An Up and Coming Benefit . . .Student Debt Repayment Plans

Two times in one day I heard a reference to a new employer perk . . .making student debt payments for employees.  How awesome is that?

A more traditional benefit offered by many companies is a tuition reimbursment plan, also known as a tuititon assistance plan.  With these plans, a company specifies the terms under which it will pay for an eligible employee’s continuing education.paytuition  Because these plans can be costly, they have been offered by larger and well-established companies.  For many employers, particularly small and mid-sized companies and start-ups, these plans have been out of reach due to cost.  What is also critical to these plans is having employees that want to continue their education.

What if an employer wants to offer an educational-related benefit but cost is an issue.  Or what if the employer has employees that have already completed their educations?

So, what is an employer to do?  Especially one that wants to not only attract but retain talent?

A loan repayment assistance plan, also known as a student debt repayment plan.  Under these plans, the employer provides a specified amount to pay the student loans of eligible employees.  These plans are especially attractive for employees that have completed their education and are repaying student loans.

Consider adding this perk to your compensation plan.  It may be well received by candidates and help attract and retain great talent.




All Compensation is Negotiable

Believe it or not, compensation is negotiable at all levels of workers and for all skills.  Being extended an offer of employment should not be a “yes” or “no” proposition.  Most people are not good at negotiating and most certainly not at negotiating their compensation.  Step out of your comfort zone and advocate for yourself.  Don’t enter a negotiation with wishy washy terms.  Be prepared.  Be clear.  Be specific.  Know your value.  Know what you want.  Ask for it.  You can’t get a, “No,” unless you ask.Salary

The most important point of an effective negotiation is to know what you want with a clearly defined low end and high end of what you will accept.  Be prepared to walk away if you don’t achieve the low end of your range – don’t settle.  If you got this offer, you will get another.  Don’t get greedy if you are closer to the high end of what you want.  As with all negotiations, start high and leave yourself room to negotiate.  If you know what you want you can present with confidence which can work in your favor.

Know what your skill is worth.  There are so many resources available to you to do your homework – very credible websites provide this information, recruiters and staffing agencies provide this information, some published job descriptions may give you a good idea of value.

Keep in mind, also, that compensation is not the same as salary.  Salary is but one element of compensation.  Do you want to work remotely?  Do you want a flexible schedule?  Do you want other perks, including more paid time off, a higher contribution to benefits, educational assistance, among others.

Don’t negotiate in piece meal.  Lay it all out at the start.  If you get one thing and then start asking for something else, at some point your potential employer is going to get weary and lose interest.  And you are going to lose credibility.

Justify your ask.  Be able to sell to your prospective employer why you think you are worth what you are asking.

Good luck!


Should you Conduct Interviews out of the Office?

More companies are using informal meetings as one of the first steps of their hiring process.

An informal meeting is more of a meet and greet. It is generally held out of the office in a casual setting – in a coffee shop or the like. out of officeThe real goal of an informal meeting is that you get to know the personal side of your candidate – a/k/a their soft skills, and they get to know you as a person out of the office.

If you are meeting your candidate in an informal meeting, keep it informal. That’s the point, remember. Dress more casually because how we dress usually influences how we posture ourselves and how we speak. If we wear formal work clothes we will behave more formally and if we wear more casual work clothes we will behave more informally. Don’t pepper the candidate with (tough) questions, particularly technical questions. Ask questions in a lighter, more casual way. Rephrase “tell me about the last time you used XXXX technology” to “have you used XXX technology recently and what was your experience with it?” You might not want to meet for a lunch because the stress of what to order and to not make a mess can overcome the casual intent. As with any interview, end it with clear actionable items – who is doing what and by when.

Another instance for which an out of office meeting is appropriate is when you are in the last phase of the hiring process with a candidate and there are final questions or there is concern about a cultural fit. You may have vetted the candidate’s technical skills but have concern about his/her ability to thrive in your organization. In this case, it may be a good solution to meet out of the office and see your candidate in different way.

As we move further into this candidate driven market, your candidate may request to meet you out of the office to meet you in a different environment. Be open to the idea and accept the invitation.

It is critical to remember that these informal meetings are interviews and you must be careful to not ask unlawful questions or otherwise conduct yourself in an unlawful way.

