How to better manage your accounts receivable

Nick Heintzman, Staff Accountant, Ashton Staffing, Inc.

Inefficiencies in your accounts receivable functions can dramatically impact your business.

“If a company is not managing its accounts receivables, it faces a greater risk of not collecting the money on a timely basis or, even worse, not being able to collect on the funds at all,” says Nick Heintzman, staff accountant at Ashton Staffing, Inc.

Managing your accounts receivable can be one of the most time-intensive duties your company faces, but it is also one of the most important functions

“It lays the groundwork for solid financial footing,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Heintzman about how companies can better manage their AR to ensure fiscal stability.

How much control can a company really have over its AR?

A company has as much control over its accounts receivable as it can devote to it. The accounts receivable process is more than just managing the account once it is established. The process should start before the client ever begins doing business with you. A credit check should be run so you can evaluate the financial history of a prospective client to better protect you from losing money on the back end. If you notice a trend of late payments, you are better prepared to negotiate terms with the client that will help you still be profitable in the event that you are paid late. A credit report will show bankruptcies and liens, which could help you avoid getting tangled up with a client that would be more likely to fail and leave you with pennies on the dollar.

Another important part of evaluating a credit report is to set credit limits for prospective clients. This will help to protect you and also let the client know it will have to keep up with payments in order to maintain the relationship.

What are some of the more common problems companies face regarding AR?

Three problems that seem to be the most common are short-pays, payment beyond terms and companies failing to pay because of economic difficulties. All three can become significant difficulties in a very short time.

If a client is short-paying invoices, you are not capturing your full earning potential on the account. A client paying beyond terms will hinder your cash flow and potentially cause you to have to borrow to keep up with your financial responsibilities. And if you never receive payment from a client, you have not only lost the money associated with providing the goods or service, you also have lost the profit potential associated with the sale.

What technologies exist today that can help improve a company’s AR function?

There are several accounting software packages that make managing your accounts receivable much easier. QuickBooks, for example, creates reports that will break down your accounts receivable, in detail if needed, by preset time intervals. It can quickly show you which accounts are beyond terms, and this will help you focus on delinquent accounts on the days when you don’t have a lot of time to allocate to managing your accounts receivable.

QuickBooks also can apply finance charges to delinquent accounts, which helps to offset the cost associated with payment beyond terms. Many times, applying late fees will cause a client to re-evaluate its payment terms for you because paying late fees often is a burden. If a client knows you are serious about staying on top of its account, it is likely to get back in terms to avoid the extra charges.

Overall, what are the key factors to efficient AR management?

Some key factors are to keep up with it daily, be friendly but forceful, follow up in a timely and consistent manner, and do the research before taking on a client. However, being rude toward a client will not get payment any faster and will most likely cause the client to think twice about doing business with you. By being friendly and personable, you can help establish a relationship with the client, and that can go a long way in ensuring you are paid on time.

How can inefficiencies in the AR function, if ignored, affect a business?

The longer an account goes outstanding, the lower your success rate of collecting on the funds. In both scenarios — collecting the money late or not at all — it is going to restrict your cash flow for expenditures. Most accounts are set up on a net-30 term, whether it is accounts receivable or accounts payable. If you are collecting your money at the 45-day mark, it’s because you are not staying on top of your customers and you will most likely end up paying most of your vendors at 45-plus days, beyond terms. This can create conflict between you and your vendor, straining the relationship or even causing the vendor to require payment up front. Going one step further, if companies report to credit bureaus, your credit rating will drop if you are consistently late on payments. Poor credit ratings lead to higher interest rates for borrowing, which costs the company more money and restricts cash flow even further.

How should a business go about getting its AR functions back on track?

Set aside time every day to focus on it. If you devote some time every day to contacting aging accounts, you will:

  • Stay at the top of their minds, which will hopefully lead to faster payments;
  • Know which accounts you will need to keep a closer eye on by seeing ongoing trends; and
  • Be able to catch delinquent accounts right away before they spiral out of control.

Nick Heintzman is a staff accountant at Ashton Staffing, Inc. Reach him at (678) 359-3783 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How to establish a comprehensive hiring plan that aligns with your company’s goals

Jarrod Daniel, CEO, The Daniel Group

A hiring plan provides your company with a path forward to reach its goals through its staff. It’s designed to answer questions such as, ‘How do we realize our vision and whom do we need to help us get there?’ Without such a plan, a company may make hires that don’t fit into the overall goals of the company.

“People are a company’s No. 1 asset,” says Jarrod Daniel, CEO of The Daniel Group. “You have to make sure that asset can help your company achieve its goals.”

He says that once a company has set its vision, it should create a hiring plan that outlines who should fill each of the roles that are necessary to succeed. But it is a perpetually evolving task.

“You have to continuously examine your hiring plan and the staff that you currently have in place to determine what can be improved,” Daniel says.

Smart Business spoke with Daniel about comprehensive hiring plans and how they can help a company realize its potential.

What are the elements of a comprehensive hiring plan?

There are quantitative and qualitative elements to your hiring plan, but it starts with knowing what your vision is as a company. You want to bring in the right people and align them with a plan that lays out what you want to achieve as a company, which is your overall vision.

