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JOHANNESBURG +27 11 217 0000
CAPE TOWN +27 21 468 7000

January 27, 2016
7:53 am
by Joanne Meyer

Onboarding: Beyond the First Day

Onboarding - Beyond the First Day January 2016 - Joanne Meyer


When we talk about onboarding what we are really talking about is retention. The first 90 days on the job are acutely vulnerable: managers are under pressure to build productivity as fast as possible whilst boosting engagement, morale and motivation, so as to minimise turnover. According to Bersin research, 4 percent of new employees leave a job after only 1 day, and 22 percent of staff turnovers (1 in 4!) occur within the first 45 days of employment.

Extending well beyond the first day on the job, onboarding should be considered a continuous process lasting anywhere from 3 to 12 months and including employee performance acceleration, performance objective setting, instilling the company culture within the new employee and developing the behaviours that will lead to the employee’s long-term success.

A proper plan for this crucial period leads to:

  • Correct communication of goals and expectations
  • Accelerated performance
  • Heightened morale
  • Better decisions
  • Employee retention

Consider implementing an individualised 90 day programme to build your newly appointed employee, into an organisational asset whilst measuring their progress.

 Week 1. Make sure the new hire is comfortable with their responsibilities and maintain an open door policy. Set objectives/goals, introduce them to team members, assign them a mentor and task them with a project early on to help them get their feet wet. At the end of the week assess their feelings of orientation, motivation, assimilation, adaptation, familiarity with organisational philosophy, and more.

15 Days. Check in on the employee’s progress toward the goals discussed during week one, helping the employee identify and resolve any challenges.

30 Days. During the first 30 days familiarise your new employees with company culture, make sure they have a soild understanding of their responsibilities, what they can expect in their new role and what’s expected of them. This is also the time to review procedures and train on company systems and software as well as products, services and client accounts. Assign a mix of short and long-term projects. Help them get up to speed as quickly as possible and check in regularly regarding their objectives as well as the tasks and projects they have been assigned.

45 Day Benchmark: Sit down with the new hire to assess their familiarity with the company, their role and to see how happy they are. You can assess performance on some of their shorter projects as well as where their mind is regarding their bigger picture projects.

60 Days. The second month on the job should focus on taking their newly acquired knowledge and applying it towards accomplishing tasks as well as taking on bigger responsibilities. Outline how the employee’s role is expected to contribute towards the organisation’s business goals and, where appropriate, give them the opportunity to collaborate with other teams. Continue to review progress and provide feedback.

90 Days. During this period the employee will take a more proactive role in the organisation, working with limited guidance and taking accountability. This is when you should start seeing results from your new employee: a superstar employee will begin making suggestions, implementing new strategies, and addressing strategic initiatives.

New employees want to feel part of your company, but still want to be treated as individuals with talents and objectives of their own. Demonstrate that you value both, and they’ll be far more likely to invest themselves in your company.

If we can assist in any way, please get in touch.


November 24, 2015
9:47 am
by Joanne Meyer

Onboarding: What To Do On the First Day

Onboarding What To Do On the First Day November 2015 - Joanne Meyer








Onboarding is a process, not an event, and in my last article I looked at how you can begin the process even before your new employee’s first day of work. That first day is crucial, even if you have created a sterling initial impression during the recruitment and hiring phase. Here’s how to use their first day to best position them for success.

Before they arrive for their first day make sure they know:

  • What time work begins
  • What to bring with them (e.g. two copies of their ID)
  • Where to park
  • Who to ask for at reception

New employees are typically extremely nervous on their first day, eager to impress and easily overwhelmed. The best thing to do for them is to give them a sense of familiarity with their brand new surroundings in an easy-to-digest fashion. Perhaps assign a staff member to give them an office tour and let them know where things are (kitchens, bathrooms, cafeteria, photocopiers etc.). Find ways to make them feel welcome, e.g. send an email out to everyone in their department so they are prepared to welcome them.

Balance their day’s schedule between orientation, meetings, and less formal gatherings. Keep it relatively light, as many people will not get a good night’s sleep before their first day at a new job, and they have a lot to absorb; so give them some breathing room. If possible, arrange for the new employee to be treated to lunch by a group of staff members. Find impactful ways to impart your company culture, values, mission and vision.

Make sure you have the following ready for them:

  • A welcome note is always a good idea, perhaps even a welcome kit filled with goodies.
  • A security badge or access disc if they need one.
  • Their computer with a configured e-mail account and any other software programmes they may need.
  • Their business cards.

Show them how to use the intranet, the phone system (setting up their voicemail beforehand is a good idea) or any other system they will need, this way they don’t waste time figuring these things out for themselves.

Remember that new employees are asked to absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time, so encourage them to take notes and expect that they will have questions about these things later on. Let them know who they should talk to if they have questions. It’s a good idea to assign a co-worker or a hiring manager as a mentor to check-in with the new employee.

