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Even though most of us don’t want to admit it, we regularly judge people and make perceptions about people based on what they are wearing. In the workplace, the choices an employee makes regarding shoes and clothing goes a long way towards how they “fit” into the environment and culture.
Shoes or no shoes?
I recently had the opportunity to see Todd Snider at The Englert in Iowa City, Iowa. Dave Zollo opened for Todd that evening. Musicians are definitely exempt from typical workplace rules. Both Dave and Todd took the stage shoeless. This is part of Todd’s style regardless of where he is playing or who he is playing for. As a musician traveling to numerous venues across the country, Todd arrives “as is” and it is up to fans and venue to accept him for who he is.
This isn’t exactly how it seems to work in a normal workplace. Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. For many women in the workplace, that means breaking out all of those sandals and open-toed shoes that have been in the back of the closest since last year. For some employers, this is a dreaded time of the year.
- Employee Advice: Be sure to adhere to any HR policies your company has regarding a dress code. In some cases, these policies may be in place for your own safety depending on the work environment.
- Employer Advice: If safety isn’t a major concern in the workplace, focus more on the quality and quantity of work produced by your employees and less on how an individual dresses.
Jeans or no jeans?
After six years of working in a position where the dress code was set at business casual, Bob recently started a new leadership position with a technology start-up. As with most start-ups, the company is heavy on passion and long hours and light on process and structure. As a result, the culture is very laid back, there is no formal dress code, and everyone–including the CEO–wears jeans or shorts daily.
Because of Bob’s past work experiences and his own personal style, he wore his old business casual clothes to his new office. Initially, several of his new co-workers, including his boss (the CEO) made some joking comments about his khakis and dress shirts. However, after several weeks, Bob continued to wear his khakis.
- Employee Advice: Try to fit in to the company culture the best you can when you start a new job. You want to avoid doing things–including what you wear–that take the focus off of your skills and abilities.
- Employer Advice: Give new employees some time to adjust to their new company and role. Provide specific, behavior-based feedback to them in order to smooth the transition.
This blog article, submitted by Elizabeth Trcka, Skywalk Group Partner, is the final recruiting topic for the month of November. Next month we will round out the year with entertaining and informational blog articles from our Skywalk Group team.
How to best prepare and ensure that your job offer will be accepted. No surprises!
To reach an offer acceptance by a candidate, there should be no surprises once you are ready to extend the offer. Keep in mind, the offer process starts from the minute you engage a potential candidate. By constantly asking qualifying questions, pre-closing the candidate, and keeping the client informed, you can minimize the risk of investing countless hours and resources in a candidate who declines an offer.
Gather information throughout the recruiting process
One of the most common mistakes in job offers is there was not enough information gathering and giving early in the process. As a result, candidates are surprised by compensation, location, start date and a wide variety of other factors.
During the recruiting process, make it a conscious effort to gather the key data points during the initial conversations. A couple of must have’s;
- Last 2 -3 year’s W2 income
- Percentage of income from base and bonus
- Expected income for next job—base and bonus
- Ability and willingness to commute to the office (if required)
- If relocation is necessary, the expected costs and/or components (moving expenses, home sale, breaking a lease, etc) involved for the candidate
- Desired start date
As you collect this data, you should also be giving the same information back to the candidate. Confirm that the compensation is within available range, that the relocation needs are within budget, and that the desired start date matches the company’s needs. If one of the data points is out of line with your expectations, discuss it then. You do not always need to resolve the difference then, but make sure it is widely known before the decision to move forward is made.
The final part of doing your homework is learning the candidate’s selling points. Why are they interested in the position? What are their long-term career goals? What kind of corporate culture do they prefer? Start documenting the data points that will allow you to build a compelling sales pitch when the time comes to negotiate and close the candidate.
Most important is to document the information. All of this information should be a) collected, and b) confirmed more than once during the phone screening, initial interviews and final interviews. It never hurts to say “When we spoke on November 15th we discussed a salary range of $65,000 to $70,000—is this still what you are thinking?” It lets the candidate know that you are paying attention, which is both reassuring and reduces any urge to renegotiate late in the game.
Pre-close the candidate
Through the interviewing process, you should be continuing to 1) collect the necessary data, 2) confirm accuracy, and 3) begin to lay the groundwork for your sales pitch. Remember the ABC’s—Always Be Closing.
