HomeClientsCandidatesAbout UsContact Us The Bagg Group
Toronto Employment Firms

The Bagg Group Blog

A note about Thanksgiving for job-hunters

October 9th, 2014

Going into a thanksgiving weekend, you may feel like taking a pass on turkey this year if you haven’t yet found a work opportunity that you are thankful for.

But don’t.

For one thing, catching up with family or friends gives you a chance to tell people who have your back about what you’re looking for.

Damian Zikalis of the University of Michigan business school urges job candidates to network around the dinner table. “It’s like the Wizard of Oz,” he says. “Look in your own backyard. There’s no place like home.”

Another reason to celebrate the holiday is that while it’s not easy to be in-between jobs, it is a chance to think about new possibilities for your life.

According to a recent study from Germany, people who are happy at work are healthier. And the reverse is equally true. Being unhappy at work takes a toll on your health  — and on the wellbeing of others around you.

That’s why at The Bagg Group we are particularly proud of our record of placing happy people in about 60,000 full-time, contract and temporary positions over our 40-plus year history.   We use the word happy deliberately.  Because we know that when people are engaged by their work and feel good about what they do, they are inspired, motivated, energized.

And they have a positive ripple effect on their world.  People who are in a happy work situation bring their positivity home. This makes for happier families and happier communities.

So if you don’t have a job –yet –give thanks that you are not deeply miserable in a job you dislike.  Instead, you have the chance to…

  • find something that is right for you, make new connections,
  • to try different things as you job-hunt, such as contract or temporary work to provide some income,
  • meet some people, and get a foot in the door.
  • Any downtime is also the right time to upgrade  your skills and volunteer.

And if a job you were hoping for didn’t come through, there’s still reason to eat pumpkin pie and feel grateful.

The Bagg Group runs five different divisions.  Bagg Professional, Bagg Technology Resources, Bagg @ Your Services, Bagg Managed Resources and Turn Key Staffing Solutions. Among all five, we refer candidates for jobs in almost every sector, and we place people in every job level.  

So we’ve seen it all in our decades as successful recruiters. And that’s why we know what we’re talking about when we say, if you don’t get the job, it wasn’t meant to be. 

That’s not trite, that’s true.

You may have interviewed for the job and assumed it would be great for you. But you can’t know the company culture, or the team, as intimately as the hiring managers who are on the inside.

If you weren’t selected, it may well be because you were simply not going to be able to thrive in that job. It might not have been the ideal environment for you. When it’s right, things falls into place.

This Thanksgiving, the advice from our expert recruiters at The Bagg Group is to be sure to allow yourself to enjoy the holidays.  If it helps, think of it as an important strategy for your job search. Why? Because when you appreciate everything that you have to be grateful for, your spirits lift.  And happier people have a much greater success when they network and when they interview.

So make a point to stop and taste the pie.  As Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to job-hunt when you’d rather be canoeing

July 29th, 2014

Looking for a job is always a challenge, it’s especially tough to stay dedicated to your goal in the month of August when you feel as if everyone else is canoeing.

At The Bagg Group, we know vacations matter.  It helps to take a break from work – never getting a break from routine can zap your energy, not to mention dull the creative thinking and problem-solving skills you need to stay on top of your game.

And since we consider looking for a job to be a job, we advocate for taking some time off. But that said, if you can keep at your job-search at least part-time this month, you may get an important leg-up on the competition.

Here’s why: All of our five divisions place candidates in full-time and contract positions, and temporary placements, year-round. All told, we’ve placed more 60,000 people in 40-plus years.   We have proof that business doesn’t stop when school’s out for summer, even if the pace of business slows when decision-makers go on holiday.

Still, we get that it’s all too tempting to power off, and put life on hold until September. With that in mind, here are  some key tips to help you stay on track with your job search during the dog days of summer.

Keep looking while your competition is canoeing: A lot of job-hunters in Ontario put in zero to minimal effort to look for work in the summer.  Many write off August entirely. This is the number one reason why you shouldn’t.

