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Stories about giant companies with deep pockets make for fun reading. But the truth is that not every firm can afford to provide employees with profit sharing options or on-site child care.

Most employers live in a different reality: one where every dollar counts and the name of the game is making the biggest impact possible with the most economical use of resources.  

Being lean isn’t just a virtue—it’s central to success. This applies to head count, too.

But there can come a point when you can get a bit too lean. Sure, investing in extra staff is expensive, but sometimes not investing in new staff can be even more costly because doing too much with too little can damage your business.

Here are five signs to help you identify when it’s time to invest in people.

1. Beware the signs of burnout

Working hard is great. But be careful that you’re not pushing people past their limits.

If team members keep telling you that it’s difficult (or impossible) to get all their work done, that’s a warning sign of too many responsibilities and not enough people to complete them.

Pay attention to nonverbal cues, too.

Have you noticed an uptick in the number of projects that aren’t getting finished? Are too many of them taking too long to execute? Is it tough for your team to set—and stick to—goals? Do ordinarily cheerful people seem stressed and irritable?

All these could be signs of burnout. If it’s not dealt with, your employees might leave, increasing the pressure on those who remain and making your staffing situation even more problematic.

2. In a management vacuum, no one can hear you scream

Do you feel like you’re constantly fielding questions and approving requests on matters both big and small? You know you’ve hired good people, so why do they keep asking you about every little thing?

Well, they probably need more oversight, training and support than you alone have time to provide. And if you can’t do it all, then it could be time to hire.

A strategic management hire can make a team function better. By putting someone in place to keep an eye on processes and handle all those day-to-day questions and decisions, your team will be freed up to contribute more.

They’re not the only ones who will benefit. Filling the vacuum will mean less stress for you and more time to focus on the crucial strategic tasks related to running your business. You’ll free yourself up to concentrate on the big picture.

3. Saving money is costing you money

Sometimes you can pinch a few too many pennies; and sometimes waiting too long to hire (or not hiring at all) can wind up costing you money.

Let’s say you’re seeing an increase in overtime pay, or you have scheduling gaps and rely on the same few people to fill shifts—those are signs of an under-resourced team.

Overtime can get costly, and it’s definitely not a long-term solution. In fact, it can increase the risk of burnout among overextended employees, who might seek a better work-life balance elsewhere.

Losing an employee doesn’t just mean that you’re out the investment you put into helping them develop skills and experience. The time taken to find a replacement will also cost you money. Meanwhile, you’re spending all your energy refilling a role you already had filled, instead of finding the additional help you really need.

And if you’re turning down contracts because you don’t have the people to do the work? It’s going to be tough to grow your business. In situations like this, hiring someone can empower you to capitalize on opportunities and drive new revenue.  

4. Customer service is slipping

The signs that it’s time to hire may not just be coming from your existing team. Do you see an increase in customer complaints about responsiveness and transaction quality? Are orders going unfulfilled or going out late?

Customers might be frustrated that no one is picking up the phone when they call, or clients may be starting to notice that more and more deadlines haven’t been met.

If this persists, then it’s a sign that you should hire people before the situation deteriorates and customers start to get really unhappy.

Adding new team members can help make sure that client emails don’t fall through the cracks and that customers receive timely responses. The result? Fewer complaints and more business.

5. High-value employees are doing low-value work

You wouldn’t waste money, so why waste talent? If you hired your employees for their unique skills and expertise but they’re spending too much time on admin and entry level work, then it’s time to consider bringing on someone to support them.

Let skilled employees do the work you’re paying them to do. There are lots of other people out there who are at the start of their careers and hungry to get a jump start. In the process, they can take some of the load from others’ shoulders and help contribute to your company’s growth.

In addition, they represent an investment in your company’s future. By bringing in entry level workers, you may uncover new talent that will benefit your business further down the line.

Sure, every business owner needs to be careful. But taking too long to hire or not hiring at all can be a mistake. Growing your team can help you grow your business, and when done strategically, investing in new hires can not only save your company money—but it will help you make more, too!

Aaron Schwartz is Senior Manager, Employer Insights at Indeed.

Learn more about how to make the perfect hire in The Hiring Handbook.

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Americans certainly work hard, but many of us play less than we might like—or is good for us. Although employees can accrue more time off as they spend more time with a company, the standard issue two weeks PTO remains a fact of life for millions.

In fact, the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee employees any paid vacation. 

Compare this to countries like France, with 30 paid vacation days per year, or Australia with 20 paid vacation days, and it’s easy to see how the U.S. earned the nickname “The No Vacation Nation.” To make it worse, 54 percent of Americans don’t even take the full amount of their vacation time.

Overwork is a problem

The tendency for Americans to overwork has negative consequences for both employees and employers. Work-related stress has been linked to serious health risks. A recent study estimated the effects of workplace stress are similar to those of secondhand smoke. The effect of working long hours in particular was an estimated 20% increase in mortality.

Despite the commonly held belief that working more hours leads to “more stuff getting done”, overwork negatively impacts productivity as well. One recent study showed that managers could not tell the difference between employees who worked extra hours, and those who simply pretended to. And overwork can lead to decreased work performance, more mistakes and absenteeism.

Open PTO is a potential solution

So what are employers to do to address this issue? How can employers provide sufficient paid time off (PTO) while ensuring work gets done? A solution some companies are pursuing is open PTO—putting no cap on the number of vacation or sick days an employee can take off per year.

Currently, only one to two percent of companies offer open PTO. Many of the companies offering this benefit are in the tech industry, such as Netflix, Hubspot and Dropbox. However, other companies are jumping on board as well—General Electric and Grant Thornton (an audit, tax and advisory firm) recently began offering open PTO.

