Tag Archive | "talent"

3 Ways to Tell If Job Candidates Are Faking Passion


In an era of fake references and “extreme” job seekers who make displays of their ambitions, finding people who will be as engaged as they pledge to be during the hiring process can be a bit of a guessing game, reported Inc. How can you assess who truly burns for the job, and who’s just faking it?

As it happens, the upcoming NFL draft (April 30-May 2), the annual event at which pro football teams evaluate and select young talent from the college ranks, provides a few answers.

Because of its exceptionally violent nature, football has always been a profession in which a player’s enduring passion is essential. “If you’re playing just for money, there’s probably not enough of it to put your body through that torture,” explains Je’Rod Cherry, an ESPN Cleveland radio host who played nine seasons, to Cleveland.com’s Tom Reed.

Plus, the stakes for NFL teams have never been higher: More and more players are abruptly retiring in their twenties to save their minds and bodies. That is, of course, understandable and even commendable. But it further complicates each team’s quest to gauge which players are just cashing the check and which ones really burn to compete and win.

So, how do NFL teams determine which players are genuinely passionate, and which ones are faking it to get the gig? Here are three tricks of the NFL talent-evaluation trade:

1. Look for talent with a chip on its shoulder.

The textbook example is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He will be in the NFL Hall of Fame one day. But he did not receive a single scholarship offer to play in college, despite a howitzer arm and 3.9 GPA. The reason? He stood 5-foot-2 entering high school and didn’t reach 6-foot-0 until his senior year.

He played his first year of college football at Butte College in Oroville, Calif. It was there that University of California coach Jeff Tedford noticed him and offered him a scholarship. “To say that Rodgers emerged from the recruiting process with a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement,” writes Bruce Feldman in The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks.

In fact, Rodgers’ infamous chip has become a template for those in the business of breeding quarterbacks. Trent Dilfer, the lead instructor at the quarterback competition known as Elite 11 academy, encourages pupils to find the mental space where they can access their chips as motivation, Feldman reports.

For example, prior to his acceptance at Elite 11, David Blough (currently a freshman at Purdue University) had not received a single scholarship offer. Thus he came to the 2013 competition–which takes place at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon–with a chip fully in place.

Blough excelled in early drills but slacked toward the end, claiming he was unaccustomed to front-running. Dilfer advised Blough to tune out the successful realities–and re-enter the world where he was a snubbed, hungry recruit. He told Blough: “Don’t you ever buy into the fact that you should live in reality. You keep living in this pretend world, because that’s where you thrive.”

Traditional entrepreneurs are also keen on finding employees with chips on their shoulders. Bert Jacobs, co-founder of the Life Is Good Company, believes those are the employees who’ll stay engaged in the long term, because they have “something to prove.”

2. Speak to their former managers–the ones you won’t find on any reference list.

Urban Meyer, head coach of the Ohio State football team, explained to Cleveland.com how the smartest NFL talent evaluators compile player information from college coaches.

One way is by asking about a player’s habits when he’s away from team activities. “What did he do on Friday and Saturday nights when he had spare time? How do you draft a guy or recruit a guy if you don’t know that?” Meyer asks.

Two lessons here cross over to business recruiting. The first pertains to checking references. Remember, the references anyone provides–be it a job candidate, an investor, or a partner–are just one piece of the puzzle. There’s nothing stopping you from researching and contacting their unlisted former colleagues to get a different perspective. NFL teams do this as a matter of course.

The smartest entrepreneurs do it when vetting venture capital firms. When Dave Elkington, founder of InsideSales.com, was ready to raise money, he made a point of speaking not only to company founders who had great relationships with VCs, but also to founders whose exits never materialized. He wanted to know how those oh-so-friendly VCs behaved when they were disappointed.

The second recruiting lesson is to ask about a job candidate’s spare time. Anyone can speak passionately during an interview, but do they behave passionately, in pursuit of their profession or something else, when no one is watching? Former managers and coworkers can shed light on these questions.

3. Scan for “graduate-level” details in their responses.

It’s no secret: If you’re passionate about anything, you can go on and on for days, speaking about it. Especially speaking about what it means to you.

Meyer points out that the smartest NFL teams have learned to look for players who have a “graduate-level” recall of football-related topics. It could be their favorite players as a kid, the first game they watched, their biggest on-field rival, or something they learned in game preparation through film study.

By all counts, one of the most passionate players in this year’s draft is University of Florida edge rusher Dante Fowler (pictured above). Teams believe in his passion because he consistently provides detail-dripping replies like this, which he shared with Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas. He’s speaking about his on-field rivalry with LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins:

That’s a bloodbath right there, me and La’el….My sophomore year, we went to Baton Rouge and played against LSU, and I’m not going to lie, I got my butt whooped….So I spent the whole last summer getting ready for La’el, I ain’t going to lie to you….I had it marked on my calendar the day after my sophomore game. That whole week leading up to the game, it felt like it was a year. Saturday finally came, and I was a captain, and he was a captain, too. It felt like we were about to do a boxing match. The whole coin toss, when the referees were talking, I was staring him down and he was staring me down.

