

One of my favorite examples of such a plan comes from a staffing firm in Texas. The owner of company has created an emergency response committee composed of one representative from each department. The committee convenes the moment a major issue comes up, such as when a client decided to go with a cheaper service. By convening quickly and responding immediately to the challenge, the committee came up with a presentation to show the client why it made sense to pay them more. Not only did they save the relationship, but the client has since doubled the amount of business they give to this firm because of the value they so clearly provide.

While rangers are the ultimate authority in the forest, they’re the first to point out that everyone has the ability to prevent fires. So whether your area of responsibility is an entire company or a single territory, you can do your part to keep things running smoothly. Instead of putting out one fire after another, find a place high enough to see the big picture and put a stop to little problems before they become major emergencies.

Scott WintripAre You a Firefighter or a Forest Ranger?
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StaffingU Market Demand Report – September 29, 2010

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In this update, we feature 20 job types that have shown a hiring increase during the past 60 days.  This growth in demand will translate into companies having a more difficult time finding these types of individuals.  As a result, staffing and recruiting firms are advised to actively market these types of candidates to their prospects and customers.

Actuaries – 13.8% increase (compared to the previous 60 days)

Chemical Engineers – 15.4%

Chemists – 3.6%

Community and Social Service Specialists – 6.9%

Computer Controlled Machine Operators – 20.0%

Computer Security Specialists – 12.9%

Computer Support Specialists – 4.0%

Construction Managers – 9.1%

Customer Service Reps – 14.2%

Dental Assistants – 6.7%

Graphic Designers – 1.0%

HR Specialists – 23.9%

Industrial Engineers – 6.0%

Inspectors and Testers – 16.4%

Occupational Therapists – 7.9%

Office Managers and Supervisors – 12.2%

Retail Salespersons – 3.9%

Shipping and Receiving Clerks – 31.0%

Stock Clerks (Warehouse) – 12.1%

Web Developers – 3.5%

Source:  WANTED Analytics and StaffingU Research

Scott WintripStaffingU Market Demand Report – September 29, 2010
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Expect Referrals

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The staffing and recruiting profession is blessed with a number of tools for finding and attracting quality candidates.  The Internet, social media, telephones, ads in newspapers and magazines, and job fairs are just some of the avenues available to connect us with people in today’s marketplace.  What all of these have in common is that they put you in touch with people who know other people.  As a result, you might think that most recruiters get lots of referrals.

In polling recruiters over the past few years, I was startled to discover that most indicated that they receive candidate referrals from the people they connect with less than 20% of the time.  When asked why, the majority of these recruiters indicated they simply do not ask for referrals as often as they could.

Getting referrals has been an integral part of our business since its inception. It is my belief that the main cause for not getting referrals is that many recruiters have simply gotten out of the consistent practice of asking. In all of the seminars I conducted this year, the overall consensus of each audience is that the problem lies in poor habits and not in people being unwilling to help.

If you have any doubts that asking for and receiving referrals is a natural part of our business, then check out the following five truths about referrals:

1.  It is human nature to help others.
Most people take pleasure in helping others.  The generous outpouring of support after the earthquake in Haiti or the simple act of opening a door for someone are just a few examples of our common compulsion to offer help.

2.  Everyone knows at least 250 people.
In his book, “How to Sell Anything to Anybody,” Joe Girard shows us that each person knows at least 250 people.  His proof: 250 or more people is the average attendance at weddings and funerals.

3.  Most people take great pride in who they know.
Name-dropping is common in conversations.  The key in referrals is to get people to drop names your way.

4.  You can get something, at least one thing, out of most conversations.
Referrals, leads on current openings, or information on a company that is downsizing are just a few tidbits you can gain from a dialogue.  Everyone you connect with knows something that could be helpful to you.

5.  Everyone is an expert at asking for referrals.
Whether it is a referral to a doctor or a tip on a good restaurant, requesting referrals is a normal part of everyday life.

Based upon these truths, the key to getting more referrals is to believe you deserve them and then ask for what you deserve.  An easy way to remember this is to “ask early and ask always.”  Ask each and every person you connect with a question such as “Who do you  recommend I speak with about this opportunity?”

For those of you who are asking, “Isn’t asking everyone I talk with being pushy,” that is a choice that you can make.  You can be a pushy recruiter who does not take no for answer.  Or you can ask each person you speak with for what you need in a very nice way.  Whoever coined the phrase “it doesn’t hurt to ask” rings true when asking for referrals.

My challenge to you is to start asking for referrals from everyone.  Just like the muscles in our arms and legs, your referral muscle will get stronger and work more effortlessly the more you use it.

Scott WintripExpect Referrals
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Staging Great Interviews – Eight Ideas for Improving Candidate Success

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I often hear recruiters and staffing coordinators refer to their different hats. These hats represent the different duties they perform as part of their jobs. Included are the detective hat (when locating qualified talent), the sales hat (to attract qualified people to great jobs and assignments), and the ever-popular social worker hat (when trying to address or resolve candidate problems).

