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Interview Questions that Reveal Everything

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You have thirty minutes to gather all the information you need to make the perfect hire. You’re aware of the negative impact that a bad hire has on a company and you want to leave confident knowing you made the right decision. Where do you start? Our own John Younger offers up his top three interview questions that reveal everything about the candidate.

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  • How Key are Keywords?

    October 28, 2013
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    For those employers that advertise on job boards, you know the importance of enticing job seekers to look through your ad and actually apply to the position. Unfortunately, with the sheer volume of jobs being posted to these sites, the most eloquent job title and description will get you nothing if it is buried behind 5 or 6 pages of similar jobs. Let’s be realistic, exponentially fewer people will browse each successive page of results. This makes using pertinent keywords of the utmost importance.

    According to Simply Hired’s Leonard Palomino, there is a large discrepancy in words that employers are using to describe their positions versus the words that job seekers are querying in job board searches. In the article, Palomino uses the example of  the key word results from the healthcare section of a job board. While job seekers focused their search criteria on role and specialty (nurse, technician, radiology,  practitioner, etc.), employers were using more general healthcare terms as well as those related to the responsibilities of the position (health, medical, experience, patient, etc.).

    With millions of job ads to compete with, including the relevant key words that job seekers are searching is becoming more of a basic requirement than an advantage. Yes, it is good to stand out from the pack, but you can’t really do that when the pack is crowding you down to page 10 of search results. You can still craft an appealing and unique job ad while still including the keywords to get you seen by as many job seekers as possible. Just treat it like Mad Libs:

    We are looking for a  _______ who can ________ with the utmost _____________ and has a highly developed ________.

    Well, not quite like Mad Libs, but you get the idea.

  • Why Passion is the Most Valuable Trait in Employees

    October 25, 2013
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    finding employees with passion is the most important traitWhat is the most important trait to look for when hiring new employees? Is is an enterprising, creative spirit? Is it a strong work ethic and a pragmatic approach to the workplace? Let me put it to you that it is in fact how driven the employee is that makes the most difference in their output and commitment to your company. Sure, they may have a real nose-to-the-grind-stone outlook for the first 6 months, but if they lack passion for the work then they are missing the key ingredient for sustained, long term performance.

    At this point you might be saying “But everyone tries to seem passionate during their job interview. How do I even start looking for passionate hires?”  For a little help, we’ll use Deloitte’s article on “The Passion of the Explorer” (basically their blueprint of perfect employee passion). According to them, passion is made up of the following 3 characteristics: a long term commitment to a specific domain (goal oriented and unruffled by short term turbulence), a questing disposition (always seeking knowledge from new challenges) and a connecting disposition (tendency to form strong, trust based relationships). Apparently, 79% of employees that surveyors found to be passionate said that they were working for their “dream organization” even if they were not in their “dream position”. Clearly, these traits correspond to comitted, happy employees.

    As hard as passion may be to quantify, it is one of the most valuable attributes that you can hope for in an employee. By encouraging your passionate employees and hiring people that share their drive for business, you’ll get more out of your team than you ever expected.

  • Why You Need to Re-Recruit Your Top Employees

    October 23, 2013
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    employee retention strategiesIf you are lucky enough to have some real star employees on your team, you must get used to the fact that external recruiters and other businesses are aware of their presence as well. With the connectivity of social media, the superstar software developer doesn’t go “off the market” when they sign up with you and yours. They don’t even go off the radar in many cases. According to an article from Dr. John Sullivan, HR thought leader and contributor, your top employees may be receiving upwards of 5 communications or offers per-week from recruiters and your competitors.

    While it may feel a bit like poaching, there is no Star Employee Protection Agency in the wings to prevent a competitor from snatching away your rare, prized Idea Guy from the marketing department. The best way to work against these external forces is to periodically “re-recruit” your top performing employees. Dr. Sullivan compared it to a married couple re-affirming their wedding vows to strengthen the relationship.

    Employee Retention Strategies

    The most effective strategies for employee retention are to keep your star employees interested with new opportunities within the company and to make sure that they feel recognized for their achievements at your company. It could mean offering them an entirely new set of responsibilities in their department, a pay increase or even business travel opportunities. Basically, you just want to keep your top performers excited about working for you.

    Additionally, giving your employee more flexibility for when they come and go from work, can also help do wonders for retaining them. Think about it, by giving them this flexibility you’re showing them that you have a high level of trust for them, something that other companies will not be able to replicate.