Pre-closing a candidate is the step that has the most impact on the acceptance rates of job offers, and is one often skipped. Once you think you feel the candidate has a legitimate chance of receiving an offer, make the pre-closing call. The goal is to outline the details of an offer, but be very clear that this is a confirmation of the candidate’s interest and not a verbal offer.
Begin by saying you and the group/company have not made a final decision to extend an offer, but you think they are a strong candidate and would like to talk through the details of what an offer may look like. Recap the information you have documented—compensation, salary/bonus, location, desired start date. Then walk through the same points with ranges of the offer. Highlight and discuss any discrepancies between your expectations and the candidates. A couple of sample questions you may want to use include:
- If we were to extend you an offer that looked like this, would you be interested in joining us?
- Are there any reasons why this offer would not be acceptable to you?
- Is this offer what you were hoping for? When would you be able to start?
- Have you discussed this opportunity with your family/partner/significant other or do you need more time to discuss it?
- Do you think your current company will give you a counter offer, and is there a chance you would stay?
All of these questions open opportunities for further discussion and gives you a better sense for where the candidate is in the decision making process. Once you get a feel for where you align and where you don’t, reiterate that there are other candidates in process and other considerations before making the formal offer. Wrap up the pre-closing conversation with a specific time when the candidate will hear from you with details on next steps. Again—not an offer, but “decisions on next steps”. Once that time and date are set, stick to it! Even a half-day’s delay sends the wrong message and puts you behind other competitive offers. Hopefully you will be calling with a formal offer, but at the very least you will call with an update and set a new time and date for follow-up.
Extending the offer
Once you have agreed internally to move forward with the offer, call the candidate at the time set previously or schedule a new time to talk with the candidate about next steps. While you want the conversation to be natural and comfortable, one potential outline and structure for the conversation would be:
- Start out with the good news—“We’d like to formally extend you an offer!”
- Tell them what you are going to tell them—set the agenda of the conversation
- Sell the opportunity and alignment with the candidate’s goals, which by now you have already discussed in detail:
-Start by describing the immediate impact the candidate will make
-Discuss the long-term opportunities for the candidate
-Highlight the company’s strengths—growth, vision, culture, etc
- Create a direct link between the candidate’s previously stated career and personal goals and the job
- Discuss the details of the offer. Specifically address any areas where the offer does not meet the candidate’s requests or issues discussed in the pre-closing call.
- Ask for feedback
-If the candidate is satisfied with the details, ask for a verbal acceptance—“So if you are good with the offer and this is a verbal acceptance, I’ll put together the formal offer letter and get it out to you.” (There is no reason to send the offer if you do not have a verbal acceptance.)
-If the candidate has remaining questions or would like time to consider the offer, identify the areas of concern. In many cases, the candidate will want something on paper—offer to outline the details of what the offer would be in an email rather than send out the formal offer letter
- Once the candidate has verbally accepted:
-Prepare the candidate for a counter offer, if relevant. Walk them through how they will respond to a counter offer from the current employer—remind them why they are leaving and address what they will likely offer them to stay. The loyalty of a candidate that accepts a counter offer will always be in question by the employer.
-Discuss next steps and timeline. Let them know when the offer will go out and how long they have to accept. Always set a deadline for formal written acceptance—we recommend a deadline of less than 3 business days, with 1-2 days being preferable. If you have done your pre-closing work, this should be a formality and should not require much consideration.
-Let them know the formal paperwork will be sent, and make sure they have it in their hands within 24 hours. Whenever possible, email a PDF version of the offer letter or overnight the offer packet to the candidate.
- Final steps
-Follow up with the candidate to make sure they received the paperwork and everything is in order.
-Always require the offer letter to be signed and returned by the date specified. It may seem obvious, but we have had clients in the past just send out the letter and wait for the candidate to show up on the first day with the signed paperwork. Not surprisingly, they had an abnormally high rate of candidates back out of their offers, accept competitor’s offers or just never show up to work.
-Once the offer is in-hand, the recruiter or hiring manager should follow up with the candidate at least once a week until the start date. The longer the time period between acceptance and start, the greater the risk of the candidate backing out.