Schedule a meeting with the employee’s manager for the first afternoon. During this meeting, the manager should review their goals, the responsibilities of the position and give an overview of what the first 30-90 days in the position will look like. To get them excited about being part of the team, discuss current projects and goals the company is working on. This way they have an idea of how to contribute as well as how they will fit into the master plan. Have projects for them to begin work on immediately: people prefer to feel useful and valuable.

Everything you do should be aimed less at the logistics and more at making your new employee feel really excited to be there, so that they reaffirm their decision to work for you.

If we can assist in any way, please get in touch.


October 15, 2015
11:46 am
by Joanne Meyer

What To Do Before Your New Hire’s First Day

What To Do Before Your New Hires First Day October 2015 - Joanne Meyer

Effective employee onboarding is a process, not an event. Far from it being a low priority after-thought with little business impact, research shows that firms executing it well can expect to nearly double their corporate revenue growth and profit margins compared to firms with only average onboarding. It also reduces the time it takes a new hire to be productive while improving new hire retention, new hire on-the-job performance and even recruiting. To truly wow your new hires and shrink the time it takes for them to reach optimum, start the process before their first day of work.

How a candidate feels about your company begins during the attraction, recruitment and hiring process, so consider all touchpoints as opportunities to ‘sell’ candidates on why a decision to work for you would be a good one. Include ample information about your workplace and your culture in the careers section of your website. That way you are more likely to attract candidates more engaged with your company’s goals and culture and more likely to become highly productive employees.

Once they’ve signed with you, start onboarding before their first day. You’ll give them an awesome impression of your company, and they’ll be excited to start. Here are some examples of ways you could get a headstart:

  1. Welcome pack: Whether an online pack or a physical one, send your new hire press clippings, a company history, core values, a fun personal note, and maybe even a card signed by everyone on their team. Include an outline of what they should expect during their first day, week and month. Tell them what you would like them to bring along on the first day. Confirm logistics such as directions, parking, public transportation, expected arrival time, dress code, plans for lunch on the first day, person to ask for on arrival, etc. This alleviates nerves, gives your new hire a sense of the company’s culture and of course, makes them feel welcomed.
  2. A nice idea is to have their direct supervisor call them the day before their first day to welcome them and let them know what to expect.
  3. Paperwork: Why waste time doing paperwork on the first day? Get anything that needs signing to your new hires before their first day. Consider everything that could potentially take time to read and understand e.g. benefits, contracts, legal forms etc. You could also send an employee handbook ahead of time, so that new staff members aren’t overwhelmed with information on the first day.
  4. Culture video: Why not make up a video showcasing your organisational culture, staff testimonials, fun activities and any everyday activities that make your environment unique?
  5. Company directory: Send your new hire a directory of all the people in your company, and tell them who they’ll be reporting to. Consider highlighting the people on their team.
  6. HR software and other related applications can also be deployed ahead of time. The right technology can help co-ordinate various individuals and tasks by taking care of paperwork electronically, or sending notifications alerting IT support staff to configure a new hire’s laptop and smart phone. Technology can also be an effective way to socialise your new hire into your company’s organisational culture through videos, podcasts or virtual tours.
  7. Assign a mentor: This gives the new hire an immediate resource for any questions, to educate them on resources, and to give key information about organisational culture and goals.
  8. Fun questionnaire: Have them fill out a questionnaire with fun questions like “What’s your favorite food for lunch?” or “What do you like to do on the weekends?” And then send their answers to their team. Your current team members will have some interesting talking points to bring up when they talk to the new hire.

Fun questionnaire: Have them fill out a questionnaire with fun questions like “What’s your favorite food for lunch?” or “What do you like to do on the weekends?” And then send their answers to their team. Your current team members will have some interesting talking points to bring up when they talk to the new hire.

To add a personal touch and make onboarding even more effective, good companies find out in advance how new hires prefer to learn and be managed. Find out what frustrates them, what motivates them, and why they left their last position. Learn their expectations of training and how they like to receive communication.

If we can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. 7 Things You Need to Do Before Your New Hire’s First Day – Sabrina Son, Tiny Pulse
  2. Best Practices for Employee Onboarding – Common Good Careers
  3. How to Build an Onboarding Plan for a New Hire – Peter Vanden Bos, Inc.
  4. Extreme Onboarding: How to WOW Your New Hires Rather Than Numb Them – Dr. John Sullivan
  5. Tips For Successful Employee Onboarding – Candice Winterringer, Atterro Human Capital Group, as seen on Hunter Hamilton
  6. New Hire Onboarding: An Overlooked Element in Sustaining Successful Strategy Execution – Root


September 16, 2015
2:21 pm
by Joanne Meyer

Designing an Effective Onboarding Process

Designing an Effective Onboarding Process - Joanne Meyer


Both research and common sense tell us it makes business sense to invest in getting new employees engaged, motivated and successful in their roles as soon as possible. New hires who attend a structured onboarding programme are significantly more likely to stay with the company and tend to become productive months earlier than those who are not offered effective onboarding.