Work summer hours: start and end earlier: Take your cue from the many companies across the GTA which are on summer hours, 8 a.m. / 8.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. / 4.30 p.m., often with Friday afternoons off.

Send out more requests for informational interviews: Summer is often slower at the office which means this is the optimal time to email a request for a 15-minute info meeting. Typically, people are more open to taking a time-out to help someone out this month.  Make a list of your 20 “most wanted” companies,  then do online research to figure out the best contact for you — usually that would be the head of the division for which you would like to work.

The early bird ….What’s the ideal time to make calls to follow up on your email request? There are no rules. But, if you’re cold-pitching, studies suggest early birds have the best chance of getting through. The research shows first thing in the morning (8 -9 a.m.) and 4 to 5 p.m. are the best times for cold calling. It’s said the worst time is during the 12 – 1 p.m. lunch period.

Change your workspace: The one advantage of not having a job is that  you are free to look for a job from wherever you want.   Working is working, whether you do it from your backyard, a cafe patio, or a park (as long as you can concentrate).  There’s no need to stay alone in your home office when you can carry out your search in the shade of a patio umbrella.   Working with people around can be energizing.

Perfect your BBQ-friendly story: This is the season for backyard networking, but to be effective, be subtle and upbeat. You’ll be squeezed out of the BBQ circle if you are seen as pushy and/or desperate.

Sure, mention the type of work you’re seeking, but keep the talk positive. Focus on what’s interesting about this time in your life (volunteering, doing research, networking), not what’s getting you down.   People help those who are up, downers — not so much.

Daydream:  When soaking in the sun, cycling or walking, put this question to yourself, “What’s one thing I could do differently?” This is a great question to spark your creative thinking.   Recruiters at each of The Bagg Group divisions (Bagg Professional, Bagg Technology Resources, Bagg Managed Resources, Bagg @ Your Service, and Turn Key Staffing Solutions) can confirm first-hand that when candidates do one small thing differently, a positive domino effect takes over.

 

How to win the war for talent when you can’t compete on pay and perks

June 24th, 2014

Building on last month’s article on Gen Y’s and the up and coming Gen Z’s, in a market where demand for IT workers is high, what can you do to lure the best candidates?

Clients often ask if money is really the only lure that counts at the end of the day.  The answer is no.  Salary is a part of the carrot, but it’s only one piece.  For technical specialists, challenge matters – just as much.  And depending on the IT worker’s age and specialization, it can matter more than a paycheque.

I came across a recent survey in the British newspaper, The Guardian, that reported the young, best and brightest in digital said they’d be “easily persuaded“ to join a tech start-up – even if other employers offered bigger salaries.

Of course, large established tech company have unmatched powers of persuasion. Any company that can pull a Google and offer interesting work combined with great salary, free beer, and other perks has its pick of the crop.  To no one’s surprise, in a recent listing of the top US companies in terms of pay and perks, large tech dominated.  Google came in first, followed closely by Facebook with Adobe coming in fourth.

The result is many employers are left wondering how they can attract high achievers in IT when they can’t offer the promise and excitement of a feisty start-up or the fame, fortune and free haircuts of a Google. The good news is those who aren’t hipsters of the high-tech sector can take some steps to give them an advantage.

A US survey of most desirable perks listed by software engineers and specialists in cloud computing, big data and mobile developments mirrors what I hear from candidates here.   Where salary offers are competitive, such perks as I’ve summed up below can help sway a candidate.

  • First and foremost, the latest technologies.  IT pros are extremely motivated to work on cutting-edge projects with similarly high-end technology.
  • A free lunch.   It is safe to say the no-pay eating plan has appeal.
  • Free upgrades to education.   Tech pros know they must stay up-to-date to be relevant and they are attracted to employers who encourage and pick up the tab for certifications, advanced degrees, and other schooling.
  • Free gym memberships. Even the most dedicated IT specialists like to get up and run.
  • Room to play.  A Ping-Pong table, some beanbag chairs, a casual and collaborative environment can go a long way to making digital natives feel at home.
  • Flexibility.  For my part, I understand why employers want their team together in one place.  That said, it is worthwhile to recognize that tech experts rarely hit the off button on work when they leave the building.  Thus, there is value in holding open-minded discussions on why, when, and where it makes sense to compromise.

