Posts in Employer Tips
How to Confidently Conduct Your Next Interview | Connector Team Recruiting.jpg

When it comes to interviewing, there is often the assumption that hiring managers know how to interview candidates in a meaningful way that provides clarity around applicants’ expertise and overall fit with open roles. However, depending on their experience interviewing, managers can be just as nervous as candidates. After all, hiring managers are human too. That’s why it’s important for new or inexperienced managers to be very well prepared to avoid any possible jitters.

At our firm we take pride in preparing our clients for this all-important meeting.

Put forward a great message and enhance your Company Brand while Interviewing. In today’s competitive job market, it’s important for that all Companies have the tools they need to conduct a top interview.  In addition to assessing a candidate during an interview – we want you our client to know that the candidate is also looking very closely at your company.

“If you’re a manager who’s new to hiring or someone who may be unsure of how to get the most out of the candidate interview, there are measure you can take to feel more at ease,” says Simone Mazzeo, program manager of talent attraction for MRINetwork. “By leveraging measures such as coaching from your preferred talent partner, making sure you’re highly prepared by reading through each candidate’s resume and cover letter, and simply putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes, there’s much you can do to feel more confident.”

Here are some tips managers new to interviewing can follow or those looking to improve:

Preparation is key:

It’s not surprising that doing your homework can pay off when you’re in a high-pressure situation. That’s true for an interview that you’re conducting. One way to prepare for the interview you’re about to conduct is to gain a deep understanding of the person’s job experience by reading and re-reading the person’s resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter.

Performance Tip:

Also, try drafting some questions you want to ask before the interview so that you have an idea about what you want to ask. You can even jot down notes on a copy of the person’s resume to help.

Research has shown that unstructured interviews have only a 35% accuracy rate in selecting the best talent for a job. A primary reason for this is that many questions in an unstructured interview require the candidate to give an opinionated answer. Opinionated answers rarely provide information that prove a candidate can do the job, adept to a new company culture, or deal with a certain type of customer. It is also difficult to assess their interest in the job.

Unstructured interviews also can be a very inefficient use of time. It is not uncommon for an interviewer to leave a discussion and be no surer about whether they should hire the candidate then before the interview even started.

Just as you will probably evaluate the candidate on the quality and depth of their questions, they will also be evaluating you on yours. Follow these guidelines to help you prepare your questions.

Write out your questions – Don’t try to “wing it” in the interview or you will come across as unprofessional.  Even if you have only 5 or 6 questions, you’ll come across as prepared and we’ve provided a list of questions in a separate attachment.

Use your list of expectations, job requirements and experiences – develop questions that will probe into a candidate’s ability to meet and exceed your expectations and handle the job

Get coaching from your preferred talent partner. If you want to really ensure you’re never nervous for a job interview again, simply ask for help from an expert. Recruiters and other members of your company’s HR team are well-versed when it comes to interviewing potential candidates. Therefore, simply tap them for advice before the interview date. They can coach you on ways to perform best under pressure by doing mock interviews with you, reviewing the types of questions you ask, and answering any questions you may have about the process.

“When in doubt, it never hurts to ask the recruiter who is connecting you to top candidates, for a little assistance,” says Mazzeo. “Their jobs are dedicated to finding and hiring the best talent for the company, so they’ll be more than happy to assist you as a hiring manager trying to fill an open role.”

The top candidates are also determining if your company will fit their career advancement goals and needs. 

Candidates are typically focused on six areas that are important to them before changing jobs.

 The order of the list below is interchangeable and it’s specific to an individual candidate’s life and work experience. 