    Another important point to make is about how your re-recruitment will compare as a counter offer to another company’s recruiting efforts. In short, an external offer will always be more exciting because your employee has probably been given an extremely rosy, idealized picture of the job. They already know what it’s like working for you and this makes re-recruiting as a counter offer a rather weakened strategy. Instead, try to do it every 18-24 months to try and solidify any loyalty your top employees have for your company so that they will be more resistant to other offers in the first place.

  • Why it Pays to Recruit Internally

    October 23, 2013
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    When a position is freed up or created in your company, your first thought as a hiring manager might be to immediately begin writing a job description or contacting a recruiter. While it’s great to get the ball rolling as soon as possible, we would encourage you to take a good look at your own staff before starting down the road to external recruitment. Internal recruitment is a great opportunity to both reward promising members of your staff and eliminate any redundancies that might exist by spreading out the work load. Looking at in another way, why hire a project manager (who would have to be brought up to speed and get to know everyone) when you could fill the position with one of the most promising members of the team?

    Just take this Cinderella story of internal recruitment at the Cheetos company back in 1976. Richard Montañez was a janitor with a passion for spicy foods. When he wasn’t mopping floors, he was developing a spiced blend to cover his beloved Cheetos, which was a big hit with his friends and family. Encouraged by their local popularity, Richard decided to try and run the idea for “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” past the CEO of his company. Miraculously, he got a chance to pitch his idea and (as you probably guessed) it was a hit. Today, Richard Montañez is teaching leadership to MBA students and is executive vice president of multicultural sales and community activation for PepsiCo North America.

    The point here is that some of the staff that you already employ could have the potential within them for leadership and innovation. By recruiting internally before looking for external talent, you could be discovering your own Richard Montañez.

  • How do You Tell if Recent Grads Will Stick Around?

    October 21, 2013
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    Hiring recent college graduates is tricky. If you’ll think back to whenever it was that you were first on your own in the “real world”, you might remember the disorientation and the added stress of all the little responsibilities Mom and Dad used to take care of. You may also remember wanting to do something completely different than what you ended up with in your career. Today, this confused and transitory mind state is still alive and well in young professionals.

    One of the greatest concerns that employers have about this most recent generation is their reputation for job hopping. They might be in contact with a talented engineer since sophomore year at college only to loose them 9 months into employment when a project deadline happens to impede their ability to attend Burning Man that year. An article by Austin Merritt at The New Talent Times and Software Advice says that one of the best ways to assess the longevity of  a hire is to get an in depth  understanding of the candidate’s interests. By leaning what other jobs they’re applying to and their similitude with your own company, you can at least tell where they are professionally focused.

    Additionally, discovering their goals (both short and long-term) is a good way to assess whether they’ll be sticking around or not. If a candidate’s goals are defined, then you’ll know you’re hiring someone who will be able to conceptualize and appreciate the prospect of growing and advancing in your company as working towards those goals. Ultimately, people will do what they want. But, by getting an understanding of how forward thinking young candidates are, you’ll be more likely to get grads who factor your business into their future.

  • Managing Employee Turnover

    October 18, 2013
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    Employee turnover is unavoidable. In some industries such as retail and food service, high turnover rates (80-100%) are accepted as the proverbial “rules of the road”, immutable conditions of the business landscape. In other industries, turnover is much more costly and, ostensibly, easier to control. But what do you do if, despite your best efforts, employees continue to walk out the door a few months or a few years after they join your company?

    There are a few main reasons that employees choose to leave a company. The most common is that the employee has some sort of conflict with their manager. According to an article from, “8 Questions You Need to Ask to Turn Around  Employee Turnover”, it is important to discover what sort of conflict the outbound employee had with the manager before they walk out the door. If it was merely a personal problem, opposing temperaments for example, it need not necessarily reflect badly on the manager. If, however, the employee or several employees complain of poor management skills, this should be a red flag. Making sure that your managers are adequately trained to lead a team is imperative in ensuring that the people you invest in stick around and put in the time. If you are having high turnover in a particular department or under a particular supervisor, take a good look to see if poor management is spinning the revolving door at your company.

  • How do You Choose Between 2 Great Job Offers?

    October 17, 2013
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    Having a lot of options is a good thing, right? Well, the short answer is yes and the long answer is something more like yes with a big “but…”  Yes, having a lot of options (especially professional options) is a very lucky situation to be in…but, it is a circumstance that can lead to a good deal of indecision and maybe even some anxiety. “How do I know I won’t regret this in 6 months?” you might ask yourself. When given the choice between several appealing positions, how do you go about figuring out which is the right choice for you? How should we
    handle situations with tradeoffs, but no down side?