Each organisation has a unique personality, culture, and set of operational needs and challenges; therefore creating a customised approach will be more successful than adopting another company’s solution. We’ve gathered a selection of best practices to use as a stimulus when designing an effective programme for your company:

  • Plan Ahead. A successful onboarding programme begins during the attraction, recruitment and hiring process so consider all touchpoints from a prospective candidate’s viewpoint. Once you’ve hired, get a head-start: send them an employee handbook ahead of time, for example, so they are not overwhelmed on the first day.
  • Nail the Details On the First Day. Aim to present basic information in an easy-to-digest fashion. The way to do this is to consider the small, logistical details that add up to a sense of comfort and familiarity one has in a workplace.
  • Offload As Much Information As Possible To Your Intranet. Rather than overload people with information teach them how to access the information when they need it: you will free up more time for activities that will help your new hires hit the ground running. It will also help reduce their anxiety.
  • Make It Interesting and Interactive. This will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your programme in terms of learning and information retention and it starts new employees off on a high note.
  • Deliver an Orientation on Your Culture and Values. While you may assume new hires will learn company culture by interacting with your team, cultural norms can be elusive and ill-communicated. The communication of culture and values is not something you should leave to chance.
  • Offer Insight into Your Strategic Position, Intent and Direction as well as the ‘Big Picture.’ Understanding the big picture plays a major role in whether employees become engaged. Talking about the company’s mission and what makes it great is one component; explaining how the organisation works and how the various parts work together to make the organisation function well is another.
  • Individualise the Process. A more personal element to the process can engage new employees, giving them the ability to identify their personal goals with the overall success of the organisation. Map out clear milestones that allow them to see what their next steps are and how they fit with the corporate objectives. How vested an employee feels in a company also comes from the social relationships they make with co-workers. Facilitate these from the very beginning. In addition, design your programme from the point of view of the new hire which helps you include details you; as a seasoned employee; may consider a ‘little thing’ but which could make a new hire feel vulnerable or uncertain.
  • Help Your Supervisors and Managers Do their Part Well. Gallup’s ground-breaking research revealed that an employee’s supervisor plays the most significant role in performance, engagement and morale. Thus, make sure you provide your supervisors and managers with sufficient training, guidance, and logistical support for their part in the onboarding process.
  • Follow Through on Your Plan. The process should continue over several months. Experts suggest surveying at the end of the first week and after the first three months, asking different questions at each stage. Begin with questions about the recruiting process and whether they are struggling with any issues. Then, ask whether they have the necessary tools to do their job well and, finally, ask about an employee’s strategic goals.

No matter how you design your onboarding process, David Lee, of HumanNature@Work, recommends the following ‘mantras’:

  • Everything Matters. Every choice in how you design your process could have a consequence in terms of how quickly an employee gets up to speed together with how valued and supported they feel.
  • Think ‘Experience.’ When making decisions about how to structure the onboarding process, how to welcome your new hires, how to introduce them to their team members and the company as a whole, consider each choice through the lens of “What kind of experience does this choice create?” When ‘thinking experience,’ ask two questions:
  1. What Emotional Take-Away do we want to create?
  2. What Perceptual Take-Away do we want to create?
  • What Is the Emotional Take-Away? Unfortunately, at many organisations onboarding decisions evoke confusion, frustration, boredom, annoyance, anxiety, insecurity, disappointment, regret and a feeling of overwhelm. Examine your various processes and decisions and rework to consciously provoke feelings of comfort, welcome, security, being valued, importance, pride and confidence.
  • What Is the Perceptual Take-Away? When making decisions about design, content and resource investments, ask: “If we chose this option, what perception will it likely create… and is it the perception we want?” Consciously create a classy, professional experience. Think of each step of the process as an opportunity to send a desirable message.

In conclusion, continually fine-tune how you onboard employees to make sure you can maximise the benefits of the process.

If we can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. How to Build an Onboarding Plan for a New Hire – Peter Vanden Bos, Inc.
  2. Run an Effective New Hire Onboarding Program With These 4 Key Pillars – Lilith Christiansen, MindTickle
  3. Successful Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Started Off Right – David Lee, HumanNature@Work


August 17, 2015
12:10 pm
by Joanne Meyer

First Impressions Last: Avoid these Common Onboarding Errors


All research points to the same conclusion: well-managed onboarding programmes have a measurable impact on employee commitment, productivity, engagement and retention. Unfortunately, all too many companies overlook this vital part of the hiring process. The lack of a structured and documented process for onboarding new hires is the most common mistake employers make resulting in a process that is all too often haphazard and incomplete. Here are some of the other common mistakes to avoid when packaging your onboarding programme.

The lack of a structured recruiting and hiring process. Many new hires are already a poor fit for the position or the culture and values of the company. A comprehensive recruiting, interviewing, screening, and hiring process will maximise the potential for finding and keeping right-fit employees.