Perks help attract candidates, but motivators help retain employees.

To level the playing field, I remind my clients that perks won’t make employees work harder or better – only motivators will.  And these are cost-free.

Perks and motivators are two different species.  Perks are external incentives – everyone enjoys them, but they don’t foster a genuine connection between an individual and his/her work.

Whereas motivators are what make tech specialists want to get to their desk in the morning –– for reasons that are far more meaningful than a free bagel.

Discuss motivators even during the hiring interview

Many of my clients have reported that they found it truly beneficial to anticipate and answer the questions that I suggest below when they prepare to interview candidates. The discussions that may result can crystalize the interest of the candidates and help determine a strong match.

  • What is the true importance of the candidate’s work?  High-achievers want to know their goals, and the purpose of their work.  What could change for the better as a result of their contribution?
  • What resources are available to help the candidate succeed? Candidates are interested not only in the technology they’ll use, but also in the support they will be able to count on.  What can they expect of you?  How can they be assured that they will join a team that respects and recognizes each member?
  • What small measures of success are deemed valuable? An interesting multi-year Harvard study of how to keep employees engaged, detailed in the book The Progress Principle, confirms a sense of progress, no matter how small, is associated with positive emotions and high motivation, particularly for technologists.
  • What stories can you share in the interview about related achievements of team members, during work or on their own? As mentioned, high-achievers are motivated by challenge and are enthused by a community of like-minded people.

Finally, to be more competitive, consider building your profile with the up-and-coming talent.

As many who work with me know, I am a passionate advocate of unleashing the imagination and aspirations of the next generation of tech employees.  To that end, I urge clients to look for opportunities get involved with high-schools and post-secondary institutions, whether it is by sponsoring competitions, guest-lecturing, mentoring, etc,

This not only builds your name and reputation, it starts a goal-oriented conversation between you and digital natives that can spill over into the workplace for an ongoing positive, and productive relationship.

– Joanne Boucher
D: 416-847-4962; E: Joanne.Boucher@bagg.com; ca.linkedin.com/pub/joanne-boucher-cpc/4/945/94/

Joanne is the General Manager for Bagg Technology Resources, bringing over 20 years of industry experience in Project and Solutions Resourcing, Solutions offshore and near-shore for application development and data warehouse project delivery, Information Technology, Engineering, Management, Contract/Full Time Resourcing. Joanne’s goal is to deliver distinct flexible resource solutions to meet and exceed the requirements of her clients and candidates by understanding their goals and challenges, by leveraging technology and by respecting the intrinsic value of our each person she comes in contact with. Joanne believes that the relationships developed in resourcing are lasting and works with both resources and clients on long term plans and goals. This consultative approach has enabled her to be proactive in forecasting clients’ requirements and assisting resources with their career direction. To enhance her ability to understand the requirements of her clients, Joanne has enhanced her post-secondary education with Information Technology courses at Ryerson University. – See more at: http://blog.bagg.com/category/tech-news/

What did you learn from your worst summer job?

June 5th, 2014

Like most of us, Geoff Bagg, CEO of The Bagg Group, has survived his fair share of tough summer jobs. He remembers one in particular as the worst mostly because he thought it would be a dream job and it turned out to be a downright drag.

As a student, Geoff couldn’t believe his luck in landing a summer gig working for a sound design studio.

It sounded too good to be true … because it was! Geoff spent the summer with a hammer in hand doing unrelated construction jobs for his employer and running errands that had nothing to do with sound or music or production –and all for incredibly low pay.

Still you don’t get to be CEO of a successful multi-division recruitment firm without having a knack for figuring out how to learn from every job.

