Category Archives: Hiring

On Reference Checks


By Jennifer Brownell, Managing Director, Q4B

Be honest. If there is one part of the recruiting process that most recruiters would rather not do themselves, would rather that someone else, anyone else, take responsibility for doing (someone in HR, hiring manager), and sometimes don’t even see the need for doing (the guy is that good, “A” player) it is the reference check. And since this is Halloween, it is as though we expect the reference to say ‘Trick or Treat” when we ask them to give a reference on one of our candidates. We always hope for the “Treat”.

As a third party recruiter, I view the reference check as the life blood of successful recruiting. It is not something that is only done when one of your candidates is being considered for a position; it is not something that is only done because you feel that there are some holes in the candidate’s work history that he/she can’t or won’t explain; and it is not something that is not done because your client company tells you that they will do the reference check if your candidate is made an offer. It is not an option. It is not some part of the recruiting process that is only done occasionally. Reference checks should be done for every candidate that you expect to represent. References should be obtained from every candidate that you interview, whether you represent them or not.

And it all starts in the interview.

We all approach the candidate interview in our own unique way but the end result should be somewhat the same. In other words, all recruiters want to hear the candidate talk about his/her experience as it relates to the requirements and expectations of the client’s position (job order, not JATS). Can the candidate solve the client’s problem, how would he/she solve the problem and has the candidate ever done anything similar to this in his/her past? Now, who could verify this? Who could be used as a reference, supervisor, peers, team members, vendors, stakeholders? Get the names, titles, relationship, contact info for each reference and let the candidate know that you will be calling.

LinkedIn has made some of this reference gathering a little easier with the use of the recommendation and endorsement features. If the candidate has recommendations and endorsements on his/her LinkedIn profile use this information as a starting point and have the candidate provide more detailed information and additional references as they relate to the position to be filled.

Now comes the hard part.

You call those references. You approach the reference check with an open mind, no bias towards your candidate. You are not just looking for “Treats”. You gather information from the references based on what the candidate has given you and the requirements and expectations of the client’s position. You let the reference know what the opportunity, problem and position is and ask if he/she thinks the candidate can do what is required and ask for examples of past related performance.

What you now end up with is a pretty complete picture of your candidate with actual examples of his/her capabilities, qualifications and experience that would make a good hire for your client. It is information that should then be used to pitch your candidate to the client, preferably on the phone or in person to schedule the first client-candidate interview.

You might also get information from the references that would be at odds with what your candidate said in the interview, contradicting how he/she represented him/herself and potentially damaging to the candidates reputation. All of these issues need to be discussed with your candidate and decisions need to be made. You may decide not to represent this candidate to your client or to any client. Better that you discovered this now rather than later in the interview process.

Now comes the payoff.

All of this hard work for every candidate that you represent would be worth it if you made more placements as a result. And if you did this part of the recruiting process consistently it would certainly allow you to promote your recruiting service as being more professional, better and different from some of your competitors.

But the real payoff is in the information that you gathered from your candidate’s references and the reference checks. Regardless of your area of specialization, most every reference given by your candidate (who is in your market) could either be a potential recruit or a potential hiring manager; every company where the references work will be a potential lead; every reference will provide you with market information that you probably don’t currently have and would have a hard time getting.

Recruiters, like all sales people, are numbers driven. We know how many candidate-client interviews it takes to make a placement; we know what our average fee is; we know how many candidates we need to have in our pipeline for one job order in order to submit a number of qualified, interested and available candidates to our client. We know our ratios, our turns.

If for every candidate that you interviewed you got at least five potential candidates and three potential hiring managers as references and you checked all of them for your candidate would you have more business?

So if you are not doing the reference check, why? Don’t you want more business?

I mentioned earlier that I considered the reference check the life blood of recruiting, so in keeping with the true spirit of Halloween I will dress up tonight in the only costume appropriate for a recruiter, A Vampire!!!!!

Happy Halloween Everyone!




A Different Type of Candidate Debate

By Jennifer Brownell, Managing Director, Q4B

In a recent blog posting (Politicians and Recruiters Make Strange Bedfellows) I suggested that there are some interesting similarities between the process that companies use to fill their open positions and how voters end up choosing a candidate for a political office.

If you think about it, political candidates are actually applying for a job, a job that carries with it certain responsibilities and in many cases comes with a pretty generous compensation package and opportunities for career advancement in or out of politics. In other words it is a good job.

And the voters make up the hiring committee, that group that will ultimately decide by majority vote which candidate will get the job, will be hired.

