Working from home advice for job seekers and businesses

For job seekers

Is work from home the new normal?

I get a lot of questions these days about work from home (WFH) jobs. I also get a lot of job seekers that are only looking for remote options. Here’s my perspective:

 

Depends on the job.

If you are an office worker, it is more common for your job to be WFH, as opposed to two years ago. There are many jobs that are obviously excluded from WFH options, such as retail, hospitality, and essential roles. What’s less obvious is that lower-level jobs are often still asked to be done on-site. When an entry/junior -level role is WFH, it’s often used as recruitment perk. Temporary roles are often less likely to be WFH as well.

Hybrid roles are more common.

Often job descriptions are binary…is a role remote, yes or no? There is no middle option. Similarly, you can search job sites for only remote roles. More common now is that offices are now shared, fluid spaces and you may be expected to come into work a certain number of days a week. Managers may not have made up their mind about if the role can be WFH or not. Perhaps also a role may start on-site and shift to WFH once you’re a trusted member of the team. In my opinion is worthwhile to get to the interview to politely inquire about WFH options. Don’t screen out opportunities preemptively.

Willingness to work on-site is now a competitive advantage.

There are a lot of job seekers out there seeking only 100% remote roles. Think carefully about whether you really want to say “no” to all on-site opportunities.

For businesses

How can I leverage work from home for my business?

We get a lot of questions these days about work from home (WFH) jobs. We also get a lot of job seekers that are looking only for remote options. In a recent market research, we’ve found Google searches for “remote jobs” to be DOUBLE the searches of simply “jobs.” So what does that mean for you?

 

How common is work from home?

It is more common for office workers and professionals to WFH, as opposed to two years ago. It’s estimated by flexjobs that 41.8% of jobs are remote. There are many roles that are obviously excluded from WFH options, such as retail, hospitality, and essential roles. Also lower-level jobs are often still asked to be done on-site. When an entry/junior -level role is WFH, it’s often used as recruitment perk. Temporary roles are often less likely to be WFH as well.

What about hybrid roles?

Too often job descriptions are binary…is a role remote, yes or no? There is no middle option. Similarly, you can search job sites for only remote roles. More common now is that offices are now shared, fluid spaces and you may be expected to come into work a certain number of days a week. Managers may not have made up their mind about if the role can be WFH or not. Perhaps also a role may start on-site and shift to WFH once the new hire has been trained. Seriously look at your role and how it’s marketed–marking it as strictly “non-remote” may be driving away candidates.

Is it a disability accommodation?

It can be! Here at Peak, we specialize in helping placing professionals with disabilities. We get a lot of questions about accommodations and allowing work from home is one of the easiest and cheapest accommodations your business can make.

The bottom line…

You will attract more candidates if you advertise your roles as remote or hybrid. There is some evidence that some job seekers are even willing to take a pay cut in order to work remotely. Allowing remote work also expands your pool of potential recruits as it expands your geographic recruiting area.

Peak Performers Staffing Featured in local Newsletter

Recognition from Local Newspaper

The Crestview Neighborhood Association recently featured Peak Performers in their monthly newsletter. The text from the article can be found below.

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Media contact: myles@peakperformers.org – (512) 453-8833 X 116

People with Disabilities Face Hiring Challenges

People with disabilities face an unemployment rate that is double that of the national average. In times of high unemployment, they’re often the first to be let go and the last to be re-hired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a quarter of all adults in the US have a disability. These might be observable and obvious–such as paraplegia or blindness–or they might have non-observable disabilities, such as ADHD, PTSD, diabetes, or epilepsy. Additionally, many conditions come as a result of age or injury. It’s likely that many people reading this article have a disability or will acquire one over the years. Helping advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities is paramount for creating a more inclusive society and helps protect all of our jobs.

Disability Impacts Chart from CDC
Disability Impacts All of Us

Local Nonprofit with a Vision: Professional Opportunities for those with Disabilities

Peak Performers, an Austin based nonprofit, was founded in 1994, several years following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At the time, the majority of jobs that were available for people with disabilities were sheltered workshop environments where those individuals would perform light industrial, janitorial, and assembly activities. These workers were often paid sub-minimum wages and might have required regular supervision from a job coach. Peak Performers wanted to offer something different: professional opportunities for skilled people with disabilities. “I was inspired by my foster brother. He was blind but went on to become a very successful accountant,” recalls Charlie Graham, founder and former CEO of Peak Performers. “Being blind did not stop him from becoming a Chief Financial Officer.” “Our vision is two-fold,” adds Bree Sarlati, current CEO. “To change what it means to be a job seeker with a disability, and to challenge the preconceptions that make employers reluctant to hire someone with a disability.”