A good hiring plan involves onboarding, sourcing people to determine the right qualifications and setting their career paths within the company. Part of onboarding occurs during the interview by letting people know what is expected from them to help the company reach its ultimate goals. If they know the expectations up front, they can always be working toward that, regardless of the time it might take to get there. Having a career plan for individuals that incorporates what they can potentially do for your business down the line is an important element of hiring.

Otherwise, you have to balance a person’s technical skills with their ability to fit within your company culture. It doesn’t do much good to hire a smart, technically sound individual if that person can’t gel with your company’s culture.

How often should a company revisit and adjust its hiring plan?

You should adjust your hiring plan every single time you want to hire somebody. Things change within your hiring plan, so it has to be flexible. There are many divisions within a company, each with different strengths that help meet the company’s overall goals. Further, each department has a distinct hiring plan, as does each position. It is important to continuously adjust the short-term goals of your plan to stay on track with your long-term goals.

In addition, every time you hire someone, you will also need to plan out your expectations for his or her development in that position. If you continue to have to hire to fill that position, you need to review your plan and your past hires to determine what is going wrong.

How far into the future should the plan project?

That depends on the size of the company and the type of position to be filled, but generally, any time you plan for growth, you have to have a strategy. Say a large company has hiring needs that are project based, in which case, its plan might look four months ahead to determine the manpower necessary to complete a job.

However, if it is a cultural hiring plan — a company looking to hire a new vice president or CEO — it could take a few years because, as you go up the hiring triangle to a position that requires more specific skills and experience, it will takes longer to find a qualified candidate.

A company might also be in a position where it needs to hire to the gap, which refers to the difference in age you have between the people in management — say they’re in their 50s — and the next in line who can do the job, who we’ll say are in their 20s. That’s a significant age gap, so it’s important to make a plan to hire to fill it, say with someone in his or her late 30s.

Who determines the course and goals of the hiring plan?

Management and ownership usually collaborate on the hiring plan. Ownership will determine the plan when a company is just getting started, then management will take over this duty once its members are clear on the company’s vision and can align a hiring plan to meet company goals.

Management and human resources should have a forecast for hiring for a period covering three months, six months and one year. In that forecast, they need to have a hiring plan in place so when the time comes to bring someone onboard, it can happen quickly.

Companies should be working on their hiring plan on a daily basis because things could be going great while you are fully staffed, but anything can happen tomorrow to change that.

How can a staffing firm help a company with its hiring plan?

A staffing agency can serve as a third party that can consult with a company without the bias that might exist from within a business. It can go in and look at the situation from a counseling standpoint to give an objective perspective of the culture and the technological skillsets of the staff and offer clarity.

Staffing firms have seen many hiring plans, and this broader perspective and experience can be applied to companies that are just forming their plans by compiling best practices into a custom strategy.

Jarrod Daniel is CEO of The Daniel Group. Reach him at (713) 932-9313 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

How to work with a staffing agency to acquire full-time employees

Rachel Ferguson, Recruiter, The Daniel Group

When it comes to hiring, staffing agencies are the experts. They know what it takes to create lasting employment relationships and can find a qualified full-time candidate quickly and efficiently, saving you the hassle of wading through hundreds of applications, says Rachel Ferguson, a recruiter with The Daniel Group.
“Agencies have a database of applicants they’ve screened and know what potential candidates are looking for in a company, job type and pay,” says Ferguson. “A recruiter will save you time and money, working to place the right candidate quickly so you don’t have to repeat the process if an applicant doesn’t work out due to a poor hiring decision.”
Smart Business spoke with Ferguson about how staffing agencies can help companies with their full-time hiring needs.

When working with a staffing agency to find a permanent employee, what is the first step?

The first and most important step is providing a detailed job description to the staffing agency you’re working with. The more information you can provide up front, the easier the process will be for everybody involved. When an agency only receives a barebones description of what is needed, the result can be multiple rounds of interviews to flesh out precisely what skills an employer needs, and that can result in frustration.
A clear job description allows the agency to get to work locating candidates. As the employer, you should expect applicants to be thoroughly screened and qualified before they are presented to you by the agency. You may only see three to five resumes out of hundreds screened in the search process. These are the candidates that your recruiter believes to be the best fit for your opening. You should consider your recruiter as a business partner who can guide the hiring process and who has the best interests of your organization in mind.

How does a staffing agency screen candidates?

With today’s technology, traditional interviews are not necessarily the only means of prequalifying applicants. Candidates may live out of state or have a demanding work schedule that can limit their ability to travel to an office for an interview. Skype interviews are increasingly common, and it’s not unusual for recruiters to talk to candidates multiple times per day by phone to gather more information.
Social media is also making a mark on the screening process. Recruiters can research any public profile the candidate has on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn to get a better impression of his or her personality. Personality and skill assessments are great tools to gauge whether a candidate will fit a company’s culture.

What characteristics indicate a candidate could be a good choice for permanent employment?

Always look at a candidate’s tenure when evaluating a long-term fit. However, given the current job market, many people have been forced into working contract positions, so it has become tougher to judge work history based on tenure. A general rule is that the fewer jobs someone has held, the better indication of that person’s long-term employability.
Recruiters also look at whether a person has made multiple, broad, cross-industry career changes, which can be a sign the person doesn’t have a clear vision of career progression and may be more likely to leave a job when it gets tough.
Asking a candidate about hobbies can give a recruiter a broader picture of personality and help determine if he or she will fit with your company’s culture in the long term.