Geoff decided the way to salvage the situation was to hang around the studio– after he was off the clock. He spent his evenings volunteering, and that’s when he learned how to use the soundboard. By doing so, he set the wheels in motion for later work in music production.

Singer Janelle Monae told Billboard magazine that her worst summer job experience was getting fired as a cashier. The management caught her on the computer, checking her email. She recalls her boss said, “We feel like your heart is just not here, we’re going to let you go.”

But here’s more proof that you can find something to make every job experience worthwhile. Monae credits that setback with inspiring her to write her hit, Letting Go.

At The Bagg Group we’ve placed 60,000 people over our 40 years in temporary placements, contract and full-time work in every industry –so we can assure the summer worker of these two facts:

  1. Any work is better than no work.
  2. No matter what work you do, and whether or not it’s relevant to your career aspirations, it can give you something worthwhile to talk about in interviews with future employers.

Whether the job is grueling, or deadly boring, focus on what you can say you learned from it. Maybe it taught you responsibility, stamina, people skills, organization, how an organization runs, etc.

A major error when interviewing is to complain about a past job.

  • Criticism and complaints always backfire — they create a negative impression about you. What you see as hardship, others may see as whining.
  • Before you come down hard on a job, keep in mind that what for you may be temporary or summer work is likely full-time work for other people. If nothing else, you can talk about how you learned to consider and respect the challenges and perspectives of your colleagues at the time.

When in an interview, ask yourself: Am I complaining about what I didn’t like, or talking about what I learned?

 Even the worst summer job has this upside: bragging rights!

You can one-up any friend or student who complains about their summer experience.

In Billboard, Singer Kid Sister talked about working a summer during a heatwave at a crowded deli that only had a couple fans, no air-conditioning, and “lots of ham, lots of warm meat … not good!” True, that story is tough to top — but is there anyone out there who has had summer jobs who doesn’t think they can?

Answer this Question of the Week to be entered into a draw for a career-boosting prize:  What did you learn from your worst summer job?

 Post your answer on Facebook or send it to us through direct mail on Facebook, or email us at info@bagg.com.  In the subject line, write: Question of the Week Draw

 Those who answer our Question of the Week are entered into a random draw for a prize. Draw date: August 11.

You could win an exclusive career boosting one-on-one session with well-known career coach Gene Hayden, author of the international best-seller The Follow-Through Factor: Getting from Doubt to Done.

 

 

 

 

Does age matter? Research may surprise you

October 1st, 2013

Sometimes our youth can come back to bite us.  Baby boomers invented the catchphrase,  “Never trust anyone over 30” when they were young. Today, older job-hunters say they feel the sting of those words.

Age discrimination is against the law.  Still, surveys show 50% of older job-seekers feel hiring managers are significantly biased in favour of younger candidates.

Given the country’s demographics, if age is the elephant in the room, we have herds of elephants over-running interview rooms.  Canada now has a record high number of mature people.  More than 42% of people who are of working age are between of 45- and 65-years-old, according to Stats Canada.

We’re not ageing alone. By 2030, in the US, the average age will rise to 39, in the European Union it will be 45, and in Japan it will be 49. So it’s time to look at whether older employees are a concern or a competitive advantage.

The good news is that contrary to what some may believe, grey power is a valuable source of energy for employers.  For one thing, studies show the over-40 crowd is less geared to looking out for number one – and more motivated to generate value for others.  People between the ages of 40 and 64 lead the way in productivity, creativity and mentoring.

It’s just part of the nature of maturing, say psychologists such as Erik Erikson whose theories have been globally tried, tested and confirmed to be true.

Erikson’s research finds people 40-64 are driven by the question,  “What can I do to make my life really count?”  This demographic is exceptionally eager to come up with new ideas and make a positive impact in the workplace, wherever they land.  To feel fulfilled, they want to feel they have made the most of their day.