  1. Challenge

  2. Location

  3. Advancement

  4. Money

  5. People they work with

  6. Security

Performance Tip: Be prepared to answer the tough questions

  1. The definition of a tough question is any question you feel you would not like the candidate to ask because you don’t feel comfortable with the answer that you would have to give. For example, many employers find it difficult to answer questions that deal with:

  2. Negative rumors about turnover or being up for sale

  3. Poor management or past turnover

  4. Poor decisions that were made by the company

  5. Questions that directly ask for the hiring authority’s background and ability

  6. Questions about the future growth track or vision of the company 

In most cases the candidate is not so much concerned with the content of the information but is rather looking for how the employer handles himself or herself under pressure. In general, you should prepare an answer that:

  1. Does not focus on the negative – but rather gives strategy to change the situation

  2. Provides information as to what the business strategy is to make it more positive

  3. Describes how the company has benefited from having gone through the situation

  4. Are your answers clear, direct and to the point? – if the answer is too wordy, the candidate may think you are trying to hide something.

Performance Tip: Sell the Benefits 

In today’s marketplace top candidates have many opportunities that they can explore. You can be sure that when they come into an interview, they will be exploring the opportunity with just as much curiosity as you will their background. Therefore, you will need to be prepared to sell them. You need to show them that you provide them with more value than what other opportunities may provide.

To help you sell your company you should be prepared to present benefits in four key areas:

 For Your Company, Ask yourself

  1.  What is your standing in the marketplace, and more importantly how does that impact your current employees and this position?

  2. What is your strategic vision, and how does that impact your current employees and this position?

  3. What tough obstacles has the company had to work through, and how does this impact your employees and this position?

You as a Hiring Manager, ask yourself:

  1. What kind of training and development can you provide?

  2. How will your experience help an individual?

  3. How will your management style impact an individual?

  4. How long have you been with the company, and how will this benefit an individual?

  5. What has your career path been with the organization?

  6. Where did you come from?

Your PERKS and Benefits Program, Ask yourself:

  1. What is your medical coverage, and does it provide significant benefits to your employees? (You may want to talk with your benefits specialist in your HR department). Is there a summary of the benefits program either on your career website or a PDF document for sharing?

  2. What is your 401K program? Does it provide any significant benefits to your employees? (Think about how it may impact someone’s retirement financial planning)

  3. For Business Development, Sales or Regional roles? Is there a company car, if so, what is its value?

  4. Any other key benefits to working for the company? Discount programs, 4 day week one day remote work, etc…

Your Community Outreach, Ask yourself:

  1. What is the company’s standing in the local marketplace?

  2. What Charities or local community support is provided?

Many candidates today (specifically today’s younger profile canddates, think Millennials, are not just looking for a job, they are looking to identify with a company that has the “IT” factor in the local community.  This is true for startups or multi-generational companies. 

Be prepared to talk about your local involvement and standing in the community.


Enjoy your time with the candidate. Instead of having the interviews seem like a stuffy, extremely formal experience, you can make them more of a conversation. While it is, of course, very serious business to hire a strong candidate for your team, you’re both only human at the end of the day. You also want to make candidates (and yourself) feel at ease so you get a stronger assessment of each person’s unique skills and abilities during your time together.

Performance Tip: How to end the interview

 Always try to end the interview with as much enthusiasm as the beginning of the interview.

 If at the conclusion of the first or second interview, you are confident that the candidate is qualified and a fit for your company…don’t hesitate to state the obvious and end it on a positive.

End the interview with a positive statement like (I really enjoyed our interview today, you’re an impressive candidate.  I’ll be taking steps in the next day or two and my plan to schedule another appointment and have you scheduled back to interview with a few more members of the team.

I’ll be in contact with our recruiter and they will come back to you with next steps shortly. For further information or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

In sum, you can ease the pressure and stress of conducting candidate interviews by preparing yourself through research, working with your talent partner and HR team to learn more about interviewing and by keeping the interview itself as conversational and light as possible.

By following these tips, you’ll conduct better interviews helping you and your company find your next all-star employees in no time (and be less nervous)!

Blog Post by: Bill O’Malley, Chief Recruiting Officer at Connector Team Recruiting.  Connector Team is recognized by leaders and leading consultants as the premier search firm in the Furniture | Electronics and Sleep vertical space. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK recently ranked in 2019 as a Top Recruitment Firm by Forbes Magazine.

