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Do Your Underperformers Hide in the Shadow of a Lawsuit?


HR LawsuitIt is a simple fact of the modern business world that a lot of managers – mid-level and higher – do not fire obviously underperforming employees for fear of the legal ramifications that may ensue. Bluntly speaking, if you don't, you as a manager are simply not doing your job. In fact, you should realize that you are jeopardizing your own career by allowing this situation to occur in the first place. Here are a few things that you should know to avoid this untenable position:

Employees are “Rules” Lawyers – While most employees don't actually understand the intricacies of the labor laws that regulate their employment, they are readily able to  recognize inconsistencies in a manager's behavior towards his subordinates. For this reason, you and your managers must treat every HR situation – good or bad – in the same manner. While you do not have to be unsympathetic or unemotional while discipling or terminating an employee, it is essential that you always portray an objective stane. In addition, ensure that you have a third party – preferably management – witness any disciplinary event.

Documenting HR Policy is King – When it comes to validating a company's actions, the demonstration of a clear and well-communicated policy is as good as gold in a court. It cannot be stated enough, your organization must, must, must have an  established – and written! – policy for handling any human resource issue. Without this documentation, a judge or arbitrator will typically rule against the company as they should have “known better.” In addition, this documentation about HR policy should be provided to every employee on “day one” and a signed acknowledgment obtained.

It is Essential to Always Document Performance – While most managers roll their eyes when it comes to completing detailed performance appraisals, it is an essential function of their role. Companies are simply too legally exposed if this process is ignored or given short shrift – especially when it comes to the underperformers. The use of an HRIS system, that notifies managers in advance, generates the appropriate forms at the right time, and monitors compliance is an excellent way to manage this process and ensure that it gets done in a timely manner.

Be Ready for the Inevitable – If, as a long-standing manager or company owner, you think that you will never be the subject of an HR lawsuit, you are sadly mistaken. In point of fact, even if you work for a large corporation, the litigant's immediate supervisor – as well as any small company's owner – is almost always named as a defendant. While it is not the end of the world, you should resign yourself to the fact that you will defend at least one HR lawsuit in your life. Having an attorney on retainer who is already familiar with your procedures and documentation can save a lot of time, aggravation, and especially, money.

A Final Thought – Another way to handle the entire human capital issue in your company is to outsource the entire process to a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). These experts are experienced with all facets of human capital administration and the most competent for keeping up with the rapidly changing HR landscape. In addition, they relieve a company's management from the day-to-day administration of HR and allow them to concentrate on running their core business.

To compare PEO companies in your area that specialize in your industry try our free PEO Matching Tool.


Making a Strong Business Case for Hiring a PEO


Business PlanToday’s economy has created an intensely competitive business environment in which hiring and retaining the right employees can make all the difference between success and failure in your business. As the economy continues to gain traction, businesses must meet the demands of evolving technology, talent acquisition, and effective management in order to remain competitive. In such an environment, many smaller businesses may experience difficulties in managing an effective growth strategy while also conducting the day-to-day administrative tasks that keep the business running.

PEOs offer an effective solution to the problem of time and resource management, while also offering an array of benefits to keep businesses operating efficiently. If you are still unsure about whether a PEO can help your company, the following considerations can help you build a strong business case for taking that step.

What Can a PEO Do For You?

Many small businesses don’t have the resources to compete with their larger competitors. A PEO can help level the playing field in terms of benefits and services, enabling you to invest your time and expertise in business growth.