Still, in an age of Mark Zuckerberg (who was 19 when he founded Facebook) and Larry Page and Sergey Brin (both 23 when they developed Google), we could easily believe that brilliance belongs to the young.  The 30-something hiring managers who face candidates one or two decades older than themselves may worry that middle age can’t compete –and comes with outdated skills, and an aversion to risk and change.

But those stereotypes are simply dead wrong.  And reams of research prove the point.  For example, a recent study out of Duke University shows the average successful innovator isn’t a whiz kid at all, but instead a seasoned 40-something.

That study shows twice as many entrepreneurs who start successful companies in high growth industries — such as computers, health care, and aerospace — are over 50 as under 25.  And twice as many are over 60 as under 20.

The Kauffman Foundation also recently weighed in with data that shows the age at which people are innovative and more willing to take risks is higher than expected.

Using entrepreneurship as a barometer, the data finds the highest rate of entrepreneurship has shifted to the 55-64 age group. It is down among those under 35.

At The Bagg Group, we’ve placed almost 60,000 people of all ages successfully in full-time, contract and temporary positions over our 40-plus years.  When you come face-to-face with as many high-achievers as we do, you don’t even see crow’s feet –instead you see only their skills, experience and attitude.

It goes without saying that older candidates have to stay if not forever young, certainly forever up-to-date when it comes to their skills –just as their younger counterparts must.

But wise hiring managers know that that the urge to create, learn, contribute and innovate doesn’t wane with a birthday.  In fact, it usually just gets stronger with age.

As Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts, so famously quipped when asked about working older, “Just remember when you’re ‘over the hill’, you begin to pick up speed.”

Top 2 tips for active listening from Bagg Group experts

May 30th, 2013

When hiring, it’s great if you’re able to clear a block of time for interviewing candidates.  However, as we noted in a previous blog, it can be a challenge to actively listen for an extended period of time.

At The Bagg Group, listening attentively to our clients and candidates is our trademark.

We’ve won multiple industry awards largely because of our focus on paying close attention when clients and candidates talk of their needs, interests, and expectations.   It’s how we’ve been able to place almost 60,000 people successfully in full-time, contract, and temporary placements over our 40-year history.

So given our experience, we can vouch for these two powerful tried-and-true techniques for staying engaged when interviewing candidates, one after the other:

Repeat back:

We coach our candidates to stay on point since we know it’s not uncommon to ramble during an interview.   We understand why people can get off-topic. In the pressure cooker of an interview room, many feel compelled to share as much info as they can.

The problem is that the impulse backfires.  When someone talks too much and digresses a lot, the listener’s attention easily starts to wander.

An effective way to help you, and the candidate, regain focus is to repeat back a key point the candidate made — in your own words.

  • For example you might say: “So from what I hear, you (recap the point)” or “From what I understand, what you most like to do is … .”  Or, “It sounds like what’s most important to you is …” or “I’m hearing that in a conflict situation, you … .”

This technique also ensures clarity as the candidate will either agree or correct your interpretation.

Switch over from info gathering to curiosity:

Asking questions to collect data can get tedious after a while.  To stay engaged, ask questions from a place of curiosity.  Such questions provoke interesting, insightful conversation.

The great thing about asking questions that arise out of curiosity is that they don’t come with a standard response.   You simply can’t predict what the candidate might answer and that fact alone prompts you into listen.

For example, a data-gathering question is:  “Why did you move from Vancouver to here?” Anyone might predict that a candidate would answer either (a) for family, (b) for more opportunity, (c) for studies.

You can turn that into a more compelling curiosity-based question by asking,What did you hope for when you moved here?

Other examples of curiosity-based questions are:  “What risks are you willing to take?” “What would you change?”  “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?”

We know by experience that when you’re curious about the person, not just their resume, you discover a lot about them – and importantly, whether they’d be a good match for your team.

And here’s another best practice for active listening:  Take a break

Make sure to schedule time in between interviews so you can check your messages.  It’s in everyone’s interest to ask your next interview to wait a few minutes so you can clear your head and review your messages rather than going straight into your next meeting and spending the time thinking about your inbox.

