This quote came out of my daughter’s school newsletter via the careers adviser…

I think it’s right on the money –

I read the following recently in a CDAA newsletter, and thought it sums up the role of career development for our students really well.

Career development is the lifelong process of managing learning and work.

Career decisions are becoming more complex and central in people’s lives as workplaces become increasingly fluid and constantly exposed to change. Traditional career concepts of ordered progression are no longer valid with both employees and employers less willing to make long-term commitments.

Individuals who want to maintain their employability have to be willing to regularly learn new skills and make a series of choices throughout their lives about learning and work. Hence careers are now increasingly seen not as being ‘chosen’ but as being constructed. People with career management skills are able to move confidently in and out of good jobs, training and education to suit their family commitments and their talents and needs.

Organisations that promote a strong career development culture benefit from higher employee satisfaction, enhanced retention and increased productivity. This is also a key factor in attracting quality staff’.

The entire article is archived on the CDAA website at:

Many employers make the mistake of basing cost of turnover analysis on hiring and salary costs alone, however the bottom line impact on a business is a lot more far reaching.

Advertising, equipping and administration, time taken for screening, interviews and orientation/training, legal costs and severance payments, lost productivity, interrupted client relationships, negative impact of team morale and disruptions to core activity must be factored in.

Whilst these costs will naturally vary between organisations and positions, the figure of three times the annual salary is often used as a rule of thumb and indicates just how seriously incorrect hiring can affect an organisation’s profitability.

Part of my recruitment process, is always to check in on both employer and employee, throughout the first 3 months.

My reasoning? Because a new employee’s first 3-6 months is generally considered the highest period of risk in terms of potential turnover.

How they are treated in the first part of their tenure can be the difference between an employee with a long term commitment to your organisation, and one who leaves before the year is out. In the current climate, they may become disillusioned very quickly and are likely to quit unexpectedly, or are vulnerable to being poached by another employer. It has also been shown the more quickly an employee is integrated and settled into a new working environment, the faster they will achieve productivity returns for an employer.

So what can you do to maximise your employee’s experience?

  • Ensure they have the right tools required for the role.
  • Determine if additional skills need to be developed – Acknowledgment of skills development and training as required – and make sure what is offered comes to fruition!
  • Implement a creative and structured induction program including business history, values, strategy and financial goals of the organisation.
  • Meet and greet session with other staff; a walk around building with full explanations.
  • Regular formal and informal two-way feedback to assess the employee’s progress and concerns.
  • An explanation and example of a performance review.
  • A tailored coaching and mentoring program or an agreed career development plan in place that will add value to the new employee’s career growth.

Not sure what to ask on the phone? Make the most of your 20 minutes. Ensure your shortlist is the cream of the talent on offer!

Questions re – Resume

  • Any questions about gaps in jobs and dates
  • Direct questions about jobs and responsibilities
  • What kind of experience do you have? (Seeks depth rather than amount)
  • What aspects of your work do you consider most crucial? (Shows grasp of functional responsibilities; may highlight how they prefer to spend time at work. Be alert here for a potential mismatch. Match the answers to your job description.)
  • Of all the work you have done, where have you been most successful? (Will demonstrate their ability to contribute in those most crucial areas or will display an imbalance of efforts in less important areas)

Knock-out questions – firm grasp of what it takes to do the job. The big picture.

  • What would you say are the broad responsibilities of a…e.g. Project Manager?
  • What would you say are the major personal traits/qualities this job demands? (Have already noted the traits necessary to be successful in this position, so an answer that’s way off base should ring warning bells).
  • Describe to me how you see this job relating to the overall goals of our company. (Should be alert to how his individual efforts fit into the big picture, his concern for its well-being and homework done re the organisation).

Likes and dislikes – a sharp effective focus, for unmasking mismatches during telephone interviews for their knock-out qualities.

  • What aspects of your current job do you like best? (Task/goal-oriented; busy work; or getting job done)
  • What kind of things bother you most about your job? (Compare answer honestly with the job’s realities)
  • What would you change about your current job? (Should mesh with your ‘must-haves’; if not, reject now to avoid job distraction later)

Money – Important to address this on the phone!