  • Recruiting and Retention—Compensation and benefits play a huge role in a candidate’s decision to work for your company. Excellent benefits can also keep your best employees working for you when they receive other job offers. Many small businesses can’t offer a benefits plan and retirement package that is capable of competing with those of larger companies. A PEO, however, can offer a broader range of benefits at a lower cost than you could offer on your own, giving potential and current employees the financial incentive they need to stick with your company.
  • Cost Benefit—Because PEOs take advantage of the economy of scale in order to provide the best rates for their clients, they can significantly reduce administrative costs per employee. That translates into cost reductions for clients, who benefit both from improved service offerings and lower costs.
  • Services Benefit—PEOs handle time-consuming and technical tasks that pull your attention away from the growth of your business. In addition to payroll and tax administration, a PEO can offer services such as compliance assistance, online job training, and employee performance reviews. They also provide a layer of legal protection in the event of a workers’ comp claim or compliance question.
  • Technology Benefit—Many small businesses struggle to maintain the level of technological sophistication needed to make payroll and other HR functions run efficiently. A PEO makes it possible for small business to take advantage of advanced software applications that they might not otherwise be able to afford. With updated technology, companies can remove much of the friction and frustration associated with managing routine tasks online.

How a PEO Can Facilitate the Growth of Your Business

While the nuts and bolts of business as described above can benefit greatly from the services of a PEO, the most important benefit may be the freedom afforded to business owners when they choose to outsource administrative HR functions. In order to remain competitive, small businesses must focus significant time and energy on developing an effective growth strategy—but how can you do that when your time gets eaten up with payroll, taxes, and compliance issues?

With a PEO handling those functions, business owners can invest their time and energy into growing the business. In fact, according to the PEO Employment Index as reported by the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, businesses that utilized the services of a PEO experienced consistently higher rates of growth than similar-sized businesses that did not.

Whether you have a small, local business with one location or an expanding business seeking to add additional locations in multiple states, a PEO can give you the support you need to take the next step. Finding the right PEO is a smart choice that will give your business an advantage over your competitors while also enabling you to invest the energy needed to meet your business goals.

Opportunities and Challenges Created by Technology and Social Media in the Workplace


social mediaLast June, at the SHRM2014 conference, I had the pleasure of attending a very enlightening seminar given by Alice Kilborn, JD, on how social media effects an organization and how managers and owners should handle this relatively new business phenomenon. Here are just a few of the key takeaways:

Get Comfortable with the Limitless Workplace
Don't get me wrong. The seminar was not a lecture on the basics of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and the rest but rather a wake-up call to start paying attention to these platforms and the way that everyone's – and I mean everyone's – employees are visiting and using them. Still, the idea that the workplace was theoretically limitless was a bit of a shock and, in the end, I realized that I and my team would have to deal with this reality in an efficient and ongoing manner. One last caveat – I may not have transcribed Ms. Kilborn's points in the exact same order that she did but I do believe that I understood the gist of most of her arguments.

It's a New Tool that must be embraced
Not to overwhelm you with too many numbers but Ms. Kilborn pointed out that in 2013 over 70% of online users over the age of 18 followed Facebook. While it was easily the most popular of the social media sites - the others that I mentioned above were all around 20% - even those numbers were quite impressive and the data indicates that the numbers will only get bigger. The point being that the prudent, 21st century HCM manager must recognize the opportunity and the dangers inherent in social media sites.

Your Company's Online Persona is Defined There – Whether you are Ready or Not
Ms. Kilborn made a very compelling point that the face of your company to the GenXers and the Millennials is now your online social media persona, no matter how much your company has invested in developing a separate personality offline. You just can't argue, or compete, with these numbers. Facebook has over 1.3 billion users worldwide while Twitter and LinkedIn log in with over a quarter of a billion users each. There is simply no disputing the fact that most of your applicants are viewing and investigating your company before they decide to sign on.

Lawyers are Paying Attention Too
It may seem a simple vanity to many people that everything they say and do online will be memorialized in some way or another. To the legal community, this fact represents an amazing opportunity as they can cull and edit everything that your company has said and done online to represent you in the worst possible light. In short, you must assume that every communication on your social media site is common knowledge because that is how the courts treat it. For this single reason, nothing should be posted without due consideration by senior management and the legal department.

