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Reference checking when done correctly can be very powerful. Most employers check references, but the important factor is how the reference check is performed.

Most reference checking is more of a box checking exercise than what it really should be, which is validating that the candidate really did what they told you in the interview. That should be the focus of a reference check.

Good reference checking starts with good interviewing. Train your people to ask for examples in the interview. Probe deeply into those examples to get time frames, budget, size, issues they overcame, problems they solved, why they did X instead of Y and so on.

Then, instead of asking the standard box checking questions everyone asks, change the reference check. Ask the reference, “During the interview, Tom indicated he did X, can you tell me more about what his role was and some of the more difficult issues he had to overcome?”

Does the reference’s story validate what the candidate told you, or is it something different? Was the candidate accurate, or did they embellish? When references are done properly they can provide a wealth of valuable information.


If you've ever employed an overachiever, you will know that they need special attention so that you can take advantage of what they have to offer. Constant communication works best, but be inspirational, not commandeering.

Overachievers don't like to be told what to do. Managers get the best results from them if they involve them in decisions and planning as much as possible. If there's a problem with their work, rather than telling them how to fix it, ask them what they think the solution should be.

Praise them for a job well done, tap into their creativity and be sincere. Remove obstacles and help pave the way to success. While overachievers may demand more, their output often goes much higher than that of other employees.

To discuss this or other recruitment related issues please call Rupert on 020 7183 0255

The rule of thumb among recruiters is that 70 to 80 percent of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year.

So, you've accepted an offer to work for a new company and it's time to quit your current job. Shouldn't be too difficult.

You do all the right things: give notice, offer to help in the transition, finish projects, say thanks for the opportunity. But instead of just shaking your hand and wishing you good luck, your boss hits you with a counteroffer – one that includes more money, more holidays, and better benefits.

While a counteroffer can be flattering, chances are your boss has ulterior motives. Employee resignations can hurt a manager's record. Or, maybe, he or she wants to keep you on long enough to find a replacement. Perhaps it’s their motive because it's cheaper to pay you a bit more than it is to recruit, hire, and train a new employee.

In some instances, accepting a counteroffer may be a good move. But before you say yes, consider these reasons why you should decline.

1. You had to quit to get a raise. Suddenly you became more valuable after you give notice? It should make you wonder why you weren't valuable enough to deserve a raise before–when you were coming into the office every day and dutifully attending to your job duties.

2. Things won't change. The frustration, the stifling feelings, and the dissatisfaction that led you to seek new job opportunities will remain, and it's unlikely that the bump in pay will make those things any more bearable. Whatever turned you off about your job prior to the new offer will continue to be irksome after you accept it.

3. You may be shunned. When you give notice, you are, in effect, dumping your boss. As in many types of relationships, the rebuffed party begins to bargain: Give me another chance. Things will get better. I can change! No one, after all, wants to be the dumpee. But once your boss' anxiety is eased and you've agreed to the counteroffer, new emotions will set in: resentment, suspicion, distrust. You will likely spend your remaining time at the company on the fringes–excised from the inner circle for your show of disloyalty (and coworkers may resent the raise and how you got it).

4. Job security will diminish. Your boss fought to keep you from quitting, sure. But when it comes time to lay off some people, it's a safe bet that you'll be somewhere toward the top of the list. Remember: Your boss wanted you to stay for his benefit, not yours. If he has the opportunity to get rid of you on his terms– now that you've revealed a willingness to be a turncoat–he’s likely going to take it.

5. You're going to leave anyway. Four out of five employees who accept counteroffers end up leaving the company within nine months.

6. You've already accepted an offer. And what about the new job offer you already accepted? By virtue of hiring you, that employer already has demonstrated a belief that you are valuable–and you haven't even had your first day yet. Your current employer, on the other hand, has begrudgingly offered you more money to get you to stay to suit his purposes. Also, leading on prospective employer–attending interviews, negotiating, accepting an offer, allowing the them to think the job has been filled–is a bad career strategy in general.

It is always the same when someone resigns - they walk into the room, smiling sheepishly and close the door behind them. The next few minutes are key. The manager dealing with the resignation needs to be armed with these 10 important questions:
  1. Where are you going next?
  2. Why are you resigning?
  3. Have you already signed a contract with a new employer?
  4. When have you agreed to start?
  5. Who else inside and outside the organisation knows about your plans to leave?
  6. Is anyone else planning to leave?
  7. What handover will be required?
  8. Who do you recommend should step into your shoes?
  9. Have you got in your possession confidential information belonging to the organisation and, if so, where is it stored?
  10. Are you intending to abide by your confidentiality and post-termination restrictions?
If these questions are not asked, the manager is blind-sided and loses a valuable opportunity to probe the employee. It is far less effective to leave these questions to an exit interview, which is usually very perfunctory.