Good luck!


We are Surely in a Candidate Driven Market . . .What does that Mean to your Hiring Practices?

Candidate DrivenIf you are in any way associated with hiring, you most certainly have heard these phrases: talent shortage and skills gap.  What do these terms really mean?  They really mean we are in a candidate driven market.  When you hear it said that way – repeat, a candidate driven market – it should make you take pause and think about the issue in a different way.    If you are hiring or plan to hire, you must adapt to this phenomenon otherwise you are not going to secure the talent you need to not only sustain but to grow your business.

Many have responded to this talent shortage or skills gap by rethinking how they find talent.  They think they need to cast a wider net to find the talent.  They go to new/more/different job boards.  They embellish job ads.  They launch a career site.  They work with more recruiters.  They hire recruiters.  They launch a referral program.

Even after doing all of these things, if you have positions that you are not filling, it may be because you should (re)consider how to attract talent.

You need to take pause and think about what it means to be in a candidate driven market.

You need to approach your hiring recognizing you are in a candidate driven market which may be very different from how you approach your hiring in a market characterized by a talent shortage and skills gap.

You must adapt to a candidate driven market.

Why must you adapt?

In a candidate driven market candidates, candidates:

  • Are solicited regularly by multiple interested parties.
  • Have multiple opportunities from which to pick their next move.
  • Have more negotiating leverage.
  • Are more apt to change jobs if their current job is not fulfilling.

How do you adapt?

Give the candidate a great experience and sell your organization.

  • Be prepared for interviews. Don’t make them wait for the interviewers.   Have the right people available for the interviews.  Have the room ready for the interview.  Make sure the interviewers are not interrupted and make sure they know to leave their technology behind so they can focus exclusively on the candidate.
  • Provide timely and relevant feedback on their interview.
  • Stay in contact and keep them apprised of their candidacy.
  • Don’t keep cancelling and rescheduling.
  • Bring out the person not just the candidate – ask them relevant questions focused on them and not just questions focused only on their ability to do your job or function in your organization.
  • Answer their questions. The answers should be clear and not ambiguous.  If you can’t answer the question, be sure to timely follow-up with the answer.
  • Know your company. Know the pain points, know the areas of opportunity.  Know where the company wants to be in short term horizons – 2 years, 5 years.  Know the challenges that your candidate will face.  Present your company in a matter of fact way and not with vagueness, uncertainty.
  • Move fast – make a decision. If you find a candidate that you think can succeed in your role in your organization, don’t take that old position, “I just want to meet a few more candidates to make sure.”
  • Be flexible. Recognize that each candidate is a unique person and be open to their individual requirements.  For some, a flexible schedule may be important, or richer benefits, or more time off, or more education/training opportunities.  Find out what drives and motivates each candidate and address it.
  • Offer great perks. Some interesting perks are coming into existence – nap rooms, game rooms, personal chefs.
  • Sell your company. Don’t think that candidates need to sell you.  You need to sell them.  If you aren’t, someone else is.  Remember, the candidate probably has choices.

In a candidate driven market, it doesn’t matter how many candidates you find.  If you can’t attract them, they are not going to want to work for your organization.  So, stop thinking talent shortage and skills gap and how you can you find talent.  Start thinking candidate driven market and how you can attract talent.




Job Interview Etiquette: What NOT To Do in an Interview

When you are preparing for an interviewWhat not to do, you probably google “how to prepare for interview” and “what to do during an interview” and get hoards of results.  But, that great research doesn’t tell you what NOT TO DO during an interview.  So, here are our top five things to NOT DO during an interview:

[dt_gap height=”10″]
  1. Do not NOT take notes. Take notes.  Make sure you bring a pad and pen to your interview and use them.  Don’t take such copious notes to the point you are not engaging in the conversation, but do take notes.  At the end of the conversation review your notes and confirm any action items and who owns the item.  That would be impressive, don’t you think?
  2. Do not NOT ask questions. Ask questions.  At some point you will be asked if you have any questions. Do not say NO.  Make sure you have at least five questions prepared to ask each interviewer. You don’t have to ask all five, but better to be prepared in case one of your questions was answered during the course of your conversation. It would be even better if your questions focused on your interviewer and not on the job or the company.  For instance,
    • How can I make you successful?
    • What do you enjoy most about this company?
    • What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
    • What do you think are the key characteristics of the successful person in this role?
    • What value do you think I can bring to this role?
  3. Do not throw your keys on the table when you enter the meeting room. That action gives the impression you are ready to leave even before you get started and that you are probably just going through the motions of an interview with no real interest.
  4. Do not NOT listen. And show you are listening.  Engage in the conversation and in an appropriate way repeat what your interview said to demonstrate you are listening.  Back up your interviewer’s statements with additional information as further reinforcement you are listening.
  5. Do not forget to bring a copy of your resume. Do not assume your interviewer has your resume or that they have it handy.  People are busy.  People rush from point A to point B.  Make it easy for your interviewer by handing them your resume.


Good luck on your interview!

[dt_gap height=”20″]

What Makes a Good Recruiter?

Most of us have interacted with a recruiter at some point in some capacity.  Perhaps you are an HR professional or you are in a hiring capacity or you have looked for work.  I do believe that working with a recruiter is absolutely necessary if you need to hire great talent or if you are looking for a great career opportunity.  I also believe that because a recruiter can be a trusted and valued resource, you must be diligent in selecting a recruiter.

So, what is the ONE trait that is at the foundation of a good recruiter?


[dt_gap height=”10″]
[dt_fancy_title title=”They let you talk and they listen.” title_align=”center” title_size=”h3″ title_color=”default” el_width=”100″ title_bg=”disabled” separator_color=”default” separator_style=”disabled”]
[dt_gap height=”10″]

Very simple.

They are less interested in selling you on their process, their great service, their success rate, their client’s jobs, their this, and their that.  They are more interested in hearing what you need, what you want, how they can make you successful . . .

Next time you are speaking with a recruiter, count the number of times they say, “I” or “my” or “me” or some derivative of the first person.  Keep track of how long they talk vs how long you speak.  If at the end of the conversation, it is tilted more toward the recruiter than to you, you might want to rethink the relationship.

And, always remember:

[dt_gap height=”10″][dt_fancy_title title=”We have two ears and one mouth so we talk, listen, and listen more.” title_align=”center” title_size=”h3″ title_color=”default” el_width=”100″ title_bg=”disabled” separator_color=”default” separator_style=”disabled”]
[dt_gap height=”40″]

Job Interview Etiquette: More on Personal Branding

You have most likely read how important it is to create a professional and consistent personal brand if you are engaged in a job search.  This recommendation is actually relevant for anyone, because you never know when an opportunity of interest will be presented, a career opportunity only being one example.

As with most things, the internet is chock full of information on “personal branding.”  Most references address your Linkedin profile and your overall social presence, a personal website, your personal blog, et al.  But, your personal brand goes much further than that.  Consider:

  • Your email address. Are you using a professional email address that can be easily associated with your name?  For example, are you or are you jas2478!
  • Emails you send. The best approach is to write an email as if you are writing a traditional letter.  Begin each email with a proper greeting.  Use complete sentences, proper grammar and punctuation.  Spell words fully (vs texting language).  Use a professional signature that states your name and contact information.  Do not use all caps and don’t forget to address your recipient.
  • Your recorded voicemail message. We blogged about this topic last week.  Read the blog:
  • Voicemail messages you leave for others. Do you speak clearly, slowly, and leave a short but relevant message?  Your message should be no longer than 15 seconds.  If you talk so fast that the recipient has to replay your message, your awesome 15 second voicemail just became a 30 second voicemail.  Also, make sure there is no background noise when you are leaving your message (e.g. your radio playing, your children talking, the wind blowing).  When leaving a voicemail message, clearly and slowly state your name, call back number and very brief reason for your call.

Hopefully this writing has at least gotten you to think about the many ways in which you are leaving an impression with others.  Just be sure you are making the impression you want to make.

[dt_gap height=”30″]

Job Interview Etiquette: Voicemail

You have this job search process down pat.  Great resume?  Check that.  Leveraging your network?  Check that. Created a great personal brand?  Check that.  Active on relevant social media platforms?  Check that.  Prepare for each interview?  Check that?  Voicemail greeting?  Oops.  Didn’t check that one.

