WE’RE A CREATIVE, INTERACTIVE & MARKETING TALENT RESOURCE

Advice for Companies Looking to Attract Top Talent

The beginning of a new fiscal year always brings new project budgets, additions to headcount and unexpected turnover — all resulting in the need to identify good full-time and temporary talent. As a 20-year veteran of the staffing industry, I’ve been approached many times by companies to discuss what attracts good candidates. There are many factors that can influence a prospective candidate’s decision, including salary, benefits, location of company/potential commute, off-site work options, and work-life balance. Companies have gone to great lengths to put together great packages and attract good talent, only to lose them due to a very simple reason — the hiring process takes too long.

There’s an old expression in business: “Time kills all deals.” And this holds very true for hiring top candidates. Think about it — top candidates are consistently being recruited (even when they may not be exploring a new job). Often they are juggling opportunities with multiple companies. A lengthy interview process and the inability to make quick hiring decisions can impact the odds of landing a top candidate.

It seems the hiring process has become more drawn out since the Recession of 2008. For several years afterward, companies redefined roles to keep headcount down, and many employees took on additional responsibilities. Employers wanted candidates who fit every criterion of a job description — from industry experience to very specific software skills — and, of course, they also had to be a cultural fit with the organization. This added steps to the interviewing process, from executives scheduling interviews with non-direct reports to panel interviews with various team members. Today it’s not uncommon for the average role to take three or four steps between phone screens, in-person interviews and skill assessments. The average life cycle of an open position is now typically about three months or longer.

And it’s not just full-time roles that have developed a long hiring cycle — it takes much more time to on-board temporary help than it did five years ago. Many assignments of three months or longer in duration require an interview process very similar to that of a direct placement. At the very least, there are two interviews: a phone screen and an in-person. Add on skill assessments, waiting for hiring managers’ feedback and pre-employment screenings, and it can easily take up to four weeks just to start a temporary employee. Working in the creative, interactive and marketing niches, we staff a variety of roles in which talent is in great demand — especially anyone with digital experience. Often these candidates are sought out weeks before finishing a contract and have little or no downtime before starting somewhere new. They won’t be available long enough to endure a month-long interview cycle.

My advice for companies that are looking to obtain top talent more consistently is pretty simple: Go back to the basics and examine your hiring process. How long does it take you to vet resumes? How many people need to be involved in a new hire? How efficient is your company at getting quick feedback after interviews? How quickly can you make a hiring decision?  

While taking time to appropriately vet potential hires is very important, be aware of the parts of the interview process that stall. Try to structure interviews so candidates don’t need to come on-site more than twice during the hiring process. Block interview days and times so multiple candidates can go through the process at the same time and comparisons/feedback can be drawn more quickly.

And if you identify the perfect candidate early in the hiring process, don’t stall things by comparing that person to others who are not as far along in the process. Candidates are very aware of companies that move too slowly. Good talent tends to have strong networks, so word gets around. And good candidates appreciate companies that move the process along quickly and show consistent interest in them. Again, “time kills all deals” — so once you identify a good candidate, don’t let them get away!

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

Advice for Companies Looking to Attract Top Talent

 

The beginning of a new fiscal year always brings new project budgets, additions to headcount and unexpected turnover — all resulting in the need to identify good full-time and temporary talent. As a 20-year veteran of the staffing industry, I’ve been approached many times by companies to discuss what attracts good candidates. There are many factors that can influence a prospective candidate’s decision, including salary, benefits, location of company/potential commute, off-site work options, and work-life balance. Companies have gone to great lengths to put together great packages and attract good talent, only to lose them due to a very simple reason — the hiring process takes too long.

There’s an old expression in business: “Time kills all deals.” And this holds very true for hiring top candidates. Think about it — top candidates are consistently being recruited (even when they may not be exploring a new job). Often they are juggling opportunities with multiple companies. A lengthy interview process and the inability to make quick hiring decisions can impact the odds of landing a top candidate.