A Final Thought
As you can see, there are several important reasons to engage with social media from your company's HCM point of view, however continuous monitoring is necessary to protect the company from any legal ramifications. It is no stretch to say that I did not touch on every matter in the session but I hope that I covered the bulk of the presenter's points. For more information, please visit the SHRM site or see our library of employment articles on

The Employee vs. Contractor Dilemma – Can You Afford to Be Wrong?


employee vs contractorWhile it may seem that converting traditional, full-time employees into contractors is an easy and cost-effective way to avoid the new costs of the PPACA, recent court decisions have made the decision very difficult indeed. In addition, there are some significant differences between an employee and an independent contractor that have tremendous ramifications on the employee-employer relationship.

With these facts in mind, here are some items that the small and mid-sized business owner should consider before retaining any “independent contractors.”

The Legal Lay of the Land

There is no doubt that “contract” employees cost a business less in the short term as they do not consume any benefits and also are less paperwork intensive. Still, large corporations such as Microsoft and CVS/Caremark have learned to their chagrin that they cannot just declare an employee as a “contract” employee.

Instead, the courts have ruled, in several disparate cases, that an employee that looks and acts like a full-time one must be treated as such, regardless of the designation by the company. Failure to act appropriately in these cases can result in severe tax penalties and also leave the company open to lawsuits from the affected employees.

The Internal Revenue Service has some strict guidelines as to what constitutes a contract employee. These guidelines are essentially absolute and can even transcend an agreement between the employer and the employee. In short, be sure that you are treating a contract employee in a manner consistent with the IRS rules.

Contractor Definition

The general rule of thumb as stated by the IRS is that, “an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.” In other words, the contractor must be able to control their own hours, schedule and process. If not, they are not considered a contractor no matter how they are compensated.

Limited Control

Concomitant with the IRS definition, an independent contractor does not serve at the pleasure of their client once a contract is signed. Instead, the business client cedes control of the project and must usually wait for designated milestones or total completion before providing additional input. In simpler terms, an independent contractor is paid to complete a task and not to simply report to work.

Competition Generation

In trying to complete a project in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible, a business owner may reveal pricing, products and procedures that will give the independent contractor an advantage if they choose to compete with your company in the future. Non-compete clauses are far more enforceable against traditional, full-time employees than independent contractors.

Tax Issues

As mentioned above, misclassification of employees – even if done in good faith – by an employer may subject them to costly penalties from the IRS. In addition to paying the full amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes due, the IRS may also require you to pay the employees federal income tax withholding while still crediting the employee with the payment.

Employee Legal Issues

Insurance companies have never been accused of being generous and most of your policies will not cover independent contractors in any way, shape or form. Contractors hurt on the job will instead sue you for their damages. In addition, misclassified workers may sue you for lost benefits and OT not to mention any class action lawsuits if your firm has deep enough pockets.

The PEO Solution

Understanding the subtleties of an independent contractor relationship and the differences between them and other employees is a complicated task even when the legal landscape is not changing on a regular basis. Instead of dedicating in-house resources to the problem, many small and medium sized companies have chosen to use a Professional Employer Organization.

PEOs are experts at dealing with independent contractors and can guide you in avoiding many of the problems detailed above. The simple truth is that a PEO can save you money by streamlining your HR, avoiding issues with the IRS and lawyers and allow you to concentrate on building your business.

4 Critical Reasons to Consider Outsourced Human Resources


outsource HRHuman resources tasks like payroll, benefits administration, tax filing, and legal compliance can eat up huge chunks of time. As your business grows, the time needed to fulfill these responsibilities grows as well. At a time when creative strategy development is critical to the success of the company, HR responsibilities crowd it out. Outsourced HR offers a strategic solution to this universal problem, putting the oversight of business growth back at the top of your list.