This may sound radical and it’s reasonable for employers to fear that this non-traditional leave policy could lead to abuse. Will employees take half the year off? Will company productivity plummet? It turns out that under open PTO policies, employees often take less time off than under traditional PTO policies, potentially due to feelings of guilt or internal company competition. So the risk may be that they are even more prone to overwork than before!

Time off only helps when you take it

In order to reap the health and productivity benefits of employees taking more time off, companies should go beyond simply offering open PTO, and encourage employees to use it. Top executives within a company can set the example. For example, Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, has been vocal about taking 6 weeks of vacation time a year, and he insists that his employees should make use of the policy.

Two years ago, Indeed took the leap of offering open PTO, and has seen striking results. Some of the outcomes include:

  • Over 20 percent year-over-year increase in vacation days taken by  employees.
  • A 30 percent increase in vacation day use in the US alone.
  • An extremely productive 2017 with record company growth.
  • Low attrition and high engagement.
Open PTO as a recruiting differentiator

Indeed chief economist Jed Kolko notes that as wage growth has accelerated, this has upped the ante for employers in an already tight labor market. Companies should consider other avenues beyond wage increases and common benefits like health care to remain attractive to job seekers.

An open PTO policy provides employers with a unique advantage that can significantly impact talent attraction and retention. Here are some of the ways that open PTO can help attract talent and increase productivity:

  • Attract Millennials – Millennials tend to stay longer at jobs that offer flexibility than those that don’t.
  • Improve and speed up hiring process – Employees love open PTO, not only for the opportunity to take more time off, but also because it enables them to achieve a better work/life balance.
  • Show you treat employees as adults – Open PTO increases trust between employees and employers by demonstrating employees are free to manage their time and meet productivity goals on their own schedule.

Every firm needs to make its own decisions about what is best for them, and some may not feel comfortable offering open PTO to employees. But for those firms that choose an open PTO strategy, it can truly be a game changer, increasing productivity company-wide, improving employee morale, and helping to attract and retain talent.

Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed

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As a recruiter, you always want to find the best possible candidate for a position—and your hiring managers share the same goal. But although you are working towards identical ends, it doesn’t always feel that way, does it?

Yes, your hiring managers want you to fill their open roles, but they also have their regular responsibilities to think about. As a result, they just aren’t focused on the task in the same way that you are. Maybe they only think about it when you check in with them. This can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations.

So how can you fix this situation? The early conversations you have are critical. If you set clear expectations from the beginning, the smoother the process will be, with better results for all. Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Kick things off with a strategy meeting.

Let’s start with job descriptions. To get the best results, you need an up-to-date, detailed, and nuanced understanding of both the role and what the ideal candidate looks like. But your hiring manager doesn’t have much time, so all you have to go on is an old job description from a year ago.  

Some recruiters recommend asking hiring managers to fill out an “intake form” which goes into greater detail about job responsibilities and candidate requirements, as well as subjects like personality fit and any relevant history on the position. It’s a nice idea, but busy people are reluctant to fill out forms, so you may strike out with this tactic.

Instead, set up a strategy meeting with the hiring manager. Run through the questions you would include on the intake form yourself, using them as a conversation starter and opportunity to dig deeper into the role. This will give you more clarity, and the conversation format might unearth additional important considerations. You can also record the conversation via hangout or Skype to capture those nuances as the recruiter is working on the role.

Strategy meetings help put the hiring manager in the right mindset, laying out expectations at the very beginning—which is no bad thing.

2. Keep it real and keep each other honest.

Chances are that you have worked with at least one hiring manager who asks for the world’s most versatile, skilled, personable and overall extraordinary candidate. Of course you plan to deliver the best person possible for the role, but sometimes those asks can get unrealistic. As a partner in the hiring process, your goal should be to challenge those assumptions. All of us have blindspots and expectations that we need help managing. Keep it real and keep each other honest.

If this is the case, say something right away. One strategy for addressing the situation is to ask the hiring manager to rank requirements by importance or divide the list into must-have qualities and great-to-have qualities.

You might also recommend boosting the compensation to attract more high quality candidates. At the very least, point out the unrealistic aspects of the hiring manager’s demands, to prevent unpleasant surprises later on.

3. Support your viewpoint with data.

It’s also important to bolster your assertions with facts. Come prepared to lead conversations, not passively listen. Move away from saying “I think” and start saying “let me show you.” The former can fall on deaf ears; the latter will get your hiring manager’s full attention and engagement in dialogue. By coming prepared with information on the position and the types of candidates seeking those roles, you’ll have more credibility in those critical early conversations.

For instance, you can share role and location-specific data on:

  • The ratio of job postings to candidates seeking that position
  • The top employers in your area for this role  
  • Salary benchmarks

Where can you find this information? You can search for it online but that’s time consuming, and the results are not always reliable. An alternative for Indeed Featured Employers is to use our new Hiring Insights tool, which gives you detailed self-serve access to job market and candidate data so you can share the reality of the local job market with the hiring manager.

Hiring Insights consists of two reports: Market Insights and Candidates Insights, both of which are accessed through Indeed Analytics. It’s easy to use and contains a wealth of information that can you equip you for conversations with hiring managers. (Check out this post for more information.)

4. Set a timeline.

Speaking of realistic expectations, the timeline for making a hire can be a minefield of misunderstandings. Get a crystal-clear picture of the hiring manager’s time constraints and make a schedule that you both agree on.