Candidates for any political office should be required to apply for a particular position (office), their application including resume should then be reviewed (vetting process) by the hiring committee (voters) and those deemed qualified and who are interested and available should be invited in for a series of interviews (primaries).

I was thinking about this comparison over the past couple of weeks while watching some of the highlights (and low lights) of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. In the political arena the debate format is used as a series of final interviews for the candidates.

Regardless of which side you are on, most voters would agree that if conducted properly a debate is a good format for addressing issues that are important and sometimes critical to job performance for that office, and for observing how each candidate responds to the various questions, thus giving the voter (sometimes undecided) enough information to make a decision for or against a particular candidate.

Could a debate format work as part of the hiring process?

Let’s say that a hiring manager has an opening to fill and a number of candidates have been screened and presented for consideration. A series of interviews have been conducted, phone and face-to-face by various stakeholders in the hiring process, including internal recruiters.

The hiring manager has selected three very qualified candidates that he would like to schedule in for final interviews before he makes the hiring decision. Normally, these three interviews would be set for each candidate and each would be interviewed, hopefully by the same individuals or team and each would have been asked the same questions. Debriefing meetings could be held after each candidate is interviewed and notes for all interviews would be compared and a decision made.

But what if all three candidates were brought in at the same time for a Job Debate?

The audience could be made up of company employees, vendors, upper management, customers, board members, anyone who might have an interest in hiring the best candidate for the position to be filled. The moderator would be the hiring manager and the questions that each candidate would be asked would have been prepared with input from all stakeholders and would deal only with issues that were necessary to performance for that position.

The candidates would be made aware of the topics to be covered, would have been given, if they did not already know, the performance expectations for the position, the critical initiatives that they would need to address and accomplish within the first 90 -180 days in that position.

Depending on the position, upper management, mid-management, staff, the job debates could be one and done or a series of up to three. All relevant topics would be covered, each candidate would have a chance to sell himself/herself to a much broader audience, and decisions regarding the hire could be made based on a comparison of each candidate’s responses to the questions and to the other candidates.

So, would a Job Debate work? I have a feeling that most hiring managers would not want to try because, not unlike the political debates, they have already made up their minds regarding which candidate will be hired.

But here is the upside to at least considering a Job Debate. More people will have an opportunity to see and hear each candidate. Other opportunities may present themselves to other hiring managers in attendance, thus allowing for more than one candidate being hired. The entire hiring process would become more transparent and candidates would be excited and anxious to apply to future openings just to participate in the process.

Now, I for one would like to be the fact checker in these Job Debates, unless you think that none of these candidates would ever stretch the truth.

Bring on the Replacement Recruiters!

By Dan Ridge, Contributing Consultant, Q4B

Whether you are a diehard football fan, a casual observer or someone who still thinks that what we call soccer in the USA is the most popular sport in the world you are certainly aware of the turmoil that is being created in the NFL with the lockout of the professional referees and the use or misuse of what are called replacement refs. Games have been decided by missed calls, bad calls and no calls. The integrity of the game is at stake and players, coaches, general managers and fans have had enough. Even the Good Guys in Vegas are not too happy with the current state of affairs.

There is a sense that with all of the controversy surrounding the debacle that was witnessed on MNF (unless you are a Seahawks fan) the lockout will end with each side giving and getting some of what each was bargaining for. But what a cost! Not so much in overall dollars but in fan perception, appreciation and support to say the least.

While I was watching ESPN, ESPN2 the other night I started thinking about this lockout, how important it is to have true professionals in every position in order for an organization to be successful, to provide value and service to their customers and to insure that the product or service delivered is the best that it can be. If one part of an organization is performing at a lower level than the rest of the organization the whole organization suffers.

Isn’t this true in recruiting? If not then it should be. Think about the many times you have seen companies that are struggling with their quarterly profitability, their stock prices are less than the street expected, their forecasts are off and projections for next quarter are dismal decide to cut their internal recruiting department down to almost nothing.

How many times have you seen those same companies run job ads that suck (JATS) looking for replacement recruiters with I to 2 years of experience when their company’s fortunes begin to turn around? Do you think that there will be some bad calls, missed calls and no calls when it comes to sourcing, screening and hiring the best fit candidates for their open positions? Could there ever be a situation where hiring managers and candidates raise enough of a ruckus that company management agrees to hire or rehire only seasoned experienced professional recruiters?