Confusing orientation with onboarding. These two terms are often used interchangeably; however, orientation (describing the history and mission of the company, teaching employees about company rules, summarising employee benefits, etc.) is actually a facet of onboarding. Well-executed onboarding is a process of developing the behaviors that will be the foundation of an employee’s long-term success, so they can deliver results as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Overloading new hires with too much information. This simply results in increased apprehension along with sensory overload, and it limits the amount of information the new hire remembers. However, employees should be thoroughly familiarised with not only their job functions, but with the layout of the workplace, relevant company wide functions, and even where and when people eat, or socialise as co-workers.

Limiting onboarding to the employee’s first day. The best programmes start before the employee’s first day and continue for up to 6 – 12 months.

Not making new employees feel welcome. Many new hires find themselves having to navigate their own way among their new colleagues. Make a point of introducing themselves to their co-workers and immediate supervisors.

Not offering onboarding at multiple organisational levels. This guarantees the new hire will spend a great deal of time operating blind. According to Dr. John Sullivan of Ere Media, the five organisational levels of onboarding are:

  • Corporate level. Covering signups and corporate-wide values.
  • Location level. Covering information and issues related to the country/region and the plant/facility where the new hire will be working.
  • Departmental level. Covering things related to the department the new hire is joining.
  • Team/Job level. Covering things related to this person’s work team and job.
  • Individual level. Covering things at the team level that relate to the unique and diverse needs of this individual.

Uni-directional information. Most programmes focus entirely on providing information the company wants the new hire to know. The best programmes make it a two-way conversation asking new hires about their concerns, who they wish to meet, what they wish to learn, and how to best motivate and manage them.

Not measuring ROI. The best programmes measure time to productivity, new hire retention/termination rates, new hire error rates and new-hire referrals. Hiring managers should also be held accountable through the inclusion of their onboarding success rates in performance appraisals and bonus formulas.

A one-size-fits-all approach. Nearly every company makes an effort to hire diverse individuals, but few onboarding programmes provide alternative approaches to meet the needs of diverse hires. Diverse individuals, by definition, have different needs and ways of processing information.

A face-to-face approach… only. Consider providing most, if not all of the necessary onboarding information online where it is more easily accessed and searched before and after they start their new job. Online information can include the standard information provided to new hires as well as interactive forums for asking questions, buzzword and acronym dictionaries, as well as photos and bios of team members.

Failing to intentionally assimilate the new hire into the company culture. Too many companies do not intentionally build employee culture integration into their onboarding programmes. As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has famously professed, “If you get the culture right then most of the other stuff will happen naturally.”

Not setting clear expectations right at the beginning. Information should be provided on corporate success measures, departmental plans, strategies and goals, how this individual’s performance will be assessed, their bonus and promotion criteria, and specifically, what is expected from them during their first week and month on-the-job. It’s also important to ensure that new employees have assignments that allow them to contribute to the organisation from the beginning. This helps them find their place within your organisation and feel like a valued asset.

Their manager is not present. The most common fault that occurs at ‘departmental level’ onboarding (and the one with the most negative impact) is not having the employee’s direct manager present on the first day.

Delays in offering onboarding. Don’t delay onboarding until you have a large group of new hires. Effective programmes offer online onboarding or don’t delay onboarding beyond the first week after hire.

Forgetting to follow-up. Many new hires leave a position within the first 45 – 90 days. A structured process for eliciting feedback from new hires is critical, on both the overall onboarding and training process as well as on how the individual is feeling throughout (and after) their onboarding.

Your new hire onboarding process is where you set the tone for an employee’s experience. When done well, new employees feel confident and excited. When done poorly, new hires are left confused, lost, and doubting their new job choice.

If we can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Onboarding Program Killers: 15 Common Errors to Avoid – Dr. John Sullivan, Ere Media
  2. Avoid These Top Onboarding Mistakes – Joy Ruhmann, Level Up Leadership
  3. 7 Common Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid – Tristan Ruhland, Accuchex
  4. New-Hire Onboarding: Common Mistakes to Avoid – Alexia Vernon, Association for Talent Development


July 15, 2015
2:23 pm
by Joanne Meyer

Why Onboarding Matters


One of the surest ways to lose a new hire is through ineffective onboarding. It pays to make sure this essential aspect of the recruitment process has been well thought through, especially considering the cost involved in sourcing, interviewing, screening and hiring a new employee. And yet, approximately 35% of companies spend absolutely nothing on onboarding new employees. In addition, 60% of companies indicate they don’t set any milestones or concrete goals for new hires to attain.

Many companies confuse orientation with new employee onboarding and the two are not the same. Orientation is the start of new employee onboarding, but the actual onboarding is an ongoing process that includes employee performance acceleration, performance objective setting and instilling the company culture within the new employee.