And be sure to give yourself the best chance at success. Tell the hiring manager what things you need to stay on schedule, such as weekly check-ins and feedback on candidates within one to two days.

What unites all this advice? Above all: communicate. When everyone is informed from the start, and kept informed throughout the process, the risk of misunderstandings is greatly reduced. The result? You’re much more likely to emerge with a good experience for everyone involved—including the candidate.

Aaron Schwartz is Senior Manager, Employer Insights at Indeed.

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So the phone screen went well, and you really like the candidate. Now it’s time for the in-person interview. You find a mutually agreeable time, everything looks good… and then—the candidate cancels on you!

Suddenly you’re back at square one.

It’s frustrating, but hey—at least the candidate actually emailed you to cancel. What about those other times when they just don’t show up? For small to midsize businesses, the frustration is even greater since owners and managers wear many hats. They may even be doing all of the recruiting themselves.

Record low unemployment  means that candidates have options. And more options means more cancellations and no-shows for recruiters. But does it really have to be that way? Here’s the good news: There are steps you can implement today to cut down on this problem.  What are they? Let’s take a look.

1. Just how interested is the candidate?

Yes, you’re busy and you need to hire someone quickly. However, it’s crucially important that you take your time to find the right person for the job. So the first step is find out whether a candidate is genuinely interested in the position.

How do you do this? Don’t delay—have a detailed discussion during the phone screen interview. Use this time to make a connection and to learn more about the candidate. Help them understand the job by thoroughly explaining the role and its responsibilities. In return, try to dig into the candidate’s career aspirations, the reasons why they are looking to change jobs, and (of course) their salary expectations.

Above all, listen. Do their answers align with the role and the company culture? You need someone who is going to be a great fit for both.

2. Keep in touch

Excellent communication and engagement are essential, so be up front. Ask the candidate during that initial phone screen to let you know if they suddenly need to cancel or withdraw. The sooner you know, the faster can continue your search.

But you don’t want them to cancel, of course. So follow up your phone screener with an email to remove as much uncertainty about the job as possible: include all the stuff you would want to know if you were the one searching for a job—essential company info, key facts about the role and the next stage of the interview process. And make sure you confirm interviews more than once. Don’t just rely on that initial email. Follow up closer to the time.

What else? Be friendly. Be genuine. Be real. Let them know how much your company appreciates their interest. Let them know who they’re going to be talking to when they come in for interview. Make that human connection early: This helps build a foundation of trust between you and the candidate, reducing the risk of cancellations and no-shows.

3. Value the candidate’s time

He who snoozes loses, so try to schedule in-person interviews quickly. After all, the longer you wait, the more this increases the chances that another company will beat you to the punch.

The people you are talking to lead full lives and often have tight schedules. Flexibility is key here. Consider getting on their calendar by offering to interview them over video, or outside the office setting in a coffee shop, or even after work hours. How badly do you want to hire this candidate? Sometimes it’s worth going the extra mile.

Sure it’s inconvenient, but the investment could pay off in the end. Flexibility is another way to show a potential candidate that you care. I’ve done interviews at Starbucks before: Give the candidate every reason to say yes by making the experience as painless as possible!

And avoid rescheduling interviews unless it’s absolutely necessary. From a candidate’s perspective it’s disruptive and disorganized.

4. Be honest…with yourself

Don’t take cancellations personally. Instead, view them as an opportunity to learn. Seek feedback from those who dropped out or didn’t show to target problem areas. See what you can do to improve the hiring process at your company. This is a chance to reflect and address the ways you could fully meet the candidate’s needs next time.

You can get this information from other sources, too. If there’s a trend or increase in drop-offs then you should take a critical look at how your company is perceived externally. Are there negative reviews online written about people’s experiences? Is the interview process a two day marathon? Is your salary range aligned to the industry average?

In today’s world you can’t ignore what people are saying online. Instead learn from it, or take control of the conversation by creating your own Company Page where you can share information about life at your company, while responding to feedback and engaging more deeply with job seekers.

5. Don’t give up!

You know the adage, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again?” It applies to the recruiting process, too.

Never give up or lose hope—and don’t get so antsy that you hire someone just to fill the position. By stopping the recruiting process too soon you could be missing out on the opportunity to find a truly great match for your company.

Chances are that if you like a candidate, other employers will too. So if you can, create a buffer against no-shows or cancellations by picking out a few qualified candidates to bring in for an interview. If you typically narrow down your candidate pool down to three candidates, try increasing that number to five: better safe than sorry.

By implementing the strategies and tactics above, you’ll stand a much better chance of cutting down on no-shows and finding the right candidate for a job at your company. The talent is out there—now go get it!

Ed Delgado is Director of Global Sourcing at Indeed.

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These days, Artificial intelligence (or AI) is rarely out of the headlines. Each day—or so it seems—new advances are made and new uses found for this technology.

For instance, according to recent reports, Facebook is using AI to identify and remove terrorist content, and even prevent suicide. Google’s AI DeepMind became a master of the ancient Chinese game of Go by repeatedly playing against itself.

Meanwhile, one self driving car pioneer has reportedly established a nonprofit religious organization to “…develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence.”

Phew! Those are some big claims, and whether they will all bear fruit remains to be seen.

But it’s undeniable that AI has left the realm of science fiction and is today science fact—and recruiting is no exception. When it comes to the world of work, AI is already changing the way people hire and search for jobs. At its best, it offers new possibilities for tackling the problems people face in their professional and personal lives today.

Let’s take a look at how and where it’s already making a positive difference.

