For Internal Reference Checks, Keep the Salt Handy

There’s no arguing that references are an essential part of the hiring process. They offer valuable insight into a candidate’s workplace accomplishments and character. At EdgeLink, we conduct a thorough reference process when screening candidates, vetting their resumes and track records with former employers and educational institutions.

All that said, there is one kind of reference check (whether it’s positive or negative) that you should consider with a few extra grains of salt. It’s the informal, internal, word-of-mouth check many employers conduct by asking their own internal team members whether they know the potential candidate or have friends who have worked with the candidate.

Polling your internal talent to get the “street’s” perspective on a potential hire sounds like a great idea at first. You may learn insights directly from former colleagues and get an in-person perspective on the individual’s performance and workplace personality. But what may seem like a no-brainer, no-cost vetting effort rarely yields the most reliable insight. Here’s why:

Fair critique requires perspective.
To give a fair analysis of a candidate’s job performance, the evaluator needs perspective. While colleagues have day-to-day contact and often collaborate, they are not mandated with the task of measuring, critiquing and improving each other’s performance. An individual, who may seem to be extremely busy and hardworking, might turn out to be very weak at final delivery and execution when management takes a bottom-line look. On the other hand, some of the most productive employees try as they may, might not be achieving the standards required to be truly excellent in a role.

Supervisors who are responsible for the individual’s job performance not only have clearer insight into the work and results delivered, they have a personal stake in their employees’ success. That added stake adds more weight and more insight.

The less emotion the better.
People spend a lot of time in the workplace. It can be hard to get along with everyone, but it is also a place where strong friendships and loyalties are built. It’s hard to ascertain whether a word-of-mouth critique of a candidate is tinged by personality conflicts, shaded by the devotion of friendship or objective enough to yield real insight.

How reliable is the grapevine?
Few will argue that many misunderstandings occur through grapevine communications and second-hand accounts. As the degrees of separation between former colleagues and industry acquaintances increase, the chances of misinformation and misunderstandings clouding references rises as well. That must be factored in when gathering internal references.

You must account for change.
This final point is true with all references—people change. At EdgeLink, we know that the reference checks we conduct are excellent for fact checking: hiring and exit dates, work accomplishments, career paths across an organization, educational background, test results and workload. However, when it comes to workplace character (work ethic, team building skills, professionalism, etc.), we have learned that people change—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Just recently, in fact, a client refused to interview one of the IT consultants EdgeLink had recruited due to a poor internal reference. One of the client’s staff members had worked with the candidate years prior and had not been impressed by his workplace professionalism. EdgeLink, on the other hand, had conducted extensive interviewing and reference checking and felt certain this candidate was a great match for the job as well as a highly professional technologist.

EdgeLink convinced the client to give the candidate a shot and encouraged the staff member who gave the reference to join the interview process. The client ended up loving the candidate and the internal staff member was also impressed by the interviews. The candidate was hired and has been a productive and valued team member ever since. The lesson: We all have our career high points and low points. Allow for the possibility that people can change in numerous ways, especially when significant time has passed.

So what do we at EdgeLink recommend? A ban on internal reference gathering? Absolutely not. We just want to remind business leaders and hiring managers to proceed with caution as you gather staff feedback prior to interviews and testing. Consider the reference information provided, the source and even structure interview questions to address any information you have learned.

Above all, don’t base a hiring decision on internal references alone. You run the risk of missing great hires or, even worse, hiring and investing in professionals who have great internal connections but turn out to be poorly suited to their new roles. Make informed hiring decisions by tapping into a rich portfolio of candidate information and conducting a thorough, neutral interview process.

Hiring in a Recession Is Easy, Right? Wrong!

You know that we like the bright side of every situation at EdgeLink. In fact, we pride ourselves on making opportunities out of every challenge. But when clients ask us if the recession has made recruitment easier, we don’t dress up reality. Hiring top talent today is even harder than it was before the downturn began.

It’s counterintuitive but true. The growing numbers of job seekers have certainly resulted in a deluge of resumes across the desks of hiring managers everywhere. Quantity is up. The quality of candidates applying, on the other hand, has not skyrocketed because employers are holding tightly to their best performers and top innovators. Whether you have 30 resumes or 300, your ratio of qualified, sought-after candidates versus unqualified candidates remains the same as it was a year ago.

Should the fact that those towering resume piles (or bursting inboxes) only contain a few outstanding hires prevent your business from raising hiring standards? Absolutely not. Downturns are as much about opportunity as they are about challenge. They offer opportunities to advance far beyond the competition, opportunities to surpass customer expectations and opportunities distinguish your business from those paralyzed by recession fear through innovation and market leadership.