Effective onboarding matters:

  • New employees who attend a well-structured onboarding orientation program are 69% more likely to remain with a company for up to three years.
  • Organisations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% greater new hire retention.
  • 62% of new employees with effective onboarding meet first performance milestones on time, as compared to 17% in organisations without formal onboarding.
  • 33% year-on-year improvement in hiring manager satisfaction, as compared to 3% increase in companies without formal onboarding.

The immediate benefits of good onboarding are well-adjusted new employees, but long-term benefits impact bottom line: improved retention, decreased turnover, reduced time to productivity, better overall customer satisfaction, higher performance levels and organisational commitment.

Talya Bauer, Ph.D., writing for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), says that research and conventional wisdom both suggest employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the company’s mission.

Dr Bauer describes the three levels of onboarding as passive, high potential, and proactive, with compliance, clarification, culture, and connection being the four building blocks of orientating new employees.

  • Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
  • Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.
  • Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organisational norms, both formal and informal.
  • Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

The degree to which each organisation leverages these four building blocks determines its overall onboarding strategy, with most firms falling into one of three levels.

Level 1: Passive Onboarding. Almost all organisations naturally cover compliance as part of formal onboarding. For firms that engage in Passive Onboarding some role clarification may be given, but neither Culture nor Connection is addressed.

Level 2: High Potential Onboarding. Compliance and Clarification are well covered by a firm’s formal onboarding practices and some Culture and Connection mechanisms are in place.

Level 3: Proactive Onboarding. All four building blocks are formally addressed. If your firm is systematically organising onboarding with a strategic human resource management approach, you are at Level 3. Only about 20% of organisations achieve this level.

Onboarding best practices, according to Dr Bauer:

  • Start to prepare for new employees before the first day on the job.
  • Plan to make the first day special.
  • Use formal orientation with a written onboarding plan that is consistently implemented.
  • Make onboarding participatory, not boring lecture-style and use technology and engage stakeholders in the program.
  • Monitor the program over time and use milestones such as 30, 60, 90, and 120 days on the job, up to a year after the first day.
  • Make sure objectives, timelines, roles, and responsibilities are clearly defined for new employees.

You get one chance to do onboarding right, so make sure it’s a transformative experience for the employee.

If we can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Doing Onboarding Right ­– Talmundo
  2. The Onboarding Experience Matters to Your Future Employees – Meghan M. Biro, Contributor, Forbes
  3. Why Strong Employee Onboarding Matters – Sheri Weaver, HNi
  4. Why Employee Onboarding Matters – Andrew Greenberg, Recruiting Division


June 15, 2015
10:47 am
by Joanne Meyer

Perfect the Interview


Interviews are as harrowing for Hiring Managers as they are for candidates: many aren’t sure how to get it right to ensure successful hiring of the best possible person for the role. Becoming a practiced interviewer is a skill like any other, which takes training and experience. Here’s some advice.

Understand what you need. Identify the critical business need you want them to solve, along with the experience, qualifications, and credentials you require. Be prepared to talk about the role, how you will measure success, what’s worked and what hasn’t, how the role has evolved or changed.

Prepare in advance. Take the time to properly screen the CV. Candidates will pick up if you have no knowledge of their background, pay attention to where they’ve worked, the positions they’ve held and their accomplishments. Look beyond facts and figures: read between the lines to get a sense of the person’s interests, goals, successes and failures. Do a quick survey of social media to see what their online presence tells you about who they are. If you find someone in the candidate’s network that you know, make a note. They could be a good reference.

What do you really want to know about this person? What skillsets do they bring to your department? Will their skills complement or challenge you? Can they take what they know and apply it in your role? Determine how you will identify the person with the right personality, interpersonal skills, and interests. Be prepared to talk about things that are specific to your department, your management style or the company. Give specific examples that have been problematic with previous employees to see how they would respond to these issues.

Develop a set of questions with help from HR, your peers and your employees. Come up with questions in four categories: fact-finding, creative-thinking, problem-solving and behavioral.

  • Fact-finding questions seek to identify the candidate’s experience, skills and credentials. How large was your team at your previous employer? What did you like or dislike about the environment? Can you describe your Excel skills?
  • Creative thinking questions are broader queries that ask the candidate to demonstrate a grasp of wider business trends. Where do you see the industry growing? What are the pitfalls ahead for our business?
  • Problem-solving questions. These include technical, skills-oriented puzzles where you ask the candidate to solve a technical challenge or task. Or they might concern processes, such as: “You see that project/product X is behind schedule, how would you accelerate the team?”
  • Behavioral questions get at how an employee acts in certain situations e.g. Describe a situation when you made a major mistake. How did you react? How did you defend your position? How do you handle a crisis situation? What do you consider to be a crisis? Hiring experts say behavioral questions reveal the most about how a candidate will fit into your company culture.

Create an agenda for the candidate’s visit. Start time, introduction, position details, company information, interview with manager A, interview with manager B, tour, lunch, closing time. Give the candidate the agenda so they know what to expect.