Machines as matchmakers

It’s understandable if you’re a little unsettled at the thought of AI changing the way you recruit talent. Maybe you’re picturing your clients receiving messages and answers from a cold, impersonal machine. Or worse, perhaps you’re worried that a humanoid robot will plot to take over your position (and then your company . . . and then the world!)

But the truth is, AI is a tool that serves us.

Every recruiter wants to create the best possible match between a job seeker and the right job opening. And with greater access to relevant data than ever before, recruiters are (theoretically) in a better position than ever to make this happen.

The problem is that too much data is indigestible for humans. We’re not always sure what to do with it, or where to get the data we need, and this applies to recruiting as much as any field.

AI technology can improve the odds of creating a great match—even right at the beginning of the process—by applying algorithms and making predictions that select only the most relevant jobs before showing them to job seekers.  

Let’s say a job description is unclear or contains gaps. Algorithms can step in to estimate salaries or classify unusual or eccentric job titles that nobody actually searches for (“Digital Overlord”, anyone?).

Using natural language processing abilities, AI can also comb through what are often text-heavy and unstructured resumes to pinpoint critical information and paint a more accurate picture of the ideal job for a particular candidate.

The result? Job seekers see the jobs they need to see, and are provided with the information essential to making an informed decision—meaning less wasted time and better matches for recruiter and job seeker alike.

Using AI to reduce unconscious bias

But that’s not all. AI can also carry out a wide range of recruiting and HR-related tasks. Keeping the job seeker safe from scams and protecting personal data is an important requirement in today’s world. AI helps manage this process, using signals to identify and eliminate poor quality sites, posts and scams.

It can also help reduce human bias. Take the new technology of automated assessments, for example, which gives HR and recruiting professionals insight into how a candidate would perform certain job tasks.

Here’s an example of how it works: A large contact center in the EU needed to source seven different languages in one location. Now typically, a recruiter might typically have that person speak with a language specialist as part of the application process.

But doing evaluations with so many candidates and multiple different language specialists not only places a strain on resources, it also introduces a lot of subjectivity into the process.

Instead, the employer used AI-powered language proficiency assessments. This may sound like science fiction but it isn’t: Each candidate had a 10 minute phone conversation with the AI agent in that assigned language. During those conversations, the AI technology automatically evaluated the candidates’ fluency and communications skills.

The result? A far more efficient, less stressful process. Not bad for a cold, impersonal machine—and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Liberating employers to focus on the human side of hiring

Even as AI continues to make significant advances, it is never going to replace human recruiters. Rather it will enhance and improve our work.

The current capabilities rely on human beings to apply and use that technology and ensure that everything runs smoothly. But there’s more to it than that: no matter how advanced the technology gets, recruiting will remain a fundamentally human activity.

When job seekers and employers interact with great recruiters, they build trust, loyalty and a sense of teamwork—and this cannot be replicated by machines. The role of AI is to free up more time for recruiters, so they can place more focus on the human relationships that make them great at what they do. AI may be able to beat us at a game of “Go” but it will never beat us at that.

Raj Mukherjee is Senior Vice President of Product at Indeed. 

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So you posted a job, expecting qualified interested applicants to roll in… but then weeks later, you have very few qualified applicants to show for your efforts.

What’s going on? Maybe should look at your application process. Is the job description clear? Is it working on mobile? Is it just too darn long? Whatever the reason, the fact is that the fewer applicants who apply, the less likely you are to find your perfect candidate for the role.

Of course, you can use tools to improve results—such as Indeed Apply, our streamlined application process for desktop and mobile devices (more on that later). But you’ve got to get the nuts and bolts of the process right before technology can have its full impact. So let’s take a look at how your application process could be turning off job seekers, and what you can do about it.

1. Jargon is confusing to job seekers—so don’t use it.

Have you ever read a job description so full of jargon that it sounds like a robot wrote it? That approach just doesn’t connect with candidates, who want to know about things such as the company culture and the team they will be working with, as well as the details of the specific role.

So avoid using internal language an applicant won’t understand (and likely isn’t searching for) such as “Level 3 SFPT Associate for DQ4.” But don’t go to the opposite extreme and write jazzy job descriptions that are equally confusing, even if they’re more fun. “Rockstar Rainmaker” may sound cool, but “Sales Executive” is a lot clearer.

Keep it real. Keep it authentic. Let the company personality shine throughout the job description so job seekers can get a feel for who you are and why they should work there. Here are some tips to help you write great job titles and descriptions. Armed with this information, job seekers will do a better job of self-selecting for your roles and you’ll see fewer people dropping out mid-process.  

2. It’s a job application, not an online interrogation.

Some employers like to include a lot of questions in their job application process, believing that this makes it more “rigorous.” But what if, rather than rigorous, it’s just making the whole process more tedious, time-consuming and irritating?

“But wait!” I hear (some of) you cry. “These extra questions are helping us weed out the less qualified candidates.”

That’s the pushback I often get when I’m out talking to companies. Well, maybe so—but it’s also weeding out those transformational candidates that we all want. Don’t believe me? Indeed research shows that applications with 20 screener questions lose 40% of candidates, and the abandonment rate only goes up from there.  When AT&T overhauled their job application process, reducing their screener questions by half, they not only saw applicant drop-off decline by 55% but they received more high quality applicants.

Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate. Go through the application process yourself. If you get distracted or frustrated and give up, you can be pretty sure that job seekers are doing the same.

Think about what information is critical to the first screening and pare down your questions to the minimum that you need. Other questions that dig into the deep details should be saved for later rounds of the interview process.

3. Your jobs aren’t working on mobile.

Although there is some variation according to industry, Indeed data shows that today the majority of job search takes place on mobile. So it’s critical to have a job application experience that works seamlessly across all devices.