Tips on Improving Employee Retention | Connector Team Recruiting.png

A little background on today’s job market before talking looking at retention.  It’s truly a competitive job market in 2019.  There are 7.3 million job openings according to the BLS and only 6.1MM unemployed persons based on the July Unemployment report fill those available jobs.  The reason most jobs go unfilled is due to the skills mismatch and or the earnings and education gaps.

I guess that means as a Recruiter I have job security.  Truth be told, recruiting and talent professionals are working harder than ever to uncover and source talent.


This is not complicated - more turnover simply hurts your brand. From where I sit, turnover is one big distraction and many times it’s 100% controllable. The Cost of Turnover  according to the (SHRM) the Society for Human Resource Management in a study conducted for hiring and replacing one employee is $4,127.00.

Many decision makers look at the front end or their P&L costs when developing their pay plan without any eye for what turnover will cost them in brand goodwill plus the cost of replacing an employee.  Many companies are starting to figure this out, and they are looking at key components that drive turnover.

Look at the job to determine the Value Proposition

Let’s look at a few of the JOB “VALUE PROPOSITION” that a company will typically offer.

Is the Job Title right, does the job provide interesting work?

Is the Job Title, right? This is relatively easy to look at and a little thing that not only makes the job sound better – but makes the person feel empowered if done the right way. 

Store Clerk vs Customer Specialist or…Guest Experience Leader once they have mastered the basics.  See how simple that was? Which title would you rather have?  Try it again – Driver vs Warehouse Delivery Expert.

 Schedule - Are the hours reasonable?

Could a reasonable person work those hours consistently and in a sustainable way without giving up a balanced family life? 

Are you adapting and evolving? Have you considered the demographic shift and the changing workforce based on the accelerating turnover in the baby boomer workforce? Many front-line jobs are retail and you must staff the power hours typically weekends.

Flexibility is key, can you rotate a weekend day off twice a month, or give one full weekend a month.  Provide extra PTO for working weekend power hours to be taken later.

CAREER PATHING – it’s what everyone is seeking!

When a candidate pursues a job at your organization, chances are they’re unhappy at their current company for several reasons, including a poor manager or a need for higher earning potential. However, a desire for upward mobility is the top motivation for a job search, according to 30% of candidates in a recent study the mrinetwork recruitment-trends-study

Some additional explanations for pursuing new opportunities include:

  • Seeking more compensation: 25%

  • Didn’t like their boss 19%

  • Contract assignment ended: 15%

  • Switched to a different industry or sector: 13%

It’s essential to anticipate this top job change motivator and to have prepared strategies in your interviewing and hiring processes that respond to this driver.

Nobody wants to feel stuck in dead-end jobs. If you value your workers, ask yourself when your most talented players last got promoted, or when they were given more responsibility on the job. If you can't remember, take it as a sign that you need to do a better job of helping your employees progress in their careers.

You can do so by taking the time to help your workers map out specific career paths and giving them the onsite tools and resources needed to be successful.

You can also offer education subsidies so that your employees can work on growing their skills outside the office. In the Furniture Industry that has trade shows, conferences and other education under way and interesting ways to challenge and develop your best and brightest. 

“Train your employees so that they can clearly answer questions about job advancement. “It’s essential to keeping star candidates interested and excited about your company.”

Ultimately, candidates want to know they’ll grow in their position at a new company or at least can tackle new challenges. Demonstrating evidence of this through employer branding can leave a lasting impression with potential new hires that makes them want to join a team that celebrates success.


Though money isn't the only thing that drives workers to seek new job opportunities, it's a big one. I usually see it come in #3 overall in terms of reasons for turnover.  Because it’s in the top tier it pays to do some salary and wage comparisons and see how well-compensated your employees are based on industry averages. If the salaries you pay leave much to be desired, you may need to rethink your compensation strategies and shift resources around to pay your workers what they're really worth.

For this area along with benefits we recommend you check to see what salary surveys are available in your area within your SIC and area of focus.  You should shop your competitors by finding out what they pay too.  It’s not hard with the available resources listed on their websites and you can take that information and match it up with what former employees that work for your company know.  You can also research online resource aggregators such as Glass Door which can also contain information on company benefits based on employee surveys.  


