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Ask the HR Expert: Recruiting & Retention

Posted by NEHRA  March 18, 2011 11:00 AM

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Q. We are hiring for several senior sales positions. These positions report to the President, who is a very decisive, strong-willed individual. The problem is that she seems to have fallen in love with a candidate that I am unsure about. This individual works for one of our competitors and has been successful there. However, our competitor is known for being an aggressive, cut throat environment, which is a much different culture than we have. Am I right to be concerned?

A. Hiring a sales person that can perform and hit their numbers is important, but are you trying to hire a “hunter” or “farmer”? Is it a relationship sales position or more of a technical sales role? How consultative is the person? These are different sales positions reflecting a person’s natural behavioral tendencies, strengths, drives and motivations.

Cultural fit also plays a critical role in how successful a candidate will be. This is especially true in sales roles, where 2 very successful sales individuals can have 2 very different recipes for success. But equally important is finding someone that fits your organization, your culture, your values and mission, whichever they may be.

Have you defined the behaviors and competencies that are critical to success in this position? If not, that would be a good place to start. Looking beyond the job tasks and activities will identify what is important to the role and give you a framework to evaluate candidates.

These behaviors will also help guide your conversation with the President, by focusing in on where a candidate does not seem to match what you are looking for. For example, “Sue, we’ve agreed that our account manager positions really need to leverage relationships continuously. However, I’ve noticed that Steve’s (candidate’s) style is much more assertive, and I’m worried this could alienate our customers. What do you think?”

This type of targeted question can help clarify why the President is sold on this candidate, and get you to reevaluate what you are looking for, or maybe encourage her to rethink the criteria and take a fresh look at the candidate’s qualifications. Either way, you will make a more informed hiring decision.

— CHERYL JACOBS, Vice President at MCG Partners (on behalf of HR Expert CHUCK MOLLOR)

Q. Like many organizations, the age profile of our employees is changing. We are seeing many of our baby boomers start to retire and expect that trend to continue over the next couple of years We are unsure of how to approach Gen-Y’s in our organization. Help?

A. Good for you for recognizing that a different approach is needed! Here are three key strategies you can use to address the different motivations of several generations.

Demonstrate how they will grow
Gen Y’s/Millennial’s are the generation of instant gratification (think video games and instant messaging.) Many will not spend a lot of time ‘paying their dues’, preferring to change jobs and organizations for something new. So don’t assume that Millennials in your organization need a fast track to the top. Rather, demonstrate how they will be able to continuously learn and grow, make note of training and professional development programs, as well as the career paths available.

Use a hands-on management style
Millennial’s are accustomed to direct, ongoing supervision and guidance from parents, teachers and other authority figures in their lives. They expect this same relationship from their bosses. Pairing your Millennial’s with your strongest managers will likely keep them satisfied, engaged, and therefore more productive!

Offer flexibility and help with work/life balance
Millennial’s have a self-centered work ethic, however they are still dedicated to completing their task well. Millennial’s ask "what is my job" and go about figuring the best, fastest way to complete that task. Then they consider themselves done.

The younger they are, the more your employees view their jobs as "something to do between the weekends." For many, first or second jobs have nothing to do with a career path; it is a way to earn money to have fun in their free time.

As much as possible, recognize this style in how you motivate and reward these employees. Paid time off and telecommuting options are strategies that work well because they reward Millennials in the currency that they value most- their time.

— CHERYL JACOBS, Vice President at MCG Partners (on behalf of HR Expert CHUCK MOLLOR)

Q. It seems as though the Human Resources job market is starting to open up again, are you seeing this as well and if so, what industries seem to be hiring?

A. We have seen an increase in the number of job postings on our website site and in general it seems that companies are starting to hire more HR professionals at all levels, whereas the initial trend was at the more junior level. This trend started late last summer, dipped a bit in November and December, and has picked up quite a bit since January. Currently we are posting over 60 jobs a month, almost double what we’ve done in recent years.

The industries that seem to be hiring HR professionals vary in terms of location and specialty. Healthcare (broadly) continues to lead the trend with an increase in jobs being posted with local plan providers, as well as hospitals.

The academic institutions, like Harvard University and Tufts are also hiring, albeit not at the pace they did a five years ago. We are also seeing a slight uptick in hiring within financial services firms. Some of the larger firms are still quiet; however, some smaller/regional banks and credit unions are actively seeking HR talent at various levels. Finally, the retail industry in our region is picking up a bit, with opportunities at TXJ Companies and J. Jill. Of course all of these trends are most likely regionally unique and less likely to what is happening nationally, given the large concentration of hospitals and academic institutions in the Boston area.

— TRACY BURNS-MARTIN, NEHRA's Executive Director

Q. I have not had a job in nearly 18 months. I have interviewed unsuccessfully and feel like I’m running out of options. What advice do you have for getting a job?

A. The market is definitely competitive. The number talented HR people who are remaining unemployed far outweigh the number of opportunities. My best advice is to stay relevant and well networked.

One way to do this is to rethink the approach to your search. The term “job” takes on many meanings to people, including “a place I go to Monday-Friday that provides benefits and free bagels on Friday.” However, if you think more broadly about your skill set and set aside the location, title and industry, you may find that you have a far more transferrable skill set that you realized. Think about taking on “assignments” (aka project) vs. waiting for that perfect job. Depending on your financial and/or family situation, this may not work long term. I know, however, for many, it has resulted in a more rewarding and in some cases creative way to stay relevant and remain well networked in the HR community.

Another way to stay relevant is to further your education. Given the competitive nature of the New England job market, many employers look for an MBA or a master’s in a relevant subject as a requirement vs. a "nice to have".

— TRACY BURNS-MARTIN, NEHRA's Executive Director

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About NEHRA - The Voice of HR Featuring articles and resources for Human Resources / HR professional and hiring managers from the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA).

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