It pays to check your candidate’s referees.

It pays to check your candidate’s referees. | CareerSupport365

 

Recently Australia's top rating radio hosts Hamish and Andy, known for their pranks, asked a random person (James) to act as a referee for a person (Tim Barnard) who James had never met. Tim was going in for an interview and needed someone to act on his behalf. James agreed.

The whole episode was captured on video while being broadcast live. It's very funny.

 

As Tim's 'referee', James was asked reasonably standard questions by the 'prospective employer'. They were all credibly answered and could be acceptable to less wizened recruiters and hiring managers:

  • You know Tim?
  • How long have you known Tim?
  • How did you become friends?
  • Tim will be dealing with higher-end businesses of million dollar plus: is he good with money?
  • Any other examples of him taking on responsibility?
  • How many languages does he speak?
  • What was the other language in addition to English?
  • Describe to us the best thing about him, appearance wise?

Concerning on a number of levels

Aside from the entertainment value, the scenario is also very concerning.

With all the legal ramifications around giving references, it has become increasingly difficult to get anyone to provide reference checks.

Often there are company policies that restrict employees to merely verify  that the person worked at the business, for a duration and in what roles.

But when someone does offer a reference it pays to be duly diligent. After all, you are bringing someone into your business who may have a positive or detrimental impact on performance, team cohesiveness, and morale.

Conducting due diligence on the referees

Many years ago, after I placed a fraud into a senior role (yes it happened), I learned to conduct due diligence on the referees.  I was duped by an HR Manager no less - who had arranged several bogus referees to sing her praises.

How can you avoid being duped?

1. Call the company and speak with Reception, Payroll, HR or the PA to the CEO.

(Here you are seeking to speak with an independent third party.)

2. Mention your name and role and that you are reference checking someone.

(Clearly, if the candidate is still employed in the business, you will need to be discreet.)

3. Ask whomever you are speaking with at the company whether the referee is employed or worked previously with the business.

(What you are seeking to find here is the extent of the overlap of time for acting as a referee with credibility. The shorter that period is, the lower the value of the referee.)

4. Ask for the referee’s title and verify this with the information you have from the candidate.

(Again, being discreet about the candidate if still employed in the business.)

5. Ask how long the referee has been in the role.

If there are any discrepancies in any of the information, check them with the person you are speaking with, asking along the lines of:

"I thought that Joanne (referee) held the title of Marketing Director. You say her title is Marketing Administration Manager. Can you confirm her exact title please?"

If there are any further issues, then the referee's gravitas and value may need to be questioned, and that you check with another department to confirm the exact title.

It may also be that you seek another referee from the candidate, and perform due diligence on that.  If a pattern of dubious referees continues, then in the worst case the candidate will need to be questioned and even red- flagged.

* * * * * * * *

About the author:

************

Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf/

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.

How to build buzz ahead of your next planned career move | CareerSupport365

How to build buzz ahead of your next planned career move

How to build buzz ahead of your next planned career move | CareerSupport365

image credit: http://goo.gl/f5IR8N

 

Rather than being in the same queue as every other job seeker and candidate, it makes a lot of sense to take a proactive approach to plan your own career change.

But it can be daunting to build some buzz with the constant barrage of noise on the internet and competition for the attention you  want to attract from recruiters and hiring managers.

The good news is there are clever ways you can go about this. None of it has to be expensive.

The first and most critical step in promoting YOU as a product or brand for your next career move, is articulating your value.

In essence, no amount of buzz building tactics will save you if you cannot demonstrate value.

1. What impact or value do you provide? (Start thinking about this immediately.)

What value do you offer? What can you tell your likely target market (future employers) what you offer?

Answers to this question may be how you saved your employer money. Or how you made your employer money. Or how you improved their productivity. Or how you helped your employer grow their business.

Work out specific examples what impact you have made and be able to articulate this with clear outcomes.

Want more help to do this? Then follow my Specific, Measurable and Time-bound (SMT) article here and see my Problem, Solution and Proof (PSP) article here.

This value step is core. It's your launch pad. Until you are clear about the value you create and for whom, then all other steps that follow do not matter.

In summary: Be clear. Articulate what you do, and clearly tie that to the value and impact you have created. This is the essence of your personal brand.

Once you have done this effectively, then your future employers will probably take notice. They may even get excited to meet you.

2. Your social proof strategy. (Commence working on this at least 6 months from when you want to create a pipeline of career move opportunities.)

