Researching an Employer Before an Interview

We talk a lot here about how important it is to research a potential employer before a job interview. But we’ve never explained in detail about how and why you should do so.

Take a look below for why researching an employer is valuable and how to use the information during your interview.

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  • Start with the company’s website.

You’ll find a true wealth of information there. Check for news releases: this will tell you what the company is proud of and also will tell you if it’s planning on expanding, if it won an award, if it just hired a new marketing manager, etc.

You should look through every tab listed on its homepage. Look at its social media accounts. See what’s new and what its employees have accomplished.

If the company is publically traded, you’ll probably see a menu tab labeled “Investors” or “Investor Relations.” (This section might be under the About or even the public relations/marketing section, and if the company is multi-national, you may have to do some digging around the site to find it).

This section truly a gold mine: companies publically traded on a stock exchange in the United States must file each quarter what are called SEC filings.

You’ll want to check in particular for what are called “10-Q” reports. These are free to download and you will find within them what the company’s profit and loss was for the quarter, what went well for the company and what – well – didn’t go so well. (You may see a link to its annual report in that section and you should read it, but an annual report often only is filled with the positive stuff; quarterly filings tell everything about a company’s financial health. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires it.) The reports also often give an overview of what challenges and opportunities the industry in which the company offers services/products is facing and how well the company is faring inside those industry challenges.

Seriously: read the 10-Q reports. They are fascinating! (And just watch a hiring manager’s eyes widen in admiring amazement when you say at some point in the interview: “I just read your 10-Q for the third quarter and I found it interesting that….”)

  • Set a Google Alert for news about the company.

Go to Google Alerts and type in the name of the company, provide an email address where the alert can be sent and decide how often you want any alerts to appear in your inbox (once a day should suffice, especially if it’s a large company).

Now you’ll see in real time news about the company, such as press releases, news articles, even employee reviews on review sites, etc.

  • If you know the name of the hiring manager, check out his/her LinkedIn profile.

Don’t worry that this could be construed as stalking. After all, you can bet that if you’ve been called in for an interview, the recruiter/hiring manager already has checked out your profile!

If you’re not already a first-level connection, consider asking for one.  (If you’ve already scheduled an interview, the hiring manager should easily accept.)

See if you share any connections and if you know any well, ask them for any insight they might have into the hiring manager’s background, personality, etc.

  • If working with one of our staffing recruiters, ask for insights into the company and hiring manager.

Helpmates’ recruiters will provide you with lots of information regarding the company, the position and the hiring manager before you go on an interview. We’ve worked hard over the 40-plus years we’ve been in business forging great relationships with companies throughout the Orange County and Los Angeles region and we know their needs well. If looking for work, you can rely on us to help you as much as possible. Contact us today.

‘So, Tell Me a Little About Yourself.’

The following questions are so common, there’s no chance you’ve never heard them in a job interview: “Tell me about yourself.” “What’s your biggest strength/weakness?” “Why should I hire you over someone else?”

Common interview questions, all. Yet as common as they are, consider them unimportant at your risk: recruiters and hiring managers aren’t so much looking for a right answer as they want to see how you approach your answer, how you carry yourself and how you handle yourself during your answer.

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In fact, here’s a bit of a secret: most job interviews don’t take place to see if you can do the job (after all, you wouldn’t have been called in if the hiring manager didn’t think you had the skills and background necessary). Instead, the hiring manager/recruiter is looking to see how you will fit in: does your personality mesh with the company/department? Are you thoughtful in your answers? How much do you know about us? And so on.

And, believe it or not, how you answer “Tell me about yourself” is one way your future boss tries to figure that out.

Take a look below for how to answer the above four questions.

Tell me about yourself.

The hiring manager doesn’t want to know your personal history; he really wants to know why you want the job. So give a brief synopsis of your career and then segue into how the job opening fits in with your skills, background/education and career goals. Make sure to provide one or two specific reasons why your skills/background are a good fit: “With my background in social media marketing at a marketing agency for startups, I’m excited to take the strategies I learned there to help a startup’s marketing as part of its internal team.”

What’s your biggest strength/weakness?

