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Asked to Write a Reference Letter? Here’s How

March 18th, 2014

From time to time, you’re sure to get requests to write reference letters for former employees. Sometimes you’re happy to satisfy the request; others, not so much. To help you deal with both situations, consider the following:

The first question you should ask yourself is:
Should I be writing this letter?

As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional can tell you if a former employee requests a reference letter, they should be a person that you know reasonably well and can provide solid examples of past work history. However, if you knew the employee at the company but never actually worked with them – and have no first-hand knowledge of their skills and experience – then you shouldn’t be writing a reference letter on their behalf, even if you’re friends. Keep in mind this is a formal document that companies will be basing hiring decisions on.

If you do decide to write a reference letter on behalf of a former employee, it should include these basic fundamentals:

• Introduce who you are and how you know the candidate.
• Confirm any facts you know the candidate needs to supply, including job title, dates of employment and any other pertinent information.
• Describe the candidate’s skills and experience while they worked with you.
• Give a couple of specific examples of the candidate’s positive performance and accomplishments.
• Close by summarizing why you would recommend this person for the position.
• Be sure to include your contact information in case employers want to follow up.

Some Don’ts:

• Don’t write in an informal language or use humor. Also, be sure to spell check the letter before you send it. Remember that your letter holds weight as to whether the candidate gets the offer.
• Don’t include any personal information you know about the candidate, such as whether they’re married or have kids. This kind of information is not relevant to the hiring process.

When You Don’t Have Anything Positive to Say

It’s always surprising when a former employee you didn’t get along with or that left on bad terms asks you to write a reference letter. However, it happens all the time. When it does, it’s wise – albeit a little awkward – to politely decline rather than writing a half-hearted endorsement.

If you write a letter that is less than accurate, an employer might actually hire that person based on it. If the tables were turned, you’d want only honest, accurate letters of reference from candidates.

Need help hiring for your company? Call Provisional. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we use a consultative approach to provide customized staffing solutions to our clients. Just give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

Why Would a Candidate Want to Work for You?

March 11th, 2014

For many employers, the hiring process is an opportunity to find candidates that fit. But if you’re not looking at it from the candidate perspective – and what they want in a future employer – you’re missing out on an opportunity to attract top talent.

As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional can tell you that even in a still uncertain economy, the best and brightest are in demand. And if you’re not working to sell your company and your job openings to them, you can bet that your competition is.

Not sure where to start?

Ask your employees.

Conduct a survey of your current team and ask them what they like most about working for the company. You may be surprised by some of their answers; while others – like flex time or telecommuting – are a given. But at least you’ll gain a sense of what’s important to them and the types of perks and attributes you can use to sell your company to potential new hires.

Also be sure to ask them about what they’d like to have, but don’t currently. You never know. It may be something simple and inexpensive that could improve employee retention and recruiting efforts.

Sell your culture.

What sets your organization apart from others? What makes working there desirable? Many times, employers will simply stick to talking about pay and benefits. But if most organizations say the same thing, how are you going to differentiate your’s from the competition? You need to tell a story about what makes your company unique.

Share your values.

Besides culture, another way to stand out in the minds’ of candidates is through your company’s values. These can’t be empty words and catch phrases used for the sake of hiring; they need to resonate with people and make them want to work for you and share in those values.

Be transparent.

One of the worst mistakes is making the hiring process a headache for candidates. You can say all the right things to a candidate about how great your company is, but if you promise a decision in one week and they haven’t heard from you in a month, you’re going to leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Instead, be transparent, keep your word, and make sure candidates are in the loop, even when it means letting them know they didn’t get the job. They could be the perfect hire for a different position in the future. But if they’re treated poorly during the hiring process, they won’t apply again or refer other candidates your way.

Remember, the best people have a choice in where they work. You need to do all you can to make them choose you.

Need more help hiring top candidates? Call Provisional. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we can help you through every step of the hiring process – from crafting effective job descriptions to sourcing, screening and hiring top candidates.

Just give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

How to Put Job Candidates at Ease

January 14th, 2014

No matter how skilled, experienced or confident a job candidate is, they are always going to be at least a little nervous before a job interview. And unfortunately, sometimes nerves can get the best of a candidate – even one who would be an ideal fit for you.

As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional can tell you that finding ways to put your candidates at ease, so you can truly assess them, will ensure you don’t miss out on hiring the best candidate for your company.