Growth and Transformation

Unlike many other nonprofits, Peak is completely revenue-funded and does not apply for grants or solicit donations. Unlike other staffing firms, over 75% of their workforce has a qualifying disability. Peak started off like most staffing companies do: supplying low-wage mailroom and clerical roles. Over the years, their customers began trusting Peak and requesting increasingly hard-to-fill roles: auditors, contract professionals, program specialists, and purchasers. In 2014, Peak began filling information technology roles to fill the demand of existing customers. Then in 2020, while most recruiting agencies were shrinking, Peak saw it’s temporary headcount swell to nearly double as the Texas government turned to its now longtime staffing partner for one of its largest challenges yet: the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Peak has over 100 attorneys working for the Texas Workforce Commission.

Unique Business Sense

There are many advantages to hiring people with disabilities: reduced turnover, advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the availability of an underutilized talent pool, especially during a time when employers need talent. People looking for jobs and employers with staffing needs can find out more at peakperformers.org.

Now Hiring in Austin – Hot Jobs August 16, 2021

Austin Growing Rapidly: More Jobs Heading to ATX!

This just in: Austin is growing really, really fast. In fact, according to the recent census data, we have seen 21.7% growth in the last decade. As a large MSA, Austin was second in Texas only to Fort Worth which grew 24%. Similarly, we saw surrounding bedroom communities such as Round Rock, Pflugerville, and Georgetown grow rapidly.
With this growth will come more people needing jobs. If you know someone who just moved here, be a friend and send them to Peak Performers. (Also, send them our guide to Austin Job Seeking Resources.) We’re happy to consider them for one of our many open jobs, and they’ll get a chance to expand their professional network in Austin. Right now we’re recruiting for everything from Auditors to Enterprise Data Architects.
*A complete list of our open jobs found at https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs/

This is a chart showing Austin's growth according to the census
Austin grew 21.7% in the last decade. Chart showing Austin’s growth

Now Hiring in Austin: August 16, 2021

Grant Accountant Job! Do you have experience with Texas Grants Management Standards and 3 years of experience working in accounting operations? If so, we’re looking for a Grant Accountant. Pay is $27 / hour. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=p92E4Wjozr4 

Auditor Jobs! Are you an Auditor? Do you want to work in compliance, investigations, or records review? We are filling multiple positions with multiple agencies. Pay ranges from $20 – $28 DOE. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs/ 

Grant Coordinator Job! Do you have experience working for a state agency? Do you want to help grant administration, monitoring, and preparing of education material? If so we’re looking for a Post Secondary Education Grant Coordinator. Pay is $29 / hour. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=qxikIpMlKmw 

Enterprise Architect Job! Do you have experience working for state agencies and a passion for data modeling, collection, and storage. We’re now recruiting for an Enterprise Data Architect role. Pay is $69 / hour. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=s4mfD1bhMbE 

Purchaser Jobs! Are you a state certified Purchaser? Are you looking to work for the state of Texas? We now have multiple roles and levels open for experienced purchasers. Pay is $22 – $28 DOE. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=MxLgDE0si50 

Many more jobs can be found at 
https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs/

Cover letters for Austin jobs

How Important are Cover Letters?

The utility of the cover letter will vary between jobs and between job seekers in Austin. While somewhat old fashioned, cover letters are a nice way of introducing yourself and expressing your interest in the job.

At the very least, they can’t hurt.

Cover Letter Comic
Cover letters aren’t always read, but when they are they can have an impact. Comic from amazingsuperpowers.com

Cover Letter Tips

Don’t rely on the cover letter to tell your story. A cover letter may or may not get read. So make sure that it’s supplemental to your resume and a “nice, personalized touch” that will help you stand out between multiple qualified candidates. In addition to a cover letter, I recommend putting in a brief statement at the top of your resume about what kind of role you’re seeking and a summary of your qualifications.

Cover letters can be helpful if you’re not the obvious choice candidate. If you are attempting to switch careers or get back into the job market after an employment gap, cover letters can help you overcome objections or add more context and explanation to your candidacy.

