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How to Start a Sideline HR Consulting Business

Today I’m going to talk about running a small business, marketing, and product creation. If that’s not your thing, come back later this week for more great HR-centered content.

I think everyone has knowledge that is worth sharing. Some of that knowledge, you might have found, might even be worth some compensation. This past week I wrote a post for my friends at Careerealism, and it focuses on how I started the journey years ago into the world of HR consulting. Here’s a piece of that:

I’ll be honest—the first consulting meeting with the CEO and Vice President of the company was pretty stressful. They wanted some help in defining their hiring methods, creating documents to support the new process, and so on. It was all work that I’ve had experience doing, but stepping out from under the corporate umbrella on my own felt just plain weird.

I told them that I could do the work for them, offered a rate for the project, and shook hands to seal the deal.

Over the following weeks, I provided them with the various work products and consulting time they had requested, and when I finally received the check in the mail, I felt something special stir in my heart. At the time, I wasn’t sure what that was, but now I can say with certainty what I was feeling.

What we all want

In that moment, standing at the mailbox and looking at the check, I realized that someone else thought that my knowledge and expertise was valuable enough to pay me for it. I think that’s a big hurdle for many of us to get over, so I will say it again: Someone else thought my knowledge was worth paying for.

I think it’s something we all hope for. We want to be worth something. We want others to value what we have to say. And if we can get paid for doing those things, then that’s the best of both worlds.

Advice on starting

Are you interested in picking up some extra work? Maybe you’d like to start that consulting business you’ve dreamed of? Whatever the case, consider this: You are good enough at something that people will pay you for it.

In order to do this, you need to understand:

  1. What that is
  2. How you can position it
  3. How you can get connected to clients

If you can do all three of those, you’ll have your first gig before you know it.

In the business world, we call that your unique value proposition. Know what you can bring that someone else can’t, be able to communicate the value of that knowledge/service, and find people who are willing to pay to have that type of problem solved. Even if you’re approaching a company about a job and not in a consulting role, the same rules apply. Source:

This basic info can get you started, but there are other tips and ideas that I normally share with those looking to get into this exciting new world. Here’s one of the most valuable…

Creating a product

Consulting, in the end, is about trading dollars for hours. Give me dollars, I’ll give you hours. But when you create a product of some kind, you can scale that business beyond what it currently can stand. I always recommend that new consultants consider the top two or three questions they receive. The next step is to create something–a video, a short PDF guide, or something similar that answers one of those questions in great detail.

If someone paid you to answer that question with half an hour of your time, use that half hour of video or 10 pages of written material (or both) to do that for someone. Then you’re no longer limited by the number of hours in a week, you can pitch the product to a new market, and you can grow the business in new, exciting ways.

This is a recipe for growth that most HR consultants never tap into. And if you’ve been thinking about starting your own small (or large) consulting business from the ground up, this is a great place to start. 

How to Select a Third Party Recruiter

My phone rings and caller ID tells me it’s a recruiting firm calling. I can’t be the only one rolling my eyes thinking, “would they just stop calling me!?”, right? I have a bias against using third parties to fill our open reqs for a number of reasons – fees, signal-to-noise-ratio and culture fit issues, chief among them – but they are necessary at times for our technical positions. Managed correctly (which my People Ops partner-in-crime does), they can absolutely lead to terrific hires. So let’s talk about how to use them efficiently.

Take the lead

Go into the process valuing your time. Every extra bit of energy you have to put into managing a recruiter or weeding through oodles of bad resumes is costing you some opportunity. If you invest heavily in selecting the right recruiter and getting them off on the right foot, it’ll save you time and credibility with your hiring managers in the end.

Talk to a number of firms, settle on a few you feel comfortable with, and invite them on site to get a sense of what the company is about and what the team is looking for. When companies are anything less than enthusiastic about visiting, cut them loose.

Laying the foundation

Define your arrangement, expectations, and any future opportunities that may be available to the recruiter if successful. Encourage recruiters to ask all the questions they need to confidently send over 3-5 candidates they feel fit your gig (our recruiter stresses to send candidates as they become available, not all at once). For each of the candidates you receive, provide crystal clear feedback about what you do and do not like so the recruiter can get an understanding of exactly what you are looking for.