So now that you have articulated the value you created, then it's time to let people know about you. This is called creating a buzz.

What are the right conditions to reach out and start letting people know that you might be looking around?

An important indicator might be how many quality LinkedIn and genuine networking connections you might have.

Ask yourself, how warm are your connections to you? How much social proof do you have from your connections?

Ensure you get social proof including recommendations, referrals, and testimonials attesting to the value and impact you created in your current and prior roles.

As a rule of thumb, with your LinkedIn profile alone, I'd suggest a minimum of 3 recommendations for your last 2 roles and your last 10 years.

3. Get connections and influencers on-board. (Commence working on this at least 4 months from when you want to create a pipeline of career move opportunities.)

It's important to rely on your own network. It also makes sense to share your value with "influencers". This creates even more buzz.

While you own connections are obvious, who are influencers? These are people who are known in their own fields or people who can open doors with their own connections.

You need to get your value or impact message in the minds of as many of your connections and influencers as possible who in turn have connections with your relevant target market of employers.

If you are wondering where to start, invest the time to search your connections on LinkedIn and in turn, who they might know. This will take time, but it's worth developing a warm connection base and influencer pool.

Approaching these connections and influencers requires panache, great interpersonal and written skills, and patience. Your agenda is a big one to you, but a small one to them.

As a suggestion, try posting an original article to your LinkedIn profile. Then via email or social media, link your connections and influencers to that piece.

Want to do even better, than this? Link your influencers to a piece where you were quoted in a trade publication or the general media.

In short, by creating a buzz through value in content, it separates you from other people and builds your personal brand. 

Your goal is that when you meet face-to-face you will have warmer and fresher relationships with your connection base and influencer pool.

If you can, build solid momentum by personally connecting or meeting with at least two influencers or connections per week to ensure they are familiar with the value and impact you have to offer.

In summary: The more connections and influencers who know you well, the more likely it is that a lead funnel of career opportunities can be generated.

4. Getting others to believe your message.

You have to ensure that everyone you meet in your connection base or your influencer pool knows how to articulate your value and impact too.

The last thing you want is for someone to give a vague or lame recommendation because they really don’t understand the value and impact you make.

Spend time educating your target market and meet anyone who can leverage your personal brand and in turn refer you to what might become your next employer.

A word of advice: Getting the message out there is one thing, but also know your relative remuneration. Clearly the more value you can prove that you provided to your employers, through publishing original content, having recommendations, testimonials, etc., the more you may also be able to negotiate your remuneration package (within reason).

By being proactive, you can create buzz around you, enhance your personal brand, and create your own career opportunities, rather than wait in line like most other career movers and job seekers.

* * * * * * * *

About the author:

************

Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf/

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.

Job Candidates: you’ve got six seconds… and counting.

Job Candidates: you've got six seconds... and counting. | CareerSupport365

image credit: http://goo.gl/O8iW18

 

If it's true that career change is one of the 5 most stressful experiences in anyone’s life, then why make it any more stressful than it needs to be?

The holy grail of career change is the job offer itself. One of the early pathways on the quest for that holy grail is that job candidates make a positive impression literally in the first few seconds of encountering a recruiter or hiring manager – this covers first impressions made by their CV, their LinkedIn profile, or the experience they create on the phone, over a video or face-to-face.

First impressions research

There is an abundance of reliable research that evidences why the first few seconds counts so much in making positive first impressions.

Arguably one of the most famous pieces of research in this field is by Ambady and Rosenthal. They show that people start forming an impression within the first few seconds of meeting another person. By 6 seconds, an impression is formed. By 30 seconds, those impressions are locked in.

So that we humans don't get in to sensory overload, scientists have also suggested that the brain rapidly categorises stimuli or impressions in to two piles. For example: safe or unsafe; good or bad; boring or interesting… and so on.

Therefore, if you are going to form a good first impression with your next employer or with a recruiter, then you want to be positively classified by the brain from the very start.

If you do make a positive first impression, then the hiring manager or the recruiter will be willing to engage with you more.

On the other hand, if you make a bad impression, the hiring manager or recruiter will switch off almost instantly.

Highly reliable first impressions

Back to Ambady and Rosenthal's research: The researchers asked a control group of students to evaluate teachers with whom they had spent an entire semester on a number of dimensions.

The researchers then showed short 30-second videos of those same teachers to another group of students – who had never been in a class taught by those same teachers.

What was amazing was that the second group of students only saw 30-second 'thin slices' of the videos of the teachers. Yet they made almost the same evaluations.