Is conducting interviews enough, or should there be on-the-job observation?

That depends on the company and the type of position it is filling. For many professional, senior-level roles, recruiters are interviewing candidates who are employed but considering new opportunities. For these, it’s much less common to see temp-to-perm strategies. It may be considered too risky for the applicant to leave a permanent position with benefits for a temp-to-perm role that could fall through. It is important to have candidates interview with key staff members they will potentially interact with and get detailed feedback.
Many characteristics can be discovered through a trial period, but if your recruiter is experienced and thorough, these can be uncovered before the candidate is hired.

What level of involvement should a company expect to have in the hiring process when working through a staffing agency?

Expect to be engaged from beginning to end. During the process, your recruiter may need to regularly follow up with you to fine-tune how candidates are selected. Communication is vital to ensure the right person is hired. Give feedback after interviews to discuss with your recruiter what is and isn’t working. Many times, hiring managers will make the mistake of interviewing and then falling silent for too long without feedback. Candidates in today’s market expect quick feedback, and an unresponsive client can leave a bad taste in an applicant’s mouth. While the employer has the final say in who it hires, your recruiter is responsible for narrowing the field, and communication is the best way to build trust.

Once a candidate is chosen, how can a company improve its chances of that person accepting the job offer?

The job offer is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. You may have conducted great interviews, but if you don’t have a lucrative job offer, you could lose the candidate. Undercutting a strong candidate at this stage says that you don’t value what they can do for you. Not only is the salary you offer important, but a strong benefits package goes a long way.
Also, secondary benefits such as health and wellness packages, contests and other perks can be appealing. Make sure you communicate to the candidate what special offerings your company has and build excitement to improve the chances that your preferred candidate will accept your offer.

Rachel Ferguson is an engineering services recruiter with The Daniel Group. Reach her at (713) 932-9313 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

How to prepare for physical threats at your business

Laurie Bradley, President, ASG Renaissance and Blue Force Services

Years ago, conversations about keeping employees safe meant providing them with technical advice about the use of hard hats, goggles and other safety equipment, or training in safe lifting techniques, parking lot safety and sexual harassment policies.

“Today, physical safety ranks at the top the list of required training in most companies as our workplaces become ever more dangerous,” says Laurie Bradley, president of ASG Renaissance and Blue Force Services.

Recent active shooter events in Colorado, Wisconsin and Alabama, for example, bring attention to the complexities of physical safety.

“This leads us to the question of whether or not we are doing all that is possible to mitigate unwanted physical intrusion into our workspace,” she says.

Smart Business spoke with Bradley about how a company can protect itself against physical threats.

How does a company establish a physical safety program?

Safety programs are not one size fits all. They need to be tailored to reflect the presumed risks of a business in a given industry. For example, banks and financial institutions need a different safety program than a car rental business. However, generically, the process is typically initiated by performing a risk assessment. This entails mapping the physical facility and identifying the areas and entry points that may need different rules of access.

As you map your facility, determine and highlight the exit and escape routes, and define areas that would be sensitive to catastrophes such as fires, floods, earthquakes, bombings and utility failure. Review your procedure for the identification of authorized personnel and critique the systems used to do so, such as key card readers, biometric devices and cameras, to determine the possible vulnerabilities.

Consider the environment around your business, local crime rates, the interior and exterior of your building, and the perimeter of your space where public access is permitted. Develop a checklist as you examine poorly lit areas, trash areas that may present arson opportunities, the condition of walls and fences, and what tools or supplies that, left unattended, could be used to access the facility.

Who should be involved in the assessment?

Internal personnel, such as your security staff, may be utilized to determine and detail a current state report. Third-party security experts are often used to identify weakness or vulnerability to your operation and may be engaged to attempt to breach the security to illuminate risk areas.

Generally, annual third-party audits with corresponding training programs help ensure physical safety programs reflect the risks brought on because of current business and political environments. Security consultants can also make certain you are aware of the latest technology developments that may enhance physical security.

Companies wanting to launch and monitor a more robust program can access information through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, the Private Sector Preparedness Council has select program standards leading to certification. The process provides a framework for businesses to assess whether they comply with voluntary preparedness standards. Many of the program’s components align with the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act, which mitigates legal and liability concerns for users of anti-terrorist technologies and products.

Can we ever really be safe?

No system or security program can guarantee absolute safety. Consider that HVAC systems are not normally equipped with detection devices and can be easily accessed — a fast way to hinder a worksite would be through the air ventilation system. Preparedness is the best defense and mitigation tactic. Focus on removing the temptation to commit a crime and monitor, enforce, educate and train your staff in the procedures necessary to reduce the possibility of a physical threat.

What if a business doesn’t have a robust physical safety program already in place?

Begin the discussion on safety during general staff meetings to help raise awareness within your employee population. Walk your employees through situations and the best responses to them, such as what to do when gunshots are fired, who should call 911, what the alternate routes out of the office are, etc.