Be okay with a trickle of candidates – you want quality; a stuffed inbox does nothing for you.

Good recruiters should start to hone in on what you want and act like an extension of your company if you give them the type of feedback you’d expect from hiring managers when you start to source for a role.

A word of warning

Be wary of recruiters who are less interested in your feedback than they are in selling you on a candidate (if it’s a good candidate, there are tons of companies out there who will want him or her). They are chasing a commision, not a long-term partnership. Cut loose those unable to adapt and meet your expectations. You know what it takes to be successful at your company. And, ultimately, it’s your credibility on the line.

What experience have you had with third party recruiters? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Share in the comments below!

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

Restaurant Experience Builds Core Work Skills

This post brought to you by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The content and opinions expressed below are that of upstartHR.

Earlier this week we looked at the importance of restaurant experience as a valuable tool for entry level self starters. Today we’ll continue with a glimpse into just how deeply rooted restaurant work experience is within the American workplace and what that means for future career growth. Here are a few stats from the infographic below that highlight this trend:

  • 69% of of employees ages 18-24 had their first job in the restaurant industry. This shows the impact of the industry in starting young people on a career path.
  • Many in the industry continue their education while working at restaurants. 64% of bartenders, 49% of managers and 41% of servers are enrolled in a four-year college or university. In addition, 48% of industry business operation employees are enrolled in graduate school and 45% of chefs or cooks are enrolled in hospitality or culinary arts programs. The industry allows for employees to further their education and careers.
  • Many of those employees are planning to stay in the industry, showing the long-term career prospects in the industry. 72% of business operations managers, 69% of chefs or cooks and 56% of restaurant managers plan to continue working in restaurants after graduation.

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty astounded at the scale and professionalism demonstrated by these figures.

This isn’t a profession where people “settle” for a position in the restaurant industry. The data shows that workers in this field are actively learning and growing, and many of them plan to continue working in the industry even after graduating. Anything else in the infographic below seem particularly interesting to you?

Infographic (Full size graphic here: Building Blocks)

 photo NRAEFInfographic2complete11_zps9a93cac5.jpg

Click here to review the other posts in this series:

A Good Place for Entry Level Self Starters

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How Long Is Your Recruiting Process?

So after reading an interesting post by my friend Tim Sackett recently, I stopped to think about the “ideal” length of the recruiting process. Here’s Tim:

People won’t read a 700 page book, they want 300.  No one wants to watch a three hour movie, make it two.  Why do we have to have an hour meeting, make it thirty minutes. Being too long is not a weakness you want to have in today’s world.  Being too long is now a sign that you probably don’t really know what you’re doing.  If you can’t be short and concise, you’re looked at as ‘old fashioned’. That’s what your candidates are thinking of your selection process.  You try and tell yourself, and your leadership, that we ‘take our time’ because we want to ‘make the right decision’. But your competition is making those same decisions in half the time.  You’re old fashion. You’re broken.  You’re taking too long. Source:

Here’s a short video where I give both sides of the issue (subscribers click through to view):

So, what’s the right answer for you and your organization? Read the rest of my thoughts on the subject in my post on Talent Acquisition Process Length at the Brandon Hall Group blog.

Restaurant Careers-A Good Place for Entry Level Self Starters

This post brought to you by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The content and opinions expressed below are that of upstartHR.

When thinking back to early career days, many people have restaurant or food service experience somewhere in their resume. And as some recent research shows, that’s not uncommon. In fact, about one in ten jobs is in the restaurant business.

As you can see in the infographic titled “An Industry of Opportunity,” restaurants provide a lot of opportunity for the young men and women of the workforce to get a start. 

The key areas I want to look at today are two specific statistics from the graphic.

More than 9 out of 10 restaurant employees say the restaurant industry is a good place to get a first job.

When we talk about careers, many young individuals see themselves as office workers, engineers, or other “professional” staff. However, there are some incredible opportunities to learn and grow in the restaurant field, and I think the benefits are often overlooked.

For instance, having the opportunity to serve customers face to face helps to build confidence, teaches young workers some of the critical body language skills (eye contact, firm handshake, smiling, etc.) that can lead to success at all career levels.