Make sure to customize your cover letter. Too often, when I do see cover letters, they are very obviously copy-pasted from a template. Job seekers won’t bother to customize the thing that’s supposed to be a personal touch! If you’re using “Dear Sir or Madam,” you probably haven’t done enough networking and research into the organization for the cover letter to be truly impactful.

Emphasize your network connection/referral. As a follow up to the previous point, if you have a personal connection into an organization, a cover letter is a great way take advantage of this network. You can name drop your connection, and it increases the odds that your application will get seen and will spark a conversation about you.

Watch for typos on your cover letter. You want a cover letter to be the best representation of yourself. Since it’s a bit of a formal document anyway, if you can’t make it typo-free and grammatically sound, I’d skip it as it may jeopardize your candidacy. Attention to detail is important.

Cover letters are a great follow up. What I also see is a cover letter used as a follow up after you apply. I think it can have a good value used this way!

Cover Letter Templates

It’s still good to have a template even if you don’t think you’ll need to use a cover letter often. All job seekers should have a cover letter template they can customize and send at a moment’s notice. Some employers still require it as part of the application process. Indeed has an amazing  library of sample cover letters. You can also check out this previous article on Peak’s site with tips for writing a good cover letter.

Now Hiring in Austin – Hot Jobs August 10, 2021

Austin Job Market Growing Fast

Austin has almost regained all jobs lost prior to the pandemic as our area continues to see rapid hiring. However, there are A LOT of people still out of work, including: people who took time off to care for dependents, retail and service workers who saw their jobs permanently disappear, and people with disabilities.  People with disabilities are often the first to be let go and last to be re-hired in organizations

Many with disabilities were laid off or voluntarily dropped out due to health concerns, and they can use your help finding their next job!

So who do you know who’s looking for work? Who do you know who has been out of a job for a while and is tentative about getting back to work? Peak Performers can help these professionals find their next job—let’s put people to work!

*A complete list of our open jobs found at https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs/

**More information on the Austin Job market can be found on the Austin Chamber of Commerce Blog

Chart Showing Austin Job Growth
Austin has re-gained 96% of jobs lost from the pandemic

Now Hiring! Our Hot Jobs August 10, 2021

NEW JOB! Do you have experience working for a state agency? Do you want to help grant administration, monitoring, and preparing of education material? If so we’re looking for a Grant Coordinator. Pay is $29 / hour. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=qxikIpMlKmw 

REMOTE ROLE! Do you pride yourself in examining, investigating, and reviewing financial statements? Do you have a certification as an auditor (CGAP, CFE, CIA, or CPA)? If so, we are now hiring for a remote Auditor IV (Austin-based) pay is $28 / hour.  https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=_pj35EoBe3M 

IT JOB! Do you have experience working for state agencies and a passion for data modeling, collection, and storage. We’re now recruiting for an Enterprise Data Architect role. Pay is $69 / hour. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=s4mfD1bhMbE 

MULTIPLE OPENINGS! Are you a state certified Purchaser? Are you looking to work for the state of Texas? We now have multiple roles and levels open for experienced purchasers. Pay is $22 – $28 DOE. https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs?rpid=MxLgDE0si50 

Many more jobs can be found at 
https://www.peakperformers.org/jobseeker/office-jobs/

Virtual Interviews: Tips for Jobseekers and Employers

11 Tips for Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews have become increasingly common, including with state government agencies in Austin, TX. Before COVID-19, Peak Performers had been transitioning to conducting mostly virtual interviews because of their convenience for all parties. Now, living with the virus, you will find most employers, including Peak Performers, are conducting their interviews via phone or video chat or some combination of the two. Let’s look at some tips for both jobseekers and employers:

