Archives For Leora Baumgarten

According to data from the NewHire applicant tracking system, at least 90 percent of candidates who apply for any advertised job opening are unqualified. That means that if you’re the hiring manager, and you get about 100 resumes, you’ll spend two or three days screening resumes just to find the 10 people who are qualified. That doesn’t even take into account the additional time needed for face-to-face interviews! Luckily, there is a solution – adding candidate screening questions as the first step in the application process.

The challenge is that candidate screening questions have to be created before a single candidate applies, but it’s simple if you remember this broad formula.

screening questions are critical to qualifying job applicants


There are three screening questions that should be on every employment application:

  1. Past work experience relating to the key accountabilities of the job
  2. Work behaviors that lead to on-the-job success
  3. Specific subject matter expertise needed to execute the duties of the job

Here are some specific examples, all based on an ad for an outside sales representative in the property and casualty insurance space:

The right Sales Representative will have 2-5 years experience in a Sales or Business Development role and excel in working in a fast-paced environment. Property and Casualty License preferred, but not required. Strong communications skills are a must.

Our goal is to be able to quickly identify candidates who have the skills and experience expressed in the ad. Below are examples of specific questions that address each of the three categories. These questions can be easily adapted for sales-rep recruiting in other industries.

1.   Past work experience

It’s clear we want to hire someone with some sales experience. Here’s the first question to ask:


This is a great first question to ask because it immediately filters candidates who don’t match your simplest criteria. The problem is that there are applicants who have been selling for years but doing it poorly. Here is a second screening question that would help us find out about selling success.


Now we can select candidates who meets our criteria of both experience and demonstrated success during the last 12 months.

2.   Work behaviors that lead to on-the-job success

Now we can turn our attention to “soft skills.” From the job description we know that successful employees are comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.


This is a great question to ask, because candidates can’t Google the correct answer and not every sales job requires the same work pace. In this case, it’s probable that candidates who select “juggling several tasks with attention to detail” will be most likely to thrive.

3.   Subject matter expertise

Now it’s time to find out which candidates can demonstrate they have the knowledge for success.


The ideal answer is clear. But the ad said, “Property and Casualty License preferred, but not required,” and the hiring manager is willing to train the right candidate. How am I going to identify candidates that might not have the license yet, but would likely have the ability to learn about the industry and pass the exam?


The information provided by an open-ended question is two-fold. First, we get a writing sample and can evaluate communication skills. Second, we find out if the candidate has a basic understanding about the industry and can explain the benefits of the product they will be selling.

Every employment application should include screening questions about work experience, work behaviors and subject matter expertise. These types of questions allow the manager to eliminate candidates who are not qualified and focus on those people who match the hiring criteria. Using the right screening questions will transform a tedious task into a rewarding, exciting search for the best available talent.

What screening questions do you use in your hiring process?

This is the third of a three-part series that’s designed to help you answer the question “why is it so hard to hire an employee?” 

We’ve addressed what may be the problem if no one is applying for your job and why qualified applicants aren’t applying, but what if you have plenty of qualified candidates applying? You might be thinking, “what’s the problem?” The obvious answer is: There is no problem with having plenty of qualified candidates. The problem comes when you have no follow up.

What do I do if I have plenty of applicants but no follow up?

Don’t kick yourself for not following up. It happens. There are many reasons why you may find yourself lacking in this department.

no time to hire an employeeMost small- and mid-sized employers wait to hire an employee when there is enough business to support a new employee. That means that everyone in your office is currently working at capacity. Everyone is slammed handling customers, orders and other immediate tasks. That doesn’t leave anyone with the time needed to properly hire an employee.

Other times, we find ourselves hiring in “emergency mode.” When people take new jobs, retire or get fired suddenly, you need someone quick. But you also need to get their work done. No wonder you don’t have time to follow up; you’re currently doing two jobs!

Maybe you’re not slammed for time but there is no clear delegation of work responsibility for following-up with the top candidates. The President, Owner or manager got the ball rolling, but is too busy to see to the details. Who takes it from there?