To discuss this or other recruitment related issues please call Rupert on 020 7183 0255

  1. Initiative - Can you give me an example of where you’ve demonstrated high initiative in your last position – going above and beyond the call of duty?
  2. Flawless Execution - Could you share with me a task or assignment where you had to overcome significant obstacles and hurdles?
  3. Leadership - Could you illustrate your leadership by telling us about an example – where you either were part of the team or led the team? What did you do specifically to help the team achieve their goals or results?
  4. Success Factors - One of our most critical success factors for this role is X. What have you done that is most similar, comparable, like that expectation?
  5. Adaptability - How would achieving this success factor in our environment differ from attempting to achieve it in your previous company?


Hook, line and sinker – netting the perfect candidate...

I read an interesting analogy recently that suggested recruiting is rather like fishing. No need to drag me off to an institution just yet, I promise I haven’t gone stark raving mad and, yes, I was sceptical about the similarities at first too, but bear with me...

When you think of fishing, you may well envision a lovely, small boat, the sun shining down and a peaceful trip, which, if you’re lucky, might just result in a tasty supper. What you may have forgotten is the huge amount of preparation that has gone into planning this trip. How much of it really is luck? There really are all kinds of things you need to consider if you want to bring home the bacon (or should that be salmon, trout or cod?!). What kind of fish do you want to catch? Where’s the best spot to find those fish? Different fish need different bait and a variety of different methods to get them to bite. You really need to make your rig (that’s fishing speak for ‘set up’) as attractive as possible in order to hook that perfect specimen which will be the envy of all your friends for years to come. No one wants to that person talking about ‘the one that got away’.

Ah, you’re catching on now aren’t you?

So you see, fishing really is like recruiting. It’s about having the knowledge, know-how and patience to find out exactly what an employer is looking for in a new employee (what type of fish), then setting about researching where you might find people with the exacting criteria (picking your perfect fishing spot) and then doing everything in your power to make the new job as attractive as possible and place that perfect person (choosing the perfect bait and rig).

Many people fish for a hobby – but it takes years of experience to become a great fisherman. You need to know all the best places to fish and you’ll often find that great fishermen have an equally good group of friends who will often have new ideas on where the fish might now be living – they might even know if they’re likely to be moving on anytime soon.

I don’t think I am offering anything revolutionary or secretive here, but as an MD (a golfer perhaps?) or HR professional (a coach of a local team?), you may simply not have the time or knowledge to ‘fish’ as effectively as you’d like to – it’s just not your ‘hobby’. Your jobs are complex and varied and your ‘to do’ list is probably growing even as you read this. Choose a great headhunter and you’re increasing your odds dramatically of finding that perfect catch. You’re investing in years of experience and a network that is far ranging across many disciplines and industries. You have most definitely heard the term “There are plenty of fish in the sea”, well, it’s not exactly the same for talent – there isn’t as much of it swimming around as we would all like to think. But, it’s about knowing where that talent is; it’s about anticipating where you’ll net the best candidate for your growing pond.

Want Ellis Fox to go fishing for you? Then get on the line! 020 7183 0255

Everyone makes mistakes. You’ve heard it throughout your entire life - whether they’re innocuous or truly damaging, bad decisions will strike all of us at some point.

But what happens when you make a bad decision in the hiring process? What if you pull the trigger on someone whom you should have never interviewed, let alone given a job? What will it cost you?

Listen, you went to college. You’ve had nights that ended at 4 in the morning that probably contained their fair share of bad decisions, but a bad hire is an entirely different animal, it’s a rabid animal. A bad hire won’t only harm the reputation of the person who hired them, it will harm the company itself.

Bad hires hurt a business in (at least) four ways: time lost, opportunity cost of not having someone more competent in that position, plummeting morale and low-quality work on projects.

Hiring someone and acclimating them to the culture of your organisation takes time. While every hire you make carries an inherent risk, you do your due diligence through interviews and checking references to ensure that each new employee you bring on will have the greatest chance at succeeding.

While these new hires are getting up to speed, they’re also not working at 100%. Even the top candidates walk in the door and only produce at 25-50% of their capabilities while they learn to navigate new systems and processes. A Harvard Business School survey of 610 CEOs found that the typical mid-level manager needs just over 6 months to reach their break even point.

But what happens when the employee never reaches that break even point? All those long hours you spent interviewing them, checking their references, and onboarding them will be lost. The worst part is that now you’re going to have to start over and hope you make the right decision the second time around, which is by no means guaranteed. By leaving that position vacant again, you will just lose more time that your team could have used to produce quality work.