Establish a crisis management team to involve key business leaders in evaluating risk, designing and conducting on-site training, coordinating public communications, assuming command roles in an emergency and providing assistance post incident. Security programs need to be holistic and embedded in all operations of a company, not assigned to a security department.

Safety and security should begin in an employee onboarding process and carry through the lifecycle of employment as part of the corporate identity. When safety and security are closely aligned with your corporate identity, it removes some of the anxiety that can be associated with safety training. Your goal is to have informed, alert and confident employees who willingly participate in the program.

What liability might a company face for not having procedures to deal with a physical threat?

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, property managers, security firms and security and safety device manufacturers all faced lawsuits. However, there are no defining standards to evaluate disaster recovery and business continuity programs.

In a litigious environment, we create an economic disincentive to expand safety- and security-focused services. The SAFETY Act was passed to give some protection and guidelines to mitigate these concerns for providers of products or services that are used to detect, identify and defend against terrorism. Companies developing security programs should consider adopting products that follow these voluntary guidelines, demonstrating ‘best efforts’ to implement a safety program that represents ‘best in class’ as defined by the act.

Laurie Bradley is president of ASG Renaissance and Blue Force Services. Reach her at (248) 477-5321 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by ASG Renaissance

How contingent workers can solve production issues until the economy stabilizes

Melissa Hulsey, President and CEO, The Ashton Group

It has been three years since the recession was officially declared to have ended in mid-2009. However, even with that declaration, the national unemployment rate remains at more than 8 percent and full-time hiring is sluggish at best. There has been an increase in hiring during the years since 2010, but it has not been enough to replace all the jobs lost during the downturn.
“There is so much uncertainty surrounding such things as the cost of health care, taxes, foreign markets and the availability of capital, which has left many companies afraid to make full-time offers of employment,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of The Ashton Group. “The cost savings and increased flexibility offered by a contingent work force make this a silver lining in this economy.”
Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about using temporary employees to keep up production until market conditions stabilize.

What are some trends you’re seeing in the marketplace?

Small businesses — those with fewer than 50 employees — are reporting more growth and confidence than their larger competitors, and there has been a rise in salaries as recruiting and retaining skilled talent has become more competitive. However, the other side of the coin is voluntary turnover has risen as talented employees leave their jobs to look for better opportunities in the marketplace.
Additionally, because of the prevailing uncertainty in the economy, over the past several years there has been a steady rise in the use of contingent labor that is far outpacing full-time opportunities during the same time period. Historically this has been a leading indictor that full-time jobs also will increase in the future in as few as three to six months. However, that has not been the case recently. This new trend suggests that employers need additional labor to meet production demand but are not willing to make a long-term commitment to employees. Also the ratio of Americans actually working compared with those available to work recently has hit its lowest level since 1981.

How can contingent or temporary workers help companies keep up with production?

The use of a contingent work force allows production demands to be met without any strings attached. For example, all of the burdens associated with the hiring process, such as screening, initial interviews, payroll expenses, taxes, insurance and unemployment are the responsibility of the staffing firm. For the employer, it means a job can be filled quickly and efficiently to align its work force with its production needs.

How can staffing companies help an employer reduce its time-to-hire?

Staffing companies are in the business of placing candidates into jobs, so they are constantly recruiting and screening new applicants. In addition, most staffing firms have well-qualified individuals who they have worked with previously who can be available for new assignments. By having a pool of candidates who are pre-screened and ready for work it can significantly reduce the time it takes to have a position filled.

What cost savings can be realized by utilizing contingent or temporary workers?

On average, it costs $7,000 to hire and train one new employee. Many upfront costs such as recruiting, advertising, screening applicants, verifying credentials and initial interviews can be eliminated by utilizing contingent labor. In the long run, savings on health insurance, retirement and PTO can result in significant savings over hiring full-time workers using in-house resources. In addition, temporary labor can ebb and flow with production demands, further increasing savings and avoiding the blow to morale caused by laying off full-time employees when production has to be tapered off.

How much training should a company expect to put into a temporary or contingent worker?

When companies hire contingent workers, they need to train them for the job at hand. To make the most of the cost and time savings temporary labor offers, companies should streamline the training process for these individuals by defining exactly what they want their contingent staff to accomplish during a shift and train them with that end result in mind. Other than training for the specific job, address housekeeping issues with all temporary employees on the first day. Information on items such as parking, use and upkeep of the break rooms and bathrooms, and even where they can grab a bite to eat close by will not only make the new person more feel comfortable but save time as well.

How can a company ensure it’s getting the right worker for the job?

There are several key steps to ensure a temporary employee is a good fit with your company. The first is to choose the right staffing partner to work with. Choose a service provider that understands the needs of your organization, as well as one that makes it easy to establish an ongoing dialogue. The next step is to clearly define what you want to accomplish.
From there, a job description and position requirements can be written. The more detail you provide to the agency, the better its ability to qualify the best candidates for the opening. Job descriptions for your full-time positions also can serve as an excellent guide for your ‘part-time’ jobs.

Melissa Hulsey is president and CEO of The Ashton Group. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How to find the best staffing firm for your company

Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, Major accounts manager, Ashton Staffing, Inc.