What makes a mobile application experience go wrong? Well, pop-up menus or non-standard fonts can “break” on mobile. Too much scrolling, pinching or zooming can also make the application process more cumbersome. And excessively long, multi-step application processes can feel even more drawn out on a mobile device.

So make sure that your application experience is optimized for mobile and tablet views, from the length of the job description all the way to submitting the application.

If you don’t have the time or resources to work on this for your own site or want to simply decrease the barrier to applying for your jobs on other sites, then you can use Indeed Apply to create a fully mobile-optimized application process to help applicants connect with your jobs faster, resulting in time and money saved. 

If your ATS is a partner with Indeed (and over 170 are), you’re in luck: your jobs are already enabled with Indeed Apply. And if your ATS isn’t already a partner—you can find out here—you can send them a request from the Indeed website

4. Wait, didn’t I ask them that already?

You’ve cut down on questions, optimized for mobile—so what else could be wrong? Well, closely related to the problem of “too many questions” is the problem of redundant steps.

We’ve all been in the position of uploading a resume only to have to re-enter the information again, or having to recall every address you’ve lived in since the dawn of time. Or what about when a jobseeker is redirected multiple times from a job board to the career site to a sub-site of the career site? Every additional step increases the risk that the jobseeker will abandon the process.  

It boils down to this: You should value the candidate’s time. Likely they already have a demanding full-time position, and they may also be involved in community activities or family life.

Again, try the application process yourself. You’ll quickly see areas of the process that are time-consuming or frustrating. Aim to streamline the process to take five minutes or less.

Conclusion

Follow these four tips and you should start seeing better results from your job postings.

By streamlining and optimizing the application process you will not only have more candidates to select from, but you will also have candidates that are more engaged in a positive first experience with your company.

And that’s not all: The better the experience your candidates have applying to your jobs, the more likely they are to share it with others, even if they don’t get the job. After all first impressions count, and so does word of mouth—so take a look at how you can improve your application process today.

Learn more about how Indeed Apply can help streamline your mobile recruiting.  

Carmen Bryant is Global Director, Employer Insights at Indeed.

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Weird and wonderful job titles have been making headlines for some time now. The tech world in particular provides a rich source of exotic monikers applied to jobs that might otherwise sound a bit less thrilling. Few companies may have a Security Princess like Google, or a “Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence” as Microsoft once did, but it’s not unheard of to spot jedis, ninjas, gurus, mavens, overlords, dynamos, vigilantes and superheroes popping up in the job listings.

Nor is it just a tech phenomenon: For instance, last year we spotted a “duct cleaning ninja” job on Indeed. Alas, while weird job titles can sound fun and may help communicate a company’s culture, they also cause confusion among job seekers and prevent employers from getting relevant candidates. When was the last time you searched for a job with “shaman” in the title, for instance? It’s more effective to be clear and use the terms job seekers are searching for when writing job descriptions.

We’ll talk more about best practices later in this post. For now, let’s crunch some numbers and take a look at the state of weird job titles in 2017.

Identifying the most popular weird job titles today

First we identified the most common weird job titles in the US. Given the many choices on offer, which terms would rise to the top among recruiters posting jobs online?

It turns out that the top five are: “genius”, “guru”, “rockstar”, “wizard”, and “ninja” — a combination of words suggesting deep thought and insight, showbiz levels of charisma, magic and…er…assassination.

Having established the champions of eccentric job titles we next asked: how do they stack up against each other?

As the chart shows, the rising star of 2017 was, appropriately enough, “rockstar” which has shown 19% growth since 2015 and finished first. Guru followed close behind, although it has lost popularity since its peak in early 2016, declining by 21%.

Most striking was the steep drop in “ninja” postings in the second half of 2017. After sustaining a steady climb since the middle of 2016, the demand for stealthy assassins has declined by 35% since its peak in March 2017.

Meanwhile, geniuses have pursued a slow but assured ascent since 2016, growing by 82.5% since 2015, almost to the point where they outperform ninjas. The continuing popularity of Harry Potter aside, “Wizard” job titles show less dramatic movement. It would seem that magic just isn’t that much in demand.

Where the wild job titles are

Next we decided to take a look at the geography of weird job titles. Although the media focuses on the eccentric titles coming out of Silicon Valley, the reality is that this phenomenon has long since spread beyond the wold of tech and across the country.

In fact, weird job titles today are more concentrated outside of California. From Idaho to Utah, recruiters seem keen to jazz up their job titles with terms such as “rockstar,” “guru” and “wizard”—with Oregonians being especially enthusiastic. By contrast, plain speaking New Yorkers “keep it real” and don’t turn up in the top five states at all. 

When you think of rock stars, images of LA and the Sunset Strip may come to mind. If you’re a rock history buff, you might even think of Cleveland, Ohio, which is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But rock stars are actually in highest demand in Idaho, if job titles are anything to go by. That said, while Idaho is renowned for the quality of its potatoes and the Idaho Potato Commission has close to 1500 recipes involving potatoes on its website, we were unable to find “potato growing rockstar” in our listings. Sunny California only places fifth for concentration of rockstar jobs, falling behind Colorado, Utah and Oregon. When we look at sheer volume however, the Golden State’s population means that it comes first—accounting for 23% of all rockstar job listings in the nation.