This question can be just one (your biggest strength) or the other, or it can be a combination of both (the hiring manager will ask one and then ask you the other).

The old “I have such a great attention to detail it drives my friends/spouse crazy,” in which you try to couch a strength (attention to detail) into a weakness (it’s so great, it’s crazy-making), is too old hat and the hiring manager will be on to your mealy-mouthed answer.

Instead, in the case of a weakness, be honest and discuss something you are working to improve and then give specific examples of how you’re doing so: “I have a tendency to speak to quickly when I’m nervous and that doesn’t help in sales calls. So I’ve joined Toastmasters to improve my speaking skills.”

And if the interviewer asks for your greatest strength? Think of a strength of which you’re proud and how it benefits this particular position: “I’m an excellent listener, which allows me to really dig down and find out what’s really behind a prospect’s objections to a sale. I can then provide him honest and detailed answers that alleviate his concerns, which has helped me close more sales.”

Why should I hire you over someone else?

This is where your deep research into the company’s goals and challenges really pays off. You will answer in a way that shows how a particular skill, experience or educational achievement helps the hiring manager solve his or her problems or reach goals.

For example: “I noticed on a press release on your website that your company just hired a construction firm to add another wing to building so that you can expand your print-on-demand capabilities. I’ve trained people on how to use such printers and I’d look forward to the chance to help train the new workers you’ll need to man them.”

Helpmates can help you find your next full-time position. We work one-on-one with our job candidates, helping prep them for their job interviews with our clients.  Check out our current job opportunities and if you find one or more that interest you, follow the instructions on the job description.

Snooping On Your Competitors: What Are They Paying Their Workers?

As the exceptionally low unemployment rates in Orange and Los Angeles counties show little signs of abating, workers – as we discussed last month – are expecting more pay, especially considering the recent minimum wage increase in Los Angeles County and the coming (January 2019) increase in Orange County.

So what is a proper wage today for your workers? How do you know if your wages are competitive? What wage point do you need to offer to be considered an employer who pays more than average?

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For example, we did a bit of digging recently and found that pay rates for positions we typically fill for our clients (customer service representatives, forklift operators and administrative assistants, to name just three) are – surprisingly, considering the cost of living in the region – not necessarily above the national average.

Take CSRs and administrative assistants.  According to Indeed.com, a CSR in Brea is paid about 16 percent more than the national average for CSR pay, while the pay rate for an administrative assistant in Brea meets the national average, while Anaheim employers pay admins 11 percent more than the national average.

How to Find What Your Competitors Are Paying

There are many quick ways to determine what your competitors are paying their employees:

  • You can simply call and ask! (People truly are less secretive than we may think they are.) Make sure when you ask that you ask for rates that you specify position level (entry-level, mid-level, years of experience etc.) to get a more accurate idea of pay rates.
  • Check online job boards, look at your competitors’ open positions and take some notes.
  • Check with local trade organizations, local/regional SHRM chapters, chambers of commerce, even temporary agencies. (We can give you ranges but not actual numbers and we won’t tell you what we bill your competitors.)
  • Ask job candidates. They just might be happy to tell you what they’re being paid.
  • Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Compensation Survey (OCS). It has occupation pay rate information for different geographical areas across the country. Here’s the one for Los Angeles-Long Beach (numbers are for May 2017, the latest available) and here’s Orange County’s (also from May 2017).
  • Explore Indeed.com’s Salary Comparison tool.

Caveat: Your Competitors May Not Be Who You Think They Are

You might think that once you find what your local competitors are paying, you’re good! But remember: Southern Californians have no problem driving 90 minutes or more for work. (We’ve already noticed that some Helpmates’ workers who live in Orange County already are happy to drive to LA County for work…and its higher minimum wage. They barely blink an eye.)  So comparing competitors physically near you might not be the ones to research so much as competitors to which your workers move when they want more money or better benefits.

Helpmates has been providing Southern California’s top employers with terrific workers for more than 40 years. We know pay rates! If you’d like to learn more about what competitive pay rates are in your area, contact the branch office nearest you. We’d be happy to help you ascertain what you should pay in order to attract top talent.