Probably not. Unfortunately, unlike the NFL referee situation, company management rarely sees the difference between seasoned experienced professional recruiters and their 1 to 2 year replacements. They don’t immediately see the impact if any of a bad call, missed call or no call by a replacement recruiter. And they certainly don’t understand how impactful a great hire is to their overall success.

And that is the fault of the seasoned experienced professional recruiter. Most recruiters vary rarely demonstrate their value to their company’s success. Do recruiters track the impact on the company that their hires have made? Can recruiters point to specific instances where one of their hires saved, made money for the company; exceeded expectations sooner than expected; was promoted or had a significant impact on the bottom line, the stock price or other company successes?

It is not about quality of hire, time to fill or cost per hire metrics that seemingly all recruiters are so caught up with. The people running a company are more concerned and more interested in making money, showing a profit, increasing revenue.

Did your hire help with any of those things? If not where is your value?

There may never come a time in your company where there will occur a tipping point event like the MNF spectacle that will show case the difference between seasoned experienced professionals and rookie replacements.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be able to demonstrate that difference yourself. Otherwise your company will always be looking for a replacement recruiter.

One last thought. I think that it would help if companies hired a senior recruiter to review every controversial hire and insist on using instant replay when the offer is extended and accepted.

Now, I will wait for a call from the league office. I know that they can use my input in settling this matter.

“Please hold for Mr. Goodell.”


Politicians and Recruiters Make Strange Bedfellows

By Jennifer Brownell, Managing Director, Q4B

I got my political fix over the last few weeks that should carry me for a while, at least until the debates start. I watched some of the proceedings from both conventions, read the analysis from some political wonks that I follow and caught snippets of video from a few of news shows. I like being informed. I am interested in the issues and am willing to listen to those who want my vote as they attempt to explain their solutions, their vision, their qualifications for the job that they want to be elected to.

I will make my decision (maybe I already have) based on a number of factors the least of which is party affiliation. I want to see the best qualified person elected. I want to make an informed decision and I think that every voter should want the same. Otherwise any election for any office becomes more American Idol and not what our founding fathers envisioned.

During both the conventions there was a good deal of chatter about the vetting process. When I heard this phrase repeatedly I all of a sudden realized how similar that this process used in the political arena was to the process that recruiters use.

The Vetting process is employed by a political party to look for and uncover any and all issues, scandals, misdeeds, skeletons-in-the-closet events or relations that might pose a problem for a particular candidate and potentially make him/her unelectable in the eyes of voters. It is not used to determine proper qualifications for a particular position/office but it is sometimes used to determine the candidate’s positions on certain key issues how aligned and in agreement those positions are with the party or in some cases a running mate.

Recruiters have their own Vetting process and it is called the reference check. Good recruiters use the reference check to verify much of the information that the candidate has supplied during the interview and use some of this information when making a presentation to a hiring manager.

The true reference check is much more than dates of employment and title of position held. A true reference check comes from the candidate’s peers, supervisors, customers, suppliers and includes such things as verifying RFL (reason for leaving) a job; type of employee; type of co-worker; college degree; rehirable or not; strengths and weaknesses; recommended fit for position to be filled; and if and when there is not a strong reference, advising the candidate not to use that reference in the future.

All of this information becomes part of the candidate’s history that the recruiter could use in presenting the candidate to the hiring manager and to provide evidence that this candidate is the right candidate for the job. Additionally, if during this vetting process information surfaces that suggest some issues such as scandals, misdeeds, skeletons-in-the-closet events that would pose a problem with the candidate being hired then the recruiter can decide to not represent the candidate or take other action.

Recruiters also use a vetting process in determining the clients they would want to work with. Or do we just take a job order from any company that has an open position that is somewhere in our market space? How you answer that question goes a long way to defining what type of recruiter you are and what your client’s perception of you truly is.

Good recruiters struggle with vetting their clients but in the long run they know that it is worth the struggle. Before deciding to pursue a prospective client recruiters should do some research and gather as much information about the company, profitability, market position, number of open positions, history of layoffs, viability of product or service, BBB reports, Hoover’s info, references from former or current employees, references from customers. More information can be gathered in the needs analysis portion of the process where recruiters can get a sense of how cooperative the hiring manager will be, how much HR or internal recruiters will be involved, commitment to the recruiter’s process for interviewing candidates, commitment to quick feedback and access to those involved in the interview, complete specs for the position and a signed fee agreement.