Nearly 9 out of 10 workers say restaurants provide an opportunity for people who want to succeed based on their own hard work.

I’m a self-starter, and I am excited to see this statistic, because it means that those entering the restaurant profession looking for long-term career opportunities will also have room to learn and grow. 

We’ve all worked in organizations that squash creativity or de-emphasize the importance of thinking ahead and trying to solve the problems of others. This field not only provides those benefits, but it does so in a fast-paced environment ripe with learning and development opportunities. 

Check out the full infographic below for more details (link to full image):

 photo NRAEFInfographic11_zpsc5d9cea4.jpg

In the coming weeks I will be sharing more insights from the study performed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, so stay tuned.

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Driving Social Learning Engagement

driving social learningRecently I was speaking to a local SHRM chapter about the changing world of HR through the lens of social tools. This isn’t the “you should use Facebook!” session, and I’m not sure if I even mentioned that platform a single time in the conversation. No, it was all about how both vendors and corporations are leveraging social tools to improve their learning, recruiting, and talent management initiatives.

One of the questions from the audience at the end of the session was this:

We are using a discussion board/forum as a way to increase the community aspect of our learning initiatives. However, we’re having trouble getting people to share out there. If we ask them to specifically, they usually do, but otherwise they don’t post. How can we get our people to be more engaged?

I think there are a few ways to make this platform more active, especially if it has proven to be a useful tool and isn’t just a “flavor of the month” sort of project.

  • Inertia: start some momentum by researching some of the most common questions posted in the forum and post a “frequently asked questions” section answering those specific inquiries. If you want to make it even better, you can link the specific answers to specific users, allowing people to follow up for more detail on their individual situation. Then it’s more of a two-way, social communication channel.
  • Hey, Bob, how do you feel about being an expert? Expert directories are becoming a more common way of helping to assign responsibility in a social learning context. In this situation you’d tag specific people to be recognized experts with the responsibility to respond to questions in their lane. That helps to ensure questions not only get answered, but that they get a response from someone who is qualified to actually respond.
  • Performance: if all else fails, make interacting part of everyone’s performance goals. When I took distance learning classes in college, we had requirements to post one thought and respond to one other person’s post on a weekly basis. It took maybe fifteen minutes to complete, but it kept a steady stream of insightful commentary flowing through the discussion board. We were graded on our participation, and I see no reason why we couldn’t expect the same from our employees.

These aren’t the only answers, and they might not even be the best answers; however, it’s important to recognize the problem (lack of engagement in this case) and begin testing solutions to resolve the issue.

Have you run into this sort of issue in the past? How did you resolve the problem? 

Job Seeker Tip #347-Passion Matters

I have been thinking about interviewing lately. I was telling a group I spoke to earlier in the week about the importance of finding people that are “sold out” on the culture and the organization. It never ceases to amaze me that some people still fail to prepare adequately for their interviews. No, I’m not talking about knowing how to answer the canned”What’s your greatest weakness?” type questions. I’m talking about being excited, upbeat, and ready to talk about how you are the perfect fit for the job.

Here’s a good example. I can still vividly remember an interviewing process for a subcontracts administrator position. We interviewed more than half a dozen people in the first round. Three of those were lukewarm and honestly left me wondering if they really wanted a job at all. Two of those were both enthusiastic and qualified. One of those was both very enthusiastic and very overqualified. Those three people were the ones brought back for a second interview, and in fact I was able to pick the person that was ultimately chosen days before the “final” selection (though that is always the hiring manager’s call in the end). How did I know?

  1. She made a great case for why the company would be better off with her specific experience.
  2. She shared with us her interest in why she would specifically like to work at our company (not just a company like ours, but ours specifically!).
  3. She was a great culture fit for us. Her previous actions and behavioral questions were closely aligned with our core values.

Honestly, I don’t care if you’re applying for jobs through Jobtonic, a job with my company, or something else. If you’re qualified for the position, and you can figure out how to do all three of those things, then you have a much greater chance of being selected than those who don’t. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s a formula that I’ve seen play out on many occasions.

What is your take on passion and enthusiasm in the interview process? Is it a discriminator or just noise interfering with the process?

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