Striking a Friendly Balance at Work

Work is a great place to make good friends. In fact, having at least one good friend at work is pretty much required in order for us to enjoy our jobs. Friends also make us more productive. What’s more, having a good work friend also may be critical to succeeding in our careers.

Garden Grove recruiters

But it can be tricky, this whole “friends at work” thing: be too social and you risk earning a reputation of being a party animal. You want instead to be seen as professional and hard working.

Yet you risk taking that professionalism too far: you could be seen as a cold fish and unapproachable.

Take a look below for how to make good friends at work while keeping your reputation for professionalism intact.

  • Choose your friends wisely.

This goes without saying, but this can be tricky to do. For example, let’s say you’re the new gal and one of your new colleagues immediately asks you to lunch. You say yes and then at lunch he regales you with all the gossip and fills you in on all the drama. Or he whines and complains about your boss.

That could be a warning sign that this person is all about drama, gossip and not taking responsibility. Our advice? Be friendly, but be careful: you may want to keep your distance because while we bring our personalities and personal lives to work, work is for work not for drama, gossip and whining.

  • Be careful what you say about others.

If you gossip about others, sooner or later you will be known as someone who gossips. If you whine, you’ll be “the whiner.” If you talk too much about how a girlfriend wronged you, you’ll eventually be known as a drama king or queen.

  • If you go out with friends after work, you’re still “at work.”

What we mean is that you shouldn’t try go completely loose. What you do and say “with the gang” very well could get back to your supervisor. Relax and be friendly, but if people start to complain, whine, moan and gossip, pull back. You don’t have to leave, just don’t participate.

In a nutshell: be friendly and approachable. Ask colleagues to have lunch together or take a break. Ask questions (personal but not intrusive). Answer questions truthfully but remember: be careful what you say to others until you know for certain they’re trustworthy.

Reading the above it appears as if we believe you should make “friends” at work who aren’t really friends. After all, we’re advocating keeping your personal conversations close to the chest and not overtly personal, yet the only way to become real friends with others is by being vulnerable and open.

But if you do find one or two people with whom you just “click” and feel they are trustworthy (they don’t gossip, whine, complain and create drama), you can test the waters and open up more to them. See if they reciprocate and, if you tell them something personal, watch to see how they handle it. If they prove themselves to you, these are the colleagues who can become good friends. Close friends. Friends outside of work. Lifetime friends.

Ready to make some new friends in a new job? Contact Helpmates. We have many temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire job and career opportunities waiting for reliable and talented people just like you. Check out our current openings and, if one or more look interesting, contact us.

Are Apprenticeships the Answer to Ill-Prepared Workers?

Thousands of young (and older) Southern Californians will be heading to public and private colleges and universities soon (some have already started!) and the question here is: how well do these institutions of higher learning prepare their graduates for real life jobs?

Most college students say “We’re ready!” Employers? They’re saying: “No you aren’t!”

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The Association of American Colleges and Universities ran a survey in 2015, finding that 70 percent of college students thought they had the “critical thinking skills needed to succeed in the workplace.” But only about one-third of employers believed new grads were ready for the real world.

A solution? Apprenticeships!

Have you ever offered apprenticeships at your company? Have you ever participated in one as an apprentice?

Most Americans (62 percent) believe that apprenticeships make people “more employable than going to college,” according to a recent American Staffing Association poll.

What’s more, the survey found that 87 percent of adults surveyed thought that “it’s smart” to consider both college and apprenticeships.

Speaking of apprenticeships: California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency in May announced that there are almost 82,000 active apprenticeships in the state. This is up from 53,000 in 2015 (the goal is 100,00o in 2020).

The agency reports that the Golden State has the “nation’s largest and fastest-growing apprenticeship system.”

The state’s program wants to grow apprentice opportunities in transportation/logistics, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and IT.

Has your company hired graduates or students in these apprentice programs? If so, what’s your firm’s experience been with these workers?

We make sure here at Helpmates that our temporary associates are ready to – as the saying goes – “hit the ground running” as soon as they arrive at your worksite. Our temporary associates participate in our Quality Control process to ensure they have the skills you need. What’s more, if our associate doesn’t meet your standards, you don’t pay.