You have invested so much effort into your job search.  And then someone calls you to schedule an interview and they get this message:

[dt_gap height=”20″]

“Hi.  This is John.  You know what to do.”

[dt_fancy_title title=”or” title_align=”center” title_size=”h2″ title_color=”default” title_bg=”disabled” separator_color=”default”]

“The mailbox of the person you are trying to reach is full.  Please try again later.”

[dt_gap height=”20″]

Is that the impression you want to make with your caller – a potential employer, a recruiter, a reference?

If you are engaged in an active job search or you are in discussion with a potential employer for a job change, be sure to:

  • Check your voicemail often.
  • Be sure your mailbox is not full.
  • Return calls when it is best for the caller, but certainly within one day or 24 hours.
  • Create a professional voicemail greeting.

Tips for recording a voicemail greeting:

  • Make it professional. Sound professional and leave a professional greeting.
  • Leave 1-2 seconds of blank space before recording your greeting.
  • Record your own greeting. Do not use a standard default greeting or have another person record your greeting.
  • Write down what you want to say in your greeting and practice it a few times before you record it. Play it back before you save it.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Record your greeting in a quiet area with no background noise.
  • Ask the caller to leave their name, message, call back number and the best time for you to return their call. Call at that designated time and on that designated number.

After you get the job, then you can revert to your personal voicemail greeting.

[dt_gap height=”25″]

How to End a Bad Interview

It may be disputable just how long into meeting a candidate you know if they Interview In progressare a cultural fit for your organization, but it is fair to say it is a short amount of time – minutes.  But, once you are meeting a candidate, are you committed to the interview?  What about the others scheduled to meet with that candidate right after you?  Is it rude to end the interview or should you continue and consume your valuable time and that of your co-workers?  What about the candidate’s time, which is equally valuable.

Most organizations have a pre-screening process in place that hopefully is effective in moving forward candidates that possess the critical soft skills to thrive in their organization and in a specific role.  It may happen that a candidate makes it to this stage of the hiring process, so best to be prepared.

End the interview out of fairness to all, including the candidate, you and those scheduled to interview the candidate.  This situation can be very difficult because the candidate may be genuinely interested in your opportunity and may be trying very hard to compete for the offer.

Tell the candidate that although they have a great background and great skills (otherwise they would not have gotten this far in your pre-screening process), you do not think your organization is the best match for them overall and it is not in either of your interests to continue the interview.  You may even consider mentioning in which area(s) the candidate is not strong enough for further consideration – you need an real extrovert, you need a visibly confident leader, you need someone with less energy . . .

What is important is that you are honest and polite and gracious and allow the candidate to leave with dignity.  Just because that person is not a fit for your organization should not diminish their value to another organization.


Job Interview Etiquette: Formatting Your Resume

If you are preparing or updating your resume, there is a plethora of information Wordavailable on the internet to help you.  What to include and in what order.  What keywords to use.  The order of the sections.  Bullets vs paragraphs.  What is an acceptable length. But, one suggestion that is rarely mentioned: keep the formatting universally simple.  In other words, use a common application and keep the formatting basic.  In this way, you increase the likelihood that no matter who receives your resume, they can open it and view it as you intended.

If you can, create your resume in Microsoft Word.  Most people have access to Microsoft Word and most people do not have access to other word processing software tools.  Don’t chance it.  Even if you work in a specialized field that uses a specific software tool, it may be likely that someone that will receive your resume won’t have that software.  You want to be sure that no matter who receives your resume, they can at least open it.  Don’t let your resume be dismissed because the recipient does not have the software to even open the document.

Equally important, keep the formatting in Microsoft Word >simple and consistent. Don’t get too sophisticated by using advanced features.  And, use the same type of formatting features throughout your resume.  For example, don’t use tabs in certain areas and then spaces to indent in others.  Most people are not advanced users of Microsoft Word.  Remember your audience and create your resume with your audience in mind.

These suggestions may seem obvious to most, but there are many people preparing their resumes with an obscure software tool. There are many more that use advanced features in Microsoft Word and/or that use different formatting features throughout their resume.  Make opening and viewing your resume easy for your recipient.  Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to open a resume because you don’t have the right software or being able to open a resume and have it appear as a garbled mess because the formatting didn’t transfer properly.