Know yourself. Are you a quick study or do you need to spend two hours with someone to get a good feel for who they are?  Allocate enough time to get what you need from the meeting. Do not allow yourself to be rushed or distracted.

Interview the candidate in person whenever possible. If you must do it over the phone, try using video-conferencing.

Take away the nerves. There are interviewers who like candidates to feel uncomfortable to see how they perform. This is seldom conducive to a good beginning. Rather spend the first few minutes chatting about a neutral, safe topic so they feel more at ease.

Take notes during the interview. Note highlights and things you want to follow-up on later. Pay attention to whether the employee is taking notes as well.

Pay attention to non-verbal indicators. Both during the interview as well as how the candidate acts before and after questioning. Are they flustered or poised upon arrival? How does the candidate treat the reception staff? What does their body language communicate?

Make the interview a conversation, not an interrogation. The key is to listen slowly. Pause. Give the conversation room to breathe. The more you know about the candidate ahead of time, the more you can ask questions that give the candidate room for self-analysis or introspection.

Ask open-ended questions. Why are you here?  What do you like about our company? What is our competition doing that we’re not? What about the role appeals to you?

Ask follow up questions. Listen to the initial answer and then ask why. Or when. Or how a situation turned out. Or who actually did what. Or what made a success difficult to achieve, or what was learned from a failure. Follow-up questions take you past canned responses and into details, both positive and negative.

Answer as many questions as you ask. Great candidates are evaluating you, your company, and whether they really want to work for you. Give them time to ask and answer thoughtfully and candidly.

Describe the next steps. Explain what you will do and when. Few things are worse for a candidate than having no idea what, when, or if something will happen.

Contact references and conduct follow-up. Don’t just contact the references the candidate provides. Check out the people in the candidate’s network or your own if you know someone in common. A terrible candidate may wish you hadn’t stuck to his/her list of references, but a great candidate never will. Have human resources follow-up with any fact-checking or background items you noted during the interview. And watch for the candidates’ follow-up: they should send a note thanking you for the opportunity and offering to provide any additional information you might need.

Conduct one more interview. Even if you think you’re sure, give yourself one more chance to be absolutely positive you’re making the right decision.

Make an enthusiastic offer. Show your enthusiasm. Express your excitement. In a great employer-employee relationship there is no upper hand. The right candidate will be just as excited to come on board as you are to welcome them.

That’s the perfect way to start.

If I can assist in any way, please get in touch.

Other Articles in this Series

  1. Defining Your Ideal Candidate
  2. Is Your Talent Selection System Working for You?
  3. Attract Better Candidates with Better Job Descriptions
  4. Optimize Your Hire: Pre-Employment Assessment


  1. Conduct the Perfect Interview in Twelve Simple Steps – LinkedIn
  2. An Employer’s Guide to Interviewing: A 10 Point Check List – Recruiter
  3. Conducting Employment Interviews: Hiring How To – The Wall Street Journal


May 18, 2015
9:34 am
by Joanne Meyer

Optimize Your Hire: Pre-Employment Assessment


Given the enormous cost of bad hiring decisions, it’s a small wonder corporates are spending time and care on making sure they source and hire the right people. From ensuring excellent talent selection systems to the compilation of complex and accurate job descriptions, it pays to finesse every step of the process. However, there’s always a chance that one of the candidates, who looks great on paper, may turn out to have misrepresented themselves in some way, or may not be a good personality fit for either the role or your corporate culture. Thus the importance of pre-selection screening, which moves beyond past credentials and experience, and brings a certain objectivity to the process.

In South Africa, these tests typically take place once the field has been narrowed down to only a few likely candidates. However, internationally they often take place earlier in the process: after only the initial telephonic interview or even as the first step in the process (generally via short, web-based psychometric tests. Such tests efficiently clear out the least-suitable applicants, leaving a smaller, better-qualified pool to undergo the more costly personalized aspects of the process).

Types of Employment Tests

  • Personality Tests. Assess the degree to which a person has certain traits or dispositions or predict the likelihood that a person will engage in certain conduct.
  • Cognitive Tests. Measure a candidate’s reasoning, memory, perceptual speed and accuracy, and skills in arithmetic and reading comprehension, as well as knowledge of a particular function or job.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EI) Testing. The ability of an individual to understand his or her own emotions and the emotions of others. Testing job applicants for their emotional intelligence is a growing employment trend.
  • Talent Assessment Tests. These are called pre-employment tests or career tests, and are used to help identify candidates that will be a good fit for the role and predict a new hire’s performance and retainability.
  • Sample Job Tasks. Sample job tasks, including performance tests, simulations, work samples, and realistic job previews, assess a candidate’s performance and aptitude on particular tasks.
  • Pre-Employment Physical Exams. These may be required to determine the suitability of an individual for a job or to measure the physical ability of an applicant to perform a particular task or the strength of specific muscle groups, as well as strength and stamina in general.
  • Drug Tests. These tests show the presence of drugs or alcohol in the applicants system and can include urine tests, hair analysis as well as saliva and sweat screening.
  • Language Proficiency Tests.