Contact us to learn more about our Employee Quality Assurance Program.

How Often Do Your Team Members See You? Seriously: How Often?

Everyone it seems – and this really isn’t much of an exaggeration, is it? – is on their phones all. The. Time. Or texting. Or creating/responding to email. And as a result, you may have noticed that we don’t talk to each other much anymore. Face-to-face. Eye-to-eye.

And this is a problem (especially for millennials and members of Generation Z) because a lot is lost when we hide from each other: not only can misunderstandings rise, but a true human connection is lost.

This hiding behind technology can hurt the manager/subordinate relationship, of course, but it’s not just tech that can wreak havoc: too many managers and leaders spend too much time in their offices and behind their desks. Or taking meetings. Or creating reports.

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They are otherwise engaged and AWAY from the very people who need to see them the most: the people who report to them.

Instead, realize that talking to your team members face-to-face, engaging with them every day (even in meetings) is by far the best type of leadership possible.

Here’s why. Take a look below.

  • Being present shows you care.

Have you ever been out with a friend who has his phone out all the time and constantly looks at it. How does that make you feel? Not too important, right? But what if your friend keeps the phone in a pocket? What if he glances at it only if it rings/gets a text and then doesn’t answer the text/phone? Doesn’t that make you feel as if you’re your friend’s main focus? Don’t you then feel seen? Connected – truly connected – with your friend? Don’t you feel that you matter?

The same goes for how often you talk to your subordinates, especially when you do so one-on-one: you’re in effect telling the people you manage that they matter to you.

  • As you talk, listen.

As in really listen. Head out to the floor or cube farm and ask questions about how projects are going, but don’t settle for just “things are fine.” Keep asking. Is the person happy with progress? Is there anything she could use? Does he have any ideas to help the project move more quickly?

Ask about families. Any fun trips planned? How did his daughter’s graduation go? She found work and moved out already? How’s the empty nest going?

One-on-one conversations, whether about work or non-work should be a top priority: these chats can truly help you and your team member feel more connected on a human level.

  • In meetings, make sure everyone can speak.

Many managers don’t lead meetings so much as command them. Instead, genuinely ask for input, especially when asking for solutions to problems. (Announce it a policy that every idea is welcomed and no guffawing or other derisive reaction will be allowed.)

Ask your subordinates for input as a matter of course. After all, they are the ones doing the bulk of the work on whatever projects/programs/goals your department has and they know more than you about how things are progressing.

In addition, don’t be afraid to delegate work. Doing so shows your trust in your team and it also provides individuals the chance to grow and learn.

  • Provide this same consideration to your temporary workforce as you do your regular employees.

Treating your temporary staff as much as possible like your regular staff can go a long way to ensuring they enjoy working with you, work diligently for you and provide all the value they can.

So go ahead: talk to them. Ask them for their insights because being “new blood” may help them to see things in a differently than folks who have worked with you for a while can.

And when you need contractors/temporary workers at your company, work with Helpmates to find them for you. Contact the branch office nearest you to learn more.

Dealing with “The Gap”

While most of us will work until about our mid-60s, not all of us will work all the time until then: most of us probably will have a gap in our work history either due to illness (ours or a family member’s), raising children, being laid off/quitting outright, or even taking a sabbatical.

Known as “The Gap,” this “hole” in your work history often isn’t looked at kindly by employers. And you can’t just cross your fingers and toes and hope a hiring manager won’t notice it. Instead, you absolutely must have a good reason for it and, most importantly, be able to explain it in a professional manner. Even better: if you can couch the gap in way that is beneficial to an employer, all the better.

jobs in Long Beach

Here’s how to deal with “The Gap.”

  • Above all, tell the truth.

You may think saying you decided to take time away from working so that you could take care of your ill mother (which really is what you ended up doing) is far better than saying you were laid off, but it’s not: a hiring manager can simply contact your last employer to verify dates and it’s easy for her to find you were part of a reduction-in-force or even were fired.