One other key “cap” worn by professional recruiters is that of teacher. The responsibilities that come with this one include instructing candidates as to how to improve resumes, giving advice to temps for keeping their skills fresh, and informing consultants about market conditions. In the current market, one of the most important teaching jobs for recruiters involves supporting candidates in having great interviews.

Over the years, I have been hearing an increasing number of comments from various hiring managers across North America about how poorly candidates have been conducting themselves during interviews. Randall, a manager in Rhode Island, recently shared this: “I have met at least eight very qualified individuals in interviews over the past few months. These candidates were being considered for several different full-time positions and were presented by three different firms. I didn’t hire a single one because each did so poorly in the interview. It was clear to me that the firms did little or nothing to help these people in preparing for their meetings with me and my staff.”

Many people in a hiring capacity have echoed Randall’s comments. Dianne, who hires over 100 temporary and contract staff each year in California, made the most intriguing comment of all. “It is often hard to tell the staffing and recruiting firms apart. Those that are truly distinguishing themselves are the ones that are clearly taking the time to make sure their candidates are prepared for their interviews. I am hiring more of their people compared to everyone else.” Dianne’s comment is what prompted the idea for this article.

In almost every TeleClass and on-site program I lead, participants ask for advice about ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. All we need to do is listen to those who, like Dianne, are buying staffing and recruiting services to hear the answers. Then it is up to us to change or improve our habits and techniques.

My challenge to you is to do something to improve your methods for preparing candidates, consultants, and applicants for their interviews. If you are not preparing them at all, now is a great time to start. If this is already a regular practice, do an upgrade and make your process even better.

Based upon the feedback of the hiring managers interviewed for this article, here are eight ideas to help you get started:

1. Be prepared, not surprised
Randall indicated that he is often surprised at how unprepared many people are for some of the most typical interview questions. Take the time to give your candidates sample questions to help them prepare prior to the interview. These could include common ones, such as: “Tell me about yourself;” “Why are you exploring a job change?”; and “What are your short and long-term goals?”

2. Avoid the political approach
Politicians are often accused of not answering a question completely. The same is also said of some people in interviews. Many hiring managers are not only looking for the answer to a question asked, but are also using this to assess the listening skills of candidates. With this in mind, coach those you prepare for interviews to pay careful attention to what the interviewer says and what is being asked.

3. Great questions can land you the job
Dianne shared, “I have hired more than one person because of the thoughtfulness of the questions they asked me. I think one of my all-time favorites is, ‘What could I show or tell you right now that would convince you that I am the one for the job?’ I never told him this, but at that moment the job was his—and he still works in my department six years later.” Encourage your candidates to create a list of 10 or more provocative questions they would like answered during the interview.

4. You do your job, and I’ll do mine
Every manager who shared his/her thoughts on interviewing agreed upon the importance of candidates not asking “what can you for me” questions, especially in the first interview. These include questions regarding salary, benefits, bonuses, and vacation time. Remind your candidates or applicants that you are the negotiator and will handle all of these details for them.

5. It’s what you know to avoid a NO
One of Randall’s pet peeves, and he’s not alone on this one, is that some candidates know little or nothing about his company. Help each person to learn as much as possible about the company where he/she is interviewing. This includes providing details about the job or assignment, the organizational structure, and the products or services delivered by the company. Make sure to pass along the company’s web site, if there is one.

6. Being “suited” for the position
Most of the managers interviewed for this article indicated that the attire of individuals attending interviews could use some attention. Their preference was that candidates be dressed in business attire for interviews, regardless of the level of the position. For men, this included a pressed shirt and tie or, even better, a suit. For women, the recommended attire included a business suit or dress in a conservative color.

7. The early bird gets the job
Promptness was another issue mentioned by the hiring managers. Being on time is no longer the standard. Managers are taking special note when candidates arrive early for the interview. Arriving ten to fifteen minutes early sends a message of strong interest and professionalism.

8. Say NO to negative remarks
Negative comments leave a negative impression, even when those comments are accurate. Dianne was recently ready to hire an individual until, at the end of the interview, he made disparaging remarks about his previous employer. Encourage your candidates always to avoid making any negative comments about current or previous employers, managers, or co-workers. Dianne suggests, “Remember what mama taught you—if you can’t say anything nice, it’s better to say nothing at all!”

Through some planning and deliberate effort in preparing your candidates for interviews, you have an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competitors. At the same time, you’ll be positively impacting each individual’s ability to improve his or her career, get back to work, or transition from a bad employment situation to a better one. I can’t think of a more winning scenario!

Scott WintripStaging Great Interviews – Eight Ideas for Improving Candidate Success
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Hot Spots – The StaffingU Market Demand Report

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Hot Spots features 10 types of candidates most in demand and where it’s occurring.  Also included is how much this exceeds normal hiring patterns.

Employers in the markets listed below will need your help since the demand for this talent will outpace available supply.

