As I sit here in my makeshift "home office" with my loving wife, barking dog, and home schooled children, I am having conversation after conversation with people that I have known for months, years, even decades. I'm talking to long-time friends, long-lost friends, clients, candidates, and referral partners alike. We are talking about job loss, financial security, health concerns, family, and the job market. I KNOW that I am positioned exactly where I am intended and was reminded about this article that I wrote 9 months ago and it cannot be more true today!
One excerpt said, "For the last 14 years, I often lay awake at night thinking about who needs help and how I can best serve them, I wake up early in the morning with a passion to make a difference, and sometimes have very challenging conversations with those in transition with the purpose of motivating them to be their best self in the midst of self-doubt."
These are challenging times for many due to uncertainty, doubt, pain, fear, and constantly evolving pandemic. I may not know when this will end or where these relationships will be in the coming days, weeks, months...but I'm listening, I'm encouraging, and I'm present!
I STILL LOVE MY RECRUITING CAREER!
P.S. Thanks to those who have forgiven my COVID-19 beard growth during video calls!
Troy Ashby is founder and president of Benchmark Search, a Dallas-based firm specializing in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals. With more than 15 years of professional service experience, including more than a decade with one of the nation’s largest recruiting firms, Ashby established Benchmark Search on the bedrock belief that exceptional people, progressive culture, and an unrelenting devotion to serving clients is the formula for developing deep and transformational relationships. Benchmarksearch.com.
Two weeks ago I discussed how clients can Create Hiring Advantages Through Videoconferencing. Now that video interviews have become the norm for companies, I want to make sure you as a candidate also feels prepared. If you are wondering what to expect or what is expected, here are a few pointers to make it successful!
Now, let’s get ready for the video interview itself:
1. Know your videoconferencing tool. Download the app for your ipad/phone, install the software on your computer, or practice the web application. Practice logging in, setting up, see how long it takes to get started. It is also important to test your video and audio, but be prepared for the inevitable technology glitch and be flexible to transitioning to a phone interview if this happens. If you do not have the direct line for the interviewer, I’d suggest requesting that from your recruiter or via e-mail the day before the video interview. If you are unable to get it before, ask in the first few minutes of the video conference (“In case we get disconnected, what is a good phone number for me to reach you on?”). Interviews are stressful, but this can prevent some unnecessary stress. It also demonstrates your leadership ability and that you are not only taking it seriously, but that you are thinking ahead.
2. Dress to impress. This is an interview. You should wear the same attire that you would for an in-person interview. Choose conservative clothing (black, navy, charcoal) and minimize patterns. While the camera angle should only show you from the waist up, avoid the temptation to dress casually or mismatch out of the camera view - you never know when something might come up that will require you to stand up.
3. Know where you should look. Your camera should be positioned at eye level and not too close and not too far away. You should not be holding your phone or device. When you are talking, you should primarily look at the camera. When you are listening, you should primarily watch the candidate/screen. I say primarily, because to get a balance, you should consciously look at both the camera and the candidate. If you only look at the screen while you are talking, the candidate loses important eye contact. If you only look at the camera, then you miss important non-verbal cues from the candidate. Speaking of non-verbal communication, don’t forget yours…smile (a lot), nod in agreement, take notes, etc.
4. Have a professional background. Whether you are conducting this interview from a home office, kitchen table, or make sure the background is clean and as minimal as possible. Try to mimic an actual interview with a conference room vibe. You do not want the hiring manager to distracted during the interview by looking at a shelf of knick-knacks, posters, or anything moving. I’d also recommend a room where you can control the lighting. If you are in a room with windows, the lighting during different parts of the day could be an added variable. I advise a desk/table, a chair, and a blank wall or perhaps a simple bookshelf…and don’t forget to have a tablet for taking notes. Given those pointers, it is probably obvious, but I do not recommend conducting a phone interview in your vehicle. If that is the only option, notify the interviewer in advance.
5. Minimize Distractions. Notify the family and corral the pets to prevent the unexpected interruption. Remove all clutter from view. Turn off all alerts, notifications, and reminders. The last thing you want to do is be distracted by an incoming message on your device. For those of you with smart watches, we advise you to remove those during video (and other) interviews.
6. Send a thank-you note. Stand out from the crowd. Did you know that only 10% of applicants send a thank you note? If you do not have their e-mail addresses, ask before the interview is over.
There is no denying the fact that hiring top talent in the coming weeks and months will be even more challenging than it has been in this 50-year low unemployment market. That said, business still must be accomplished, and your staffing shortage isn’t going away.