- Check in and follow up. Be sure to check in with the candidate the first week to see how things are going. If there is any disconnect between the candidate’s expectations and reality, you want to identify them quickly.
Anyone who has spent months recruiting the perfect candidate only to have it unravel at the last minute understands the importance of a smooth negotiation and closing process. Given the amount of resources required to attract the right candidate, the process of negotiating and extending a job offer is often overlooked and undervalued. However, by following a few guidelines and best practices, you can drastically reduce the risk of losing a candidate at the offer stage.
If you are looking for someone with a significant amount of knowledge regarding recruiting and hiring trends both in The Corridor and nation-wide, Elizabeth Trcka, Skywalk Group Partner, is the answer.
If you don’t have time to read the full article, below you will find Elizabeth’s recruiting tips.
Use the following tips to find the best candidates for an opening:
- Remember your ABCs: Always Be Connecting.
- Use social media. Encourage key employees to network online. Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be used as networking tools, in addition to letting people know about job opportunities.
- Have a good website: A good website can tell prospective employees a lot about a company. Be sure to include a visible, informative jobs or careers section.
- Use free job sites. Take advantage of Iowa Workforce Department’s Iowa Jobs, and other free sites such as Craigslist.
- Don’t forget networking. Put an employee referral plan in place to encourage employees to always think about potential new employees. Build relationships with local college career centers and task managers to always be scouting for talent.
Source:, partner at the Skywalk Group in Cedar Rapids
Also, if you are an organization that is currently hiring for critical positions in your company, take advantage of Skywalk Group’s May 2010 Job Analysis Consulting Tool offer.
IR-2010-33, March 18, 2010
WASHINGTON — Two new tax benefits are now available to employers hiring workers who were previously unemployed or only working part time. These provisions are part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act enacted into law today.
Employers who hire unemployed workers this year (after Feb. 3, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2011) may qualify for a 6.2-percent payroll tax incentive, in effect exempting them from their share of Social Security taxes on wages paid to these workers after March 18, 2010. This reduced tax withholding will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits, and employers would still need to withhold the employee’s 6.2-percent share of Social Security taxes, as well as income taxes. The employer and employee’s shares of Medicare taxes would also still apply to these wages.
In addition, for each worker retained for at least a year, businesses may claim an additional general business tax credit, up to $1,000 per worker, when they file their 2011 income tax returns.
“These tax breaks offer a much-needed boost to employers willing to expand their payrolls, and businesses and nonprofits should keep these benefits in mind as they plan for the year ahead,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
The two tax benefits are especially helpful to employers who are adding positions to their payrolls. New hires filling existing positions also qualify but only if the workers they are replacing left voluntarily or for cause. Family members and other relatives do not qualify.
In addition, the new law requires that the employer get a statement from each eligible new hire certifying that he or she was unemployed during the 60 days before beginning work or, alternatively, worked fewer than a total of 40 hours for someone else during the 60-day period. The IRS is currently developing a form employees can use to make the required statement.
Businesses, agricultural employers, tax-exempt organizations and public colleges and universities all qualify to claim the payroll tax benefit for eligible newly-hired employees. Household employers cannot claim this new tax benefit.
Employers claim the payroll tax benefit on the federal employment tax return they file, usually quarterly, with the IRS. Eligible employers will be able to claim the new tax incentive on their revised employment tax form for the second quarter of 2010. Revised forms and further details on these two new tax provisions will be posted on IRS.gov during the next few weeks.
Coe College Student Alumni Association Presents:
What can you do to fine tune your skills to be hired in the future? What skills do you need?
Join the group on Wednesday, March 31 as David Tominsky, 1998 Coe College graduate in English, discusses what you can do to have a better chance of being hired. David has ten years of experience working for the largest staffing company in the country. He has placed over 300 people into high income positions and currently serves as the Director for Skywalk Group, an HR consulting firm here in Cedar Rapids. He is also an expert on using social networking to recruit top talent. Get Linkedin with David today!
For students who attend, this includes free dinner and advice on how to get hired! Learn how to get prepared for the real world. What could be better?
If attending, please respond to Kristen Blodgett, SAA Director of Careers, by Sunday, March 28 with your graduation date, major, and whether you want a vegetarian or non-vegetarian entree. Questions contact Jean Johnson, Director of Alumni Programs, 399-8608 or email Click here to view email address.