Ultimately, these tools are most effective in screening out non-appropriate candidates when used in conjunction with background screening to obtain hard facts about a candidate. Pre-employment background screening works in four critical ways:

  1. It can discourage applicants with something to hide. A person with a criminal record or false CV will simply apply to a company that does not pre-screen.
  2. It limits uncertainty in the hiring process. Although using instinct in the hiring process can be important, basing a decision on hard information is even better.
  3. Demonstrates an employer has exercised due diligence, providing legal protection in the event of a lawsuit.
  4. Encourages applicants to be especially forthcoming in their interviews.


Other important tools include CV verification, financial background checks (when relevant to the job), ID verification and drivers license verification.

Common Concerns Even with all the advantages of a screening program, these are the four most commons concerns that employers express:

  • Is it legal? Tests need to be valid, reliable, properly implemented and conducted with the candidate’s written permission. Companies can legally use these tests, as long as they don’t use to them to discriminate based on race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or age. Employment tests must be validated for the jobs they are being used to hire for and for the purposes for which they are being used.
  • Is it cost-effective? It is cost-effective when compared to the damage one bad hire can cause.
  • Does it discourage good applicants? A good candidate understands that background screening is sound business practice, which helps a company’s bottom line and is not an invasion of privacy.
  • Does it delay hiring? No. Background screening is normally done in just 48 to 72 hours.

Administered correctly, pre-employment testing can help companies save time and money in the selection process, decrease turnover, increase productivity, and even improve morale.

If I can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. When Hiring, First Test, and Then Interview – Forbes Magazine
  2. Handling Pre-employment Screenings and Assessments – Quintessential Careers
  3. Pre-employment Testing: A Helpful Way for Companies to Screen Applicants – Forbes Magazine
  4. Employment Tests – About Careers
  5. Pre-employment Screening is Critical – HR Future


April 16, 2015
10:43 am
by Joanne Meyer

Attract Better Candidates with Better Job Descriptions


Jo-job-descriptions-april-2015In my last article I spoke about evaluating your talent selection system to make sure each step along the way helps you identify, source and hire the very best candidates, both for the role and for your culture. Probably the very best place to begin is in how you compile your job descriptions, as these will form the basis for how and to whom you target your advertising, as well as for your interview questions and selection decisions.

Crucial in helping you attract the right people, well compiled job descriptions have an ongoing purpose throughout the employment lifecycle, so it’s worth time upfront getting them right. They give both the employee and the line manager a reference point for the responsibilities and level of performance expected from the role.

Here are the essentials you should include in each job description:

  • Job title and summary. Choose a title that reflects your industry’s standards and your company culture as well as the required level (assistant, senior, lead, etc.). Remember that most people search for employment by job title so keep it clear and simple and avoid getting too creative. Include a brief overview of the purpose of the position and where the role sits within the team, department and wider company structure.
  • Key responsibilities and expected deliverables. Often the lengthiest section. Include between 5 and 10 essential functions of the role. Phrase these in the present tense and include an action verb, e.g. “manage a team of 3 engineers.” Indicate what percentage of the employee’s time will be spent on each task to help them form a picture of their typical day. Include short, medium and long-term objectives. This is also the best place to indicate whether the person will deal with customers, the public or only internal employees. You can also use this section to place priority on activities.
  • Scope for progression and promotion. The majority of candidates want to know where the role can take their career.
  • Department and supervisor. Who will they report to and where does that person fall in the company’s structure? If there are other key interactions, list them.
  • Skills and qualifications. List both mandatory as well as preferred. Include skills, years of experience, certifications, licenses, education levels and necessary technical proficiencies. Of equal importance are soft skills, behaviours, motives, values and personality traits. Remember to take into account your organisational talent profile. Certain qualities and attributes will fit better within your culture and with your corporate values, and will better drive your business strategy forward. If the position involves the use of machinery (or computers), spell out what type of machines or software the employee will use. This is also the place to provide some insight into the type of work environment you want to maintain. Is it pure business, or must the person be able to contribute to the overall spirit of the organisation?
  • Evaluation criteria. Be specific. Writing this section will enable you to define what’s most important for the company as well as the employee. Try to make sure the evaluation criteria will promote the type of activities that’ll enhance success within the role and ultimately the business. Provide information on when evaluations will take place.
  • Company overview. Even though it’s expected the applicant would already have researched the company, it’s handy to include a company overview (as written by the company): your mission, goals, industry, location of HQ, number of countries in which you operate, number of employees, annual sales, etc.
  • Location. Where will the position be located and will travel be necessary? What percentage of time will be spent travelling and where will he/she be going?
  • Type of employment. Full-time, part-time, internship or contract?
  • Salary range and benefits. Include details such as bonuses, annual leave, flexi-time, pension, medical aid, etc.
  • Recruiter Contact Information. This may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how often it’s omitted!