8 Things You Should Know When Hiring Temps

April 24th, 2013

Nowadays, the number of companies hiring contract workers and temporary employees is skyrocketing.

Geoff is featured once again on Biz TV’s Guru Gab segment this week unraveling misconceptions and providing helpful pointers for hiring temporary staff.

Please take a moment to watch the segment right here and keep these tips in mind when hiring your next temporary worker.

Got a job to fill? Don’t oversell it, warns The Bagg Group

April 17th, 2013

We live in a world where expert marketers can convince us of just about anything.  Whether it’s a new phone, a new toothpaste, or a new job – using just the right words can make us believe it’s a must-have we don’t want to live without.

Getting people enthused about any proposition is part art, and part science.  Earlier this year, Yale University psychology researchers released the top ten most powerful words that marketers use to influence people.

The most powerful one of all is, not surprisingly, “You”.

The next most powerful word:  Results.  The study found people like reason to believe.

“Love” makes the list, as does “discover” and “new” since people crave a sense of excitement and adventure.  Yet the study shows we also need reassurance which explains why “proven”, “guarantee” and “safety” are included in the top ten.   Finally, “save” and “health” appeal as these words connect with our desire to have money and be healthy.

Still, even though we know how to talk a good story, the recruitment experts at The Bagg Group urge their clients to never  “sell” a candidate on a job.  Instead, simply keep to the facts, and tell it like it is.

We have both the  “results” and “proof” that this works.  And that’s not marketing gab.  At The Bagg Group, we’re renowned for our 98% stick rate  for candidates.  A big reason for this is because we never spin anything.  We ensure our candidates and our client make informed decisions based on facts – not fantasy.

Now, a new study confirms candidates who don’t get a true depiction of a job feel misled and resentful almost as soon as they start work.

A recent survey of 2,300 workers and 250 staffing directors in 28 countries who were hired in 2012 found the majority were disillusioned.

Their number one complaint:   “The hiring process failed to paint a realistic or accurate picture of this job.” It just wasn’t what they thought they’d signed up for.

Here are two key findings of the study by US HR consulting firm, Development Dimensions International that quantify how it backfires to embellish a posting:

  • 51% of respondents had “buyer’s remorse” after accepting a position.
  • 88% of the recent hires said they are already looking to make a change.

But there is good news.  The study confirms what our follow-up with candidates and clients shows:  People who accept jobs based on an accurate picture of it are more confident in their decision, more highly engaged, and more committed to staying long term.

We passionately advocate for straightforward no-fluff honesty in the interview room.  At The Bagg Group we make a point of discussing with our clients the challenges, as well as the advantages, of a position and the company culture.  That’s how we can source the right fit. It’s how we’ve managed to place almost 60,000 happy people in full-time, contract and temporary positions over 40 years.

When push comes to shove, hype can get us only so far – it may get us into the office, but only the truth will keep us there.

Introducing Bagg Professional: The New Standard in Recruitment for a New Era

April 16th, 2013

With workforces facing tighter staffing budgets, resulting in a skyrocketing demand for contract and temporary workers, recruitment companies have to re-think the scope of their services. Enter Bagg Professional, the first in a new era in recruitment with a service specifically designed to meet these changing trends in hiring.

Launched today, Bagg Professional offers an innovative, holistic, approach to recruiting by providing temporary specialists-on-demand and hard-to-find high-achievers to maximize every staffing dollar.

“There’s no turning back time to pre-2008,” says Jackie Chua, head of Bagg Professional.  “The new business reality is lean and focused.  Canadian companies today are looking for experienced, hit-the-ground running professionals who can jump in and fill multiple short-term roles as needed to suit limited staffing budgets.  Similarly, full-time candidates need to show more flexibility and initiative than ever before.”

Bagg Professional answers today’s realities with an exacting recruitment process that matches candidates with the company’s overarching needs and culture.