When we search for ninja job titles, we find that they are especially in demand in Maine, despite that fact that the state is renowned for lobster rather than turtles. Recruiters are also listing jobs for ninjas in mountainous Colorado, the desert landscapes of Nevada and Utah, and chilly Nebraska. And while a search for “ninja” on Indeed does return some relevant job titles such as “Martial Arts Ninja Coach” we also see a decent amount of “Marketing Ninjas” and “Customer Experience Ninjas.” Perhaps the most confusing is “Time Ninja”—which is not an assassin who travels back in time but apparently somebody who works in human resources.

Delaware holds the honor of being the “first state” in the US. It also holds the honor(?) of placing first for confusing job listings containing the word “genius” in the title. In fact, Delaware accounts for 1.32% of all genius job listings nationally, despite the fact that it only contains 0.29% of US population (according to the most recent Census numbers). Interestingly, the hunt for genii is most intense in the original colonies of the US, and of the top five states for this title, four are located in the northeast. Once again, California doesn’t quite make the top five despite the very real demand for brilliant tech minds in Silicon Valley—the Golden State places seventh.

Guru is a Sanskrit term meaning “teacher” which is applied to people of great wisdom, although in recent years it has taken on the additional meaning of “somebody who is quite good at tech.” This is a trend we likely see reflected in California’s second place showing for “guru” job listings. That said, gurus are in even greater demand in Oregon, which we previously saw placing fourth for “rockstar.” However, rather than instilling wisdom, “guru” is a term that can very quickly become confusing for job seekers: We see it turning up in everything from “Digital Marketing Guru” to “Distilled Spirits Guru.”

And finally we come to “wizards.” While New Mexico may be the “Land of Enchantment” Oregon is the number one state for “wizard” job titles, as it was for gurus, and—of course—it also placed fourth for rockstars. In other words, Oregon appears to be the king of zany job titles. That said, although the state ranks first for “wizard” job titles, they’re not exactly abundant—only about 3.75% of all jobs in the state include the term.

Keep job titles clear, descriptive and concise for best results

We know that weird job titles can be fun and indicative of a more laid-back culture. However, without a cultural frame of reference, using them in your job listings can affect how well your job posting does.  Most people search for roles that match their skills and experience and so using terms like “ninja” and “rockstar” in job titles and descriptions can confuse job seekers and put them off from applying.

Our recommendation? Put more of a focus on conveying the specifics of the role, and leave the quirkiness to the workplace.  To improve your placement in search results, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep the job title concise, between 5 and 80 characters, and avoid all caps. If your title is too long or too short, it will not rank well. Also it’s important to not include special characters in your title. This makes it easier to read and more likely to match the search queries from job seekers.
  • Describe the job title in normal terms. If you are hiring a “Javascript Developer”, call it that. Avoid phrases that people are less likely to search for.
  • Avoid internal titles that don’t accurately describe the job. Job seekers may misunderstand abbreviations or acronyms. “Senior Web Designer” is much clearer to applicants than “Web Designer II.”
  • Use the job title to describe the main aspects of the job. For example, “Events and Sponsorships Manager” is much more effective than just “Marketing.”

There’s much more you can do to optimize your job titles so candidates are more likely to find them. This post will give you more advice about how to become a true job listing writing expert, and for a really deep dive you might want to check out Indeed Academy, our new, free training platform designed to help recruiters get the most out of Indeed.

Methodology: Indeed identified the most common “weird job titles” and then calculated the share of postings containing the phrases ‘genius’, ‘rockstar’, ‘guru’, ‘ninja’, or ‘wizard’ over the last 2 years.

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Your new hire has signed their contract, watched the required onboarding videos, and maybe even gotten some cool company swag. Now it’s time for you to show them to their desk.

So what’s next? Do you just walk away and leave them there to figure things out? That’s not exactly what you’d call a plan, never mind a strategy. Just how do you set your new hires up for success?

Getting onboarding right is no small thing: According to research conducted by HR consulting firm The Wynhurst Group, “New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.”

We all want to retain great talent. Let’s take a look at five tips for unlocking your new hire’s potential during those critical early days, weeks and months at your company.

1. Before they start

Onboarding doesn’t begin on the first day, it begins before your new hire even applies.

Top candidates have their pick of job opportunities, and they will compare your company to others based on what they see and read online. So communicating your employer brand and culture clearly and effectively from the start is essential if you want to attract people who’ll be a good fit.

Nowadays there are lots of ways to educate “talent in the wild” about your company. You can tell your story on your site, through social media, video or even via in-person events.

But the picture really becomes complete when you use Company Pages. Here you can combine most of those channels with the power of employee reviews, giving interested candidates the full sense of what it’s like to work at your company. The more informed your candidates are about your company before that first day, the better equipped they are to hit the ground running. 

2. The first day

Everyone knows what it’s like to be the “new person.” Feeling awkward, unsure or insecure on the first day of school or work is as natural as feeling cold on the South Pole. And studies have shown that anxiety in new situations, such as starting a new job, can come in part from not feeling confident about introducing ourselves.

Research has shown that social ties at work improve productivity and keep people engaged, so empower your hires to develop them from the start. Don’t just leave them at their desks and hope for the best. Help them nix anxiety and make those connections by introducing them to colleagues and teammates.

An introductory email is a good start, but it’s also the bare minimum. Encourage team members to stop by the new hire’s desk and be the first to say, “hello”. Establish an expectation on your team that everyone is welcoming, friendly and ready to help.

A team lunch on the first day isn’t a bad idea either. It’s a quick and fun way to break the ice and make new hires feel welcome (and you’ll enjoy it too).

3. The first week

Use the first week to set expectations and clear up any confusion a new hire may have about their role in the company.

Take the time to carefully define deadlines and deliverables—this will set a solid foundation for a good working relationship. People are much more easily motivated when they have clear goals to aim for.