Benefits must be competitive.  When benefit packages are competitive, it’s hard to recruit someone away from a company.  It’s one more building block to guard against turnover.  Ask yourself this key question. When was the last time you really looked at your competition and compared your benefits to what they are offering?  We all know that virtually every retailer and wholesale company shops their competition for pricing? It just makes sense to do the same with benefits and compensation.

When looking at your benefits look at these key areas:

401K Plans - take a fresh look at your 401K fees, typically some employers don’t even know how costly some of the 401K plans are with limited high cost fees.  Make sure to highlight and push your provider to allow for low management fee ETF’s provided by some of the best Investment companies. How does your match compare?

Health Plans – How does your health care plan stack up. Can you afford a higher subsidy for your workers' health insurance premiums or perhaps a contribution to an Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA match or portion match is another great way to enhance your benefits plans.

 Other ideas:

We also see companies offering free lunches twice a week, onsite fitness classes, and time off for charity work.

Work at Home Flex time – this is an area that with the advance of technology there are some skill jobs Digital assistants (Web) and Customer call center associates and technology roles where it can be highly productive and it makes sense to have flexibility for workers to work from home. While you don’t want to be big brother there are tools to inspect what you expect in almost all of these rolls. 

Store hours - some companies are even looking at their store hours. This is an area and trend that appears to be trending.  Recently two smaller profile clients have chosen to close on Sunday as a strategic decision. Yes, I said that right they are closing on Sunday just like several large companies including; RC Willey and Chic-fil-A. These giants have built this into their business model and have never looked back.  Both are considered dominant power players in their categories.

Think of the benefits of Closing on Sunday:

  1. Work life balance

  2. Less scheduling and staffing issues because of the six-day

  3. Ability to offer better service to their consumer in the six days they are open with better overall staffing availability.

  4. Management retention

  5. Cost reduction in Utilities and other operating costs.

Company WOW factor

Your WOW factor comes from leadership and is important for the younger profile candidate that is looking to work for a company that has a standing in the marketplace and a great name in the community. 

As yourself this about all your new hires recently. Do they know the mission, your goal, your customer and what differentiates you from your competition?

Many CEO’s and leaders take it for granted that the employee has gotten the message and must have read their handbook and know their company. 

Here is a great example; I recently heard from an outgoing CEO of a large regional Furniture chain.  He was providing a reference to me for one of his General Managers that had worked for him. He shared with the story of the company’s long-term success which upon his retirement resulted in the successful sale of his company.  He provided two reasons including; first he made sure that everyone knew the fundamentals of giving exceptional service to their retail and B2B customer base. Second, he viewed his employees as his customers too.  In fact, to quote him, “I coached every leader in our company to manage upward on an inverted pyramid and to empower their people just like I empowered them to make decisions.” 

So naturally I asked him if that resulted in bad decisions over the years since we’re talking about big ticket purchases? His response was, “yes, he had seen a handful of bonehead decisions that created coaching moments.  In those coaching sessions he always started out by applauding them for making a decision for their customer before discussing other alternatives. 

One last recommendation that can help you reduce turnover:

Are you hiring and looking at all demographic channels? Have you tapped into the senior market?  According to a study by SHRM in 25 U.S. cities with a population of 200,000 or more, at least 20 percent of city residents over age 65 are still working—and that's a stat that is likely to grow. Studies have shown that older workers are more reliable and have less tendency towards turnover than other groups.  Many Employees Choose to Work Longer for several reasons with the most frequently cited as monetary quickly followed by wanting to stay active and engaged. If you want more information a study is available for SHRM members in a member-only toolkit for Employing Older workers.

Interns and High School and College recruiting

I often point to the reason I’m a recruiter today.  You see the national company I worked for tapped me at a young age to develop our college grad intern program – 13 weeks with graduation into a management slot.  We recognized that we needed to bring in and develop outstanding people to fill the bench as we grew our store count.  I’ve watched a number of these early hires continue in the industry today. It’s great to know that I had small part in introducing them to the Furniture industry that I love.