“We don’t just think about how to fill an empty chair, we think about how that particular chair fits into the bigger picture.  That’s the starting point for our match-making, whether it’s for a full-time, contract or temporary placement,” explains Ms. Chua.

Bagg Professional takes the unprecedented step of quarterbacking all full-time, contract and temporary placements within a company for across-the-board consistency.  For this new approach, which requires close relationships with both clients and candidates, Bagg Professional has implemented a low client to recruiter ratio.

“We’re all about quality over quantity,” says Ms. Chua. “It’s not about numbers at Bagg Professional.  We’re operating in a new era where the emphasis must be on maximizing the impact one person can make on a company—and that applies to us as recruiters, as well as to our candidates.”

Bagg Professional falls under the auspices of multiple-award winning The Bagg Group, a recognized leader in recruitment for 40+plus years, having placed almost 60,000 people in  full-time, contract and temporary positions over its history.

Bagg Group CEO, Geoff Bagg, notes, “We’ve maintained our leadership position by continually evolving to stay in sync with trends fuelled by changes in the economy.  Bagg Professional is one more example of how success doesn’t happen by looking at what was, but by looking differently at what is.”

Jackie Chua has been General Manager of The Bagg Group since 2000.  Currently The Bagg Group operates Bagg Professional, Bagg Technology Resources, Turn Key Staffing and Bagg Managed Resources.

Bagg Professional

Superior Matches, Superior Problem-Solving, Superior Reliability

The Bagg Group shares 2 great questions from Harvard

March 11th, 2013

Pity the Harvard Business School managing director of admissions for the MBA program.  Dee Leopold has the overwhelming task of sorting through a mountain of fantastic applications to identify the stellar among the great.

If that sounds like a problem you’d love to have, consider that  Ms. Leopold is in the unenviable position of second-guessing herself at times.  After all, it’s easier to separate the wheat from the chaff than to separate wheat from … more wheat.

Harvard Business School gets about 9,000 applications yearly.  The toughest challenge for the admissions committee is tackling a shortlist of about 1,800 to accept around 900.

“This process isn’t perfect,” Ms. Leopold says in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.  But this being Harvard, the push never stops to improve it.

The admissions committee does this in part by rethinking, and finessing, its questions.

Here are two of their newest questions  — one for applicants and one for references — that staffing experts at The Bagg Group recommend when interviewing candidates for jobs.

          1.  What have you done well? What do you wish you’d done better?

This is an essay question for Harvard MBA candidates. At The Bagg Group, where we interview hundreds and hundreds every year to identify the very best applicants for full-time positions, contract work, and part-time placement, we believe this question also works well in a face-to-face.

All of us have things we could have done better.  This question reveals whether the candidate is able to admit room for improvement — and learn from experience.

The Harvard admissions committee uses this question to help screen out arrogance, among other things.  “We’re looking for confidence, with humility,” says Ms. Leopold.  So are we all.

          2. Harvard asks references, “Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant.”

At The Bagg Group, we like how this question prompts the reference to provide a well-rounded perspective of the candidate.

It also reveals how well the reference actually knows the candidate.  As Ms. Leopold puts it, “We don’t run around giving constructive criticism to virtual strangers.”

Staffing experts at The Bagg Group also concur with Ms. Leopold that the best recommendations use lots of verbs.  You get a more in-depth picture of a person when you hear that “she/he did this…and did… ”  instead of just being given a list of adjectives that describes them.

Ms. Leopold estimates she spends at least 30 minutes on every one of the 1,800-plus applications that make the shortlist. That adds up to more than 75 days, working 12 hours non-stop, just reading applications.

It’s not surprising to us. Sourcing great talent takes an enormous amount of time. That’s why HR departments rely on dedicated teams of staffing experts like us to help – if they didn’t, they would hardly have time to breathe, let alone get through the myriad of other activities they need to do.

As for Ms. Leopold, she adds, “I kind of go into hibernation after interviews. By the end of that period, I need a chiropractor.”  That too is a good strategy.

home | clients | candidates | about us | contact us | privacy