It seems the hiring process has become more drawn out since the Recession of 2008. For several years afterward, companies redefined roles to keep headcount down, and many employees took on additional responsibilities. Employers wanted candidates who fit every criterion of a job description — from industry experience to very specific software skills — and, of course, they also had to be a cultural fit with the organization. This added steps to the interviewing process, from executives scheduling interviews with non-direct reports to panel interviews with various team members. Today it’s not uncommon for the average role to take three or four steps between phone screens, in-person interviews and skill assessments. The average life cycle of an open position is now typically about three months or longer.

And it’s not just full-time roles that have developed a long hiring cycle — it takes much more time to on-board temporary help than it did five years ago. Many assignments of three months or longer in duration require an interview process very similar to that of a direct placement. At the very least, there are two interviews: a phone screen and an in-person. Add on skill assessments, waiting for hiring managers’ feedback and pre-employment screenings, and it can easily take up to four weeks just to start a temporary employee. Working in the creative, interactive and marketing niches, we staff a variety of roles in which talent is in great demand — especially anyone with digital experience. Often these candidates are sought out weeks before finishing a contract and have little or no downtime before starting somewhere new. They won’t be available long enough to endure a month-long interview cycle.

My advice for companies that are looking to obtain top talent more consistently is pretty simple: Go back to the basics and examine your hiring process. How long does it take you to vet resumes? How many people need to be involved in a new hire? How efficient is your company at getting quick feedback after interviews? How quickly can you make a hiring decision?  

While taking time to appropriately vet potential hires is very important, be aware of the parts of the interview process that stall. Try to structure interviews so candidates don’t need to come on-site more than twice during the hiring process. Block interview days and times so multiple candidates can go through the process at the same time and comparisons/feedback can be drawn more quickly.

And if you identify the perfect candidate early in the hiring process, don’t stall things by comparing that person to others who are not as far along in the process. Candidates are very aware of companies that move too slowly. Good talent tends to have strong networks, so word gets around. And good candidates appreciate companies that move the process along quickly and show consistent interest in them. Again, “time kills all deals” — so once you identify a good candidate, don’t let them get away!

From the desk of Matt Crook, smartdept. inc. President

Interview Don’ts – Stre-e-e-e-tch!

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

3. Stre-e-e-e-tch!

Yup! We’ve all done it. And, most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. For instance, during a traffic stop, when a police officer asks, “How fast you were going?” Or when the nurse’s assistant at your regularly scheduled check-up asks, “What’s your height and weight?” (I always say 6′ with shoes on.) Oh, and my favorite, “How many baseball cards do you have?” Okay, that one is more specific to me. But you get my point. Every single day, we’re asked a dozen questions that allow us the opportunity to “STRETCH” the truth.

But what about during an interview? Can we “STRETCH” a tiny bit there? You know — make four-and-a-half years of experience into five? Maybe bump that previous salary up a bit? Stre-e-e-e-tch!? Just a little? Well, I’m not your mother, so do what you think? However, creatives, beware! There’s one place for certain that you should never make a “STRETCH.” And that place is during a portfolio review.

That’s right! You should be up front in every case about your level of participation on a particular piece in your portfolio. If your contribution to a piece was more production and less conceptual, let your prospective employer know. Maybe it was a collaborative effort? If so, give credit to your partner (they’d like that). Lastly (and this seems obvious), never represent someone else’s work as your own. If you convey to a prospective employer that you possess a particular skill set, you can expect to be put in a position to use that skill set if you’re hired. Stretching the truth may set you up to fail in your new environment. Worse yet, it could cost your employer time and maybe even money.

So remember, if you’re a creative with an opportunity to show off your work, it’s best not to “STRETCH” the truth. Oh, and how many baseball cards do I have? I’d say, “About a million.”