To help you, here are some tips to consider:

Greet candidates.

Be sure that each candidate is greeted and escorted, if necessary, to the interview location. Start the interview off with low-key questions, such as how the candidate heard about the opening.

Pay attention.

Nothing frustrates, annoys or rattles a candidate more than a phone ringing every time they’re trying to answer one of your interview questions. So turn your cell phone off and give each candidate your undivided attention.

Avoid the wacky questions.

Unless you’re hiring for a position that requires a high degree of creativity, avoid the “if you were a car, what kind of car would you be” interview questions. These tend to stump a lot of candidates and don’t necessarily offer you as an employer insight into their professional strengths and weaknesses.

Instead, ask specific questions about their prior experience and accomplishments. Getting them on firm ground will not only put them at ease, but you will also garner the information necessary to help you make a solid hiring decision.

Also, if you want to get a clearer sense of a candidate’s personality, ask situational based questions, like how they would react in a certain situation.

End the interview on a positive note.

Even if you think the candidate isn’t right for the position, thank them for their time and let them know when you plan on making a hiring decision.

If you do decide that they definitely aren’t right for you, then don’t leave them hanging. Let the candidate know as soon as possible. They could be a perfect fit for a future position and promptly informing them of your decision in a professional way will help paint your employment brand in a positive light.

Need more help with the hiring process? Call Provisional. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we can help you through every step of it – from crafting effective job descriptions to sourcing, screening and hiring top candidates.

Just give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

What’s a Job Analysis? And Why Should You Perform One?

November 5th, 2013

A job analysis sounds a lot more intimidating than what it actually is. It’s simply a process of collecting details – think responsibilities, required skills, and desired outcomes – about a particular position. Still, it sounds like a fair bit of work, so why would you want to conduct them for jobs at your company?

Two reasons:

1) A job analysis is the basis for a strong job description. And we know that when you’re hiring, a precise job description can be the difference between attracting top talent and mediocre candidates.

2) A job analysis helps evaluate the fit of your current employees. In other words, by analyzing each position thoroughly, it helps you ensure that the right people are in the right positions. When employees are in jobs that are well suited for them, they are much more likely to stay motivated, happy and loyal to the company.

As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional can also tell you that performing a job analysis isn’t as simple as writing down all you know about a particular position. Instead, it includes the following activities:

• Get each employee involved in the process by having them complete a job analysis form. They are the ones performing the work each day, so their input is vital in order to create an accurate analysis. Conduct a simple Google search for templates of forms and then customize them for your unique needs.

• Ask employees to log how long it takes them to perform regular tasks and duties for one week.

• Once forms and logs are completed, interview each employee to ask specific questions and discuss details of each job’s duties and responsibilities.

• Also interview each manager, other employees and clients that the employee may interact with on a regular basis to get a full snapshot of the position.

• Observe the employee at different times and on different days throughout a week and make a note of what they’re doing and how long they are performing certain tasks.

• If there are multiple people performing the same job, be sure to follow the steps above for each person to get a clear picture of the position.

• Once you’ve completed the leg work and written out a job analysis for each position, review them with employees and managers to ensure they are as accurate as possible.

Keep in mind that the more information you can gather, the easier it will be to compile precise job descriptions.

Need more help writing job descriptions?

Give Provisional a call. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we can help you through every step of the hiring process – from crafting effective job descriptions to sourcing, screening and hiring top candidates.

Just give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

Building Trust on a New Team

August 13th, 2013

You’re the new boss. And whether it’s through a job change or a promotion, the fact remains: you’ve inherited an entire team of people you may not know a lot about. As the saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” And considering all that’s on the line as the new boss, you want to make a good one.

To support you in your efforts, here are a few tips to help you to win over and build trust among your new team:

Meet One-on-One With Each Player

Don’t walk into the job expecting to have all the answers. Instead, reap the collective knowledge that your team already has in place. Do so by getting to know each person on an individual basis.

So schedule an informal meeting or a lunch date with the members of your team. Don’t do all the talking; instead ask them about their background and experiences with the company. Also inquire about the challenges and opportunities they see.

These are the people in the trenches everyday and it would be a waste not to rely on their insight and understanding.

Thank Your Team for Their Ideas

Even if someone offers an idea that is unreasonable, don’t respond in a negative way. Instead, thank them for sharing; even if you don’t end up using an idea, your new team members will be more encouraged to speak up in the future.