These so-called 'thin slices' were enough for evaluations (first impressions) that closely mirrored the evaluations (first impressions) by students who sat through an entire semester of lectures.

Really hard to budge bad first impressions?

So if people make snappy decisions on the first impressions people make with them, then it probably comes as no surprise that bad first impressions are very hard to budge.

Take the phenomenon of fundamental attribution error. Once you are seen to have been categorised as bad or boring or dishonest, then according to just this phenomenon alone, it takes an awful amount of effort to budge impressions and redefining someone's perception.

Now your mother might give you multiple chances. However, it is very unlikely that your future potential employer or a recruiter will give you a second chance – they have too little time and too much choice among other candidates.

That's why the saying holds so much weight that “You’ve only one chance to make a positive first impression.”

* * * * * * * *

About the author:

************

Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf/

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.

How to thoroughly reference check candidates. | CareerSupport365

How to reference check candidates diligently.

How to thoroughly reference check candidates. | CareerSupport365

image credit: http://goo.gl/4ZgQUj

 

Exaggeration is rife

A study of 300 Australian employers found 82% of respondents believed candidates lied or exaggerated their skills and experience on their LinkedIn profiles.

But hiring managers who rely heavily on recommendations and claims made in a candidate's LinkedIn profile or résumé are cutting corners and creating problems down the line as it did for Yahoo, when Scott Thompson was caught falsifying his experience. 

Instead, I suggest that hiring managers take a more considered approach and revert to the trusted reference check (where ever possible.) 

Ahead of anything else I reference check the referee.

Ahead of reference checking the candidate, I have learned from bitter experience to check out the referee.

To do so, I spend time calling an office to check how genuine the referee is – do they work at the employer; I check the referee's LinkedIn profile and even the referee's Facebook page.

Is the referee the person the candidates asserts they are?

Whilst hiring managers find that most people are honest, I have discovered situations where referees have been nowhere near as senior as the candidate said they were; that the referee had a different title; that the referee was the candidate's lover (found by checking out the referee's Facebook profile); that the referee no longer worked at the employer and much more.

Once the referee has been verified, I can be confident to reference check the candidate.

Before asking the referee questions, the hiring manager should broadly explain the role for which the candidate is being considered.

 

Once the referee is validated, here are 9 questions I recommend to garner accurate information that provides a confident and discerning reference check.

1. How do you know the candidate?

What's behind this question?

It's important to have the hiring manager confirm that a candidate and a referee ever worked together and to assess their relationship.

By knowing the specific nature of the relationship, a hiring manager can better assess the context of the reference that is provided.

2. Can you confirm the candidate's job title, dates of employment, and work duties?

What's behind this question?

Always verify the candidate's job title and dates of employment to be sure the information provided is accurate.

If you cannot get an accurate picture of the dates of employment, I suggest that you ring the employer and speak with or e-mail  the Payroll Department for fact checking.

Read out the responsibilities and achievements claimed in the candidate's résumé or LinkedIn profile and check with the referee they are true and accurate.

3. How would you describe the candidate's work performance?

What's behind this question?

Although LinkedIn asks the LinkedIn community to report false claims, it is still easy for candidates to make audacious claims on their LinkedIn profiles and résumés. So it is absolutely 100 percent necessary for you to validate what is on the candidate's LinkedIn profile and résumé.

I suggest that the hiring manager reads out the list of claims from the candidate's résumé and asks if the referee could verify that what was claimed is indeed accurate.

I've experienced many situations where I've learned that instead of delivering the result themselves or leading a team that did, the candidate ended up being a part of one and they participated on the team in minor roles.

4. How would you describe the candidate's work ethic?

What's behind this question?

The intent here is to ascertain how the candidate delivered, responded to mistakes, worked within a team, focused on the end goal, met deadlines, and so on.

5. What are the candidate's blind spots?

What's behind this question?

At interview, hiring managers often steer towards strengths and what was delivered successfully. But it is equally important to find out what things might occur time and again that might de-rail the candidate at work.

Read more about 10 de-railers here.

6. How was it like to work with the candidate?

What's behind this question?

It's critical that the candidate fits in to the team and the culture.

Asking this question helps to shed more light on the candidate's inter-and intra-personal skills; how reactive or proactive they were; how confrontational or collaborative they were; and so on.

Read more about cultural fit here.

7. When and why did the candidate leave a position?

What's behind this two-pronged question?

