Category Archives: Hiring

5 Steps to a Recruiting Culture

How many times have you heard that your existing employees are your best source of hire for new employees? Back in my days as a corporate recruiter, I was told this all the time. I had grand goals in place for my teams to hire a minimum 30% from internal referrals. We crafted elaborate programs around employee referrals and offered big cash payouts (and free lunches) for when referrals got hired. We wrote great communication pieces and hung signs around physical office spaces advertising our programs, and… wait for it…

Wait for it…

cricket image credit: maadesigns / 123RF Stock Photo

cricket image credit: maadesigns / 123RF Stock Photo

OK… Maybe not crickets. We got a few hits, and a few great hires, but after the first few weeks, our employees forgot all about us back in the recruiting office.

And we had to figure out why it wasn’t working…

Bill Boorman, a well-known-in-our-space advisor to talent technology companies and founder of the global #tru recruiting unconferences, writes and speaks often about employee and social referrals. One of my favorite of Bill’s comments is that by the very point of calling it an employee referral “PROGRAM”, it is destined to fail. Programs, by definition, have a start and an end. They’re linear. They have rules. They’re a planned series of events. On the contrary, employee referrals should be spontaneous and unrestricted. And, most importantly to the future of recruiting for your organization, they should be ongoing.

amasterpics123 / 123RF Stock Photo

amasterpics123 / 123RF Stock Photo

So, how do you create a stream of ongoing employee referrals? Here’s a five-point strategy that has worked well with many of our clients.

  1. Hire the right employees who really fit your business. This may seem obvious, but it’s a really important place to start. If you want your existing employees to refer their networks to you, it’s best to be sure that they are the people you want working for you.
  2. Be a great place for them to work. Another obvious one, but again, a very important part of the strategy. Would you refer a friend to work for someplace you couldn’t stand working?
  3. Lose the fine print. Make it easy for employees to refer candidates. The easier it is, the more referrals you will get, especially if you make it clear that a referral does not equal a recommendation. It’s not your IT guy’s job to select talent. That’s the recruiter or hiring manager’s job. Don’t tie rewards to hires; tie them to referrals. And, the rewards don’t need to be huge cash payouts, in fact, lose those, too. Reward for referrals alone.
  4. Ensure a great candidate experience. If candidates referred by employees have a horrible application / interview experience, believe me, it will set your employee referrals back significantly. Bad news travels fast. Treat all referrals like the VIPs they are. Keep your employees and their referrals informed at every step of the process, and provide timely feedback around the selection decision.
  5. Be persistent and consistent. Creating a true culture of recruiting takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. A contest is great, but don’t stop there. Build on the momentum. Promote your company’s culture across social networks, and let your employees do the same. Remind your employees often that you’re hiring, and give them the freedom to share that message to their networks in their own way. Highlight the employees who refer; help them feel special.

Bottom Line: Referrals generally have a lower cost per hire, a shorter time to fill, a stronger performance rating and a higher retention rate. Get started on transforming your company to a culture of recruiting today!

Success Story: With one client who needed to hire a fairly large number of people, we ran a referral contest. Every time an employee referred a unique candidate*, we entered his name into a raffle. 5 referrals meant 5 entries. At the end of the contest period, (in this case it was 3 months) we randomly chose a winner. The prize was a 2-night, three-day trip for two to Boston. (The company was located in the New York Metro area, and Boston, only 3 hours away, was a grand location!) The company paid travel, hotel, and entertainment expenses (tickets to a Duck Tour, dinner in a restaurant at Faneuil Hall, and some actual cash to spend on things of their choice!) Another hat-tip (pun intended if you know him) to Bill Boorman for the trip idea. It worked wonders. Not only did the contest get us over 150 employee referrals in 3 months with a 75% employee participation rate, the employee who won posted pics all over social media, and talked about her trip for months after she got back. Talk about generating excitement around employee referrals! This client plans to now choose a winner for this contest semi-annually!