Benefits of Outsourced Human Resources

By entrusting your HR operations to a competent PEO, your company benefits in several specific ways:

  1. Time Savings—Outsourced human resources provides relief for time-strapped business owners by removing the minutiae of payroll, taxes, and other HR responsibilities from your to-do list. Outsourcing these tasks frees your calendar for other pressing business matters.
  2. Cost savings—A PEO can negotiate better rates on workers’ compensation, reduce the cost of maintaining an HR department, and evaluate insurance claims for validity. By working more efficiently, a PEO can save you big bucks on most of your HR responsibilities while also eliminating costly mistakes that occur when employers become stretched too thin.
  3. Reduced Legal Liabilities—Employment regulations, labor laws, and other legal questions can create problems when businesses fail to remain up-to-date on the current requirements. Because these laws are subject to frequent changes, it’s easy to miss a compliancy issue that you could be held legally responsible for. One of the responsibilities of the PEO is to remain current on the laws that affect business operation and to make sure your company complies with each regulation. Outsourced HR can significantly reduce your risk of facing a lawsuit.
  4. Greater Efficiency—No one likes to spend time filling out tax forms, filing claims, and running background checks on potential employees. A PEO will handle these tasks for you, increase accuracy, and provide the benefit of the latest technology available to keep your business competitive.

Considering Your Options

A PEO offers full-service human resources solutions. This option will handle everything from payroll to taxes to unemployment claims. Not everyone wants to outsource the entire HR department, however. If you’re looking to retain some control but need help with daily administrative responsibilities, an administrative only services (ASO) package may be the right choice for your company. With this option, you can choose which services are right for your business while remaining the employer of record.

Outsourced human resources appeals to many companies who have found that maintaining an HR department in-house is too big a drain on time and resources. According to The Society for Human Resource Management, the trend toward outsourcing HR responsibilities is growing rapidly. The top three reasons business made the choice were to save money, focus on strategy, and improve compliance. Outsourced services most commonly include 401(k) administration, employee counseling, retirement planning, pension administration, temporary staffing, and background checks. Your PEO will handle all these tasks and more, lifting the burden of taxes, payroll, and administrative duties off your shoulders so you can turn your energies to the success of your business.


6 Do’s and 6 Don’ts Following Your Job Interview


HiringJob search etiquette has some simple rules. Should you send a thank you note or an email? Should you make a follow-up call? When do you look enthusiastic versus aggressive? You really need to assess the situation while you are interviewing.

Some Do’s:

1. If you have been invited for an interview, it indicates that the employer has found something of interest in your resume and/or application. There must be some match for the employer’s needs that must be confirmed in person. So, at your first opportunity, ask the interviewer what skill, ability, or experience caught their attention. Accept the response and shift your responses to other questions to the target they have already labeled.

2. Assess the size of the process. Are there many people in the waiting room? How busy is the office? The largest employers delegate first phase interviews to a section of the Human Resources Department. Companies working with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) often leave all the interviewing to them. The busiest environments can often ignore follow-up thank-yous.

3. Secure the information you need. At the end of the interview, remain seated until you ask for the business card of the interviewer. While you hold the business card, ask out right, “Can you explain what will happen now?” The interviewer is likely to be non-committal, but you can press by asserting, “Thank you for your time. May I follow-up with a call in (X number of days)?” This places you in more control than not.

4. Regardless of the employer’s size, send a brief formal email late in that same day. Address it to the interviewer’s email address, and place “Job Interview Follow-up” in the subject line. Thank the interviewer for the invitation and for his/her courtesy. Close by reminding the interviewer where you matched their advertised needs.

5. Mail a formal note the next day. Put it on professional stationery, not personal notepaper. Again, briefly express your thanks for the opportunity and their hospitality. But, remind the interviewer of that question you asked about the skills, abilities, and experiences that interested them. Reiterate your case for making that match.

6. Phone the interviewer no sooner or later than the wait time the employer suggested when you asked what the process would be. Simply ask if the employer has made a decision yet. If they have decided against your employment, thank them politely and move on. If the process is still under way, ask when it would make sense to call again.

Some Don’ts:

At this time, that is enough. Anything more seems aggressive overkill in a busy office.