 Blog Post by: Bill O’Malley, Chief Recruiting Officer at Connector Team Recruiting.  Connector Team is recognized by leaders and leading consultants as the premier search firm in the Furniture | Electronics and Sleep vertical space. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK recently ranked in 2019 as a Top Recruitment Firm by Forbes Magazine.

How to Create a Great Employee Referral Program | Connector Team Recruiting.png

From my seat as an Executive Recruiter, companies in this tight labor market are looking for creative ways to enhance their talent pipeline.  Referral programs are not a new concept at all; however, they work well with execution and attention. Your best brand ambassadors are your top employees.  Using them as  part of your HR recruitment plan is just smart business.

A great employee referral program can help you promote your employer brand and it’s no secret: Employee referral programs can greatly help your organization find and hire top talent. After all, where best to find potential new employees than by tapping into current workers, who share your firm’s values and who are already helping you run a successful business? “Employee referral programs can be an effective way to hire talented people, and they can also be invaluable in the current talent acquisition environment, in which open jobs outnumber qualified candidates,” according to SHRM. However, securing talent through a strong employee referral program doesn’t just help you hire strong new employees. It can also be a powerful tool to help you promote your employer brand.

 “These types of initiatives are extremely powerful tools that can help you promote your employer brand and attract strong talent into the recruiting process,” says Kathryn Budd, director of human resources for MRINetwork. “When applied consistently, employee referral programs can also be a great retention tool that translates into huge costs savings on recruitment and investment in employees over time.”

What does an effective employee program entail and how can you start one at your company?

SHRM notes there are several things you can do, including:

1. Give employees the tools they need to refer:

This can mean putting together a positive culture around employee referrals and being able to track these efficiently in an HR portal so that you can effectively review the entire referral workflow.

 2. Set expectations and guidelines:

Additionally, SHRM recommends that you should “make sure employees understand the referral program's guidelines and expectations, including who is eligible to participate in the program and receive rewards for referrals.” Also be sure to include EEOC language to make it clear that the referral program is not discriminatory in any way. 

3. Provide incentives:

To help boost employee support in referring all-star talent, you should ideally put into place monetary inducements (if someone gets hired and stays for a set period). Make sure these incentives are paid in a predictable, timely and public manner and. To facilitate this, HR staff should set up automated payments in their HR information system.

 Other guidelines to follow include holding leaders accountable and being transparent throughout the process with employees, providing feedback, and, importantly, marketing the program far and wide. This last guideline means investing in the marketing and communication plans to boost how many employees at your organization participate.

 This is extremely important when trying to promote your employer brand. But, how is the term defined? According to SHRM, employer branding “is an important part of the employee value proposition and is essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees.”

Moreover, it includes many things about the company, including the “organization’s mission, values, culture and personality,” according to SHRM. “A positive employer brand communicates that the organization is a good employer and a great place to work.” Notably, the article also states that an employer brand greatly affects the “recruitment of new employees, retention and engagement of current employees, and the overall perception of the organization in the market.”

So, what are the specific ways referral programs can help?

First, a strong referral program, as noted above, includes clear expectations, guidelines and a powerful marketing plan of action. As a result of this communications push, employees will know in-depth how to speak with former co-workers and friends who they want to refer. This strong professionalism instantly makes your company look like a worthy organization and one that many will want to join because of this, leading to increased interest.

Second, your company should be investing heavily in communications and online content in order to promote your employer brand on your website, social media platforms, public relations and through other promotional materials. As a result, people will covet the chance to be referred and interviewed because they’ll know even more about the company.

“An employee referral program is a win-win situation for you and your organization,” says Budd. “You’ll create both a powerful commitment to hiring the best people as well as an employer brand that truly shines.” This will also signal to your firm’s clients and other external stakeholders that your organization has robust systems for attracting the talent that will drive performance, further establishing confidence in your products and services, and ultimately a more successful business.

Aubrey Wiete, talent management consultant for Cincinnati Children's Hospital, who offered tips for improving employee referral programs at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management Talent Conference & Exposition.