*And, no, the irony of the “*” in the “lose the fine print” section is not lost on me. Referrals were tracked in the ATS, entered by the employee himself, so he was able to see immediately if the company already had that referral’s info in the system (unless a different email address was used.)

Truth in Recruiting

9269948_sWhat exactly is truth in recruiting? It’s a phrase I have heard no less than 6 times in the last two weeks. And, I’ve heard it from both recruiters and candidates.

Recruiters want candidates to be honest with them about their skills and backgrounds. Frankly, I think this is obvious, and doesn’t need a blog post.

Candidates want recruiters to be honest with them about why they’re not getting jobs. Also fairly obvious…

I’m not here to argue whether or not it’s OK for a recruiter to tell a job seeker why they aren’t a fit. That’s up to the recruiter. It’s a personal (or professional) choice. I understand completely that candidates want to be the right fit, and when they’re not, they want to know why. If there is something they can fix, change, or learn, often I choose to tell them, and give them that opportunity. But that’s me.

The fact is that recruiters work for companies, not job seekers. Companies pay us. They pay us to keep their reputations intact as we search to find them that purple squirrel or flying unicorn. So, if you’re a purple unicorn… sorry… you’re not a fit unless you can fly. I just might not be “allowed” to tell you that.

But I think truth in recruiting is more than that. Candidates want recruiters to tell them the truth about the companies and the jobs in the first place. The real truth, not some sales pitch being used to pique their interest.

Candidates have a right to know details about the actual corporate culture, not just the aspirational one. They have a right to understand the real responsibilities of the role, not just the ones in the well-crafted job ad.

Perhaps the flying purple unicorn lives on both sides of the fence. Recruiters want companies to tell us the truth, too. Without it we add substantially less value. We want to find you your perfect candidate. And, we want to find you one who will be just as happy that they’re working for you as you are.

So, what exactly is truth in recruiting? Perhaps it’s as simple as transparency. Insight. Honesty. Access to hiring managers and their teams.

Real stories by real people doing real jobs for real companies.

Every job may not be the right fit for every person… but there is a person who is the right fit for every job.

So I ask you – all of you – on both sides of the fence – Help us help you find your fit. That’s why we’re here.

Hiring for Trust: 9 Interview Questions



Establishing mutual trust with your existing employees is a great goal, and the key to creating whatever other culture you hope to achieve in your organization. Since coming back from HRevolution and my bold HR session, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this. You can read about that HERE and HERE.

If you and your employees are all willing to do the work, a culture of trust can be a reality. But how do you make sure that new people you hire will buy in to that culture?

Definition of Trust

First, I think we need to define trust. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines trust as, “the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” (yes… etc. is in there. See for yourself.)

When I Google it, trust is defined as the “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something” with synonyms of confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, and credence.

Determining Trustworthiness

With this in mind, I have thought long and hard about how to determine “trust” during an interview. A Topgrading interview might get you there – let’s face it, you really KNOW somebody after that process, but that’s not always feasible, especially for higher volume or entry-level recruiting.

Is there some secret sauce to the trust interview? I don’t think so. In my opinion, the best interviews are two-sided conversations, and it’s amazing what people will tell you if you let them…

So here are 9 interview questions that can help get the trust dialogue going.

  1. Tell me about a work incident when you were totally honest, despite a potential risk or downside for the honesty.
  2. Describe a work circumstance when the pressures to compromise your integrity were strong. How did you respond to that?
  3. If there were something you could change about the way your current /most recent employer does business, what would it be and how would you change it?
  4. Under what circumstances have you found it justifiable to break a professional confidence?
  5. When you have experienced unethical behavior at work, have you confronted it, or chosen not to say anything in order not to get involved? Why? Would you do something differently next time?
  6. What are a couple of the most unpopular stands you have ever taken in your career so far?
  7. What are examples of times you went above and beyond the call of duty to help either a customer or co-worker?
  8. What would you if you were given credit for something a co-worker actually did?
  9. Tell me about a time in which you were expected to work with someone you did not like. What would the people who didn’t like you say about you?