A company is only as good as its employees, a statement that applies to the top executives through to the people in the mailroom.
“Because employees are vital to business, employers need the right staffing services to make sure the right people are on board. It is not a decision to be made quickly,” says Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, a major accounts manager for Ashton Staffing, Inc.
A good rule of thumb, she says, is not to wait until your staffing needs are urgent to check out available agencies.
Smart Business spoke with Coon-Leeper about how to select the best staffing agency for your needs.

What steps should employers take to choose the right staffing firm?

There is a staffing firm capable of filling any position. It can provide flexible staffing for temporary, temp-to-hire or direct hire positions. Some services provide high-level executives, some specialize in a certain skill sets such as graphic designers and computer programmers, and some concentrate on specific industries.
Whatever your staffing needs, there are a few things to consider when shopping around for the right agency. For example, the firm’s ability to fill the job, how it qualifies candidates and what it charges for its services.
After you determine the title, pay rate, hours and assignment duration of the position you need to fill, the search for a staffing firm can begin to be narrowed.
Instead of picking at random, try choosing a firm dedicated to the same industry. If an employer is looking for a forklift driver, choosing a staffing firm that specializes in industrial placements is an excellent way to quickly tap into a pool of qualified candidates.
The search will require making a few phone calls as all firms are different and one size definitely does not fit all. Employers need to feel comfortable with the person staffing their order. A qualified staffing representative should be able to answer every question quickly and efficiently while delivering top-notch customer service. First impressions are everything so don’t be afraid to keep shopping around.

What should an employer know about a staffing agency’s process for placing candidates?

When searching for a staffing firm it’s important to know how the agency qualifies candidates. Each staffing agency is different so it’s key to know what has been done with a candidate before you are presented with one.
Depending on the position and length of assignment, most candidates should come with a background and reference check and drug screen. Once they’ve been placed, the agency should run an E-Verify check. Employers should make sure they’re aware of the type of background checks being run and what type of drug screen is used as some staffing agencies won’t run some checks unless requested, especially for short-term assignments.
Candidates also can have pre-employment testing conducted to determine software skills, personality, dexterity and basic math skills. Many staffing agencies can even certify someone on a forklift if the employer asks. Just remember, like buying a car, any upgrades to the base package are more expensive. It’s important that employers discuss costs up front with their staffing representative.

How can employers be sure to get the best candidates from a staffing firm?

Get to know your staffing agency and ask lots of questions. Each staffing firm is different as is each staffing representative. Some will spend time narrowing down candidates to find the perfect fit. Others will throw every qualified resume at the employer hoping one will stick. Most businesses prefer quality over quantity, depending on the position to be filled, although some prefer lots of options. Talk to the staffing firm and make sure the selection process works for your company.

What should an employer expect as far as service from its staffing firm?

At the very least an employer should expect excellent customer service and follow up from a staffing firm, no matter what position is being filled.
For example, an employer may call in looking for an administrative assistant with 10 years of experience and excellent computer skills, but cap the pay rate at $12 per hour. Part of the job of a staffing firm is to inform the employer that the average $12 an hour administrative assistant today has no more than two years experience and limited capabilities.
It is up to the staffing firm to approach the employer with this information when the order is placed, see how the employer would like to proceed, and then keep the employer informed of possible candidates and how the overall recruitment of the position is going.

What would be the case for using a staffing firm rather than handling the hiring internally?

There are many great reasons for seeking a staffing firm, such as expertise, improved productivity, increased flexibility, decreased costs and that the employer gets to try the employee out before offering a permanent position.
Staffing firm representatives generally have a high level of expertise related to job knowledge, employment trends and recruitment practices by virtue of continuous placement of employees.
When there is work overload, hiring temporary workers is the best solution. Employers can maintain their full-time staff while having temporary workers handle the overload. But the main advantage of using a staffing firm is that it can provide the employer with immediate help.
Further, employers can save money and time because they have no commitment to these workers and don’t need to provide benefits, conduct pre-employment testing and background checks, cover unemployment costs, workers compensation costs or payroll taxes.

Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, is a major accounts manager for Ashton Staffing, Inc. Reach her at [email protected] or (770) 419-1776.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How to effectively work with direct hire recruiters to find the best employees

Michael Stanley, Recruiter, The Daniel Group

Hiring can be a difficult, time-consuming process, but failing to take the time to do it right can be disastrous. Using a direct hire recruiter can assist an employer with the hiring process. These recruiters can serve as consultants and their immense knowledge of the local labor pool can help you choose the best candidates to fill your particular needs.
This investment can not only help prevent hiring errors, it can save time by eliminating the need to devote resources to screening candidates.
“A company may not be hiring every day of the year, whereas a direct hire recruiter is constantly talking with candidates,” says Michael Stanley, a recruiter with The Daniel Group. “This gives recruiters an expert level of knowledge of the pool of potential hires, compared with the snapshot that an employer might get during intermittent hiring periods.”
Smart Business spoke with Stanley about how to select a recruiting firm among the many that are vying for your business.

How do recruiters choose employees for clients?

