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Looking for Good Employees? Try Using Referrals as a Hiring Tool

April 20th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you looking for employees, part-timers or even freelancers to help your small business carry its workload? Whatever option you’re considering, there’s one way of finding good workers that works great: using referrals.

I was reminded of the power of referrals recently when I read this blog post on BNet.com in which entrepreneur Grant Powell shares how he pulled together a standout team of creative people using referral hiring.

Referrals in hiring have always worked for me. Today, when so many of us use social networking tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to find people, it may seem like hiring with referrals is a no-brainer. But here are some tips that make this method work even better.

Know the source. If you put the word out on social media, you may get lots of referrals, and that’s great. But consider where those referrals come from. How well do you truly know that LinkedIn connection or Twitter follower—and how well do they know you and your business? People who have nothing to lose may throw out any old referral in an effort to “be helpful.” The best referrals come from people who know what type of worker you want on your team and what your standards are.

Enlist your employees. Your current staff is one of your best sources of referrals—after all, they’re on the inside of your business and know how things work. Encourage referrals by offering some type of incentive, such as a cash bonus or a day off with pay, for a referral that leads to a successful hire. (Note the key word “successful.”)

Consider contractors. Just like employees, your independent contractors can be a key source of referrals. Mindful that they could ruin their relationship with you if they refer you to a dud, they’re likely to be very careful about whom they refer. However, keep in mind that contractors don’t want to refer themselves out of a gig—so be sure you ask contractors only for referrals to people who aren’t competitive with them. For instance, if you are looking for a marketing copywriter or website designer, you could ask a graphic designer that you regularly use, since graphic artists regularly team with these types of people on projects.

Don’t ignore standard operating procedure. Just because someone is referred by your best employee, your top contractor or even your mom doesn’t mean you should ignore the essential steps of checking references, thoroughly interviewing the person and making sure he or she is qualified. In fact, it’s even more important to take these steps so your relationship with the person who referred the employee doesn’t go south if the employee fails to work out.

If you follow these steps, referral hiring can be a great way to find workers who are a perfect fit with your company’s needs and goals.

Image by Flickr user spring stone (Creative Commons)

The Truth About References in the Social Media Age

May 18th, 2010 ::

by Robin Ferrier

It used to be easy. A company asked for references. You provided the names and contact information of those people you knew would say good things about you. Simple, right?

Not anymore.

In case you didn’t realize it, in today’s social media-permeated world of LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter, it’s a lot easier for a hiring manager to get the “unofficial” scoop on potential job candidates. And it’s being done. I promise.

Just to prove my point, here’s an example from my personal life that supports this theory, even if it doesn’t involve a hiring situation. One of my colleagues was looking to connect with someone from a local biotech company. They asked if I knew anywhere there. I didn’t. However, a quick search on the company’s name via LinkedIn showed that I had a 2nd degree connection to someone from that company. A simple email to my connector point and a few days later I had a lunch meeting set up with that 2nd degree connection. It was that easy.

And if it was that easy (and quick) for me to make that connection, you can bet that recruiters and hiring managers are doing the same thing to check up on you and your past. They’re doing it to check up on how well you did at your internships, your summer jobs, your college activities…

So what does this mean?

  • It means you’d better work your a** off – and look to prove yourself – at everything you do, even when you’re “only” in college or “only” working a summer job. And even if that summer job is “only” manual labor.
  • It means you’d better conduct yourself professionally when you’re leaving a company for your second job. (And yes, there is a right and a wrong way to give notice and leave a job. More on that in another post.)
  • And it means information you think is private online isn’t. Because who knows if a friend of mine is a friend of yours and has access to your supposedly private pictures or musings on Facebook. (Of course, if you haven’t picked up on that fact yet, maybe you should just stop reading now!)
  • And it means that all bets are off when it comes to references these days.

Disconcerting? Yes. But it’s reality. And it’s just another reason you’d better realize that what you do = who you are = your personal brand = your reputation = your chances of getting hired.