 What to avoid

  • Using internal terminology that has no meaning to an external candidate.
  • Not involving all stakeholders. Get input from HR, line management and employees in similar roles; this will yield the most accurate specifications.
  • Being unrealistic. Make sure it is an accurate representation of what is required to perform the role, not an impossible wish-list of every skill that may come in useful. Be honest in your description of what the day-to-day responsibilities look like, be upfront about less glamorous aspects and give candidates the right expectations going in. The only thing more expensive than unfilled jobs is high employee turnover.
  • Any discriminatory language.
  • Not regularly reviewing. Your company is constantly evolving so it pays to regularly check job descriptions to make sure they stay relevant.

Your job descriptions will form the basis of your job advertisements. Many job postings start with the company description instead of speaking directly to the job seeker. Remember, this is your sales pitch to potential candidates, with the hope that you land your company’s next star employee. So instead, begin with an attention-grabbing first paragraph that clearly states who you’re looking for, what they’ll be doing, and why they should want the job.

Using job descriptions will help you better understand the experience and skill base needed to enhance the success of the company. If I can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. 10 Tips for Writing Job Descriptions That Work: Alison Hadden, Glassdoor
  2. How to Write an Effective Job Description: Michael Page
  3. How to Write a Standout Job Description: Mashable
  4. The Importance of Job Descriptions: Financial Wisdom



March 2, 2015
8:55 am
by Joanne Meyer

Is Your Talent Selection System Working for You?

JM-selection-process-march-2015The cost of a new hire is significant. The cost of a bad hire is infinitely more: hiring costs + total compensation + cost of maintaining the employee + disruption costs + severance costs + mistakes, failures and missed opportunities. Talent decisions have real bottom line implications and so it’s critically important to examine every step in your hiring process to make sure that, as often as humanly possible, you end up with the right candidate in the role.


How do you know whether or not your talent selection system is working for you? The following points are good indications:

  1. Employees don’t stay around. If you’re not retaining as many employees as your competitors, or your staff turnover rate is high, your talent selection could probably improve.
  2. A shortage of internal candidates worth promoting. If your company usually hires externally instead of promoting from within, you might not be choosing people who have the potential to grow with your organisation.
  3. New hires require excessive training. Training new employees – and all employees, for that matter – is good practice. However, if new recruits aren’t able to become productive without excessive training, ask yourself if you’re hiring people with the right skills.
  4. Interviewers often disagree on candidates. In cases when interviewers disagree on candidates, you will most probably find that good job descriptions are not in place. This leaves it open to interpretation as to what the organisation really needs.
  5. Inexperienced or untrained interviewers. Interviewing effectively is a discipline. Coaching and training all your interviewers will improve the quality of selections and provide a better experience for the candidates.
  6. Neglecting to do reference checks. Reference checks help reduce the risk of bad hires, are inexpensive and easy to implement.
  7. Assessments are not part of the selection process. Integrating assessments into your selection process will add independent and unbiased information to the selection decision.
  8. New hires aren’t meeting or exceeding job expectations. If new employees aren’t achieving their goals in the expected time frame then many things can be going wrong and a total talent selection process review might be in order.

I came across this list compiled by The Partnering Group, which outlines the 10 questions you should be able to answer yes to for each of the key steps in the talent selection process (line management can be considered subject matter experts):

Selection Criteria Do you conduct a job or competency analysis to identify key criteria?
Are subject matter experts involved in the analysis?
Is the job / competency analysis conducted and reviewed regularly?
Selection Techniques Are structured selection techniques used to evaluate job candidates? If so, are the techniques designed based on a job / competency analysis?
Are subject matter experts involved in the design of the selection techniques?
Are the selection techniques validated following legal guidelines? If so, is the validation study documented in a technical report?
Is the scoring process determined based on the validation process?
Are hiring managers trained on the selection process?
Onboarding & Development Do selection results inform the onboarding process?
Do selection results inform the talent development process?

In developing job descriptions remember to take into account your organisational talent profile – certain qualities and attributes will fit better within your culture and with your corporate values and will better drive your business strategy forward. Have a look at your current top performers – their qualities are likely to be good predictors of success. It’s important, also, to evaluate the whole person, not just their technical skills. Behaviours, motives, values and personality traits are just as important.

In today’s competitive climate it’s essential to ensure alignment between employee skills and the company’s culture, values and business direction. If I can assist in any way, please get in touch.


  1. 6 Ways to Evaluate your Selection System – Scott Erker, Ph.D, DDI
  2. Evaluating Your Talent Selection Programme – Robert C. Satterwhite, Ph.D, The Partnering Group
  3. Taking Your Selection Systems from Good to Great Part 1 – Assess Systems
  4. Taking Your Selection Systems from Good to Great Part 2 – Assess Systems