First of all, checking dates that the candidate was employed helps to verify any gaps or fudging of employment history (very common) ; whether they are still employed – assuming they claim they are.

Asking reasons for leaving helps to verify the candidate's story gleaned at interview or on their LinkedIn profile or résumé. For example, it helps to understand if the candidate left as a result of a contract completing, or due to a performance issue and so on.

8. Hypothetically, would you work with this candidate again?

What's behind this question?

If a referee only has the time to answer a single question, it should be this.

It is also very telling whether a referee is open to work with the candidate. It brings the reference checking process to a pointy end.

This is why I suggest to leave the question towards the end.

9. On the basis of the job for which we are hiring, is there anything else I should know about the candidate?

What's behind this question?

Here, the referee has an opportunity to offer information openly about the candidate.

For example, even if a previous question did not seek information about the candidate's attention to detail, the referee might offer some information about their messiness, organisational ability, if they jump to conclusions, and so on.

Conclusion

With any reference check, it's important for hiring managers to ask the right questions. It's critical to validate employment history claims. Remember a large proportion of information given by candidates is exaggerated.

Diligent reference checking gives the opportunity for referees to endorse the candidate or for the referee to raise enough caveats that the hiring manager might just sense the need to pull back or investigate further.

* * * * * * * *

About the author:

************

Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf/

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.

Laying off staff? Consider these cost saving options. | CareerSupport365

Laying off staff? Consider these cost saving options.

Laying off staff? Consider these cost saving options. | CareerSupport365

image credit: http://www.hysterectomy.org/

 

Redundancies, retrenchments, layoffs are more often the result of pressure from the Executive or Board to reduce costs than from the business having less work to do.

Reducing workforce costs through effecting layoffs is a very quick and short-term means to immediately and radically lower expenses.

However, by all means, it is not the only way.

Unquantifiable costs to a business from layoffs

What is often not understood by those looking at the ‘hard numbers’ is that by advocating layoffs, whether redundancies or retrenchments, the loss of people from your workforce has enormous implications and can weaken the business in the medium to longer term.

Laying off staff? Consider these cost saving options. | CareerSupport365

Before going down the layoff route, consider the following costs to the business, which are qualitative in nature and are harder to quantify than a hard-dollar payroll reduction.

Consider these examples:
  • the loss of corporate memory;
  • the loss of know-how;
  • the loss of capability;
  • the loss of morale;
  • the loss of productivity;
  • the loss of engagement;
  • the loss of reputation;
  • the loss of succession;
  • the loss of team cohesiveness.

Knowing this, the Human Resources leader must raise these potential losses and encourage that the leadership team looks at other ways of reducing cost and saving jobs.

Options to redundancies, retrenchments and layoffs as a strategy to reduce costs

Here are some options to making your staff redundant:
  • Reducing travel expenses: for example travelling less; flying Coach instead of Business Class; flying discount airlines; renegotiating with the business’ travel agents.
  • Reducing entertainment expenses: for example giving staff a reduced per day allowance when travelling; bringing entertainment in-house; reducing meals with clients to one course, rather than three.
  • Using video conferencing platforms for your meetings. There are a plethora of offerings in this space alone some of which are GoToMeeting, WebEx, JoinMe, Zoom, Zeetings, and Skype for Business.
  • Re-negotiating leases of equipment.
  • Re-negotiating rental agreements with landlords.
  • Postponing discretionary purchases.
  • Freezing salaries for a defined period.
  • Postponing wage and salary increases for a time.
  • Deferring bonuses until the business improves.
  • Reducing the hours staff are required to work.
  • Job sharing.
  • Forcing staff to take holidays during holiday periods.
  • Reducing employee benefits.
Laying off staff? Consider these cost saving options. | CareerSupport365

image credit: https://goo.gl/B8FwiY

When it is positioned that the sacrifices that everyone is making is to save all or most jobs, then it’s been found time and again, that most employees as a collective, lean in, and stick together.

While these and other cost-cutting steps may not completely stem the need to reduce headcount, they may reduce the number of people who are laid off, made redundant or retrenched.

Indeed, there are other options to layoffs, redundancies or retrenchments.

 

* * * * * * * *

More on this topic: read How to Effectively Handle Layoffs; and Creating High Staff Engagement Following a Layoff.

* * * * * * * *

About the author:

Greg Weiss is the Founder of CareerSupport365 and The First Few Seconds. He has almost 30 years success in HR and in career coaching people. The CareerSupport365's Innovative Outplacement Packages can be found here.