Implement Ideas & Feedback Where You Can

Put forward your plan leveraging the knowledge and ideas that your team provided. Acknowledge those team members who contributed to it. When you do, you’ll create a sense of trust and camaraderie. They’ll know it’s not the boss vs. the staff; everyone is one the same team. Even better, employees will be more vested in a plan in which some of their ideas are used.

Don’t Trash the Old Boss

Even if you come to the realization that the old boss was totally incompetent, don’t speak negatively of him or her. You may need to ask your team questions as to why things were done a certain way, but keep your “are you kidding me?!” thoughts to yourself. Your employees may be glad their old boss is gone, but speaking negatively will erode the sense of trust and positivity you are trying to build.

And if you need some help hiring for your new team, let Provisional know. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we use a consultative approach to provide customized staffing solutions to our clients. Just give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

Making the Offer: What to Include in Your Letter

July 9th, 2013

You’ve screened hundreds of resumes, interviewed a dozen candidates, and are now ready to make a job offer to one of them. But before you pull the trigger, make sure you put it all in writing in the form of an offer letter.

As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional knows that doing so ensures both you and the candidate are the on the same page. It can also protect you in the case of related legal issues down the line (such as a dispute over salary or termination).

So what should you include in your cover letter? Here’s a look at a few key elements:

The basics of the position – Include the title of the position and the anticipated start date.

Status of position – Whether it’s full- or part-time.

Job details – Include their supervisor’s name and the primary tasks they will be responsible for. Be sure to note that these tasks may expand or change over time.

Compensation – Include the agreed upon salary or hourly pay, as well as whether or not the position includes benefits like health and dental insurance. If there are no benefits due to limited hours, then state that. Also include how often they will be paid.

Schedule – If the new hire will have an untraditional schedule, then note that in the offer letter as well.

Fine print – Note that the offer is contingent upon the candidate’s ability to meet any requirements, such as a background check or completing an I-9 form.

Also, if there is no contract associated with the position, note that they are an “at will” employee and can therefore leave or be terminated at any time without notice and for no cause at all.

Signature of acceptance – Leave room for the new hire to sign the letter indicating they read and understand it. Make a copy of it and include it in their employee file.

Contact – Include contact information should the candidate have any questions about the information presented in the offer letter.

When writing your offer letter, also be careful about the language you use. For instance, don’t talk about job security, or use phrases such as “in the future.” Doing so could imply certain guarantees of employment.

And if you’re having a hard time finding people that you want to make offers to, give Provisional a call. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we use a consultative approach to provide customized staffing solutions to our clients. Just give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you.

The #1 Tip for Sourcing Top Candidates in the New Year

January 1st, 2013

Despite a still struggling economy, there’s plenty of top talent out there looking for new jobs in 2013. So how are you going to find and hire them for your open positions?

As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional knows that one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways is through an employee referral program. But if you don’t have such a program in place, how can you go about implementing one?

Here are some questions to consider:

What’s the incentive?

In other words, how are you going to get employees to offer up referrals? While some will certainly do so out of loyalty to the company, your program will be a lot more successful with the right incentives in place. So whether it’s a monetary reward, an extra vacation day, a gift certificate, or something else entirely, determine what you’re willing to offer in order to incentivize employees to refer candidates to you.

What are the guidelines for the incentive?

Once they hear about the referral program, an employee may offer up a dozen potential recruits. But in order for you to get the most bang for your buck, you need to ensure you actually hire one of them.

So devise some rules for the incentives; for instance, does the new hire need to work at the company for 90 days before you’re willing to pay out to the employee who referred them? Or should you pay half the referral fee upon hire and the other half after six months on the job?

How should employees refer candidates?

Develop a referral method that makes it easy for employees to refer candidates. In addition, be sure to include a step in the application process for a candidate to tell you who referred them.

How will you promote the program?

You have a brand new employee referral program set up. Now how are you going to get the word out? Whether it’s through email blasts or company newsletters, it’s important to have a plan to promote the program and keep it top-of-mind among your employees.

Want Expert Help Finding Top Candidates?

Whether you already have a referral program, or are just implementing one, if you need help finding high quality candidates now, give Provisional a call. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we know where to source today’s top talent and we can help you find reliable and skilled employees for full-time, part-time, or temporary jobs.

Contact Provisional today to learn more about how we can help you.