Or perhaps it’s just too much to handle in additional to the regular work load. That’s possible. Especially in the case of smaller companies that might not have a dedicated HR staff or recruiter.

It takes a lot of time to hire an employee, so it’s certainly not something you can “just squeeze in.”

hire an employee phone interviewConsider this: It takes 30 to 45 minutes to conduct a phone interview. Let’s say you want to conduct 10 or 12 phone interviews so you can have 3 or 4 quality candidates for face-to-face interviews. That’s 540 minutes or 9 hours just to do the phone interviews. Wow! No wonder you don’t have time.

That 9 hours doesn’t include the time it takes to identify the best applicants, or the time it takes to send emails, set appointments, leave voicemails, or deal with the interruptions when the candidates call back. And all of those steps must be taken. That’s a lot of time!

So what do you do? You either work crazy hours, shift priorities or you can ask for help. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help, but it’s best not to wait too long to do that. The best candidates don’t stay on the market for long.

As soon as you recognize that you don’t have the necessary time required to hire an employee, take action to remedy it. Either shift priorities or reach out to someone that can help bear some of the burden. We don’t recommend the ‘work crazy hours’ option.

For more information read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

If you are having this problem now, feel free to reach out to us. We’re pros at helping you find the right person for your job.


This is the second of a three-part series that’s designed to help you answer the question “why is it so hard to hire an employee?” 

Last week, we addressed why no one was applying for your position, but that’s not everyone’s issue when it comes time to hire an employee. Perhaps people are applying, but you’re simply not getting well-qualified applicants. Or maybe you’re being inundated with entirely too many applicants. Let’s dive into why you might be experiencing these problems when hiring.

Why isn’t anyone well-qualified applying for the position?

You’ve been advertising the open position in all the right places, and candidates are responding. But when you review the resumes, none look attractive.  None of applicants meet all the qualifications and requirements you set.

Unqualified Concept

You don’t want to waste time on interviews with people who are unqualified, overqualified, or don’t look like a good match for the company, so you don’t follow up with anyone. That’s understandable, but it’s not going to help you hire an employee.

It is reasonable (and advisable) to be worried when none of the candidates who apply appear to be a good fit.

Why does this happen? Here are a few possibilities:

  • Your job description doesn’t accurately reflect the work or qualifications you expect. Candidates only know what you tell them so give them the information they need to know if they are well-qualified for the job.
  • The expectations for the job changed between the time you advertised and the time you start screening. If this is the case, you need to revise the job advertisement and accept new applications. Changing expectations during the hiring process will lead to frustration for both potential employee and employer.
  • You are looking for a flying mermaid; a rare creature indeed, and likely one you will not find. The combination of experience and knowledge, duties and responsibilities you set are not realistic. To be attractive, the job must be doable. Just because the founder or owner did all that stuff at some point – doesn’t mean an employee can or will.

It is hard to admit it when we’ve experienced any of these problems. It could feel like a personal failing. Admitting to a mistake is hard.

The first step in solving the problem is pinpointing the issue. If you think you’ve experienced one of these challenges, take a step back, take a deep breath and remember there is a solution. In many of these cases a little research or competitive intelligence can go a long way to solving the problem and moving forward with a fresh start.

Why are so many people are applying for this position?

Some employers find themselves overwhelmed by the candidate response. When you have too many candidates to review, it’s overwhelming, and hard to figure out how to identify the best candidates. When that happens, you may find yourself procrastinating reviewing any at all because it’s human nature to put off things that seem daunting.

Before we figure out how to eliminate this problem, let’s figure out how you got to it in the first place.

hard to hire an employee

There are a few circumstances that typically lead to a barrage of resumes.

  • If the position you are hiring for is entry-level or lower skill level, you will inevitably get more applicants than when you are hiring a more senior-level employee.
  • If the position is very attractive – the employer has a great reputation, competitive wages and benefits, and an excellent employment value proposition — you’re going to get a lot of applicants. Pat yourself on the back. You deserve congratulations as that is no easy task and deserves recognition.