  1. Treat it like a normal interview. It’s important to take all interviews, regardless of how they are conducted, with the same level of seriousness. Preparation includes: studying before you interview (jobseekers should research the organization, employers should re-read the candidate’s resume), getting plenty of rest the night before, being well fed before the interview, and cleaning/dressing yourself professionally
  2. Mark your calendar. Prior to the event, make sure that you are prepared to do the interview. You should send out or respond to calendar invites to let the other party know it’s really happening. As an additional courtesy, you can send an email expressing your excitement and providing the other party with another means to contact you if there is connection trouble.
  3. Check technology. Test out the technology to make sure you are set-up and ready to go. If possible, make a test call to a friend or family member. In particular, you should make sure that your webcam and microphone work.
  4. Manage noise. Find yourself a quiet room in your home (not outside). Sounds like a dog barking, garbage disposal running, or someone playing music in the next room may not be something you notice but your interviewer probably will. If you’re concerned about background noise, wear a headset or earphones.
  5. Manage lighting. Find a room with good natural light when possible. Avoid sitting with your back to a window as this tends to turn you into a silhouette. Use overhead lights when natural light is unavailable or insufficient.
  6. Adjust your webcam. Adjust the angle of your webcam so that your head is centered in the frame and the camera clearly shows both your shoulders. Sit so you are directly facing the camera.
  7. Manage interruptions. Don’t forget to silence your phone and computer so it doesn’t interrupt you. Additionally, put a sign on your door and let household members know that you will be interviewing. If interruptions do happen during the interview, such as a child coming in to interrupt you, mute your microphone, deal with the situation patiently, thank the other party for their patience, and return to the interview. We’re all human and working under unusual circumstances—do what you need to do and then get back to it.
  8. Take notes. For employers this is really important, especially if you’re interviewing multiple candidates and need to recall who is who. Jobseekers should also have a pen and paper handy to take note of their interviewer’s name, email, and phone for follow up.
  9. Speak clearly. Remember to talk slower than you might do in person, especially if you are conducting a phone interview. Pause before answering a question to think about it and avoid, when possible, excessive filler words. You want to sound thoughtful and communicate clearly.
  10. Smile often. Remember to smile often, even if you are doing a phone interview. A smile brings a natural enthusiasm to your voice and is particularly important with a video interview.
  11. Look at the camera, not the screen. Finally, when doing a virtual interview, look into the camera as much as possible when talking. This gives the perception of eye contact during the interview.

Peak Performers is committed to helping people find jobs. You can find other tips from Indeed!

Did you know that we’re hiring right now? Also be sure to check out our guide for Austin job seekers!

Peak Performers’ Co-CEO, Bree Sarlati, Recognized Globally by Staffing Industry

Austin, TX – Bree Sarlati, Co-CEO of Peak Performers, was recognized by the Staffing Industry Analyst’s annual “40 under 40” list. Founded in 1989, Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) is the leading global advisor on staffing.

These 40 professionals exemplify passion, integrity, creativity and the perseverance that is needed to connect people to new opportunities amid COVID-19 and beyond,” from SIA’s website.

Bree started with Peak in 2012 and has worked in every part of Peak’s business: payroll, marketing, recruiting, staffing, and office management. Bree joined the leadership team in 2017 and under her leadership, she has lead a series of organizational transformations and grown Peak’s book of business by 40%.

In spite of these troubled times, Peak Performers is a success story: we are a local, medium-sized business that continues to grow and offer much needed jobs to hundreds of people,” Bree commented after the award.

Peak Performers was started in 1994 by Bree’s father, Charlie Graham, who now shares her title as Co-CEO. Peak assists over 60 government agencies and last year employed over 770 people in temporary and temporary-to-permanent positions. Peak Performers employs people in administrative, professional, accounting, and information technology jobs.

Peak has been most recently assisting the Texas Workforce Commission in recruiting for dozens of roles to help with the processing of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 crisis.

Peak Performers is a rare nonprofit staffing firm: there are only a handful of similarly structured organizations in the country. As part of their nonprofit mission, Peak is setting a new standard of employment for people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions by helping them get professional roles. Skilled job seekers with ADA-qualifying conditions receive job priority for Peak’s positions and over 80% of their workforce have an ADA-qualifying condition. Peak’s vision is two-fold: to change what it means to be a job seeker with a disability, and to challenge the preconceptions that make employers reluctant to hire someone with a disability.

Our mission now is especially important. In the best of times, people with disabilities experience an unemployment rate double that of the national average. That’s why we’re committed to helping people succeed through meaningful employment opportunities,” said Bree.

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Media contact: myles@peakperformers.org – (512) 453-8833 X 116

Austin Job Seeker Resources

Peak Performers is an active part of the recruiting and job seeking community and connected to many organizations and resources that may help job seekers find work. Here is our curated list of Austin job seeking resources:  

General Job Seeker Services

Workforce Solutions is the operational arm of Texas Workforce Commission in providing various job seeker services. Peak Performers does not provide job seeker services and will usually refer job seekers onto Workforce Solutions.