HOT SPOTS – September 22, 2010

Atlanta, GA
Accountants – 1.2 (times normal demand)

Columbia, SC
Sales Reps (Services) – 1.3

Louisville, KY
Tellers – 1.4

Milwaukee, WI
Computer Hardware Engineers – 1.9

Orlando, FL
Advertising and Promotions Managers – 1.4

Phoenix, AZ
Office Managers and Supervisors – 1.4

Sacramento, CA
Customer Service Reps – 1.2

Salt Lake City, UT
Medical Assistants – 1.4

San Antonio, TX
Industrial Engineers – 1.3

Syracuse, NY
Occupational Therapy Assistants – 2.6

Source:  WANTED Analytics and StaffingU Research

Scott WintripHot Spots – The StaffingU Market Demand Report
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Change is Inevitable

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The past decade was an incredible time of change, not all of it positive. I’m confident most of us would have chosen different changes or circumstances instead of two recessions, two wars, multiple natural disasters, and terrorist attacks across the globe.

None of us has the ultimate power to change global events. We can, however, make changes in our businesses to make these our best years ever.

So, here are a few changes I suggest you make right away:

1. Start quoting higher rates or fees, even if it’s just a little bit more.  Some people may just say yes. You can always negotiate down from there, knowing you did not leave any money on the table.
2. Hold yourself, your colleagues, and your team to a higher standard.  For example, the biggest money earners in our business spend at least half of their day reaching out to clients and candidates through conversations and messages.   Yet, more than 70 percent of people in our business spend less than two hours daily in these activities.  Step it up!  Make more calls.  Visit more clients.  Spend more time with your best candidates.
3. Stop booking bad business and don’t waste time with unqualified and unwilling candidates.  This starts with taking better, more thoroughly vetted orders and digging deeper in candidate interviews.

Decide today which of these and other changes you will make this year and next.  Then, take a few minutes each week to monitor the progress.

“Change is inevitable―except from a vending machine.” – Robert C. Gallagher

Scott WintripChange is Inevitable
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Radical Action, Remarkable Results

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Have you ever noticed that often it’s the big things that get most people’s attention…and that these big things often prompt important changes? Take, for example, the dramatic improvements to air safety following September 11th or the massive power outages in parts of Canada and the United States that prompted improvements to the power grid.

The good news is that we do not have to wait for calamity or strife, such as the examples above, in order to create positive change. We have the choice at any time to take radical actions that we believe could create remarkable results.

Here are some radical actions taken by some of your peers in the industry:

Radical Action — A recruiting firm in Texas suspended doing business with twelve clients that were unresponsive, slow to pay, difficult to deal with, and in some cases, all of those things.

Remarkable Results — Within three months, five new clients were acquired. Business from these new clients more than made up for the revenue lost from the twelve that were let go. In addition, two of the clients that were “laid off” once again became clients after resolving the issues that prompted the layoff in the first place.

Radical Action — A Wisconsin-based staffing company decided to significantly raise its standards when selecting and hiring for the pool of temp and contract team members. More emphasis was placed on acquiring quality referred candidates over those generated by ads or via the Internet. During interviews, each person was more carefully screened and then followed up with thorough reference and background checks.

Remarkable Results — Seven months later, company revenues doubled. Expenses actually went down as a result of reduced turnover among temp and contract staff. Repeat business skyrocketed as clients came to see the extreme value provided by this service. Both candidate and client referrals increased, allowing the firm to eliminate some advertising expenses that were no longer necessary.

Radical Action — In California, a firm decided to take a huge, radical risk. Although money was tight, five new staff members were added to the internal staff in one month’s time. The goal in hiring these individuals was to create a stronger presence in the market in order to increase the flow of business and candidates.

Remarkable Results — Three exclusive contracts were acquired within a few months. Just one month of revenues from these deals was enough to cover an entire year of the costs associated with the five new internal staff members. The flow of business and candidates was such that two additional members had to be hired.

Although each radical action taken by these firms was different, they all have one thing in common. Instead of waiting for a huge problem or issue to prompt change, the people in these firms took the bull by the horns and decided to shake things up for the good of the company. And in each case, a little bit of shaking created a whole lot of positive results.

Now, are you ready to get radical?

Scott WintripRadical Action, Remarkable Results
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Hot Spots – The StaffingU Market Demand Report

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Hot Spots features 10 types of candidates most in demand and where it’s occurring.  Also included is how much this exceeds normal hiring patterns.

Employers in the markets listed below will need your help since the demand for this talent will outpace available supply.

HOT SPOTS – September 8, 2010

Boston, MA
Public Relations Specialists – 1.4 (times normal demand)

Chicago, IL
Accountants – 1.5

Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX
RN’s – 1.5

Denver, CO
Network Systems Analyst – 1.4

Greensboro-High Point, NC
Production Managers – 1.2

Los Angeles, CA
Aerospace Engineers – 1.9

Miami, FL
Advertising Managers – 1.5

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Machinists – 1.4

Nashville, TN
Administrative Assistants – 1.2

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
Occupational Therapy Assistants – 2.6

Source:  WANTED Analytics and StaffingU Research

Scott WintripHot Spots – The StaffingU Market Demand Report
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