If either of those are the case, you need to be prepared to see a lot of applicants. If you’re not prepared, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and start procrastinating. That is absolutely not how you want to feel when trying to hire an employee. If there is no screening system, plan of action, or objective hiring criteria in place, you’re probably going to feel that pain. But don’t worry. There are things you can do.

If you’re feeling the pain from either of these problems, you might need some tools and coaching to get you over the hump. You also may need a system that allows you to quickly identify the best qualified talent, without reading every application because we know the pain of reviewing applicants. 

If you want to learn more read Part 1 or Part 3 of this series.

This is the first of a three-part series that’s designed to help you answer the question “why is it so hard to hire an employee?” 

It happens regularly; the president, CEO, owner or sales manager calls and asks if we can help them with a hire. Often they have tried to do it on their own, but are having a tough time. They ask, “Why is it so hard to hire an employee? Can you help me?”

There are many factors involved when it comes to hiring, so before we say “yes, we can help,” it’s essential to understand what is truly happening.

Here are four reasons you might find it hard to hire an employee:

  • Hardly any candidates are applying
  • Candidates are applying, but none of them are well-qualified
  • So many people are applying that it’s overwhelming
  • Plenty of qualified candidates applying, but you aren’t following-up

There are many reasons that you can experience any of these four problems. Understanding the problem is the key to finding the right solution.

We’ll address each of the four reasons in this series, but for this post, let’s address the first reason you’re finding it hard to hire: no one is applying.

Why isn’t anyone applying for the position?

You’ve been advertising the job and hardly anyone is applying. That makes it really hard to hire an employee. You’re right to be worried, but what do you do? There are a few things.

hire an employee newhire

First, let’s look at expectations.

Fewer people are going to apply in 2014 and 2015, than in 2009 and 2010. During the Great Recession there were a lot of people on the job market and very few openings. That means, every job that was open during the recession got many applicants based on pure numbers. But times have changed, and I am not complaining! There are more open jobs and fewer candidates. The competition for talent is heating up, and most jobs are attracting fewer applicants. Your new smaller candidate pool may simply be a byproduct of this change, so it’s important to adjust your expectations.

Next, let’s look at the job.

Is the job title unusual or uncommon? In the world of internet job board advertising, candidates find jobs by searching keywords. If the job title is unusual, or doesn’t reflect the duties or salary being offered, appropriate candidates might not be finding the ad. If no one is finding the job, certainly no one will be applying.

Is the job competitive in the marketplace? If the salary, wages or benefits offered aren’t competitive with those offered for similar positions, you’ll see a very small number of applicants. Applying for jobs is time-consuming and many applicants focus their efforts on applying for the best jobs they find. Why spend the same time applying to three very similar jobs if one of them is only offering up 70% of the salary? Pro tip: the top talent won’t apply for jobs that don’t offer competitive compensation.

Does the advertisement highlight the best aspects of the job? Sometimes the available job is a great job at a great company, but the advertising copy doesn’t do either justice. Make sure you put your best foot forward.

Now, let’s look at the people.hire an employee 2 new hire

How many people out there are truly qualified for this job? Are we simply dealing with a scarce candidate pool? For example engineers with many years of experience are going to be tougher to come by than entry-level account managers.

Did too few people see the job posting? If the advertising was not adequate to build a candidate pool, it’s possible not enough of the right people even know about the job. (Hint: you might need to spend more on advertising.)

Do any of these challenges sound like things you’ve experienced? If so, maybe you need some hiring help. Don’t worry. You’re not alone and we can help.

If you still aren’t thinking, “yep, that’s exactly the problem I’ve been having,” stay tuned for part 2. We’ll take a look at the other reasons you may be finding it hard to hire an employee, and give you some tips to make it easier along the way.