You can turn to Workforce Solutions for services such as:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Free or discounted training and education opportunities
  • Workplace accommodation resources
  • Childcare assistance services
  • Resume and interview coaching 
  • Career coaching

http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/Job-Seekers

NEW! In response to the sudden rise in unemployment, Workforce Solutions has launched a “Jobs Now” website, which is a manually curated list of jobs that are still hiring despite current market conditions.

Additionally, they hold job fairs periodically throughout the year:

  • Bi-weekly general job fairs
  • Industry-specific job fairs
  • Public sector job fairs
  • Disability-focused job fairs
  • Second chance job fairs
  • Veterans job fairs

http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/CalendarEvents

There are multiple locations in the Austin area, and they’re open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. They accept walk-ins and appointments for job seekers with specific needs.

  • 9001 N Interstate Hwy 35 Ste 110, Austin, TX 78753 (North Austin)
  • 575 Round Rock W Dr Building H, Suite 240, Round Rock, TX 78681 (Round Rock)
  • 3401 Webberville Rd #1000, Austin, TX 78702 (East Austin)
  • 7701 Metropolis Dr, Austin, TX 78744 (South Austin)

Austin Job Clubs

Job seeking can be demoralizing, especially if you’re told “no” over and over. It can be valuable to join a community of other job seekers to keep you motivated and to offer guidance along the way. Fortunately, Austin metro area has three prominent job clubs which you can become involved in. They will often feature speakers, job fairs, and resume workshops. These are free to attend—they ask for donations from previous job seekers and from employer sponsorships.

Job Seekers Network – Meetings in Northwest Austin every Monday

HIRED Texas – Meetings in Round Rock every Tuesday

LaunchPad Job Club – Meetings in North Austin every Friday

Note: currently job clubs are suspended due to outbreaks in the COVID-19. This article will be updated when the job clubs are back in session.

Recommended Job Seeker Websites

There are a lot of websites out there to help job seekers find work and much of your time is going to be spent utilizing these resources. Gone are the days of walking into businesses and dropping off your resume at the front desk. “Help wanted” signs now hang in the digital window.

You should use all or many of these websites to aid your job search. Generally, these websites are free to job seekers and require minutes to start an account.

ZipRecruiter – this platform has taken the recruiting world by storm as it does a great job of proactively finding jobs that may be a fit and inviting you to apply. It is also pulls jobs from hundreds of other websites and centralizes them in one place.

Monster – this platform is used by many recruiters for its advanced search features. It also tends to attract many professional and information technology job seekers. From an employer side, the cost is rather daunting but that tends to attract larger employers looking for hard-to-find candidates.

Dice – this is widely used in the Austin information technology job search community. Dice tends to attract mid and senior -level professionals.

WorkInTexas – this is used in Texas by Workforce Solutions to post jobs. Jobseekers filing for unemployment will be required to build a profile….but take time to do it right—many job seekers don’t fill in all the information! Savvy recruiters use this website because it’s free and because it’s a snap shot of nearly all job seekers available, not just the ones who have their resume up on other platforms.

Glassdoor – jobs are posted to Glassdoor but perhaps more important are the tools to read company reviews and explore salaries. Glassdoor is an important part of your research toolkit so that you spend time engaging with reputable companies.

Austin Chamber of Commerce – in response to the COVID-19 unemployment crisis, the Austin Chamber of Commerce has launched a listing of businesses in Austin who are still hiring. Great for doing some research and discovering companies that you haven’t heard of before.

Additional Job Seeking Resources

Here is a list of other resources that I refer people onto who are looking for work:

AustinUp is a local nonprofit that connects older adults (ages 50+) with employers seeking experienced professionals. AustinUp also partners with AARP in order to connect older adults with a host of other services. AustinUp has periodic job fairs throughout the year as well as regular meetings.

Texas Veterans Commission supports Texas veterans and their spouses who are looking for work and other services. Texas Veterans Commission career advisors work out of Workforce Solutions offices.

Austin Community College Employment Readiness Training is a “boot camp” to help job seekers get ready to look for work. Perfect for those who have not looked for work for a little while and are feeling overwhelmed.

Other Community Resources

There can be other barriers getting in the way of finding a job. Here is a list of some of those local resources:

Austin Urban League is a local nonprofit that seeks to help African Americans and other under-served urban residents with job training, housing programs, and education.

Homeless Veteran Assistance the local VA helps homeless veterans get connected to housing and jobs. Local resources available to help veterans and their spouses.

Dress for Success helps disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development resources.