How to Find the Right Accounting Pro for Your Small Business

July 24th, 2012

Have your accounting challenges become too great to handle on your own? Are financial statements incomplete or inaccurate? Is that accounting software you invested in just not cutting it anymore?

Then perhaps it’s time to hire a real, live accountant.

But, as one of the top staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional knows that hiring the right person for your team goes beyond just finding an effective number cruncher. It’s about understanding your needs – and then finding the professional with the right experience to fill it.

For instance, accountants can provide:

  • Tax Planning Services – From setting up the books to conducting quarterly reviews, accountants can be an important part of the business year round, not just at tax time.
  • Business Planning Services – Your accountant can be involved in as much of the business as you’d like. And in fact, a good accountant can act as a general business consultant, helping to negotiate leases and evaluating the financial implications of various business decisions.
  • Personal Tax Planning – Especially with small businesses, personal tax issues and business tax issues can oftentimes be related. So this type of experience may be key for your needs.

So what should you look for when it comes time to hire an accountant?

First, look for someone with the right experience. A candidate may have a number of years of experience at a major corporation under his or her belt. But if you’re a small business owner and only employ a few people, then he or she may not be the best fit for you. You’d be better off finding an accountant who specializes in small business issues or who has experience in your particular industry.

Secondly, you need to feel comfortable with this person. If he or she looks great on paper and has all the right experience, but your gut is telling you to be careful, then you’d be wise to listen. You’re going to be giving this person access to your most sensitive data assets and financial information, so you need to make sure you feel comfortable with your final choice.

And finally, determine whether you need a CPA or non-CPA. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) has a certain number of years of experience and has taken tests to prove competency. There are specific situations where you’ll certainly need a CPA – such as if you’re being audited – but for day-to-day bookkeeping operations, a general accountant may be a better fit.

Need Help Recruiting & Hiring an Accountant?

Give us a call. As one of the top staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Provisional can work with you to source, screen, and recruit motivated and skilled accounting professionals. In fact, our specialized financial recruiting division, ACCOUNTINGPROS, is the #1 source for financial talent in the Northwest. Contact Provisional today to learn more.

How to Hire an Innovator

August 23rd, 2011

If your business is like most, your competitive edge depends on your ability to innovate. But innovation doesn’t appear out of thin air; you have to have people with not only the right skills, but also the ability to apply those skills to real-world commercial objectives.

So how can you recruit innovative people?

First, you have to know what to look for during the hiring process. According to researchers from Harvard Business School, Insead and Brigham Young University, the following are 5 key skills shared by innovators:

  1. Associating: Ability to make connections among seemingly unrelated ideas
  2. Questioning: Curious by nature and regularly questioning the status quo
  3. Observing: Propensity to observe others and gain insight through those observations
  4. Experimenting: Frequently visits new places, tries new things, and seeks new information
  5. Networking: Networks with those who come from diverse backgrounds and perspectives

But with just a resume and an interview to go on, how can you really tell if your next recruit is going to exhibit these traits – and be a strong innovator? Here are some ideas to help:

  • Let your network of colleagues and employees know the kind of person you’re looking for and ask for solid referrals. When you go this route, you’ll be able to interview candidates who you know have demonstrated their creative thinking skills to whomever referred them.
  • Follow the likes of Google and Microsoft, and create a contest focused on solving a real problem your company has. You’ll attract a large number of innovators and may even find a creative solution to your problem along the way.
  • True innovators are attracted by…well…innovation. So if yours is an innovative company, then emphasize that trait in your job posting. Let candidates know your culture encourages employees to innovate and take risks. Also make sure the Careers section of your website reflects your culture of innovation.
  • Most resumes usually look the same. But when an innovator is applying for a job, they may take an out-of-the-box approach. Don’t ignore their efforts, even if it bucks the traditional approach! After all, when you’re looking for innovators, you want to make sure your recruiting process allows for innovative applications.
  • Similarly to the contest idea, once you’ve narrowed your list of candidates down to a few, ask each one to provide a solution to a real problem your company is experiencing and present their proposal to you and your team.
  • People who are truly innovative are in high demand. That means they are less likely to put up with the hiccups in your recruiting process, a slow hiring decision, and a less-than-stellar candidate experience.

If you’d like some assistance hiring innovators, Provisional can help. As one of the leading staffing agencies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we have the knowledge and experience required to recruit top-tier professionals that can make a positive impact on your business performance. Contact us today if you’d like to put us to the test.

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