  1. Do not call and press the interviewer’s staff or receptionist.
  2. Do not send gifts or flowers that impose an ethical problem on the HR function.
  3. Do not revisit the office unless invited because it will appear threatening.
  4. Do not phone other members of the hiring team. If others have interviewed you, you might send an email thanks, but the decision will lie with the Human Resources Department.
  5. Do not press a friend or relative who works for the same company.
  6. Do not close any doors or burn any bridges.

It really helps if you assess the employer’s process ahead of time.

  • Many employers now rely on or outsource phone interviews to qualify applicants before arranging for an in office interview.
  • Employers of all sizes support team interviews where the hiring authority may not be clear.
  • An increasing number of employers delegate their administrative process to their HRIS software, so keep in mind that all correspondence will be archived.
  • The employers who use PEOs will delegate the hiring process to the PEO, so follow-ups within the company do not carry much weight.

There is rarely an excuse for employers’ failure to notify applicants of the interview’s outcome. There is no reason not to phrase a brief email or even a pre-printed postcard to let candidates know where they stand. Nevertheless, employers have never done well at this display of good manners. Still, applicants are smart to follow up their interview - without going too far. Once you have politely closed the loop, move on.

Is HR Management even a thing anymore?


HR conceptSMB Human Resources Management – Adding Business Value

Does Human Resources Management mean a thing anymore? – or maybe it never did. For very small businesses, HR management principals, educators, and professional membership associations have stakes in continuing the belief that they are needed in organizations of every size. Some would re-title Human Resources Management functions and genuinely believe it has something to contribute of value. As HR Consultant Bernard Marr writes, “HR departments often portray themselves as a valued business partner for management and staff alike.”  Is this fiction or fact?  We say it’s a little of both.

No Value: SMB HR Management and Administrivia
For Small Business, Human Resources management is a payroll and benefits issue and many times not much more than that. Eventually, a business gets big enough to worry about compliance issues, and the management team and office manager attempt to corral the issues that result one by one.   

As a result, the reality of SMB Human Resources Management is many times reactive rather than being a creative and proactive approach to your human capital resources. Its tangible value in that case is in defensive response to negative stimuli. It does not manage people, product, or productivity and often the personnel in Human Resources, with all due respect, perform administrative, bureaucratic, and paralegal tasks. None of these tasks adds or creates value.

Adding Value: Outsourcing the HR Function
One way to add value is to simply outsource the HR administration. A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) will allow the SMB to outsource all administrative, bureaucratic, compensatory, and compliance duties. Those functions will run smoothly, efficiently, and accountably, while the business of business can be run without the ‘pull’ from HR administrative tasks.  According to Mindy Flanigan at Infiniti HR, “the PEO you are working with has a dedicated HR specialist or an HR service team member to explain in as much detail as you need, how the platform will support your business’s human resource management needs.” The PEO can also recruit, track, assess, and follow talent management with less bias and more respect for corporate operations and finance silos.

This shift of traditional in-house functions allows for the business to focus on its core competency.

Adding Value: Using HR Information: Big Data
A Staff Analytics function applies metrics to talent management. The analytics can develop profiles of performing employees, good recruits, and potential stars. It can identify talent gaps, compensation conflicts, and future needs. It would be singularly responsible for placing and developing talent where and when the business needed it. To do its job efficiently, the function should not only report to HR, but also to the shared interests of Operations and Finance. In small business, your outsourced HR service provider could help identify those key metrics and measurements which you could not get from an in-house HR team with limited resources.  

Conclusion: Think Big, Outsource Now
People are assets and value resources to the SMB, so there is a role in making sure they are happy in their work to the extent that it engages and satisfies their personal, family, and social needs. Diversity, sustainability, training, risk management, and Big Data – these are all things better handled by experienced experts with their own clearly defined roles. This frees up your management team, and quite possibly your one and only HR person to be strategic in determining those additional HR needs. This is where we fully endorse the professional employer management organization.  

Human Resources management is meant to eliminate the administrative chaos, and the sooner you outsource your employment, the better you are in handing the strategic human capital challenges.