Workforce Education and Readiness Continuum is a branch Workforce Solutions here to connect job seekers to specific resources they will need prior to starting work.

Foundation Communities is a local nonprofit that assists central Texas residents with financial assistance, health insurance, and access to other services to help ensure they are able to start work.

Top Reasons Government Agencies Uses Temporary Workers

As the outside recruiter and business development representative for Peak Performers, I spend a lot of time at recruiting events and vendor fairs. At these events, I am often asked by people why public sector entities (state agencies, federal government, city and municipalities, transit authorities, and education organizations) use staffing agencies. There’s actually a lot of answers to this question. Here are some reasons the government has increasingly grown to rely on a temporary and contingent workforce to run their operations.

They Can’t Find People with the Right Skill Sets

First and foremost, professional staffing agencies exist to fill a need and that need is very often for roles that the client themselves cannot find the right people for. A large state agency has many things to do besides recruit. Staffing agencies spend most of their time doing primarily that. They are also exposed to a wider pool of qualified candidates because they regularly advertise jobs, attend recruiting events, and build up a robust referral network. The sheer activity of recruiting naturally pulls in more candidates than they can use, and many of those candidates may be fits for other jobs the recruiting firm has.

It’s also important to note that public sector entities generally have a more complicated application process which discourages many job seekers. Job seekers who do make it through their process also typically wait longer to hear back from the employer. In this lag time, they are more likely to find another job and move on. Staffing agencies offer a lower barrier to entry and move faster to recruit and onboard candidates than the public sector can.

They Don’t Have the Budget for a Full Time Employee

Agencies often have a strictly allocated budget that dictates not only how much they can spend but how they can spend it. This budget has separate amounts allocated for full time employees versus temporary employees. Budget for temporary personnel may even come out of a miscellaneous budget area where there are extra funds. Budget for temporary personnel may be project-based as well and have not only a fixed amount of dollars but a fixed amount of time.

While on the surface it may seem cheaper to hire a full-time employee from the start, many clients find this is not the case. So why would you pay a company to recruit and hire for you at a markup when you could have done it yourself?

First off, the cost of employees are usually the single largest cost for every organization–and what you pay them is only the beginning of that cost. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the cost of any employee’s benefits package 31% of their total cost to the employer. That means that if you pay an employee $34.50 per hour, the true cost of that employee is $50 per hour. Given this cost, it actually makes decent economic sense to pay a staffing company a markup fee.

This also doesn’t factor in the unseen costs that go into hiring: the cost of staff time to recruit and interview candidates, the cost of training employees, and the cost of making a bad hire. The Center for American Studies estimates the average turnover cost to be around 50% of the annual salary. In other words, if you pay an employee $34.50 an hour (about $71,760 annually) you pay on average $35,880 for a bad hire. Ouch.

“Try Before You Buy”

Recruiting is expensive. The cost of making a bad hire is also expensive. When an employee is let go shortly after starting, organizations eat the time and cost of recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and training said employee. (That’s not accounting for intangible costs if the employee hurt the organization, damaged morale, or hampered productivity.) Then the recruiters have to start over with no guarantee the next person will be better.

For this reason, many organizations have embraced “try before you buy” hiring, also known as temp-to-perm hiring. In this approach, the client brings on the new employee on a temporary basis and hires them as a full time employee after a trial period. Meanwhile, all the aforementioned costs are incurred by the recruiting firm. Risks are minimized as well.

Many organizations will try out an employee using this method if they are unsure if their own intention is to hire them on full time. They have a “let’s wait and see” approach to determine if the project is important enough to justify the cost and if they really need that position filled for the long term.

All Work is Temporary

The Department of Labor recently estimated that 20% of all workers work on a temporary basis. Even without factoring in the “gig economy” that is now so pervasive, more workers are choosing to work on a temporary basis and more employers are seeking them out that way.

Even for full time workers, the increasing market trend is pointing towards the average worker staying in their job for 2-3 years. Thus, we might argue: all work is, in effect, temporary.

Similarly, organizations are structuring their personnel in order to most efficiently accommodate cycles in work. We often say “staff for the peaks, not the valleys.” What we mean by this is that there are usually cycles of work that are going to be lighter during certain parts of the year. We find what works best is that the customer maintains internal staff for the “valleys” of the year and then bring on temporary staff for the “peak” work times when they are busier than usual.

Do you need help finding workers? Peak Performers services the government (as well as other private sector entities). Check our our contracts or contact us to discuss your unique staffing need.