Of course, some things can only be learned through time. Every firm has its own unique jargon not to mention all those mysterious, unwritten rules that are invisible to newcomers.

This is one reason why many Fortune 500 companies including Google, General Electric, and Time Warner Cable have implemented mentorship programs. Mentors can help answer questions surrounding the quirks of a company’s culture, while also providing constructive criticism and praise.

This is especially important if you hope to retain younger workers. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials who intend to to work at the same organization for more than five years are two times as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).

4. The first month

So now your hire has been in the job for a month—this is a good time for a general check in to see see how they are doing and answer any lingering questions. This is important whoever you’ve hired, but if you are dealing specifically with a millennial hire, you should also plan for regular feedback sessions.

Millennials don’t just thrive with a mentor. A study conducted by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics in 2014 found that they want feedback from their managers at least once a month, and probably more often.

The same study found that millennials want feedback 50% more often than employees in other generations. And although feedback sounds formal, many just want frequent, informal updates on their progress—and 56% of them felt that they weren’t getting enough.

So if you’re a hands-off kind of manager you may want to reconsider that for younger hires, who are always looking for ways to become better and more efficient at their jobs. Regular check-ins and coaching can help them achieve this.

That’s not all: an Indeed analysis showed that 65% of employees look for a new position within the first three months of starting a job, so regular check-ins could be vital for retaining new hires.

5. The first 6 months

Employees can leave a company for many reasons, and one of the most common ones is to advance their career.

However, although millennials are often accused of job hopping, according to an Indeed survey most report staying in a position for an average of four years. Tenure for non-millennials is around seven years.

The truth is, while a job for life may be a thing of the past in most industries, if you give employees a chance to stick around and learn from you, and to grow in their careers, then they’ll take it.

So now that your new hire has had time to settle in, encourage them to think big, and to explore long term career goals at your firm.

Once their goals are defined, make sure that you support them by informing them of any training or growth opportunities that arise and outlining actionable steps to help them get to where they aim to be.

By implementing these tips, you won’t  just set up your new hire for short-term success—you’ll be unlocking potential which could positively impact your company for years to come. And who doesn’t want that?

Carmen Bryant is Director of Employer Insights at Indeed. 

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Maybe you’ve heard (or even used) the term “employer brand” without being completely sure what it means and how it’s different from the concept of “talent brand.” If so, I won’t tell anyone—and I’m here to help clear things up.

Coined in 1996, employer brand is a relatively new niche that falls under the larger umbrella of talent attraction. While talent brand and employer brand have some areas of overlap, these two terms have several key differences.

Most of those differences are tied to the voice of your potential hires, or your audience. Make no mistake, you have lots of audiences. In fact, I always say that there are at least three sides to every story. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these concepts distinct and why they’re both important to your business’s reputation as an employer.

The benefits and risks of employer branding

An employer brand is all about storytelling. It encompasses how you want your organization to be perceived and the specific messaging you use when sharing information about your company.

Companies have a great deal of control over their employer brand marketing, which can sometimes cause problems—like when multiple companies turn to the same messaging again and again. Do these phrases sound familiar?

  • Our people are our greatest asset.
  • We have amazing benefits and perks.
  • We offer career development and progression.
  • We’re the most innovative company in our space.

These seem like great claims at first, but after the 27th time a prospective employee hears the phrase “We have the best people,” it can start to lose meaning. This is what I like to call ‘Employer Blanding.’

It makes matters worse if these claims turn out to be inaccurate, which happens more often than you might think. Even if an organization’s leaders mean well, they can develop a warped view of their employees’ experiences.

And when companies attempt to sell an inaccurate or inauthentic brand to potential employees, it could cost them in both the long-term and short-term when it comes to talent attraction, employee engagement and employee retention.

Your talent brand is forged by honest voices inside your organization

According to TalentBrand.Org*, your talent brand is “the honest story of life as an employee inside your organization, as told by the employees in parallel with the company.”

So how can you make sure your idea of your brand lines up with the reality of what employees are saying? That’s where a holistic view of your reputation comes in.

While your employer brand can be shaped and honed by your organization’s leaders, talent brand comes directly from employee experiences and feedback.

In other words, your talent brand is not what one website or channel says it is. Current, past and even prospective employees shape your talent brand through social media posts, review site comments, direct network conversations, face-to-face interactions and referrals.

On Indeed’s Company Pages, for example, you’ll learn what people are saying about your company’s culture, management, pay, benefits, work-life balance, job security and advancement opportunities.  

This feedback from real employees provides a valuable touchpoint and reality check for company leaders who want to make sure their employer brand accurately reflects employee experiences. Again, this is just one piece of the Talent Brand puzzle that you need to examine.

The value in the overlap

Companies can get the most from their talent brand and employee brand identities when they consider these two concepts together. That’s why Indeed’s Company Pages feature employer-created videos and social feeds alongside reviews and ratings directly from employees.

How do I know which channels are important enough to monitor? I look at where I’m getting the biggest sources of candidate traffic.

Bringing these two types of branding together helps you visualize the overlap between the way you view your brand and how employees see your company. This area of overlap can shed new light on where the heart of your brand actually lives.

By focusing on the aspects of your brand that employees truly appreciate, you’ll get a stronger sense of which of your company’s unique perks and attributes you should amplify and share more widely, to attract the types of people you’re looking to hire.

And who knows? It may even mean you can swap out that “we have the best people” line for something that’s a much better fit.

*Full disclosure: I’m a cofounder of this community organization.