The Hidden Costs of Poor Customer Service in the HCM World


human capital managementThere is a great debate in retail circles that the cost of great customer service outweighs the cost of doing just a marginal job in terms of gross sales and the bottom line. The retail arguments aside, I can attest that the substandard treatment of your employees by your HCM department will cost you far more in lost productivity and morale than delivering to them the best service around. Notice we did not call it the HR department - because we are talking about much more than that. Here are just a few relevant points:

Wasted Effort and Rework – Ask any location manager how much time and effort goes into resolving even the smallest payroll error. These difficulties are duplicated by your HCM department. It is far more efficient, less time-consuming and far less costly to ensure that your employees are paid accurately and on-time.

More “Touches” Per Employee – The same logic applies across the whole gamut of employee/employer interaction - whether finding new hires, delivering benefits or terminating an employee – less “touches” by the HCM staff means less cost. The only way to accomplish this goal is to deliver the best possible customer service to your employees so that they do not have to make a return trip or phone call.

Reduced Turnover – If finding and keeping the best customers is the mantra of retail, then finding and keeping the best employees should be the one of HCM. Still, many HCM departments do not see it this way. Instead, they look to impose a series of rules and regulations that not only weed out the worst but also drag along a significant number of worthwhile employees. Excellent customer service from HR will encourage the maximum number of employees to stay while eliminating only the very worst.

Your HCM Staff – No one, not even those in the seemingly secure position of dealing with internal issues, wants to fix problems on a daily basis. It is stressful – even abusive at times – and very rarely gets a “thank you” when the problem is fixed. This situation defines the whole “HCM/customer service” issue in a nutshell. HCM must provide flawless service as “fixing” a problem is not really appreciated... and if they cannot provide superlative service for the employees, the company will ultimately lose.

The Outsourced HCM Solution
If HCM is not your forte and you don't want to build the infrastructure necessary to provide superior customer service to your employees, consider the services of an outsourced human resource vendor (HRO or PEO).

HROs are specifically created to be the experts in all administrative and procedural aspects of human capital management. Not only can they ensure that your payroll is done right and on time, they can also administer your benefits as well as handle all your recruiting, hiring and termination activities.

In short, HROs are the answer to any busy executive team that wants to concentrate on the most pressing needs of a business but still understands that his most important asset is his people.

Small Business Recruiting Trends - What's Your Plan?


HR recruiting plansSocial media offer small business owners unprecedented convenience and reach. They find social technologies indispensable for building brand, networking, and marketing. Chasing all these tasks is time-intensive, can be distracting, and sometimes even seems to reduce the convenience. But, if you are not ready to follow developing social recruiting trends, you had better come up with a plan.

Itty-bitty business!

If your small business is a micro-business, say, with fewer than 25 employees, recruiting by social media may be nothing more than using word-of-mouth. This works sometimes, but it is very risky. The idea of trusting a relative for a recommendation of someone who knows someone who is looking for a job – that is just not in your best business interest.

If you run a micro-business, you would do better to trust to your network, like employers who understand your business and your needs. A few well-place phone calls may produce more than prowling social media.

Truly small business!

If you have more than 25 employees but less than 250, you are a genuine small business – as distinct from the theoretical definition put forward by the SBA. Depending on your product or service, your business segment or profession, your business may suffer more seasonal or higher turnover than some other businesses. Your business may have several locations like a chain of beauty salons or it may have mobile sites like a construction company.

Employer recruiting differs from candidate job finding, so try to differentiate them in your head and process. When recruiting, you want to use social media to put your company and needs within convenient sight of those who are looking:

1. Sell your brand: You want potential hires to recognize you and what you do. That takes more than an email or a call.

  • Script and produce a YouTube video presenting people, logo, and business personality. If you are not comfortable with executing a professional grade video, you can present a slide presentation on YouTube and SlideShare.
  • In addition to the Home, About Us, and other tabs on your website, you should have a readily accessible tab for Jobs or Employment.
  • Just as your website needs clear and complete copy under its prominent tabs, your business page for Facebook or like social venues should be consistent with your YouTube and Website visuals, including a tab for Job Opportunities.