Go to part 2 of this blog post to read more on this topic.

keywords for recruiting



It’s no secret; one of the toughest parts of recruiting is finding the right candidates, and helping them to find you. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4 million open jobs in March of 2014! With all those options for candidates, it’s important to do everything in your power to make the job you’re hiring for stand out in the crowd. Using strong keywords in every recruitment ad is one way to make it easier for the right candidates to find your ad. So how do you know which are the best keywords for recruiting the type of person you want?

The goal of an effective recruitment ad is to help candidates who are a good match for the open position find your ad and apply for the position.  There are several factors other than keywords which make an ad successful. You can read the keys to successful recruitment advertising in our other blogs here.

Today, candidates use a variety of websites to find open jobs.  The number of job boards and search options available to candidates continues to increase. Candidates use job boards (Indeed and CareerBuilder etc.), search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) and social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter).

Including keywords in a recruitment ad is a little like doing SEO-lite. Using keywords for recruiting will improve the likelihood that the ad is findable on the web. Keywords are like a homing beacon, attracting the right candidates to the open position. So what are the best keywords for recruiting to include and how should they be used?

Keywords are the common words or phrases that provide information that is most important to candidates you want to attract – don’t use company jargon or esoteric, cryptic, or otherwise confusing terms. Your top candidates will focus on what’s important to them when they’re searching, and the more keyword categories you include the more you increase your chances of reaching those candidates.

Keywords fall into several different categories that include all the primary aspects of your open position: Job Title, Location, Salary range and perks, Industry and product specifics are all important. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal candidate; imagine how they will be searching the web to find their next job.

The job title is super-duper important. If you use the wrong job title, the right candidates might not find the ad. Worse yet, the right candidate might not identify the job as appropriate to them. For example if you call the job “Customer Service Representative” but expect candidates to be able to share accounting expertise with customers when providing service – you might find that you aren’t able to build an appropriate candidate pool. Once you’ve decided on the appropriate job title you can include a few variations peppered throughout the ad text.

Inducing industry information is also important. All sales jobs are not the same. After all, selling specialty software to legal firms might be a tad different than selling cars on Parkway Avenue, or selling capital equipment in the manufacturing sector. Include the industry of the company, and the types of products involved. Find ways to get that information into the ad more than once.

Salary, benefits, and perks count too. You might be surprised how often candidates search for “sales jobs with company car”. Be sure to tell the candidates what’s in it for them, be as specific as possible. You might even find two places to include this information in the ad, for example include compensation information once in a sentence in the first paragraph of the ad and once in bullet point list later in the ad.

Geography also matters. Does this position require the best candidate to be at your work site or office? At a client work site? At their home office? Travel to a different location each month? While big box national retailers may have openings in every city – smaller employers likely have a more specific work location in mind. Let candidates know where they will be expected to work. And tell them twice!

Repeat keywords a few times in the recruitment ad text. But be careful! Don’t just repeat the keywords again and again at the bottom of the ad. Instead use the words in context, a few times. Use similar words, variations, synonyms and common abbreviations to add variety.

Keywords should be included in your recruitment ad to help candidates find the dream job you are advertising. Use keywords in your recruitment ad to grab the attention of your ideal candidate AND to help them find the job using job boards, or by Google searches. Use keyword several times through out the recruitment ad to be sure that where ever your ideal candidate is searching for their dream job – the job ad they see will be the one you are recruiting for. Lastly, if you are planning to share the job by social media, don’t be afraid to use the #hashtag (#hiring #location #industry #jobtitle), it can only help get your job found.

phone interview

It happens; a candidate drops a bomb during an interview that disqualifies them with one answer.

Once, in response to the most average question, “Why are you looking for a new job?” I heard quite a surprising (and somewhat embarrassing) answer.

The candidate explained in overly much detail the (failing) romantic relationship she was having with her boss. She elaborated that she needed a new job so she could end that relationship. She demonstrated poor judgment by telling me way too much personal information. (I can’t really comment here on the complicated issues involved in work-place romance which may, or may not, be reflective of additional poor judgment.)

