Get Competitive!

I had an interesting discussion with a client about why they couldn’t be more competitive with their compensation when recruiting external candidates. His reply when I asked why they couldn’t go beyond the stated range given what we knew about the market was “we have internal equities with some very talented team members who have been with us for a long time.” Before I could respond he followed with “I know that means we should consider adjusting our pay ranges and perhaps even adjust what we are paying our people now, but that is very difficult to do.”

The employment market in virtually all disciplines is as active as it has been in more than a decade. Your “talented team members” are aware of their market value and are receiving calls from headhunters on a regular basis. As you plan for the annual compensation review cycle it is less difficult to adjust the ranges to be more competitive than it is to adjust those ranges while trying to replace key team members.

Candidate Experience – A Teenager Gets It!

A 17 year-old I know pretty well thought they might like working at a particular clothing retailer but wasn’t going to quit the current part-time job before checking it out by working both jobs for a little while. The manager of the store at the local mall asked her to complete the paper application and return it the next day because she had an opening and was very interested in hiring someone who had already held a part time job for more than a year. She also said she could arrange an interview right away rather than waiting on the process with an online application. The application was completed and returned the next day, delivered directly to the above mentioned manager.

You guessed it – two plus weeks have passed and no contact from the manager. Now for the candidate experience – the 17 year-old young lady says “I’m not sure I’d even want to interview now because I wouldn’t want to work for such a disorganized manager.”

I commented in an earlier post that candidates need to relax because “some things rightfully take time and organizations have a process for evaluating talent.” I still believe that, but if you drop the ball on simple communication during the hiring process you can expect talented candidates to lose interest in the specific opportunity and maybe more broadly lose interest in your organization.

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Please Relax!

I’ve been seeing more posts about the need for speed in talent acquisition. I get it, really I do! I make a living when candidates receive and accept offers.

Some things rightfully take time and organizations have a process for evaluating talent. As important as it is to have the “right” talent, can you blame them? Candidates, are you prepared to limit the field of “right” career opportunities to only those who get to the offer stage more quickly than others?

And by the way, does anyone really believe that being overly aggressive with your potential new employer (or employee for that matter) really sets up the right dynamic for a continued relationship?

Please, Don’t Hire Friends!

Really, don’t do it – don’t hire friends! At least don’t hire them because they are your friends.

I know – they really are a great person, they have a strong work ethic, communicate well, get along with seemingly everyone. Shouldn’t they have the skills as well as the attributes you defined as being necessary for success in the role. You took the time to define the role, right? Don’t give in and skip this step. Grandmother Dierker used to say (I hated it when she said this) “if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over!”

Twice in the past 30 days I’ve heard “You’re right, I need someone who is actually capable of doing this job. How do I fire someone who a) attends my church or b) has a child on my child’s team?” Sorry, no easy answer – but yes, you have to do it!

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We’re ALL Millennials

Are you spending time trying to figure out the Millennials on your team?  Many of the Baby Boomers in leadership are convinced Millennials just won’t stay loyal to one employer for long.  I’ve believed for a long time that generalizing about generations is just too easy and relieves us of any responsibility to work on methods to improve retention.

Chason Hecht, CEO of leading employee retention consulting firm Retensa ( as quoted in the May 2017 Journal of Accountancy (yes I still read it!) sees things differently also – “There’s very little evidence that Millennials lack loyalty.  What they lack is a tolerance for boredom, discontentment and disengagement, for feeling disconnected from their peers, community, and society.” He makes a compelling case that it’s not just Millennials who feel this way but in fact all generations of employees are more likely to leave work they find unsatisfying. Add to this an improving economy, employees of every age being better connected and more likely to become aware of a new opportunity (read LinkedIn), and that same increased connectivity allowing someone to get a more accurate picture of a potential new employer and the result is more professionals of every generation willing to take the risk of leaving.

Remember – We’re ALL Millennials!

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Ready to Sell?

Your company of course, but perhaps not in the way you’re thinking. In every discipline our firm serves the proverbial “war for talent” is on. Most organizations will do their homework before beginning the search – 1) prepare the position profile and outline both skills and attributes requirements, and 2) define the parameters of salary and bonus. Armed with this information your talent acquisition partners (internal and external) have developed several excellent candidates for you to consider. Now all that is left is for you to interview and choose, wrong!

In this tight market for talent you need to SELL! Please don’t overthink this. Based on what we hear from candidates about interview experiences just doing the basics will put you ahead of much of the competition.

1) Be on time for the interview. 48% of respondents to a national survey about interviewer behavior said this negatively influenced their impression of the company.
2) Set your smartphone to Do Not Disturb.
3) Have the candidate’s resume’ and interview notes. Here’s an idea – read it in advance, highlight it and be prepared to ask specific and meaningful questions relevant to the opportunity. Appearing unprepared for the interview was cited as a negative influence by 47% of the respondents in the same study about interviewer behavior.
4) Review their LinkedIn profile – yes this has become basic!