Interview Don’ts – The Cozy Monster

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

2. The Cozy Monster

A prospective employer always has a checklist of things they’d like to see in a future employee. You’ll almost always find “confidence” included on that list. No, I don’t mean the “look at my hair” or “check out my abs” type of confidence — more along the lines of a “sit up straight, look me in the eyes, talk confidently about your work” sort of thing. Yup, confidence is a great thing! It can leave the person on the other side of that conference table thinking, “Wow, this person knows what they’re doing.”

However, be aware of… the Cozy Monster! That’s right, you’re most susceptible to being attacked by this subtle beast when your confidence is at its peak.

Imagine that you just finished guiding a prospective employer through the final pages of your portfolio. You can sense he or she is impressed. You know things are looking good. Really good! All of a sudden, you feel yourself lean back in your chair and fold your hands behind your proud little head. Uh-oh! Now the Cozy Monster has got you, and there’s nothing you can do. The next thing you know, your shoes are off your feet, your feet are on the desk and this interview is in the toilet! You’ve become another victim of the Cozy Monster!

So remember, when you’re in an interview setting (use your favorite monster voice now) — “Confidence GOOD, feet on desk BAD. Grrrrr!”

The Zombie

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

1. The Zombie

Okay, it’s true, zombies are as popular as ever. Movies, shows, conventions about movies and shows — it goes on and on. Hey, for the purpose of entertainment, I love them too. But there’s one place that zombies are not welcome (anyone?). That’s right. In an interview. In this context, a “zombie” refers to a person who continually gives one-word answers and generally refuses to engage in a “conversation” during the interview.

There are many elements involved in successfully navigating the interview process. The most obvious is having the exact skill set the prospective employer is seeking. But perhaps the second most obvious is communication — being able to talk through a solution you’re offering in your portfolio, for example. Or, your approach to a difficult situation you encountered at another job and how you worked through it. Clear, concise communication can leave a prospective employer impressed and can sometimes be a difference maker if other elements of your interview come up short.

Besides, think of all the money you’ll save not having to buy zombie make-up! All by simply being conversational with your approach to an interview.

 

Introducing our new blog series – Interview Don’ts

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Principal: Eric Pairitz

I would like to formally (or informally) introduce smartdept’s new blog series — cleverly entitled, Interview Don’ts. This eight-part series was created to help give potential candidates an edge by making light of a few “don’ts” that we occasionally see while interviewing.

Accompanying these short bits of useful knowledge are video performances depicting, in a (not so) real way, how these scenarios might play out.

In addition, I am pleased to introduce, The Not Ready For Bedtime Players, a small, but mighty group of performers who took the stage in these budget-busting depictions.

Stay tuned for the first installment tomorrow, and enjoy!

 

 

 

Corporate Culture Helps Determine Fit

From the desk of Seattle recruiter: Beth Miller

Corporate Culture. It’s the newest catchphrase for employers and job seekers alike. As the job market evens out, candidates are more concerned with work/life balance than finding a job they actually enjoy rather than just a number on a paycheck. Similarly, employers understand that happier, more engaged employees will stay longer and produce more, creating a shift toward culture fit and soft skills in many of the creative and marketing roles we’re staffing. I’ve experienced both sides of the culture equation – a great culture fit (thank you, smartdept. inc.), and a lousy one (we’ll be vague on the specifics). I’ve found a company with values that are similar to my own personal goals of professional growth and philanthropy, and I feel supported in my role.

But what does “culture” look like when you’re a freelancer? Here are a few things I like to keep in mind to gauge whether a candidate is a good long-term fit for a client.

First, take note of the physical space of the office you might be working in. Is it loud and bright, or mellow and dark? Is it an open area, or cubed? Is there music on or does everyone have ear-buds in? As much as skill set is a factor in determining whether or not a candidate is qualified for a position, it’s equally important to ensure a candidate can work in the physical space.