A business staffed with skillful, bright, committed and hardworking team members is one that can take advantage of the opportunities the recession presents and continue to build upon them well into the recovery. So we at EdgeLink enthusiastically encourage you to raise the recruiting bar and use the following tips to modify your recruiting strategy in order to find and hire the best of the best.

EdgeLink’s Recession Recruitment Strategy Tips

— Adjust your Clock. Be prepared for a longer hiring cycle. Remind yourself and business leaders that a great hire is a much sounder bottom-line investment than a mediocre hire that can fill the job but not fulfill high expectations.

— Be Finicky and Fast. If the cover letter is submitted and is weak or the resume has holes that give you certain pause, move on. Committing to finding the best hires means being willing to letting go of the average ones right away.

— Increase Interviewing. Even with the industry resources and state-of-the-art resume analysis tools we use at EdgeLink to identify talent, we are dramatically increasing our candidate interview numbers. Our interview rates have more than tripled since first quarter of 2008.

More interviewing is essential today because a greater numbers of applicant resumes will line up with your required profile in terms of skills and experience. Only a smart, efficient interviewing process will allow you to identify cream of the crop professionals who have the essential soft skills (communications, professionalism, team orientation, etc.) and character traits (intellectual curiosity, passion, drive) your business is seeking. To increase interviewing efficiency, EdgeLink suggests:

— Using short, pre-screening phone interviews to eliminate any problem candidates. If resources and time are short, work with a third-party recruitment partner like EdgeLink that has the technology, team and track record to quickly and successfully identify the very best candidates.

— Developing and using one standard, simple questionnaire for each position. Ensuring standardization of the questioning will make comparisons easier.

— Setting strict time limits and letting the candidate know why—the applicant pool is very big. By limiting the time to make an impression, you heighten the importance of each question and challenge the candidate to rise to the occasion.

— Integrate passive recruitment efforts. The best candidates in the marketplace are in jobs right now—succeeding at other companies. If you want to employ the best of the best, your recruitment strategy will need to include passive candidate recruitment, which requires networking and some headhunting on behalf of your recruitment team.

— Build a Bench. Even if you are not hiring right now, it’s a great moment to build a bench of enthusiastic potential hires you can turn to when a position opens up. Continue general recruitment efforts and keep an eye out for outstanding professionals at networking and industry events. Be sure to include your recruiters and recruiting partners in all bench-building efforts and make sure they are updated to essential changes, such as evolving technology platforms. The better informed your recruiting team is the better your hiring results will be.

As always, recruitment is an important challenge. However, in these tough economic and job market times, it’s a very good one to have.

Happy Belated Birthday WWW!

Friday March 13th marked the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web!

Here is a small sampling of the many articles posted. Yeah, on the web of course.

It was 20 years ago today: The Web
Happy 20th Birthday, World Wide Web
Happy 20th birthday to the World Wide Web

And here is a link to a copy of the original proposal, authored by Tim Berners-Lee:

Information Management: A Proposal

Dang, I should have baked a cake!

Great Job Opportunities Even During the Holidays!

About this time, each year we receive a great deal of inquiries about what to expect in the job market around the holidays. We hear candidates voice there concerns about the possibility of declining job prospects and debate whether to put their search on hold until the New Year. There is a common misconception that the holiday season is the worst time of year to find a job. In fact, historically the holiday season has been an excellent time to job hunt.

Even with the recent doom and gloom outlook of the current economy, hiring plans for the 2008 holiday season still look encouraging. In a recent survey conducted within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of and USA TODAY among 3,061 hiring managers and human resource professionals, some positive news can be found:

· Employers expect current hiring trends to hold steady through the end of the year.

· Certain sectors such as IT and Healthcare are still showing solid job growth while others struggle with reorganization, cost containment and other measures to stay afloat.

· Q4 2008 Job Forecast
23 % of employers plan to add full-time, permanent employees
63 % anticipate no change
10 % plan to decrease headcount
4 % are undecided

Statistically for 2008, this tracks similar to or the same as Q3 hiring. So you if you are on the fence about ramping up your job search don’t stop looking just because the holidays are around the corner. Instead, go ahead and crank up that search! Your next dream job just might be in your near future, giving you even more reason to celebrate some holiday cheer!

Happy Holidays from EdgeLink!!!

EdgeLink celebrates 5 years

On April 3, 2008 we had a VERY successful Open House event at our EdgeLink office to celebrate EdgeLink’s 5th Anniversary and to say thank you to our clients and consultants.

We enjoyed:
· savory food
· amazing music
· a fun game and prizes
· great conversation with everyone!

Thank you to all who attended and we missed those of you who were not able to make it. Look for additional EdgeLink events in the future.