This will be the one that keeps you up at night. Maybe it came down to two people and you chose wrong. Maybe there were a slew of qualified candidates and you picked the one who went to your alma mater. Maybe you were unsure of a certain candidate, but then they complimented your hair. Whatever the case may be, there is a price to be paid for having a bad worker in a position where someone more competent could have been.

A new helping hand on a project may seem like a shiny, red bicycle from Santa, but it can slowly turn into a lump of coal. Once team members start realising that the new employee is abrasive or not pulling his weight, things begin to sour. Tempers flare and fights ensue. What was once a reasonable deadline now seems impossible to meet. Even when the bad hire gets fired, it’s not as though morale will suddenly bounce back. The prospect of that position staying vacant is nothing to get excited over and other employees know they’ll only have to work longer hours to achieve their goals. This could easily lead to a domino-effect of resignations and a higher overall attrition rate in recruiting.
Even when work is being covered by other employees, Studies estimate the actual monetary losses for the company at 50% of that position’s wages for the time the position is left vacant. If the work goes unaccounted for due to the vacancy, that loss doubles to 100%.

After all the training you’ve given him/her, you finally trust that your new hire will be able to produce high-quality work. At the first deadline, however, you see how wrong you were. Poor work will not only be a major setback for a particular project, it could do damage do an entire department. Low-quality work will have to be fixed and that takes time. If you can’t trust your incompetent new hire to fix it, either you or one of the team members will have to work overtime to ensure that the project gets completed.

Ultimately, how much a bad hire winds up costing you is dependent on how quickly you realize the error of your ways. Estimates vary, but the overall cost to hire an employee is generally tallied at anywhere from 1.5 to 3 times their annual salary, when you factor in recruiting costs, benefits, training and onboarding time. The sooner you swallow the hard truth that a mistake has been made, the sooner you can cut that multiplier and replace that employee with a motivated and team-oriented person who will gladly (and effectively) do the job they have been given.

Ellis Fox has a reputation for providing a quality service, high level customer care coupled with the ability to source permanent and interim candidates of the highest calibre right across the Utilities, Infrastructure and Built environment. Please call today on 020 7183 0255 or book a telephone consultation appointment by clicking on the following link:

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Many CEOs claim to have exceptional intuition about hiring for their executive team. “I know in my gut if someone will be a fit,” they say. Much like the stories of gamblers, who will brag about their winnings (but not tell you about their losses), you only hear about the successful hires.

Too many executive candidates today are good salespeople. They know how to create a good first impression, and hit the CEO directly in the gut with their personality, and win the job offer.

A smart CEO will suspend intuition for most of the first interview, and use objective criteria to evaluate if a candidate is a fit for the position. The best way to do this is to establish several SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals, which will also constitute a business plan for the new hire. It is important to do this systematically, because it is easy to think you’re doing it, and make mistakes.

So don’t trust your gut, or you may end up in the gutter, along with those non-winning betting slips the gambler tossed away!

Ellis Fox has a reputation for providing a quality service, high level customer care coupled with the ability to source permanent and interim candidates of the highest calibre right across the Utilities, Infrastructure and Construction sectors. Please call today on 020 7183 0255.


Indecision or delay when it comes to making an offer works almost every time.

I recommend a slick hiring process whenever possible but I accept that getting time in diaries can be challenging, particularly when seeking time in diaries with hiring managers who travel extensively. The important thing is to plan the process and set expectation.

However, once the candidate has jumped through the final hoop, you need to be decisive and take action. The fact that you have three more people to see in the next two weeks before you can make a decision might seem reasonable enough to you but put yourself in the candidate’s position.

Most candidates read this as that they are no. 2 and being kept warm in case no. 1 turns the position down. If you really have taken three or four candidates to the final stage of the process, then you need to see them all within a couple of days of each other, it’s about effectively managing the process.

Taking a couple of weeks to reflect and think it over before you make an offer will more often than not kill the deal and making a verbal offer and then not getting a written offer out for three weeks won’t help either.

If you want to secure your no.1 candidate, be decisive and proceed at speed.

Ellis Fox has a reputation for providing a quality service, high level customer care coupled with the ability to source permanent and interim candidates of the highest calibre right across the Utilities, Infrastructure and Built environment. Please call today on 020 7183 0255 or book a telephone consultation appointment by clicking on the following link:

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If You Could Improve One Thing About The Company, What Would It Be?

Any qualified candidate should be interviewing the prospective employer as much as they are being interviewed. By asking about where the company can improve, the interviewee not only establishes that the interview process is a two-way street, but may also find out some important information to use in her decision making. If the answer given is not candid, there is information in that as well..........

Ellis Fox has a reputation for providing a quality service, high level candidate care coupled with the network to place candidates right across the Utilities, Infrastructure and Built environment. Please call today on 020 7183 0255 to discuss your requirements.