Recruiters should work to discover the particular skill sets its client is looking for in a candidate to ensure the new hire matches an employer’s needs. This requires working from more than just a job description. Your recruiter needs to understand your culture and general atmosphere to gauge the intangibles that a potential hire might need to fit in, such as personality.
To achieve this, it’s important that the recruiter visit with an employer to get a feel for the environment. Have your recruiter meet with the hiring manager and visit your location to get a more detailed picture of the total work environment. This will greatly improve the chances of finding the right person for the job.
Also, during initial meetings, it’s important to convey to the recruiter what career path you expect the candidate to progress through. This will allow a recruiter to best match what the candidate is looking for with what you expect.

How can a company work with its recruiter to ensure it is getting the best employees for the position?

Ideally, companies should reach out to a recruiter during the planning stages of their hiring process, or about six to 12 months before they expect to bring additional employees on board.
When talking with your recruiter, be honest in terms of what you need in a candidate. The more information a recruiter has about a company, the position, and its short- and long-term goals for the employee, the better chance he or she has of finding the perfect candidate.

What if an employer is dissatisfied with the candidates being referred?

If the candidates being presented are not in line with what you’re looking for, be honest and offer feedback as to what needs aren’t being addressed. A recruiter will then reassess its approach and work to close the gap between what is being provided and what is needed.
In the event that a hiring decision has been made, some recruiters offer a guarantee that if the employee doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, within the first year, he or she will be replaced without charge.

What responsibilities does a recruiter have regarding the employees it selects for clients?

Recruiters take candidates through a full screening process that can be standard — criminal background check, salary verification and reference checks — or catered to the particular needs of an employer. Once the candidate has gone through screening, a recruiter will give the client a basic description of the potential hire’s skills and qualifications, as well as an off-paper account of the person.
While a recruiter works for the client, meaning its primary responsibility is to meet the client’s needs, a relationship is also established between the recruiter and the candidate. This means that not only will the recruiter be honest and up front with the person about the company, the position and what it entails, but candidates tend to be more honest with a recruiter than they are with an employer. This can help a recruiter dig deeper and discover personality traits and experiences not listed on a resume that can help determine who might be the better fit.

What cost savings are involved by working through a recruiter?

There are a lot of resources devoted toward filling a position, including personnel, time and money. Employers should do what they do best, which is run their business. The cost savings realized from working with a recruiter come from allocating resources that would otherwise have to be tied up in hiring to more critical functions.
Time saved is also a significant consideration. Recruiters can distill the candidate pool down to the top candidates for a position, rather than the employer having to review hundreds of unscreened resumes, which is incredibly frustrating and time consuming. Why screen 200 resumes when a recruiter can provide you with three or four that match the exact skill sets you’re looking for?

How can employers drill down to find the right staffing firm?

There are lots of staffing firms and they all deal in people. What sets staffing firms apart are the individuals who work for them. Having that direct relationship with a person you can trust and have had success with is important.
Also take into consideration the firm’s history, how long it’s been in the market and its successes in your industry. While an Internet search can offer an initial list of staffing agencies, it’s a good idea to ask a firm for client references to get a sense of its performance.

Michael Stanley is a recruiter with The Daniel Group. Reach him at  (713) 932-9313 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

How to tap into the growing labor pool of service members to benefit your business

Laurie Bradley, President, ASG Renaissance

A projected 175,000 service members will be exiting the military in the next year. When they return to civilian life, these young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will face an unemployment rate of 23 percent, contributing greatly to the Department of Defense’s annual unemployment compensation payments of more than $900 million. However, at the same time, there are 1.7 million high-wage, high-demand jobs open in the U.S. today that match the skills of service members, representing more than $136 billion in gross wages.

“Many service members do not fully grasp the value of their training and experience in the work force and end up underemployed or unemployed as they struggle to find work,” says Laurie Bradley, president of ASG Renaissance.

Smart Business spoke with Bradley about how hiring veterans can benefit your business.

Why are veterans seemingly being overlooked in the marketplace?

Part of the reason is because it’s very difficult to translate military experience into a civilian resume. For example, an infantryman with 20 years of experience in the Army might state on his resume that he ‘operated weapons and tanks and dug ditches.’ He needs to convey these skills in terminology recognized in the civilian world of work, such as ‘supervised, trained and evaluated 35 personnel, and supported more than 2,500 troops in four countries. Core competencies include personnel management, logistics and operations.’ This will help the reviewer match these skills to possible employment opportunities that may include logistics or personnel management.

Once you overcome the language barrier, you can recognize some of the softer skills people have learned in the military, for example, being entrepreneurial, which is crucial today. Service members understand how to be part of a team and have respect for a team, which can translate to any job. They also have cross-cultural work experience and have worked in very diverse environments, traits that many employers seek. The stereotype of service members just following orders and not thinking is outdated. It’s a new military today that operates in ever-changing environments.

What are some industries that would benefit from veterans and their skills?

The skills of service members translate well into any industry. You want people who are not only able to learn a product or a service but also who have good communication skills and are adept at skills transfer. Our military really demands that people think on their feet and react very quickly, making the right choices in a very short timeframe. In the fast-paced business environment we all compete in today, that is a great attribute to have.

What are the benefits of hiring veterans from a marketing perspective?

The message of being a veteran-friendly environment is significant. Having a veteran-friendly message in your hiring materials helps improve a company’s image, because you don’t have to look far to find someone who is or who knows a soldier. It really supports a message of inclusion and speaks to the fact that a company has been thoughtful in its hiring process as it looks to source talent across a broad spectrum of potential candidates.