  • In your professional opinion, how much do you think a job like this should pay?
  • How much money are you making? (Looking for salary without fringes.)
  • How much money do you want – bottom line – what’s your bottom dollar ?

What else should I know about your qualifications?

We have all been in that situation where we have found the perfect person for the opening we have available, fantastic resume, great skills, interviewed perfectly. We don’t need to check on this person out, they are practically part of the team already – let’s just offer them the job and be done with it. Six months later you are struggling to manage your new staff member – some of what they said at interview is seemingly a little dubious, if only you knew what to expect you could have managed it better from the start.

Reference checking is one of the most valuable tools available in the recruitment process, particularly in terms of predicting future behavior. It is the only opportunity that you get to see into a prospective employee’s past and understand how they work under various circumstances, environments and
management styles.

While it’s occasionally a tool to rule out a candidate, more often it should be viewed as a means to prepare yourself to be able to get the very best from your new charge. I am often reminded of a time where a candidate of mine received two terrible reference checks, got the job regardless, and tuned out to be a star performer.

In fact the reference checks reflected far more on those giving the reference rather than on the candidate. By reading between the lines, the two managers clearly had similar styles, and for various reasons this approach did not work for the candidate. Using the information provided and working closely with the client and the candidate, we put in place a strategy for them to correct some of the issues of the past. Of course it worked fabulously and they both flourished in the role.

Tips for talking to referees:

When asking questions to a previous or even current employers, it is important to begin by establishing their relationship with the candidate and if they are qualified to comment. Realistically we want to talk to referees that have managed the candidate, have been peers or perhaps in some cases, clients. If that candidate has not provided the right referees, it is fine to ask for others to be given, or you can even ask directly if you can speak with a specific manager.

If the candidate refuses, it is absolutely worthwhile probing the reasons deeper as to why. The sorts of questions you ask, should not be terribly different from those you might ask in an interview; however you might want to tailor them to match any areas of concern or suspicion you might have.

Some typical questions I like to ask include:

What was the candidate’s role in your organisation?

  • Tell me about the candidate’s role and responsibilities?
  • Were there any particular achievements of note you would mention?
  • Tell me about how they coped in stressful situations?
  • How did they perform working in a team environment?
  • How would you manage them to get the best out of them?
  • What areas do you think they should work on? What are their weaknesses?
  • Why did they leave / are considering leaving?

Most importantly listen for what the referee does and does not say. People don’t generally like to give poor references, however they will tend to hesitate or omit when it comes to areas of weakness or controversy. Assure the referee that you are looking to understand how best to manage the candidate and probe around the issue more deeply.

What to DO and what NOT to DO

As with any situation where you are dealing with a person’s private and personal information, it is most important that you act carefully and treat that information with the respect it deserves. (The candidate has the right to read their referee report should they desire so I always like to let the referee know that and ask their permission regarding this.)

Do always ask a candidate to provide referees and their contact numbers and advise them when you plan to call.

Don’t do checks without a candidate’s knowledge with someone they have not given approval to check. If you have such a referee, ask the candidates permission. If they have a problem with it, investigate that further.

Do always do a minimum of two, and preferably three references. We a looking for a range of views here, and one just will not do, regardless of how good it is.

Don’t reject a candidate because of one poor reference check. There is often subtext to what people say in these situations. If you get one bad reference check amongst two or three, approach the candidate and let them give their side of the story. Go back and ask other referee’s to see if there might be other reasons for the response.

Do use the information as a management tool. As I mentioned earlier, you will rarely get such an opportunity to understand a candidate’s behaviour before they start. Use it wisely and you will have a great start for your new employee.

Whether you do the job yourself, or have a consultant do the checks for you, make sure you get the most from this valuable tool.

Rebekah Bryant specialises in providing recruitment solutions across all industries to local businesses. She is based in Torquay near Geelong in Southern Victoria. Rebekah understands the special needs of small business. With robust processes and systems, she provides a quality and affordable service for those companies looking to improve the quality of their team.