While companies around the world work to limit the spread of the coronavirus by moving to a more remote workforce, should this be viewed as a considerable hiring opportunity? In consulting with several of our clients, they believe so and have acted quickly to move in-person interviews to phone and video conferencing for the entire process…even including virtual tours via Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, or FaceTime (to name a few). Why are they moving so quickly? After identification, a challenge to hiring is the actual interview itself. Now that some of these candidates are working remotely or partially remote, these companies are creating a competitive advantage to expedite the hiring process.
Many of our clients have already been utilizing videoconferencing tools in order to maximize candidate flexibility, while also being able to get to know the individuals. Candidates enjoy having an hour interview and not having to come up with a 3-hour excuse to leave work. Let’s face it, with unemployment the way it is – these candidates are typically employed and putting that position in jeopardy just by entertaining a new role.
If your company can demonstrate flexibility in your interview and a trusting leadership style, candidates are more apt to consider you as their next employer. This is even more significant if their current employer has less tolerant policies on workplace flexibility. Your methods can be seen as a beacon of positivity that they desire.
If you already have the technology and experience interviewing using video, then you have a head start. If you haven’t made the transition, this is your chance to make those changes immediately. The next several weeks can give you an advantage for years to come.
5 Tips to Conduct Successful Video Interviews
1. Focus on the interview experience, just as you would for an in-person interview.
2. Choose your videoconferencing tool. Try to stick with the platform that you and your team can become the subject matter expert. Prepare a document that you send to candidates in advance outlining what to expect and how to use the tool. Encourage the candidate to practice but also be prepared for the inevitable technology glitch and be flexible to transitioning to a phone interview if/when this happens. How you handle the hiccup demonstrates leadership style and how you might handle other office situations.
3. Know where you should look. When you are talking, you should primarily look at the camera. When you are listening, you should primarily watch the candidate/screen. I say primarily, because to get a balance, you should consciously look at both the camera and the candidate. If you only look at the screen while you are talking, the candidate loses important eye contact. If you only look at the camera, then you miss important non-verbal cues from the candidate. Speaking of non-verbal communication, don’t forget yours…smile (a lot), nod in agreement, take notes, etc.
4. Have a professional background. Whether you are conducting this interview from the office or home office, make sure the background is as minimal as possible. Try to mimic an actual interview with a conference room vibe. You do not want the candidate distracted during the interview. I’d also recommend a room where you can control the lighting. If you are in a room with windows, the lighting during different parts of the day could be an added variable. I advise a desk/table, a chair, and a blank wall or perhaps a simple bookshelf.
5. Conduct an office tour. This can be a brief pre-recorded tour, a few professional pictures, or walk and talk while conducting some of the interview. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but one of the primary reasons for in-person interviews, from the candidate perspective, is to get a feeling for the overall culture and what it would be like working at your company. Items such as parking, reception area, office furniture, where their office/desk is located, breakroom amenities, and a few interactions with other employees would be worthwhile highlights.
Be an early adopter and begin championing these changes as soon as possible. Your decision will lead to a competitive advantage sooner than you might think.
When she isn’t spending her time with family, watching a good baseball game, or traveling across the country - you can find Tracy Dodd at Benchmark Search’s Richardson office focused on providing white-glove service to clients and candidates.
Tracy grew up in Midlothian, just south of Dallas, before attending Northwood University on a softball scholarship while obtaining her undergraduate degree. Tracy enjoyed nearly a 10-year career in accounting that ultimately paved the way for what she was born to do – Finance and Accounting recruiting.
Over the last 8 years, Tracy has been nationally recognized as top recruiter as well as successfully running her own firm. She is passionate about what she does, building meaningful and long-lasting relationships with both her clients and candidates. We are excited to be working with Tracy and expanding our DFW recruiting footprint.
Dallas, TX – January 16, 2020 – Benchmark Search, a Dallas-based firm specializing in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals, announced that Search Resources Group of Dallas joined the firm January 15th.
Tracy Dodd, founder of Search Resources Group, joins Benchmark Search and further expands the Accounting & Finance recruiting presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “I am thrilled to be joining a profound team who possess the same drive and vision that it takes to make the firm successful. With the needs of our clients and candidates at the forefront, I am looking forward to a strong future with Benchmark,” says Dodd.
Search Resources Group has been servicing the DFW market since 2017. They specialized in the recruitment and placement of Accounting, Finance, and IT professionals.
Benchmark Search President Troy Ashby is excited to be working with Tracy and expanding their DFW recruiting footprint. “Tracy’s experience, leadership, and passion for serving clients, candidates and the DFW community will complement our team nicely as we continue to grow. Having first-hand experience in the industry that we service is incredibly important to our culture. Tracy’s ten-year accounting history prior to her successful recruiting career will allow us to expand our technical expertise while continuing to focus on our quality-first approach to recruiting.”