If during the course of your upfront research and the needs analysis you discover anything that would cause concern, anything that would make you think that this may not be a good engagement then make a decision. Cast your vote to either go forward with the assignment or decide not to do business with that company and be professional about it.

The recruiters vetting process allows the recruiter to provide the best qualified, interested and available candidates for the most cooperative, appreciative and long-term clients.

Now, if that only could work in the political arena.

My next blog will be about another phrase I heard repeatedly during the conventions, Fact Checkers.

Til then.

Carmen’s Hot Jobs, Vol 1, No. 11

By Carmen Lapham, Director of Recruiting and Operations, Q4B

One of our consultants who manages all of our Social Media channels recently forwarded a blog post from John Jantsch, the author of The Referral Engine and Duct Tape Marketing. The post posed the following question, “What makes the work you do worth it?”

In gathering some research for his new book, The Commitment Engine, Jantsch posed this question to a number of people and discovered that there is no right answer and there is a distinction between those who could give their answer off the top of their heads and those who had to think about it, or asked to get back later with their answer. Those who could answer right away seemed to have a deep commitment to some purpose that made the work that they do worth it. Those who could not immediately answer seemed to have no purpose for the work that they do.

When I asked myself this question, I immediately thought of how much of a difference I make in peoples lives; how much I contribute to the success of the candidates that I place and the companies who have hired our great candidates. The work that I do also allows me to help provide for my family, my family’s future and affords me the opportunity to give back to my local community and to pursue a number of interests away from work. It does all this because I get paid well to do it.

I am considering posing this question to my candidates when I interview them. It would I think elicit a much different response than asking the standard questions, “What was your reason for leaving your last position (assuming they are no longer with that company)? or What are you looking for in a new position, why are your looking?”

Asking “What made the work that you are doing or were doing worth it?” would tell me a lot about the candidates interests, his/her commitment to their work, how much value they place on being paid for what they do and what type of work would motivate them, really allow them to thrive in the right environment.

I would also want to see how quickly they respond to the question, immediately or delayed. That too would give me some insight into their commitment to some purpose that made the work that they were doing worth it.

Now, ask yourself this question. Was your answer immediate or delayed?

Chances are pretty good that if you are in the recruiting business and good at what you do your answer would be immediate and similar to mine. Ours is a profession that for those of us who do the work well can provide a great deal of worth.

Any candidate who is reading this blog should ask themselves this same question. It just might give you a whole different perspective on the work you do, or the work you would like to do. And remember if I interview you I will be asking you this question. Be prepared!

Now here are a few Hot Jobs for this week and as you might imagine it will be well worth your time to look at them.

  • Global Information Security Manager – Think investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, restructurings for global clients all depending on your Information Security expertise. Awesome!
  • Senior ERP Project Manager – And no, you won’t get this job just because your first name is Wyatt. You will need to come prepared to show your PM skills as well.

That is it for this week. If you are interested in the Hot Jobs above click on the link and apply through our Talent Hub. We will respond quickly and we will value your time. At Q4B candidates are our customers too.

And remember after reading this blog be sure to Like, Retweet, Pin it, and +1 this post. You never know who is going to see the positions and think that it is the perfect position for them.

Til next week!


Carmen’s Hot Jobs, Vol 1, No. 10

By Carmen Lapham, Director of Recruiting and Operations

Let’s face it; Labor Day needs a make over. It no longer carries the same significance that it once did. There was a time when Labor Day was celebrated with speeches, parades and picnics honoring those who worked, the laborer. Most people today probably don’t even know what Labor Day is meant to celebrate. And beyond the historical significance of the day itself, it no longer signifies such things as the last day before school starts with some schools starting as early as August 1st;  the last day that swimming pools are open or the last day that those fashion conscious among us can wear white.

So what happened to Labor Day? Where did it lose its significance? Why isn’t it still celebrated like Independence Day or Memorial Day or even Groundhog Day?

I was pondering these questions while I was out with my family and a few friends doing my part to keep the Labor Day tradition alive. We packed a picnic lunch complete with a great selection of some fine crafted beers brewed by some local laborers; we listened to some speeches by my husband and his friends regarding the best place to picnic and the best way to get there without using Google maps or asking for directions; and we paraded around several great locations until we settled upon a shaded hilly spot close enough to the stage where young local musicians were covering some of the great Woody Guthrie tunes.

A Great Labor Day! But those questions kept nagging at me the whole time. Could Labor Day have lost its mojo because unlike two of the other days, Independence and Groundhog, there was never a movie made about it? Or could it be that unlike the other day, Memorial there was not a significant auto race or a major (sort of) golf tournament played that weekend?