Bryan Chaney is Director of Employer Brand at Indeed.

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Has the recruiting industry hit an inflection point of bad behaviors surrounding the job seeker experience? Well, maybe it’s not that bad — but sometimes it seems like it! You only have to search for #recruiterfail on Twitter to see examples candidates are sharing about their experiences with recruiters.

I am a software engineer and you want to talk to me about a sales job. Really?

That kind of thing is all too common. What unites these negative experiences? Job seekers regularly highlight the messages they receive from recruiters that are too impersonal, or simply not relevant.

But while these cautionary tales can be funny to read, they also reveal a persistent problem. Recruiters often aren’t treating candidates as people.  And considering that the conversation these days is all about using personalization in your messaging, this is pretty ironic.

But if the majority of recruiters agree that personalization is important, the question remains: What level of personalization should I use?  

Taking personalization to the next level

One of the questions that keeps my mind running at night is how to identify ways that Indeed’s global sourcing team can help enrich the job seeker experience. Since much of our focus is on outbound recruiting, we have started to look closely at candidate messaging, asking this question:

How can we enrich the job seeker experience through our messaging to create a high level of engagement and humanize the experience for those we recruit?

Our answer has been to go to the opposite end of the spectrum from “Recruiter Fail” type stories: We hyper-personalize our messaging.  What do we mean by this? We focus on a single intimate detail that is truly unique to the job seeker we are engaging.

Want to know more? We’ve implemented a 3-step framework to utilize hyper-personalization in our messaging that you can follow and implement today. Let’s take a look!

3 Steps to Hyper-Personalization

1) Start and open your message by focusing on that one intimate detail truly unique to that job seeker.

Here’s an example of how I did this while searching for an engineering leader. A few minutes Googling took me to the Twitter feed of a potential candidate I’ll call  “Armando“.

I took a few minutes to scroll through his feed and identified my hook for hyper-personalizing my message — he had published a “Year in Review” on Wunderlist highlighting a few of his achievements that year. His tweet was hearted and retweeted several times, which led me to believe this was his moment of Internet fame and a personal achievement he was sincerely proud of accomplishing.

So I thought: Why not celebrate that moment with him to help create a human-to-human connection?  

I reached out with a short note — no more than 50 words — to congratulate him. Then after my hyper-personalization, I pivoted to share the other reason I was contacting him. His response? “I normally don’t respond to recruiting emails but must admit this one is quite personalized.”

Now, I would love to say we hired him but that didn’t happen — this time. As with everything in life, timing is key. He wasn’t at the right point in his career to make a change. But when that time does come, who do you think he’ll remember? He wasn’t looking for a job, he didn’t need to reply — but he did.

2) Make a connection by sharing your “why” and demonstrate an authentic curiosity about their career journey.

Here’s another example, this time from Tris Revill on my team. In this instance he found a post from a potential candidate I’ll call “Alex” for a job on our sales team. The candidate had expressed an interest in the science of people and what ultimately influences the decisions they make everyday.

The candidate’s post resonated with Tris who recognized the similarity in interests between Indeed and the candidate, so he sent an email describing the parallel. His tone was casual and sincere: “Here at Indeed we love the science of people, we have labour economics teams looking at how people move around the world, user researchers who do ethnographic studies and a sales training team that can teach you crazy tricks when talking to prospects.”

How long did it take? A few minutes. And did it work? Yes. He was successful in winning the attention of a highly sought after person in a very competitive market. The result? We now have another new employee joining our already 5000+ strong team.

3) Have a clear call to action

Here’s the thing to remember. You can be as authentic as you want, but you also have to be clear about why it is that you’re writing. After all, an email from a complete stranger about your social media post might be flattering, but if you don’t include a call to action they’re going to miss the point.

This is a simple yet often overlooked strategy. If you’ve done this right, you should have their undivided attention. Now, what’s next?

Below are a few standard calls to action that my team uses.

  • I am assuming that we’d need to do something pretty compelling to pull you away from your current job. I think we are ready to do just that. Do you have 10 minutes to chat today?
  • I’m assuming you’re happy and may not be looking for anything new. Regardless, I’d love to connect on the phone to learn more about your career goals in case something changes in the future. Are you free this week to meet for coffee?

They work for us. Try them!

Keeping it real: Constraints, challenges and unanswered questions

OK, OK — I can hear some of you objecting: “I don’t have the time or enough available information to personalize every single message I send to job seekers, so how do I possibly scale this approach?”

Scalability is a challenge, it’s true.  Hyper-personalization requires a greater time commitment, and you have to work around a lack of information when crafting your messages. On top of that, different levels of personalization are required in different countries around the globe. For example, what works with with a job seeker in Japan will be different than in the US.

The reality is that the number of messages you’ll be able to send will decrease because you’ll be focused on quality over quantity. You’ll be tempted to send out that same template you already sent to the 50 other job seekers you are trying to recruit for to the same job when there’s a lack of information.

But put in the time and this approach will pay bigger dividends. In an era where we are constantly chasing efficiency and productivity, wouldn’t you want to work smarter vs harder?  

The vital importance of connection

Throughout my career, job seekers have told me that it’s not always about which recruiter contacted me first but which recruiter connected with me first.

Hyper-personalization guides you to focus on the job seeker and their career journey by arming you with the creative inspiration necessary to make a real human to human connection in an otherwise impersonal experience.

And with today’s globalization of labor markets, it could provide you with a major competitive advantage as a recruiter. In a fragmented, depersonalized world, making that real, human-to-human connection is what really helps you stand out.

Ed Delgado is Director of Global Sourcing at Indeed.

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