Duke Has Always Known It’s the Players

OK, you’re expecting some praise for Duke basketball from a closet Dukie. Sorry, while I don’t hate Christian Laettner, I do not like Duke basketball.

J. B. Duke, the Duke who the university and Duke Energy is named for knew in the late 1800’s that the business success that would propel him to incredible wealth and subsequent philanthropy was all about the people. This quote from one of his biographies “Bold Entrepreneur” by Robert F. Durden summarizes it very well: “one of the most important keys, or secrets, to Duke’s remarkable career: he was an extremely keen judge of men and of their character and ability. Moreover, when he spotted someone whose talent he respected and whom he judged to be reliable and trustworthy, he treated them fairly, respectfully, and generously……J.B. Duke’s success in enterprises owed a great deal to highly talented people who worked with and for him, and who generally remained loyally with him throughout their careers.”

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KEEP UP! Lessons I Learned Caddying

The final directive to the assembled pre-teens at the first Monday caddy school was to “keep up!”  What our caddymaster Pat Higgins really meant was “stay ahead!” What golfer who has the privilege of taking a caddy wants to look for his own ball?  When I first started caddying I would lag behind my golfer when I wasn’t entirely sure where the ball had traveled thinking I would be forgiven for being a couple of steps slow but not for failing to follow the flight of the ball.  What I learned was they knew I didn’t see the ball and thought I was a couple of steps slow.  The lesson I learned was to get ahead of the game, be the first to arrive at the most likely landing area and furiously survey the area to increase the likelihood of being the one to discover the right answer.

I didn’t realize I was neglecting this lesson early in my CPA firm career until an audit manager said “make a decision and move on, we didn’t hire you because you know what to do every time, we hired you because we believed you were smart and will make good decisions about what to do!”  I struggle at times to do the work that allows me to keep up – listening to and learning from others (in formal training sessions and informal settings) and making time to read.  At a recent Ohio Society of CPA’s continuing education session the instructor (a former national firm partner) said something I made a point of writing down and capturing in the Evernote app on my phone – “Your only consistent value add is in decision making and that comes from the training and practice that informs your sound analytical thinking combined with your objectivity and judgement.”

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SHUT UP!  A Lesson I First Learned Caddying


The second directive to the assembled pre-teens at the first Monday caddy school was to “shut up!”  I mistakenly thought our caddymaster Pat Higgins meant that only for when we were on the course with our assigned loop.  I learned (not too painfully because I had three older brothers caddying) that it was even more important in the caddy yard and around the caddy shack. Someone once asked me “if you could give your early professional self two words of advice what would they be?”  My answer without hesitation – “shut up.”

I was told I was a pretty smart kid but early in my career I couldn’t stop trying to show that I was the smartest guy in the room.  It wasn’t usually with my superiors as I guess I viewed them as the “golfers I was caddying for” but it was with my co-workers, fellow caddies if you will. I was 10 years into my professional career and in my second tour of public accounting before a partner in a law firm who our firm shared a client with told me (politely) to shut up again.  I was in mid-sentence of telling him how I was going to present information at a meeting he had called with the four owners of this client when he said “actually you don’t need to be prepared to say anything. If there is a question I believe you should answer I’ll ask you, so just know your material.”  I was really perturbed on the inside but in short order I understood what a blessing it was to hear that “Shut Up” lesson again.

Just a reminder to ask good questions and listen carefully to the responses before being the one with all the answers.  My lesson came from Michael J. Burke, Sr. who at the time was Managing Partner of the Keating Muething & Klekamp Law Firm.  Mike passed away far too soon in December 2001 and I’m certain I’m not the only one who is carrying important lessons they learned from him.

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Lessons I Learned Caddying

“Only three things you need to know to be successful” according to my first boss, “show up, shut up, keep up.” I’m actually not certain if my first caddymaster Pat Higgins said it or if after hearing it during my Evans Scholar days at Miami University I just attributed it to him, but as time went on I learned just how universally true those keys to success were.

A friend shared that he recently had to terminate an employee and it emphasized once again that it all begins with Show Up! A hard to fill position was finally filled with a well qualified professional. During the first two weeks there are some problems with getting to work on time, and not just those nagging few minutes. My friend did the right thing and had a candid discussion about the culture of the organization and how timeliness really matters. Things got a little better for a couple of weeks but as my friend said, “I don’t think he really got it.” Friday morning another late arrival and another meeting where it is made clear that future late arrival could result in termination.

You guessed it – late arrival on Monday. This talented professional is met in the lobby by my friend and the Human Resources Director and thus ends a promising career opportunity. Harsh as it may seem, like my caddymaster said – Show Up, and yes On Time!

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