Most of the time, candidates give answers during interviews that aren’t clear cut disqualifiers. Consequently, it’s important to listen hard during a phone interview to discern any warning signs. Some answers to interview questions might provide subtle indications that the candidate won’t be able to perform on the job, isn’t being exactly accurate with details on the resume, is a poor culture fit, or doesn’t have the right skills to be successful.

Here are 5 things to listen for:

1. The candidate demonstrates good judgment.

Under pressure, can the candidate make a sound decision that is inline with the core values of the employer? Can they provide information in way that is appropriate for the situation?

2. The candidate demonstrates self-awareness. 

Does the candidate demonstrate that they understand the value of their job, both for themselves and for the mission of the company? Can the candidate identify past mistakes and express a better course of action for next time? Do they bad mouth past employers? Do they take responsibility for their actions or cast blame?

3. The candidate speaks clearly about the duties and responsibilities of past jobs.

Can the candidate explain what they were doing and why? Finding this is one way to explore if details of the resume are accurate. The interviewer can also learn if the knowledge and experience gained in past employment will be valuable in the new position.

4. The candidate is knowledgeable about the products or services provided by the current employer.

This is one way to learn if the candidate is engaged at work. If the candidate is checked-out in the current job, what’s the likelihood for engagement in the next position?

5. The candidate asks thoughtful questions.

Thoughtful questions let the interviewer know what concerns the candidate has about the current opportunity. Did the candidate step up and do their homework? Lastly, the questions asked, can help determine if the candidate is a good match for the culture, values and mission of the employer.

If the candidate can’t satisfy any two of these five items, it’s probably a good idea to quickly and tactfully say “no thank you.”   At the very least, you might want to do a bit more digging in areas where you see a red flag, before scheduling an in-person interview. If you’re interested in learning more about in-person interview tips, check out our Interviewing Tips and Guidelines resource.

Happy listening!

broadcastWant to know more about the changing world of recruiting and hiring? Check out our Webinar series, where you will learn to take complete control of the 6-Step Hiring process that defines who fills that next open seat. 

There comes a time in every recruiting project when a final decision is required. Sometimes the choice is obvious and sometimes it’s a bit less clear.

I consider myself lucky when the choice is less clear. It’s not that I enjoy worrying, though I’m pretty good at it. Rather, when I get all the way through a recruiting project and there are two strong candidates, I feel successful.

After all, recruiting is a process with more than one place to get de-railed. At NewHire we spend a lot of energy talking about 6 Steps to Hire Better. I know both from internal hiring and from the work we do with customers that each one of those 6 steps includes a substantial effort and opportunity for missteps. When I get to the end and have two finalists to choose from, I feel successful because I’ve made it to the finish line with out getting off track.

But I also feel worried. My personal goal is to use this worry as a motivation for action and NOT as a road block leading to indecision.

Here are some things I’ve done in the past to come to the final choice.

1) I review the job description and compare it to what I’ve learned about the candidate finalists.

2) I invite both candidates back for a second (or third) interview; sometimes that interview has included lunch. I include other team members so they can get to know the candidates and provide input.

3) I ask candidates to complete skills assessments and DISC and PIAV (work behavior and motivations assessments), if they haven’t already done so. And I compare their results to the benchmarks I have in place. I also talk to the candidate about their results. It can be very revealing to get the candidates own feedback on the accuracy of the assessment.

4) I call references, do background checks, Google the candidates, and look at their blogs and LinkedIn profile.

Here are some questions I ask myself and my staff, to help come to a final decision.

1) Whose work experience and past duties is the best match for the job we have outlined?

2) Are there any red flags in the behavior assessments or the reference checks etc?

3) Who brings additional skills or knowledge that we don’t already have?

4) Who is going to get along best with the team? Learn quickly? Speak up? Ask questions? Has the most potential in the future?

In the end, I go with my gut. Because I followed a process to identify the finalists, I’m confident both candidates can be successful on the job. I make a decision and extend a job offer. If I can’t come to an agreement with the first candidate, I have a hot standby and another opportunity.