From a tax perspective, new rules provide for an expanded tax credit for employers that hire eligible unemployed veterans. The credit can be as high as $9,600 per veteran for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 per veteran for tax-exempt organizations.

To qualify, the employer must file a request with the local state agency for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.  This applies for veterans hired on or after May 22, 2012, and before Jan. 1, 2013.

How can companies better integrate veterans into their businesses?

Start with a great outreach program. Be clear in your hiring message and have the ability to translate military resumes to determine if you have a fit. Companies should consider installing a customized onboarding program that includes a partner or coach to help the new hire navigate the civilian employment world.

The program should be sensitive to the varying needs of veterans, including those who have only been out of the service for a few months, or ones who have been back in the market for a year or more. In general, it’s important to make sure your onboarding process includes cultural acclimatization to the civilian work force. Civilian corporate culture is not as black and white as the military and language and communication styles differ. Former military personnel can be formal and direct, whereas civilian communication styles can be much more nuanced. The U.S. military has a top-down system for making decisions, while many civilian companies have a more bureaucratic process.

Where can companies find veterans?

There are job boards and employment services that cater to military personnel in transition, such as Hire A Hero, careeronestop.org, or contact your State’s Director for Veterans’ Employment and Training (DVET).

Are there reasons a company might not hire a veteran?

Concerns range from post-traumatic stress syndrome to skills transfer and the gap between military and civilian work styles. Some employers are uncertain how to provide work site accommodations for those with physical injuries, but there are a host of resources to navigate these concerns.

Just as with civilians, you have to evaluate each person on a case-by-case basis. Employers need to spend the time in the hiring process to determine if there is a fit.

If you know that there is a pool of talent that has the skills to do the job, why wouldn’t you consider putting that to work? Those who served our country are ready to transition those skills and dedication to service into the civilian world of work. Ultimately this translates into a win for both the employer and the veteran.

Laurie Bradley is president of ASG Renaissance. Reach her at (248) 477-5321 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by ASG Renaissance

How changes to the criminal background check policy will affect employers

Jessica Ford, CSP, Vice President of Operations, Ashton Staffing, Inc.

Criminal background checks conducted during the hiring process can both save employers money and protect their business.
“If your employees come in direct contact with your customers and cause them harm, your business can be liable if that employee has a criminal record,” says Jessica Ford, CSP, vice president of operations for Ashton Staffing, Inc. “A background check can also provide insight into an individual’s behavior, character and integrity.”
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its policy on the use of criminal background checks during the hiring process to discourage discrimination based on race or national origin.
Smart Business spoke with Ford about the importance of criminal background checks and how recent changes are impacting the process.

Why should an employer conduct a criminal background check during the hiring process?

Employers check potential and current workers for several reasons. The things an employer wants to know about a candidate can vary by industry and job function. The most common reasons for conducting a criminal background check are to alleviate negligent hiring; identification verification; checks for a history of child, handicap and elderly abuse; corporate scandals; and most of all to make sure the applicant is telling the truth. It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of resumes contain false or misleading information. Employers want to insure that what they are getting in an employee is what they were promised. The employer might perform a background check to find out whether a candidate actually graduated from the college they said they did or to confirm the candidate worked at their previous employers during the time stated on their resume or job application.

When conducting a criminal background check, what should employers look for and why?

Employers should evaluate each background on an individual basis based on the position the applicant is applying for. Anyone working with children in the state of Georgia must be fingerprinted and processed through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This comes as a result of events occurring during the past 10 years. Adult supervisors such as Little League coaches, teachers, day care workers and even the people serving children lunch at school fall under this guideline. Felony convictions of any kind or misdemeanors involving violence, drugs or abuse would result in the applicant not being hired.
When screening potential executives, directors and managers, employers should look for any discrepancies in their job history, verify their education, check their financial history and look for any “white collar” crimes like embezzlement.
There are unique issues surrounding the production and manufacturing industry when it comes to hiring. Many of these positions offer low wages and attract those with few skills or time invested in education. For these positions, you should evaluate what is vital to your organization. Candidates who have a history of violent crimes or felony drug convictions, such as distribution in the past seven years, are probably not a good idea. If the candidate has a record of theft, consider what that could mean for your business and the types of products you produce or sell. Also take into consideration how long ago the candidate was convicted and if it was a single incident.

What has changed because of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s updated policy on criminal background checks?

In April of this year, the EEOC issued new guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. It determined that the use of an individual’s criminal history during the interview and hiring process could constitute discrimination and makes an attempt to discourage using the information differently based on an applicant’s race or national origin.
As a best practice, you should only consider convictions when reviewing criminal background checks, not arrests. Arrest records are not proof of criminal conduct, as they might not report the actual outcome of the situation so they should not be used as grounds for exclusion. Conviction records, on the other hand, typically serve as sufficient evidence that a person engaged in a particular conduct. These records are more reliable and the use of them by an employer is more defensible.
The EEOC does not have the authority to prohibit employers from obtaining or using conviction records. It simply seeks to ensure that such information is not used in a discriminatory way, which is why they are suggesting companies stop using a blanket policy, such as no felony convictions in the last seven years. Instead, review each criminal background result on a case-by-case basis and make sure your requirements make sense for that position. Review the credit and financial history of anyone who will be working in accounting, for instance.