Wiete, along with Jenna Filipkowski, Ph.D., director of research at Human Capital Institute (HCI) in Cincinnati, shared six guidelines for crafting effective employee referral programs:

6 Tips for Effective Employee Referral Programs:

Wiete, along with Jenna Filipkowski, Ph.D., director of research at Human Capital Institute (HCI) in Cincinnati, shared six guidelines for crafting effective employee referral programs: 

1. Use your employees to promote the company brand.

Using employees to promote your company brand can be helpful when done right. "The first step is acknowledging that, if you want to build a referral program that really works, you need to have a referral-worthy culture," Wiete said.

Lululemon, an athletic apparel company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, treats every employee as a brand ambassador and provides all employees with the information and tools they need to fill that role.

"We ask all new hires to provide us with a list of 10 names from their personal network," said conference attendee Marissa Davenport, a talent advisor and recruiter at Neighborly, a global service-based franchise company in Waco, Texas. When the company has open positions, hiring managers review these contacts. If there's a potential match, managers ask the referring employee to introduce the potential applicant to both the company and the employment opportunity.

2. Set clear guidelines and expectations.

Make sure employees understand the referral program's guidelines and expectations, including who is eligible to participate in the program and receive rewards for referrals.

According to HCI research, of the companies it surveyed:

  • 78 percent provide the same reward for a referral whether the open position is executive level or entry level. 

  • 60 percent allow all company employees to participate in the referral program.

  • 58 percent give preference to candidates who are referred by current employees.

  • 55 percent accept referrals from nonemployees, such as customers or clients.

3. Offer incentives that motivate.

HCI research indicates that 74 percent of employers offer referral incentives. Of those, 92 percent offer cash, with a median award of $1,000. Awards of $500 are the most common.

Consider the timing of the reward as well. Most employers hinge payment on a referred hire's staying employed with the company for a set period. Only 27 percent of employers offer a full reward immediately upon a referral's hire.

Aim for parity in these rewards so that a referral for an executive job doesn't pay substantially more than a referral for a lower-level job.

"We don't want the perception that one job is more important than another," said Davenport, whose company recently revised the amount of its incentive payouts for referrals to help achieve parity between departments.

4. Market the program.

Filipkowski recommended treating the employee referral program like an ongoing marketing campaign. Investing in marketing and communication plans for the program can increase the likelihood that employees will participate.

Groupon, a worldwide e-commerce marketplace based in Chicago, has a unique marketing approach for its employee referral program: Referred candidates get a coveted green Adidas track-style jacket after working for one year at the company. The jackets remind everyone that employee referrals have an impact.

5. Hold leaders and HR accountable.

One common complaint about referral programs is that HR sometimes fails to communicate with the referring employee and the candidate about the job status. To avoid frustration, share information with both parties, and keep them updated about the hiring process. Consider responding to every candidate referral within a set time, such as 10 days.

Senior leaders need to believe in the program and be a part of the design. To get this buy-in and find a program champion, give leaders data and feedback on the program's outcomes. Make sure executives understand the current competition for talent and the need to capitalize on employee networks. "The stakes are so high, and there is not enough talent to go around. How do we get these people in our door?" Wiete said.

6. Provide feedback on outcomes.

"Measure that [the referral program] is working or not working, and make adjustments as needed," Filipkowski said. Common metrics to capture include:

  • The number of employees hired through referrals, compared to other methods.

  • The number of qualified candidates obtained through referrals, compared to other sources.

  • The rate of employee participation.

  • The retention of referred hires compared to other sources.

  • The performance of referred hires compared to other sources.

So, there you have it, some great tips for creating an effective referral plan.  If you have a plan and or tips and tricks on making your program work, send me a note and I’ll spread the word in my next blog.

Blog Post by: Bill O’Malley, Chief Recruiting Officer at Connector Team Recruiting.  Connector Team is recognized by leaders and leading consultants as the premier search firm in the Furniture | Electronics and Sleep vertical space. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK recently ranked in 2019 as a Top Recruitment Firm by Forbes Magazine. Content credit First Friday Preview.