About Benchmark Search
Benchmark Search specializes in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals. The firm is predicated on the bedrock belief that exceptional people + progressive culture + unrelenting devotion to serving our clients and candidates is the formula for success. The team believes in developing long-term, trusted relationships with its clients and candidates to help companies and careers advance and thrive. For more information, visit benchmarksearchgroup.com.
I LOVE MY RECRUITING CAREER! I am asked to help companies achieve and exceed their hiring goals, provide career counseling to professionals who are climbing the corporate ladder, and get to be a small piece of the story for all parties involved.
I have conversations with both hiring managers and job seekers on best practices, interview tips, candidate experience, and market trends. These conversations add up over time and as I share my expertise our relationship is growing. For me, it is those flourishing relationships that keeps me going….for some it is over the course of months, for some years, and even spanning over a decade. I have been introduced to spouses, siblings, cousins, best friends, colleagues, and even children in need of hiring or having career changing aspirations and IT IS AWESOME!
For the last 14 years, I often lay awake at night thinking about who needs help and how I can best serve them, I wake up early in the morning with a passion to make a difference, and sometimes have very challenging conversations with those in transition with the purpose of motivating them to be their best self in the midst of self-doubt.
18 months ago I helped someone transition out of public accounting into industry. This person was interested in a career pivot and was about to forego that dream and take another position in public accounting. About that same time I am having a conversation with someone that I have known for 10-12 years, have kids similar ages, and attend the same church. He starts telling me about a newly created position that he is hiring for and that it is a little non-traditional background for the role…..and a light bulb went off! I placed a phone call, made the introduction, and it was in fact a match! I LOVE THAT!!!!
I have been invited to birthdays, weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, and unfortunately even attended a few funerals. Each of those invitations or events were special, but last weekend was one of my favorite moments. That former public accountant just passed his CPA Exam and invited me to the celebration at his parents house with family and friends. Not only did I get the invite, but he followed up with a person call and asked for me to attend. Saturday after the kids sports and around half-time of the Oklahoma State vs Iowa State game, I showed up. He came from a long line of CPAs and although he was no longer in the traditional accounting role, that CPA Exam was a big deal and him asking me to be there to celebrate with him was heartwarming and another reason for WHY I LOVE MY RECRUITING CAREER.
Hosted by Courtney Vien
The candidate experience is essential to hiring and retaining the right personnel, especially in today’s tight job market. Even the applicants you don’t hire walk away with an impression of you as an employer that can affect how your organization is perceived, as Troy Ashby, CPA, founder of recruiting firm Benchmark Search Group, explains. He offers helpful, concrete suggestions for improving the candidate experience and ensuring applicants form a positive emotional connection with your organization.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
Hosted by Courtney Vien
The onboarding process is crucial to helping new employees form a connection with your organization. Some employers, however, fail to pay sufficient attention to the onboarding process —making it more likely that new hires will leave. Troy Ashby, CPA, founder of Dallas-Fort Worth-area recruiting firm Benchmark Search Group, outlines steps you can take to improve onboarding and increase new employees’ sense of belonging.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
Play the episode below:
When she isn’t throwing the tennis ball for her yellow lab puppy, traveling to enjoy the beautiful beaches around the world, or watching college football, you can catch Dana Walton at Benchmark Search’s Richardson office doing what she does best: creating value and building relationships with her candidates and clients.
Dana grew up in a small East Texas town before attending Texas Tech University, where she walked on to play D1 soccer while obtaining her undergraduate degree in finance with a mathematics minor. Legend has it that she even enjoyed the tailgating and football experience. Upon graduation she went on to work in the Private Bank with JP Morgan, focusing on high net worth clients after obtaining her Series 6, 7, 24, 25, 63, and 66 licenses.
Dana entered the exciting world of Finance and Accounting recruiting 2012 and hasn’t looked back! She has been a top rated recruiter multiple times because she has a genuine passion for her craft and she works tirelessly to be the best for those who trust her. We are thrilled to have her onboard!
There is no denying the frustration being felt by CPA firms and employers across the country when it comes to hiring accountants. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated annual unemployment for people in business and financial operations occupations to be approximately 2.5%, making it all the more important that employers of accountants retain the ones they have. Yet employers sometimes neglect one very important key to retention: the onboarding of new hires.
An employee's first 90 days can be a precarious time. According to a study from BambooHR, one-third of approximately 1,000 respondents said they had quit a job within six months of starting it. Between 16% and 17% left between the first week and the third month of starting a new job.