Second, ask process-focused questions. Having a firm understanding of how projects and tasks are managed, what the daily workflow looks like and understanding how your peers, managers and teams will interact is important. As a recruiter I do my best to set clear expectations at the beginning of any interaction with our candidates. Communication is key, and understanding how communication works within an organization can determine whether a candidate will be a good fit.

The final thing to keep in mind when assessing culture fit is whether the core values of an organization are similar to your own values. Employees come and go, and yes, corporate culture can (and probably should) evolve as there are advances in technology, organizational growth and new hires joining a company, but if you agree with the core values of an organization that’s a huge indicator that the role could be a long term fit.

Spending time thinking about culture fit, whether you’re a candidate or employer, is an important piece to the hiring puzzle.

– Beth

7 Types of Power in the Workplace

There’s a quote by Margaret Thatcher that says, “Power is like being a lady…if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”  Personally, I find the study of power fascinating.  Dictionary.com defines power as “a person or thing that possesses or exercises authority or influence”.  So in essence when we use power; we’re utilizing our authority to get something.

Everyone has powerEveryone.  And, I don’t believe that power is a bad thing.  The issue becomes what kind of power a person has and how someone uses that power.  Here are some of the common types of power found in the workplace.

Read the full article here! (via hrbartender.com)

Enhancing Productivity By Communicating Effectively

Untold hours of productivity are lost every month due to simple misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. For some reason, many people seem to have a tough time organizing their thoughts and communicating their desires to their co-workers and employees.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who seem to have forgotten the basics of composing a written thought. Even some college grads have no grasp on how to speak/write in a way that moves a project forward.

If you are looking for a way to increase productivity and decrease stress, learning to communicate effectively can be the first step towards smoother workflows, faster turnaround times, and fatter bottom lines. Here are a handful of tips that will get you started.

Read the full article here! (via lifehack.org)

Tough Interview Questions: Misjudging a Colleague

(hollaforthatdolla.com) – Today’s question comes from an active job seeker who was recently asked a difficult but very clever question while on the hunt: I was recently asked in an interview to desribe an instance where I had misjudged a colleague. Can you provide any advice on how to answer this question without falling into an “interview trap?”

 I think this is a great interview question and kudos to the interviewer who posed it. Some might feel that this is a question that will fail to elicit any useful information but the exact opposite is true in my opinion – a question like this provides insight into how an individual sees flaws in their own charatcer and how they look to rectify that.

 Read the full article here!

Are We In or Outside of the Box? Who Put us There?

Check out this great article, written by one of our talented candidates in Seattle!

(Susan Straub-Martin on biznik.com) – We give away our knowledge, and we just assume that everyone knows everything we know. STOP! You have worked hard, gone to school, learned from every job you ever had, and you assume that EVERYONE knows what you know. WRONG!

Read the full article here!

Behavioral Job Interviews

Behavioral based job interviews are based on learning how the interviewee acted in specific employment-related situations. The logic is that past behavior will predict future performance.  Here’s information on behavioral job interviews, including behavioral job interview questions, how to prepare for a behavioral interview, and techniques and strategies for acing a behavioral job interview.

What is a  behavioral job interview?

Candidates for employement often ask what the difference is between a regular job interview and a behavioral interview. There isn’t a difference in the actual format of the job interview. You will still meet with an interviewer and respond to interview questions. The difference is in the type of interview questions that will be asked.

Read the full article by Alison Doyle on about.com!

Get a Design Job!

(www.aiga.org) RitaSue Siegel’s Get a Design Job, now in its third edition, is available to the AIGA community at no charge. Originally written for Innovation, the quarterly publication of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), Siegel offers advice to emerging designers looking to break into the world of design, designers eager to improve their positions, as well as recently downsized managers and executives.

From performing a self-evaluation on the core design competencies that can add value to a wide range of businesses, to navigating different types of interviews and networking situations, Get a Design Job offers practical advice for the changing roles of today’s designers.

Read the full article  here!

Top 10 Etiquette Blunders

Recently, a colleague was lamenting the lack of etiquette he deals with on a daily basis.