You can see that his reply contains precisely what NFL talent evaluators seek in a passionate player: a chip on the shoulder and graduate-level details.

However, the skeptic in you would be right to wonder about how–twice–Fowler declares that he wouldn’t lie about something like this. Then again, it could be nothing but a verbal habit, the way some people repeat “you know” or “like.”

And therein lies the rub faced by anyone screening an employee for passion. “They’re going to tell you what you want to hear,” sums up Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie in a recent Wall Street Journal story. The most any team can do, he adds, is to “make sure you’re thorough.”

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7 Tips for Small Businesses to Attract and Keep Top Talent


Workers are showing an increasing willingness and ability to leave their jobs for other opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employees who quit their jobs rose by more than 400,000 from January 2014 to January 2015, reported ADP. Because of the competition for talent, it can be difficult to attract and retain skilled workers.

Consider the following tips to help your business find and keep top performers:

  1. Build a strong company culture. Shared values and practices can shape employee behavior and foster loyalty and commitment. Assess your current culture by conducting employee satisfaction surveys and speaking with supervisors. If it differs from what you want, develop a plan for moving toward your desired goal. Reinforce your culture and values through communication, rules, procedures, and management style.
  2. Be a leader people want to follow. Part of being a leader is earning employees’ respect and trust. To do this, openly communicate the company’s accomplishments and challenges. Give employees an honest assessment of their performance. Additionally, reward and celebrate team wins.
  3. Target the right talent. Elevated turnover rates may point to a problem with hiring practices. Look at your hiring process to make sure you’re able to find candidates with the best company fit. Do you have accurate job descriptions? Are you looking in the right places? Are you properly screening applicants? Are you getting employees started on the right foot?
  4. Create an attractive compensation package. An attractive compensation package can put your company ahead of its competitors. The right mix of direct compensation (wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses) and indirect compensation (health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, etc.) is key. Decide on a total compensation mix that balances attracting and retaining top talent with keeping labor costs under control.
  5. Recognize and reward top performers. A clear connection between performance and recognition is a powerful motivator for many employees. Recognition can come in the form of an “Employee of the Month” program, an announcement in company communications, or a note from a supervisor or head of the company. Rewards can be monetary (merit-based pay raises or bonuses)or non-monetary (special privileges like parking in the CEO’s spot).
  6. Offer cost-effective perks. Perks, such as paid time off, commuter assistance, and employee discounts, may be more affordable than you think. Flexible work arrangements, such as working from home, are also attractive for many employees. Consider using employee surveys to determine which perks employees value the most and develop a program that aligns with your budget.
  7. Train and develop employees. Provide employees with training and development opportunities to promote retention and commitment. Engage employees on a regular basis to determine their training needs and career development interests. Consider internal and external training opportunities, mentoring, job shadowing, and professional development classes. Tuition reimbursement is also an attractive perk.

For a small business, the loss of even one employee can have a significant impact on success. With the job market heating up, now is the time to develop and execute a plan for retaining your current employees—and attracting new ones.

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How to Compete Against the Big Guys for Top Talent


Via The Washington Post

The Apples, Googles and Facebooks of the world spare no expense in recruiting top talent, mostly because they have deep pockets. So, when prospective employees get a call from large corporations, they know any subsequent job offer will be lucrative and provide early résumé padding. Consequently, they gravitate toward the big players.

But that doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t compete for top talent — they just need to offer what the big companies can’t.

Here are a few tips to help you win top talent over the big guys

The key to success in the job market is identifying your competitive advantage. Perhaps you can’t offer a six-figure salary, but you can appeal to ambition.

Nobody gets to the top without an innate drive and a desire to make an impact. At a big company, these individuals will just be cogs in the machine, but at your small company, you can give employees the freedom to work on the things they’re passionate about and take on roles that allow them to make the company better in a tangible way.

At social networking company Path, for example, rather than seeking approval for changes to features, company leaders encourage employees to take the initiative to fix something if it’s broken. No stamp of approval or oversight required.

Along with a chance to make an impact on the organization as a whole, offer a different type of work environment — one where younger employees have access to the top executives and department leaders. This gives your team the opportunity to develop new skills and grow professionally — something young, ambitious people will find appealing.

And as they improve, make sure you reward good work. Promotions and salary bumps determined by merit (rather than time logged at the company) are a big draw for many young job seekers who are repelled by the concept of the “corporate ladder.”