How will these changes affect the way an employer uses criminal background checks for employment screening?

Lawsuits are on the rise. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, the employer could be liable. The threat of liability gives employers reason to be cautious when checking an applicant’s past. A bad decision can wreak havoc on a company’s budget and reputation as well as ruin the career of the hiring official. Employers no longer feel secure in relying on their instincts as a basis to hire. On the other hand, though, if you are too stringent and have unrealistic expectations for position then you are setting yourself up for an EEOC charge. Anyone who has ever been involved in an EEOC investigation can tell you it is not something you want to do.
If an employer is unsure of his or her rights regarding criminal background checks, call your corporate attorney or even the EEOC. The commission is very helpful and can give you very unbiased advice.

Jessica Ford, CSP, is vice president of operations for Ashton Staffing, Inc. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How to choose the best staffing agency for your needs

Sarah Finch, Business Development Manager, The Daniel Group

When choosing a staffing agency, culture, size, location, industries served and services provided are factors to consider. There are many to choose from in any given area, so you need to do your research to ensure you choose the right one to fit your needs.
“The biggest thing is being open to the idea,” says Sarah Finch, business development manager with The Daniel Group. “There are so many advantages to using a staffing company because, bottom line, the company’s success is all about the type of people you have working for you. And whether the company is overloaded with openings or is having difficulty filling niche positions, staffing firms are here to help for those reasons.”
Staffing agencies can help a company gather all the necessary details to determine its hiring needs, then determine which candidates fit that company’s culture, work environment, industry and position.
Smart Business spoke with Finch about how to choose the best staffing agency for your needs.

What is important to consider when choosing a staffing agency?

Before you think about which staffing agency to call on and which you are going to use, you have to define your needs to better determine how an agency can help you.
For example, consider whether you would prefer to hire a candidate based on education or experience. Many positions require either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. However, for example, for a lot of IT jobs, a bachelor’s degree isn’t always as significant because many who work in the field have a niche vocational, associate’s or technical degree, in addition to years of experience. Decide first what you’re going to require because you may pass up many excellent candidates just because they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
Also determine what projects you have upcoming. Many staffing companies can help you solve hiring needs on a per project basis.
Location is also a consideration. Some companies prefer to use local staffing companies when looking for people from that area, as opposed to national agencies that aren’t rooted in those states or don’t have the capability to meet the candidates in person.
You should also look for a staffing company that will consider your business’s culture when selecting candidates. It can matter whether you have a huge corporate environment as opposed to a smaller mom-and-pop shop, where personality might be just as important as skill set. That can also apply to your decision when selecting what kind of staffing company you want to work with. Do you want a boutique firm or a big national firm?
Also consider the level of customer service you expect. Getting the right sales rep or recruiter who returns your phone calls, who is able to get in touch with candidates quickly and who can provide you with strong resumes soon after receiving an order is key.

How can a company benefit by working with an agency that specializes in a specific field?

Specialized agencies have recruiters who have worked in a specific industry and with those candidates for some time, which means they have a large pipeline of people to choose from. This can be a benefit because the candidates, while possibly not looking for a position themselves, often know someone with similar experience who is.
In addition, an agency that specializes becomes an expert in that field by keeping up with developing trends, mergers and acquisitions, and hiring trends. An agency with that industry insight can quickly become more of a consultant to its clients than just a staffing agency. When the market for candidates gets slim in a particular industry, it’s good to have a recruiter with experience because candidates who have been placed by these recruiters often return when they’re ready to move on.

What services can a staffing agency provide?

Some staffing agencies offer candidates who can work in different capacities, including temp-to-hire and temporary. And while companies don’t have to take advantage of all of these, some prefer to have the choice.
Contract hires fill a position temporarily. You could have these employees for a day, a week or for years, but this is typically used for project-based work. The employee’s payroll is handled through the staffing agency and the agency provides an invoice to the client.
Temp-to-hire means bringing in a candidate with the intention of transitioning that person into the position full time. Companies will use this service when they want to fill a position permanently but first want to try the person out. The staffing agency will set a time limit that the candidate will work as a contractor, and payroll and benefits are handled through the agency. Before the candidate has completed the predetermined amount of hours, the client can decide to hire or not.
In direct hire, the staffing agency qualifies candidates and passes them on to the client. The agency has nothing to do with payroll, benefits or time sheets and will typically charge a fee based on the first year’s salary.
Payrolling is also an option in which the client company chooses the candidate but the staffing agency performs the hiring procedures and pays through its payroll and benefits service. This often comes at a lower markup rate because the agency didn’t have to spend time searching for the candidate.

How can a company get information about a staffing agency?

Companies can take staffing agencies for a test run, requesting that they send resumes for a position they’re trying to fill. That allows an agency to prove its skills and allows the company to see what the agency can produce. Staffing agencies also get business through referrals from companies and divisions within a single company. Ask the agency what other companies it is working with to see if it has filled staffing needs effectively within its industry. And request a client list of the businesses an agency is working with to see if there are similar companies to yours.

Sarah Finch is business development manager for The Daniel Group. Reach her at (713) 932-9313 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group