 “You would not believe how some of these people speak and act,” he said of salespeople at businesses he frequents. “They don’t know how to answer the phone, they text while talking to you, and when you walk in, they don’t greet you appropriately. They don’t even seem to know how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’”

 Do I need to mention that he is in his 50s and he was mostly referring to younger workers? No, I don’t think I do. But it is valid nonetheless. And I must say, I share some of his concern.

 And so, after speaking with some etiquette experts, I came up with the Top 10 Business Etiquette Blunders to avoid:

Read more at openforum.com

18 Common Work E-mail Mistakes

Most of us rely on e-mail as one of our primary communication tools. And given the number of messages we send and receive, we do it with remarkable success.

But as with anything, the more e-mails we send, the more likely we are to screw one up. And simple e-mail mistakes can be disastrous. They can cost us a raise, promotion–even a job.

With a new year upon us, this is the perfect time to go through some of the worst e-mail mistakes employees make and how to avoid them.

Read the full article on yahoo.com!

11 Traits of a Great Employer

Darcy Breeman works for Edward Jones, a company that recently came in at No. 2 in Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Places to Work. So what makes that investment company unique and why is it on the list? Well, just consider Bremen’s story:

“I’m in the process of adopting a newborn and will be a single mom. Jones will send someone to my office to cover me while I’m gone and serve my clients… I can [then] come back and take a couple of appointments a day and then come home. If I want to bring my daughter into the office, that’s fine. They [even] have an adoption reimbursement plan.”

Read the full article on openforum.com!

The Ins and Outs of Working In-house

I started my career at the in-house design department of a Fort Lauderdale-based construction company. It was a terrible experience that lasted all of seven days. After that I swore to never work in-house anywhere, ever again. For four jobs (and about as many years) I kept that promise. Then I moved to New York City.

In other cities, I never had any trouble finding work. I would decide I hated my job one week, only to have another one lined up the next. I got unsolicited job offers and was the subject of a few hostile take-over attempts. I ignorantly assumed that New York would be the same. As one of the capitals of design, it must have thousands of jobs to offer, no? As you can all imagine, I quickly discovered it was quite the opposite.

Read the full article by Johanna Björk on aiga.com

Attention Freelancers! 3 Simple Ways to Attract Higher-Quality Clients

Lower-quality clients suck. All they focus on is how little they can pay. They make unreasonable demands for the amount of work they want you to do and how fast they want it done. And they’ll inevitably ask you for designs that you don’t really enjoy creating. Does this sound familiar? Then chances are you have suffered from working for clients like these. We all have at some point, especially when starting out. So how do you avoid working for lower-quality clients? You attract higher-quality ones. How? Well, you’re in luck: there are 3 simple ways to attract higher-quality clients.

There aren’t any tricks involved. It’s simply adjusting your attitude and approach towards clients. You stand your ground and don’t compromise on what you’re worth and who you’re willing to work with. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to attracting higher-quality clients that you actually want to work with. Without further ado, here are 3 simple ways to attract higher-quality clients:

Read the full article on speckyboy.com

20+ Infographics to Help Web Designers and Developers

(designtutorials4u.com) – Infographics are a great, creative and concise way to present vital information in a visual and interesting way that’s easy for most people to understand.   There are many of us that learn visually and be presenting data in graphic format is more useful.

Today lets take a look at 20+ Infographics with concepts important to Web Designers and Developers that could perhaps provide them the information they need to get their jobs done quicker.

Read the full article here!

How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

(about.com) – Some employers choose to prescreen job applicants over the phone before doing an in-person interview. If you’re selected for a phone interview, prepare for a phone interview just as carefully as you would for a regular interview.

Prepare for a Phone Interview Research the job and the company so you are prepared to discuss the company and your role if you were to be hired. Compile a list of answers to typical phone interview questions. In addition, have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer.

Read the full article here!

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