Trust Your Instincts

You might not necessarily ask all of these, as in the course of the conversation you may learn all you need.

Trust is something that needs to be earned; it doesn’t happen overnight. But by identifying at least some trustworthy behaviors and attitudes, you can rest assured that you’re on the right track.

5 Changes to Make to your Hiring Process

Hiring the right person into the right role at the right time for the right price… It seems to be the million dollar mystery.  We’re flooded with blog posts and articles on the importance of hiring for culture fit, but few actually offer practical, cost effective advice. So the question I get asked at least once a week is, “How can I, a small business owner who doesn’t have Google’s deep pockets or Southwest Air’s recruiting team, complete for talent?”

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing you’ve always done the way you’ve always done it and expecting different results. It’s time to stop the insanity. Losing candidates who may be the perfect fit because they dropped out of your recruiting process is pure madness. And, the madness ends here.

Time for Action

Matt Charney published an excellent post today about the role of the Candidate Experience in the recruiting process. It’s here in case you missed it…

It got me thinking. Again.

I firmly believe that the small business, the entrepreneurial organization that is still founder-led, the nimble, risk-taking, willing to change business has a significant advantage over the large corporations when it comes to hiring the right people. Yes. You read that correctly.

Fixing your recruiting process doesn’t mean you need to spend large amounts of cash. In fact, it may mean quite the opposite.

Here are five changes you can make today to help ensure you’re not losing people to an ill-conceived recruiting process. And there’s no cost involved!

  1. Stop posting job descriptions. No, not in a Zappos Insider way, although I think that’s super cool! You don’t have to stop advertising your openings… But try posting Culture Statements instead of just job requirements. It has been said that there is no such thing as a bad culture, just a bad cultural fit, so promote the culture that you have. Start by asking your current employees how they would describe what it’s like to work for you. Discover the words they use to label the general atmosphere of your organization and to describe their workplace environment. Then incorporate that into your ads.
  1. Give up the sales pitch. Sure, you need a well-crafted and targeted message, but not a one-size-fits-all line that sounds like it could come out of any generic playbook. Compose a message that explains the value your employees perceive in working with you. And don’t be afraid to vary them team by team or department by department. While you’re giving up the pitch, it’s still necessary to market, so, put that message everywhere. Include it on your career page, in your job ads, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. Talk about it in your initial phone calls with potential candidates and demonstrate it during your interviews.
  1. Lose the application. Or, at least move it. With resumes and LinkedIn profiles, do you really need to capture work history and contact information again? I know the legal needs for a legitimate application, but it does not need to be completed before you even the meet the person.* Respect your prospects. Candidates are people, too. They may already be working, or have other commitments that would prevent them from spending 5 hours applying to your open job. And, while I understand the desire to make candidates jump through hoops to prove themselves to you, their very first interaction with your company is NOT the time for that. (By the way, I’d argue that there is never a time for that… there are other ways, my friend.) Follow the golden rule – treat your applicants the way that you would want to be treated. *If you need to meet OFCCP or similar guidelines, please consult an attorney!
  1. Include your employees in the interview process. A-players love to work with other A-players. They’re inspired by greatness and want to surround themselves with it. So, ask you’re A-players to participate in your selection process.  Give your candidates an opportunity to ask real questions of the people they will be working with every day. Give your employees the freedom and security to answer those questions truthfully. Better to find out someone will hate their job BEFORE you hire them.
  1. Provide feedback. Timely. At every step in the process. Candidates’ number one complaint about the job search process is that they never hear back from prospective employers. Even if someone is not a fit, you don’t know who they know… and negative news travels fast. Every single applicant should have such a great experience with your company that they should tell everyone they know to apply, even if they themselves didn’t get the job.

What other recruiting tips do you have for the SMB marketplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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