    Hunter Walk (formerly of Google) says that the most useful thing that you can do when unsure about how to proceed in your career is to examine what attributes your “ideal job” would have. Would the company be on a unique mission to better the world in some way? Would the commute be less than half an hour? Would you be working with people that you admire in your field? What would the pay be like? Be honest with yourself. Even if it’s something like simply enjoying the company of your co-workers or having a boss that listens your ideas, it’s what would make you satisfied professionally and personally.

    Once you have some criteria, the next step is to narrow them down to the 2 or 3 qualities that you desire the most in your next job. Once you have your priorities prioritized, deciding which offer to take or where to take your career next should feel a lot more like what it actually is: a great opportunity.

  • Why the Government Shut Down is the Years Biggest Recruitment Opportunity

    October 15, 2013
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    As the government shut down the middle of its second week, one can’t help but sympathize with all of the government workers that have been furloughed, fired or are waiting on paychecks. No mater what your political views may be, you can probably agree with me that that, with most government agencies operating with 10% or less of their full staff, there has been a good deal of collateral damage from the political impasse.

    Now, if we were to view the Federal Government as just another struggling organization in the post recession age, this would be the perfect time for a recruiter to start reaching out to some of the top disgruntled talent in that organization. According to an article from Dr. John Sullivan, approaching the employees of an organization undergoing furloughs, hiring freezes and other such disruptive factors is known as “right time” recruiting. With millions of government workers feeling uncertain about their job security, top performers that would previously have been opposed to the private sector might now be quite receptive to the idea. According to Dr. Sullivan, it may be possible to recruit entire functioning teams in one fell swoop.  The government employs large numbers of IT professionals, engineers and scientists which are some of the toughest private sector jobs to fill. By reaching out to top government talent while the iron is hot (so to speak), you gain access to a massive passive applicant pool that is frustrated with their current employer.

    To find out how to start reaching out to top government talent, follow the link below.

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  • Staff Amputations in the Health Care Industry

    October 14, 2013
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    The health care industry, which has been a stable job creator both in the recession
    and during the recovery, is showing signs of slowing or even grinding to a
    halt. According to USA Today, the healthcare industry announced 8,128 layoffs last month, more
    than any other industry in the country. This brings the yearly total for layoffs in healthcare to 41,085, so far. There are several factors that explain the sizable staff amputations at hospitals all around the country.

    First and foremost, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies are all slashing re-reimbursements for hospitals. This combined with the government cuts to Medicaid and a 5% reduction in funding from The National Institutes of Health, has forced many hospitals to fire hundreds and eliminate most of their research. The cuts in Medicaid, in particular, are an issue because it means that low income Americans that visit the ER remain uninsured and unable to pay their hospital bills upon release. John Howser, assistant vice chancellor of Vanderbilt University Medical Center said that this reduction in Medicare coverage was responsible for a full 1/3 of the staff cuts he had to make.

    This most recent case of industry downsizing is just another reminder of the fragility of our economic recovery. For those of you recruiting in the health care industry, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act will likely trigger re-staffing to compensate for the increased number o ensured patients visiting hospitals. It’s just a matter of waiting to see how strong the Medicaid program is after all is said and done in Congress.

  • Interview To Dos and To Don’ts

    September 30, 2013
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    Photo of people interviewingWe have all been nervous at an interview, and wondering if we are doing the right things to get the job. At Accolo, we understand that just getting to the interview process is a trek, so here are some tips on making that interview a success!

    ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Should nots’ can plague a person, especially on an interview. Thankfully, Lou Adler, the author of The Essential Guide for Hiring  & Getting Hired wrote a great article on LinkedIn on Interview Do’s and Don’ts is there to advise us!

    He goes over great ways of saving yourself, from well… yourself. Adler also discusses the best methods of getting a foot up on the interview and making yourself more appealing to the company. From being specific in your accomplishments to pre-interview prepping, he gives awesome insight in his article: “The Five Things You Must Not Do in an Interview and Five Things You Must”.

    On top of that, Accolo provides great insight from the interviewers side. Watch the on-demand webinar: “How to Conduct the Perfect Interview“, and then download a free copy of “Accolo’s Guide to Interviewing and Hiring” to know how you are being critiqued. This way you have all the tools to assure you are performing at your best! Check the article out, watch the webinar and then take a quick glance at the listed jobs on Accolo to get the application process started! We look forward to hearing about your success!