It's important that employers recognize a common trait of nearly all new hires: They almost always experience a degree of uncertainty about their new position. It's also important to recognize the fact that your new hire most likely turned down another job (or possible counteroffer) to join your company. In this competitive market, your new hire is most likely still being recruited (and could be taking calls or even continuing to interview just to make sure he or she accepted the "right" position).
That's why, during the onboarding process, it's crucial that you successfully convey to new employees the strong investment you are making in them (and in turn the investment they are making in you). Here's how you can do that at each step of an employee's first 90 days:
0 days: Bridging between the offer and first day.
After the candidate has accepted your offer, do not let the next two weeks go by without making contact. The key to this time period is creating an impression of "people first": It's about relationship building, binding new hires to the team, and making them feel part of something.
I recommend the hiring manager reach out directly with a congratulatory message and a "welcome to the team" email. This is even more powerful when it includes an offer to have lunch or coffee in the time between the offer and the employee's start date. If time doesn't permit this, at least email information that can help new hires start learning about your organization and the tools they will be using.
30 days: Onboarding and establishing an emotional attachment.
Make sure the new hire's first days go smoothly. Starting a new job can be emotional, and employees need to see that what they were told in the interview was true.
In some cases, though, hiring managers may not be clear as to who will fulfill the onboarding role. They may mistakenly assume that all onboarding will be handled by human resources. This can lead to confusion and uncertainty on the part of the new employee. Don't let a breakdown in communication happen: Know your roles and who is responsible for what.
Have everything in order before the new hire walks through the door. A new employee's first day often includes a team lunch, paperwork, and getting acquainted with a new workspace. These are simple tasks that create a strong emotional attachment, which is why it is important to avoid oversights such as failing to have the computer set up or not having technical support on call.
Once you've set expectations for the position and the employee has developed a better understanding of the organization and its culture, make sure the employee is put on client engagements or given other assignments immediately. Even if the new hire is not fully up to speed, do not let him or her sit idle without work beyond the first week. Most employees want to be challenged and feel like a valued member of the team from the start. (In my experience, this is especially true of accountants.)
60 days: Continuing to learn and become independent.
You need to create a clear process for touching base with new employees and helping them set goals, even very early in their tenure. After all, this period is where you show your new employee that you are fully invested in his or her learning and development. Though this seems like common sense, it's something employers can often overlook given the multifaceted, fast-paced nature of their work. Smaller organizations that may not hire that often may also not have a formal onboarding process in place.
Here's one sequence I suggest: Over the first 30 days, managers should establish a cadence of weekly touch-base meetings with new hires. During the second and third months, these meetings can take place every other week as the employee starts to feel more settled in and has a better idea of what he or she is responsible for.
At the start of the employee's second month, the manager should schedule a formal 30-day review to provide feedback on expectations versus the actual work the employee has done, as well as identifying areas for development. The key takeaway from this meeting should be a strategy for the employee's success that includes goals, opportunities for continued growth and skill-building (including necessary training), and expectations pertaining to specific projects. This plan will act as a baseline the manager and employee can periodically review as a way of measuring success.
90 days: Being held accountable.
At the end of their third month, employees should be self-sustaining. While this is where the real accountability begins (because this is where the new hire starts making true impacts to the organization), it's often the easiest part of the onboarding process. Employees should continue focusing on growing relationships within their teams, broadening the projects they are working on, and focusing on bigger wins rather than shorter-term victories.
Employers can hold themselves and the new employee accountable by scheduling a formal 90-day review (the last official onboarding step) to ensure the employee is on track as measured against his or her goals, as well as to identify opportunities for continued growth and any additional resources that could help.
Though you may have assumed acquiring talent was the hardest part of the hiring process, the way you handle the onboarding process can separate your organization from others. Don't let the momentum you invested in the candidate experience slip away by failing to give onboarding the attention it deserves. The last thing you want to do is fail to keep the employee you just dedicated so much time and attention to hiring.
Benchmark Search Group was founded by a CPA with prior experience in Big 4 public accounting, executive search, and a leader for one of the largest finance and accounting staffing firms in the United States.
With more than 15 years of professional service experience and over a decade in staffing and recruiting, our firm was created with a focus on quality first and making a positive impact for our clients, candidates, and the Dallas - Fort Worth communities.
As a trusted advisor, we believe in establishing and continuing genuine relationships which empowers professionals to further their careers. Our commitment to excellence and integrity, combined with resilience allows our clients to focus on their business while we provide them with highly skilled employees.
Benchmark Search Group specializes in direct hire recruiting, executive search, and temporary staffing for accounting and finance professionals.