Instead, tell the truth; you were laid off (and then decided to help your sick mother). Or you were fired for cause (and make sure you own up to your mistake). You took time off to raise children. You were ill. You decided to take a year off to travel the world. (Lucky duck!)

  • Talk about the skills you learned while gone/how you kept your skills up.

Many employers are nervous about work history gaps because they think you’ve gone stale or that you’re not up on the “latest and greatest.” So aim while you are not working to take a class or two (online works), work as a freelancer or take on some part-time work or temporary assignments and make sure your skills are current.

  • Explanations for different scenarios.

If you were fired, talk about your responsibility in your firing (it’s never all the unreasonable boss’s fault: we all have some culpability when fired). Reiterate how you’re a changed person and actually better for the lessons learned.

If you took that year-long trip around the world, discuss how it helped you be more compassionate to people different from you, you learned a new language, you started a part-time business online, etc. In other words, show how your travels provided you with new insights, lessons learned and even skills.

  • Repeating because it’s important: keep your skills up-to-date.

We understand how difficult this could be if your time away from work is because you or a family member is ill. But if you’re staying home to raise children for a few years, if you take some time off to try something new and/or travel, keeping those skills/knowledge base up to snuff shouldn’t be that difficult: classes abound online and off and temporary staffing services such as Helpmates can help you find part-time/temporary work while allowing you to keep your skills sharp (and even learn new ones).

Take a look at our current temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire opportunities and follow instructions on the job listing if one or more appeal to you.

Pay Rates in Southern California

As it becomes harder and harder to find top talent in Southern California, especially for our clients’ temporary workforce needs, we’ve done a little digging regarding what great workers expect in Orange and Los Angeles counties regarding pay rates.

SoCal pay rates

Below are some pay rates for positions we typically fill (from Indeed.com):

  • CSR, Anaheim: $13.82 (14 percent higher than national average)
  • CSR, Aliso Viejo: $14.12 (16 percent higher)
  • CSR, Brea: $14.11 (16 percent higher)
  • CSR, Los Angeles (13.88 (14 percent higher)
  • Forklift Operator, Anaheim: $13.52 (7 percent higher)
  • Forklift Operator, Buena Park: $13.15 (meets national average)
  • Forklift Operator, Commerce: $12.62 (meets national average)
  • Forklift Operator, Los Angeles: $13.26 (meets national average
  • Administrative Assistant, Anaheim, $16.05 (11 percent higher)
  • Administrative Assistant, Aliso Viejo, $17.97 (24 percent higher)
  • Administrative Assistant, Brea: $14.97 (meets national average)
  • Administrative Assistant, Los Angeles: $16.44 (13 percent higher)

Meanwhile, down in San Diego, people in these positions are receiving:

  • CSR: $14.05 (16 percent higher)
  • Forklift Operator: $13.86 (10 percent higher)
  • Administrative Assistant: $16.11 (11 percent above average)

All meet – even exceed – national averages. Which is proper considering that the cost of living in Orange County has an index of 187 (according to Sperling’s Best Places), with 100 considered to be the U.S. average). What’s more, Orange County’s housing index is a whopping 356. Los Angeles County’s overall cost of living index is 156 with its housing index at 283), still far above the average.

If you run or manage a business in Southern California, what are you noticing about how much the better employees in different job sectors are expecting in regards to pay? What’s the minimum they will accept?

If you’d like some help in deciding what the best pay rates will be for your temporary or regular workforce, contact us here at Helpmates. Our expertise (not-so-humble-brag) in the Southern California market is extraordinary and we’ll be happy to help you set rates that will help attract the best workers possible.

The Rise in the Minimum Wage and Your Temporary Workforce

The minimum wage rose to $13.50/hour in Los Angeles in July and will rise to $12/hour in Orange County in January. Couple this with the fact that it’s a hot candidates’ market today with unemployment in Los Angeles at 4.1 percent (in May) and in Orange County at an incredible 2.6 percent (also in May), and the best temporary workers have their pick among assignments.

So if you’re not paying even more than the new minimum wage going forward, you more than likely will find that your staffing partner won’t be able to fill your order because it won’t be able to find quality candidates at that rate.