The e-commerce platform Shopify awards bonuses to the employees who are most helpful to customers and other employees. Offering an environment where employees’ hard work and abilities are rewarded immediately can be a huge selling point for top talent, because they can get further in two years with you than they could at a larger corporation.

Don’t skimp on big-time recruitment

A lot of small companies shy away from big company recruiting strategies because of the expense and direct competition with larger firms, but this is a mistake.

Going straight to the source with on-campus recruiting is the absolute best way to snap up young standouts, but recognize what adds value and what doesn’t. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on pens or squishy balls that will end up in a junk drawer. Instead, post on school Web sites, attend career fairs, and meet with professors.

Another strategy the big dogs use is hiring headhunters. Some can be worth the fees, but others are a waste of your time and money. If you decide to use a headhunter for recruitment, do your homework, seek recommendations from people you trust, negotiate hard, and only hire one on a contingency basis.

While job boards are a great way to get a lot of applications, sifting through hundreds of low-quality applicants can put a strain on your team. Big sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and TheLadders can be effective when looking to fill certain roles, but they may not be the best solution for smaller companies that don’t have the resources for a massive search.

Keep top talent engaged and invested

Hiring great talent is merely the first step. Keeping those workers engaged and happy requires an ongoing effort.

A great way to keep your team members invested is to reward their ambition with incentives. Their salaries should be in line with the market, but highly driven individuals like a portion of their compensation tied to performance. Incentives don’t need to be strictly monetary, though. Offer travel opportunities and awards to acknowledge the great work of great employees.

Make sure there’s nothing in their work experience that makes them want to leave. People who are great at what they do often feel the urge to constantly do more. Make your company a nice place to work, but encourage a healthy work/life balance. Offer plenty of space to relax, and host events to foster connections outside the office.

My company hosts table tennis competitions and company-sponsored sports leagues, which give our team members the chance to get to know one another on a personal level. This creates stronger bonds within the company, and employees are more likely to have long-term stays if they feel they have friends and allies on their team.

Finally, give them the learning experience, resources, and opportunities you promised. Being a small company doesn’t mean you can’t snag top employees. You have a lot to offer the brightest talent — just make sure you deliver on your promises.

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Do You Have the Right Attitude to Attract the Best Talent?


Via Entrepreneur

Talent – the right talent – is a scarce resource. Companies want “the best” and they’ll spend boatloads of money to find it, yet the metrics by which talent are defined changes daily. It’s not easy identifying what your business needs when the competitive landscape is constantly in flux and you’re just trying to stay afloat.

The question remains, though. How do you, as a startup, attract the right people who not only buy what you’re “selling,” but who also want to work the long hours and suffer as many headaches as you do just to get the entrepreneurial ball rolling?

You need to set the bar (i.e. standards) high and not lower it. When the expectation of newbies entering the company is that of success, you naturally attract the types of people who aspire achievement. When Ernest Shackleton attempted to be the first explorer to trek across Antarctica, he needed a crew of like-minded individuals who expected adversity and were willing to endure hardship. In fact, to solicit his ideal crew, Shackleton posted the following help wanted sign:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”

The purpose this job advertisement really served was self-selection. Any respondent courageous enough to volunteer for an interview already possessed the mental fortitude of daring to do something that others wouldn’t.

So, how do you attract the right talent without stepping foot into Antarctica? Remember, how you – as a leader – choose to show up is everything. Your people will assume whatever mood you bring to work on any given day – positive or negative – so make sure you spread the right one. Here are three “good” toxins to share with your employees:

Be a student of the game. A startup isn’t a nine-to-five job. A team leader I once had the privilege of working for had a motto of being “All in, all the time,” and that’s the sort of mentality startup employees need if they want the business to last. Recall that 79 percent of startups fail to see their 10-year anniversaries, according to StatisticBrain.com. If you want people to immerse themselves in the business, to take it home with them and work on and improve for the next day, then you should be the first one in the office and the last one to leave.

Analyze, but be ready to adapt. Due diligence is important, but all the data in the world can’t protect your business from the unknown unknowns that Murphy likes to spring on us. Smart leaders understand that not all the facts are present come decision time, which is why ad-hoc solutions are sometimes better than no solutions (which is sometimes a solution in itself).

Adopt an attitude of service. In the SEAL Teams, one’s reputation is partially determined by the order of priorities to which he adheres. Namely, if he is one of those people who places himself first ahead of others, then a quick attitude adjustment is needed – and typically made by other teammates. The order of priority in the teams – and in business, for that matter – should work from the outside in, large to small: mission, team, me. Placing others before self has a contagious effect that spreads outward.

Culture fit is everything, and good leaders build a following because of who they are and what they stand for. If you can show others that you are a perpetual student who is flexible to learn and willing to serve others, then you will inevitably attract the right talent.

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