Practical Guide to Hiring People with Disabilities

There’s a lot of fear and misunderstanding about hiring people with disabilities. In the article, SHRM uncovers that significant biases still exist, with 32% of managers saying they would be uncomfortable hiring someone with a mental-health disability, and 42% of HR professionals believing work can’t be done by someone with a learning or attention disability. Perhaps most striking is a lack of disability training and corporate recruitment initiatives for people with disabilities that are in place.

We’ve hired a lot of people with disabilities over the last 25 years. Over 80% of our current staff have a qualifying disability (and many of those are non-observable disabilities). Below, we share our insights into successfully hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities:

People with Disabilities are Everywhere

Disability crosses all races, cultures, sexes, and identities. It affects people of all walks of life. Disability takes many forms. These include physical, mental, and emotional conditions. Conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, PTSD, depression, diabetes, and epilepsy are examples of disabilities that are not usually observable but have an impact on life and work. They are also a qualifying conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, chronic medical conditions (such as having or previously having had cancer) and perceived disabilities (such as dwarfism or physical disfigurements) also qualify. It is estimated that under these definitions, 20% of the US workforce has a disability. You may already be working with someone who has a disability, or you may have a qualifying condition yourself.

People with Disabilities are Still People

People with disabilities are all around us. Often, they want to be treated the same as any other employee. The majority of employees with disabilities do not seek special considerations; they want to be evaluated based on the merits of their work. Many people with disabilities are fully independent adults who strive to have happy, productive working lives. Having a disability will often have little or no bearing on their ability to do a job.

Accommodations Often Aren’t That Bad

The current laws call for “reasonable accommodations” and seek to develop a dialogue between the employee and employer. Accommodations are often not as costly or difficult as an employer might perceive. Also do not require you to fundamentally treat an employee with a disability differently than others. In our experience, most of our employees with disabilities don’t even require an accommodation in order to get their work done.

When they are requested, many accommodations are slight alterations to the work space to ensure that employees will be comfortable, productive, and healthy.

Accommodation examples:

Photosensitivity epilepsy, we often accommodate them by permitting them to wear sunglasses indoors or provide them with a light filter for their computer screen. For an employee with scoliosis, we provide them with a standing desk. The most common situation we encounter is when an employee needs to take time off or modify their work schedule in order to attend doctor appointments. (Individuals without disabilities also go to the doctor!) When an accommodation request does not seem reasonable or compatible with the essential functions of the job, you may want to consult with a seasoned HR professional or legal team for guidance. We also have links to more resources below.

We also encourage employers to consider the possibility that making your workplace more accessible (particularly for those with mobility-related disabilities) may prove to be an investment that enhances the way your entire workforce uses the space. Similarly, making your digital workspace more accessible and comfortable to use, may help many of your existing employees be more productive in their current role. 

Start the conversation graphic
It all starts with a conversation about how to hire people with disabilities

They Know What They Need

HR managers usually don’t need to figure out how to accommodate an individual—the employee has often encountered this situation before and has an idea of a possible solution. After all, they’ve been living with their condition! They understand their physical conditions and limitations better than anyone else, and they are more likely to seek out jobs where they feel they can be successful. A person who is deaf is less likely to seek out a position that requires a heavy use of phones. A person with multiple sclerosis is probably not targeting construction jobs. As an employer, the best thing you can do is be available to have a conversation and seriously consider the accommodations they suggest. Additionally, consider that at this time they may not be needing an accommodation, but they may need to explore accommodations later if their condition worsens.

What About Current Employees? 

Unfortunately, injuries and illnesses happen over time—it’s part of being human. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of people with a disability rises dramatically for those past the age of 64.

Disability inclusion in the workplace presents an enormous opportunity to do what’s right, to take care of your own, and improve organizational morale by alleviating fear of displacement through injury or aging. When a current employee approaches you to discuss disability, turn to a trusted HR resource or even the Americans with Disabilities Act itself to understand how to proceed. In general, seek to engage the employee in a conversation and have them recommend an accommodation if one is necessary. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

·      Their first choice is probably to stay in their current role. Approach the situation with the intention of making this possible. Discuss their limitations and what they would have trouble doing, or what is currently causing them discomfort in their role. Can this be accomplished by a minor alteration to the work environment or schedule? This may also be accomplished through minor “role restructuring” where you delegate non-essential tasks to other employees (such as lifting boxes in an office environment).  