Last but definitely not least: I don’t want to leave candidates waiting a long time for a decision – because the best people get other job offers.

Once the new person starts, I set up a short time horizon for the new employee’s initial review so that I can catch any issues early in the employment relationship.


Sometimes I worry. I’m a woman and “worry” is one way that I describe what I do when I think about an issue over and over again, searching for the best option or solution.  I could just as easily call this “problem solving” or “troubleshooting” or maybe just plain old “planning.”

I worry about family stuff for sure; my kids and their partners, my parents, and my friend’s challenges. I also worry about work.

I’m business owner and entrepreneur – two things I never planned on being; I didn’t study business and I learn on the job. In school I studied biology – and worked as a research biologist for a while. I learned to gather information and use that to make the next decision. And I learned that the solution that looks obvious can be dead wrong.

One thing I worry about is my staff. I’m not alone, I know. I worry about who to hire, and how to train the new person. I worry that the work is getting done – with excellence.

I try to put systems and processes into place that will alleviate worry about the regular tasks that our company has to do to be successful.

I’m learning that worry is a motivational force in my life. So for 2014 I’m resolving to try to worry about unique challenges – so that this year I can find new, creative and better solutions.

A recent business blog from the Huffington Post suggested that 2014 is the year of workplace reinvention. The blog explored the benefits of Results-Only Work Environment and Self-Managed organizations.

These ideas seem great. But I’m not wholly convinced. I’d love to feel secure that everything at our company was running smoothly without ever asking for a project update or report. It would be even better if I knew that my employees held each other accountable for excellence and on-time delivery etc. I would love it if they could do their jobs any time any where, in a way that wouldn’t cause me endless worry.

Is it possible? What can I do, as an owner and entrepreneur, to help my staff achieve a workplace re-invention that works for them, for me and for the profitability of the company in 2014?

I try to hire people who are naturally rewarded by the tasks of the job. I try to foster team work. I try to answer most questions with a question. I try to provide enough information about our strategic goals that we can all paddle in the same direction — all year long. But it’s hard. My tendency is to tell people what to do and how to do it — because after all – I’m the boss.

The funny thing is that when I started answering questions with questions – better solutions and better work was produced. Projects seem to go better, faster, and have a positive outcome when I get out of the way. I’ve been rewarded for taking the risk.   Is that surprising?

I’m committing to continue to shift my leadership and management strategies to a results oriented environment, even though sometimes, and for some jobs, time and location are important too.

In September we made the decision that it was time to hire for NewHire. Since we provide companies all over the US with the candidates, tools and coaching to help hire better, you might think that our internal recruiting is boiler plate. But from my perspective as an owner, hiring has complex emotional, strategic, and tactical implications.

Here are some of the things that I was thinking about.

My Excitement list:

  • Cool, business is strong, we’re growing and we need additional capacity.
  • We’ve meet key strategic goals!
  • It will be fun and interesting to add someone new to our team.

My Fear and Worry List

  • Which job title should we hire for?
  • What if we mess this up? That could be an expensive burden!
  • Who is doing the work?
  • How much is it going to cost?
  • When’s the right time to start recruiting
  • When’s the right time to for a new person to start?

You might notice that my Worry list is twice as long as my Excitement list.

For several years we’ve been committed to a strategy of promoting proven talent and hiring entry level candidates. We typically hire for an administrative role, looking for recent college grads who demonstrate personal motivation, a willingness to learn, work hard, and have some past work history. Since we are in a “people business” I care that their job had lots of opportunity to interface with a variety of people. Sometimes past recruiting experience is important, but not this time around. This is the strategy that guides me.

What about the tactics? Perhaps I’m lucky. I admit. We have a step-by-step recruiting process (including tools) ready to go. I also have a solid idea of the advertising cost. All I have to do is assign the project and sound that starting gun.

Because I have a hiring strategy and tactics, in place I was able to get started with our recruiting even though some worries remained.

What keeps you awake at night when you are getting ready to hire?