I am not sure what the reason is but I have an idea that might help to bring the first Monday in September back to its glory days, back to being a day that is truly celebrated by all. We need to rename it. We need to call it Career Day, a day to celebrate those who are working, those who have been working and are now looking for work, those who have been working and are now retired or only seek part time work and those just entering the workforce. It would be a day to recognize workers of all types and honor them for what they are doing, what they have done and what they would like to do.

Those of us in the recruiting business could spearhead this movement and organize job fairs, seminars and discussions about job search, career management, career planning, career coaching and involve our own clients in the process.

We could come out from behind our desks, take off our headsets and for one day join the ranks of the masses who are yearning for any and all information regarding work, labor, career, job search, interviewing, offer acceptance, negotiating, resumes as product literature and performance profiles that only we, as seasoned professional recruiters, possess.

It would be a national day of information and celebration that no other special day could rival. And the next day we would have job orders to fill and pools of talent from which to source.

“Carmen, Carmen the show is over we need to get the kids home and you have a big day tomorrow.”

Oh well, it seemed like a good idea. I wonder if Hallmark would be interested in producing a line of greeting cards for Career Day!

Now here are our Hot Jobs for this week and they are worthy of celebrating.

  • Senior JDE Project Manager – If you thought all PM jobs were alike, think again! Great internationally recognized Oracle consulting firm promising as much travel as you have always wanted.
  • Junior Security Engineer – A job with real security and the only difference between the Junior and Senior position is that only one of you gets to wear the Green Lantern’s Ring and the Senior picks which one!

That is it for this week. If you are interested in the Hot Jobs above click on the link and apply through our Talent Hub. We will respond quickly and we will value your time. At Q4B candidates are our customers too.

And remember after reading this blog be sure to Like, Retweet, Pin it, and +1 this post. You never know who is going to see the positions and think that it is the perfect position for them.

Til next week!

Carmen’s Hot Jobs, Vol 1, No. 8

By Carmen Lapham, Director of Recruiting and Operations

Writing this blog every week has given me a whole new perspective on what my job is all about and on the value that Q4B brings or should bring to our client companies and our candidates. And since this blog is primarily candidate focused, it is my perspective on our relationship with our candidates that has begun to change.

Each time I write and post this blog I begin thinking about the next blog that I want to write. I have become more and more aware of trends in the recruiting industry, topics that are discussed on the various social media channels that we monitor, and the responses that those discussions solicit from the various group members who are engaged. I look for information, articles, other blogs, Tweets and books on any thing recruiting, talent acquisition, hiring and retention related.

Before I began to blog about the candidate experience, treating candidates as customers, promoting job ads that don’t suck and touting the various Hot Jobs that I highlight each week I felt that I was a passionate, experienced, dedicated recruiter who had been there and done that, who had seen the recruiting process work, who had done some things and seen others do some things that didn’t work and learned from those experiences good or bad.

I now know that as much experience in recruiting that I have, as much knowledge of the recruiting process that I know that I have there is so much more that I can learn about this business. And the more that I learn, the more that I can share with and pass on to the rest of our staff, the greater value we can offer our client companies and our candidates.

I have started asking myself and my staff the following questions as part of our debriefing when we close a job assignment, successful or not.

  • Did we have enough information from the client in order to conduct a successful search?
  • Did we have enough information from the candidate in order to properly screen and successfully present to the client?
  • Did we prepare the candidate for a successful interview?

Getting answers to these questions is how we get better, it is how our newer recruiters, sourcers and screeners learn and it is how with each engagement we become that much more of an asset to our clients and candidates. It is also how we insure that as much as possible we are not surprised by the results of our recruiting efforts going forward.

And now the information you have been waiting for, our Hot Jobs for this week!

  • Oracle EBS Manufacturing Consultant – And you thought you would have to join the Navy or become a long distance truck driver to see this much of the USA. Travel, Travel, Travel and a lot of emphasis WIP, BOM and WMS if you know what I mean.
  • Software Configuration Manager – This job is so HOT that I have mentioned it More than once in previous Hot Jobs Blogs. But remember if interested in this job get ready to explain what CTFL, ISTQB, CSQA and CSTE stand for.

So that is it for another week. I have already begun to think about next week’s blog. It may have something to do with interviewing and what our successful candidates always have with them.

No, not my cell phone number, but that is not a bad idea!

Til next week.