2. Exploit your employees: The Aberdeen Group reports that Employee Referral Programs are the highest ranked source of hires with a 3.44 score out of 5. Use your business social media to encourage employees to recruit candidates. Your employees are your best reference to potential candidates.

3. Prioritize your social options: LinkedIn remains the most effective tool.

  • With 92% of employers (of all sizes) using social media to recruit, 93% of them are using LinkedIn. It has a serious about business look and feel about it without the flash and sparkle of Facebook and Twitter.
  • Facebook has potential beyond the mindless chatter that you often find there. You can use it to present a company Facebook page that uses photographs and content to present your story, culture, and job opportunities. In addition, you can encourage users to like and share your presentation.
  • Twitter’s strength lies in its brevity and immediacy. You can start conversational threads about job vacancies and the excitement you see in the opportunities.

Bigger small business!

A business with more than 250 employees is likely to rely on Human Resources to recruit and place. They can pursue the same avenues or explore media tools like The Resumator, LinkedIn Talent Pro, and JobVite. Or, you can consider the cost-effectiveness of the emerging software solutions to leverage your social media connections.

Your take-away

All these options are useful, effective, and increasingly innovative. On the other hand, they are very time intensive, adding to your HR labor burden, and increasing in cost as the venues improve. From the small employer to the larger small business, the smart option is to shift all these problems and solutions through a partnership with a proven Professional Employer Organization (PEO). A quality PEO takes pride in its successful and cost-effective recruitment. Let them worry about how to use and maximize results in social media recruiting.

How Social Media Recruitment Can Strengthen Your Company Brand
What Is Your Most Effective Source of Hire?


Break the Mold in Your Questioning to Find the Best Job Candidates


InterviewingDespite their ever-increasing responsibilities, most successful managers fall into the rut of asking the same interview questions regardless of the candidate's qualifications or of the position being filled. This can be a hazardous undertaking as most reasonably prepared interviewees are well-versed in the standard formulaic questions and have pat answers – good ones at that! – prepared for them.

With those thoughts in mind, here are some questions to help you distinguish the wheat from the chaff when interviewing potential employees. First the usual ones, then the tougher ones:

The Standards with a Twist

There is nothing wrong with these questions but they should be followed up with a second question to see if the candidate can “think on their feet” so to speak.

  • Have you ever taken a risk professionally? What was the outcome?
  • Describe your work as a team leader in a particularly difficult situation. What was your role? Did the deadline and the needs seem to be too arduous?
  • Walk me through your thought process on a complex problem that you once had to solve. A brute force approach is OK.
  • Now, tell me about a creative way that you worked around an issue.
  • Influencing your coworkers and subordinates is incredibly important. Tell me about a time when you had to win someone over to your way of thinking. How did you accomplish this?

Some Tougher but More Enlightening Ones

These questions may seem a little odd at first but they really give the interviewee a chance to be creative and to reveal quite a bit about their personality.

  • There are a lot of super hero movies out today. If you could choose a super power, what would it be and why?
  • If you prefer a more traditional approach, ask them about which historical figure would make the best dinner guest and why?
  • If all your obligations - financial or otherwise – could be met for the next six months, what would you do with your time?
  • Or, if you are less optimistic in your outlook, ask them what they would do if they only had six months left to live.
  • What would you do with a financial windfall of $20 million?

One Final Thought

Obviously, the point of these questions is not really the answer that is given but the aplomb with which it is given and the insights it gives into the interviewee. If you do decide to ask these questions, don't interrupt. Just give the person free rein for two to five minutes. It's amazing what you will learn about them.

For more on hiring the best talent, you may want to read our article, Finding Diamonds in the Rough or download our featured white paper, Hiring the Best.

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