And it makes me all the happier that all this social media hoopla didn’t exist when I was leaving college!

Robin Ferrier is the editor of What’s Next, Gen Y? and Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the President of the Capital Communicators Group and the co-chair of the Marketing Committee for the Tech Council of Maryland. She has inadvertently become a frequent career / professional / job hunt resource for friends and colleagues due to a career path that has included five jobs in 12 years.

Best Of… Social Media — From Your Online Persona to Twitter to Job Searches

May 7th, 2010 ::

by Robin Ferrier

http://www.flickr.com/photos/benimoto/ / CC BY 2.0

There is so much good information floating out there in the Web-o-sphere — or the Interwebs, as one of my friends likes to call it — that it’s easy to find yourself in information overload. I see it every day with all the great articles my friends are posting to their blogs, their Twitter accounts, their Facebook pages… so I thought I’d start a regular “best of” feature for this blog that would be a regular round-up of some other great career resources/articles. (After all, why reinvent the wheel, right?) With that in mind, our first “Best of…” feature gets underway with a look at some of my recent “favs” regarding social media.

How I balance personal & professional on Twitter
from Denise Graveline (@dontgetcaught) of Don’t Get Caught communications

With tips ranging from why you should include some personal information in your tweets to advice on what you should leave out, Denise Graveline does it again, providing a thoughtful, insightful look at best practices in Twitter use.

MY ADDITIONAL TIP: Look at your tweet balance. By this I mean, how much is personal (in my case, my work on the Gaithersburg Book Festival, complaints about bad service at stores or restaurants, anything related to wine, dogs, or writing) vs. work (in my case, generally anything related to: marketing or PR, economic development, career development, or Johns Hopkins University)? I tend to think you should, in general, want to be 66-75% “work” and the remainder “fun.” (By the way, I tweet at @rferrier. Feel free to follow. You’ll find links to additional career resources and articles.)

Make sure your online self matches your real self during job interviews
by Jennifer Nycz-Conner (@JenConner), a Washington Business Journal reporter and blogger… and contributor to this blog

Jennifer writes about the importance of making sure your “online (unofficial) resume” matches the resume you’re presenting to employers.

Dear Bev: How Should I Use Social Networking In My Job Search?
from MediaPost Publications

A look at how you can EFFECTIVELY employ LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in your job search.

MY $0.02: Yes, you should be on LinkedIn. Do it now. It’s one of the top professional social networking sites. As to recommendations on LinkedIn, make sure yours are not just from friends. The recommendations should come from your university professors, supervisors at summer jobs or internships, etc. Also, don’t underestimate the value of using the Answers section of LinkedIn. (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t use them enough. But Jason Alba from JibberJobber is a pro at this and writes about the topic on a regular basis!) Ask questions. Answer others’ questions. It can help you start to establish your professional persona.

4 Ways to Utilize LinkedIn’s “Follow Company” Feature
by Andrew G. Rosen on Social Times

Did you know LinkedIn has a new “follow company” feature? I didn’t… until I saw this post. (Thanks, @GenerationsGuru for the tweet about this!) Andrew Rosen provides some great tips on how to use the feature, including a reminder that you should be targeting companies you want to work for as much as you are looking for jobs that fit what you want to do.

MY THOUGHTS: Where you work is as important as what you do. It truly is. A lot of people would benefit from following Andrew’s advice. I think there’s a lot of merit in taking a less-than-perfect job — at least according to its job description — if it’s for a company you admire and for which you want to work.

So there’s a round-up of some of my recent career-related readings. What about you? Any good articles you’d recommend? Or do you have your own advice related to these topics? Let us know. Weigh in below!

Robin Ferrier is the editor of What’s Next, Gen Y? and Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the President of the Capital Communicators Group and the co-chair of the Marketing Committee for the Tech Council of Maryland. She has inadvertently become a frequent career / professional / job hunt resource for friends and colleagues due to a career path that has included five jobs in 12 years.