Top Talent Wants More Than Minimum Wage

The fact that better talent wants more than the new minimum is understandable: not only should better employees be paid more, they often are. And they expect it.

What’s more, if you want a temporary person to stay with you for the duration of his/her assignment (or even work with you on a temp-to-hire assignment), you should pay top talent more in order to keep them working for you: underpaid workers may decide to look for better-paying work. Irvine staffing agency

Investing in top temporary talent by paying a few dollars more is still less than paying for wasted training, productivity and overtime when the best workers leave assignments for better pay.

The average tenure of a temporary employee industry wide is 10.7 weeks (in 2017), but Helpmates’ temporary associates stay with us an average of 17.1 weeks, 60 percent longer!

Billing Rates Need to Rise with the New Minimum Wage

In addition, chances are you might be asking your staffing firm to keep its billing rates low. At first blush, this makes sense from your standpoint: after all, the temporary workers aren’t your employees but the staffing firm’s and one of the reasons a company works with a staffing agency company is to  keep its staffing/workforce costs low.

But your staffing partner’s costs have just increased because the staffing firm has a ton of expenditures that need covering with the money it receives after it subtracts the rate it pays its employee (your temporary worker) and your billable rate:

  • Worker’s compensation
  • Payroll taxes
  • Benefits (to both internal and temporary employees)
  • Recruiting costs
  • Office lease and overhead costs
  • And so on.

Here’s a little-known fact: while you may pay a billable rate of $22.50/hour to your staffing firm and the agency pays its employee $15/hour, you may think that that 50 percent markup is considerable. But don’t forget all the costs the staffing firm needs to cover (as listed above). The reality? A staffing firm’s actual profits “are pennies on the dollar, low single digits.”

Sounds like we’re whining doesn’t it? Yet, just like our clients, staffing companies are in business to make a profit. If we continue to charge you the same but pay our employees more, our already-slim profit margin decreases even more.

Bottom line: the higher minimum wage requirements in Los Angeles and (in January) Orange County will affect the quality of the temporary workers your staffing partner is able to attract and place. You should expect your partner’s billable rate to increase and support its doing so.

In fact, Orange County employers may want to consider raising their own “minimum wage” now because Orange County residents can “cross borders” to work in Los Angeles County cities with the higher minimum – and they probably will.

If you’d like to partner with Certified Staffing Professional experts who have the tools to customize a temporary staffing program that will deliverable favorable results in this challenging market, or if you just want to better understand compensation and billing rates, contact us here at Helpmates: we’ll be happy to chat with you.

Helpmates Staffing Services Named as Best Place to Work by Orange County Business Journal

Helpmates Staffing has been named one of Orange County’s Best Places to Work 2018 by the Orange County Business Journal.

Run by the Business Journal as well as the Best Companies Group, an independent research firm located in Pennsylvania, the annual Best Places to Work survey and awards program identifies, recognizes and honors the best employers in Orange County.

To participate in the program, employers must:

best Orange County employers

  • Have at least 15 permanent employees working in Orange County;
  • Have a facility in the county;
  • Be a not-for-profit or for-profit business or government entity; and
  • Must have been in business for at least one year.

“This is our second time on the Best Places to Work list and it’s truly because of our great employees,” said Rosalie Villa, Helpmates’ chief revenue officer. “They truly embrace Helpmates’ values: our culture of teamwork and camaraderie, as well as our focus on service to both our candidates and clients.

“This award really speaks to the quality of our leadership and how their accessibility, transparency and commitment to Helpmates’ team members has made our staffing service known throughout the Southern California region as the staffing firm to work for among the area’s staffing professionals.”

Companies participating in the survey went through a two-part process:

  • The first part evaluated each employer’s workplace policies, practices and demographics. This part was worth about one-quarter of the total evaluation.
  • The second part consisted of an employee survey that measured employee experience. This part was worth three-fourths of the total evaluation.

The Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process as well as analyzed the data and used its expertise in determining the final rankings.

The Orange County Business Journal published the Best Places to Work special report in its July 23 issue.

If you’d like more information about how Helpmates can help you find work with some of the region’s top employers or help you find some of the top workers in the region, contact the Helpmates office nearest you.

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