·      Consider lateral moves. In the instance of someone not being able to perform the essential functions of the job, opportunities for continued employment may exist in other departments and/or under different job titles. If a lateral position is not open or the individual is unqualified to perform that work, then you may also offer another position for which they are qualified but pays less than their current role—but this should be your last resort.

·      Do not discuss with others. Co-workers may notice and ask about it. It’s imperative that you do not discuss disability or medical information that was shared in confidentiality. Many workers with disabilities do not want to be regarded differently in the workplace.  However, it’s also important to stress that you are not offering preferential treatment to that employee. The Job Seekers Accommodation Network recommends saying, when asked, “[your organization] has a policy of assisting any employee who encounters difficulties in the workplace, and that many of the workplace issues encountered by employees are personal, and that, in these circumstances, it is the employer’s policy to respect employee privacy.”

What Do I Do Now?

So what can your organization do to be ready?

1)    Look at your work. Review your jobs and the type of work that is performed. What kinds of physical requirements might affect someone’s ability to succeed in the role? For example, does it require lifting or strenuous movement? Does it require speaking verbally or seeing?

2)    Look at your workforce. Have a conversation with your team about what a disability is and the value of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Talk about the kinds of disabilities that are both observable and non-observable. Your team knows their work environment and may offer ideas on how the work or space might be presenting a challenge for individuals with disabilities.

3)    Have policies. Many problems arise because of inexperienced managers or HR teams who have to handle a complicated situation without having any policies or training to guide them. Have policies written down and train your on-site managers ahead of time. Have conversations about how to appropriately and compassionately respond to these situations. Highlight the importance of keeping the door open to a dialogue between employees and management.

4)    Consider adaptation plans. Would your workforce benefit by having grab bars in the bathroom? Are your computer applications able to interface with JAWS or other screen reading software? Do you have flexible scheduling options for employees who need to frequently go to the doctor or take time off to recover from a flare up?

Disability is everywhere and often requires little-to-no accommodation to the workplace. Furthermore, people with disabilities know themselves best and will often seek out roles that they can be successful in–much like any other jobseeker! There are many benefits to the organization for having a more inclusive workplace, including making some of your current employees more comfortable. Keep these ideas in mind when taking proactive next steps to hire and retain individuals with disabilities.

Additional Reading

  • We encourage you to learn more about what disabilities are and explore examples of qualifying conditions.
  • Jobseeker Accommodation Network is an exhaustive resource for employers and employees to get accommodation advice.
  • They also offer advice to managers for discussing disability.

Do you have questions? Learn more about what a disability is. You can also reach out to us with questions.

Picking the Right Staffing and Recruiting Agency

Staffing agencies are unique in their service offerings, price, and specialties. Peak Performers, for example, offers direct placement, temporary staffing, and other recruiting services to the government and select private sector clients. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the primary considerations to look at when considering recruiting firms and how best to shop wisely for these services.

What Do You Need?

What kind of service you need and what services you’d be open to? Most recruiting services break down into: temporary staffing and direct hire.

Temporary staffing

Temporary staffing services is when the agency recruits and fills a role on a temporary basis. This could be due to a particular high-demand project or filling in for another employee while they are away. Although the temporary employee reports to work at the client company, these individuals are employees of the staffing firm, not the client. The client guides the daily work assignments and coordinates with the staffing firm for employee-related issues. The staffing agency manages the candidate’s performance in conjunction with feedback provided by the client’s on-site manager.

Direct hire

Direct hire services is where you outsource the recruiting efforts to find someone for your internal position. From day one, the recruited candidate will start as your employee. Once your company has hired the new employee, the recruiting agency will have no further responsibilities (although good ones will offer placement guarantees and follow up on their placements).

Other Recruitment Service Models

Temp-to-perm

Temp-to-perm hiring is when you want to bring on a temporary employee for a trial period with the intention of converting them to an internal employee if they perform well on the job. You will want to discuss with your staffing agency how long that trial period is and what kinds of fees (if any) will be charged when they are converted. You will likely negotiate the compensation package directly with your potential new employee during the conversion process.

Executive search

Executive search services is largely the same as direct hire except that it is typically reserved for executive, director, and C-level positions. The recruitment firm has a strong network that they can leverage to identify executive-level candidates, who are often already employed (perhaps even outside of your geographic area) and need to be sold on why they want to leave their current job. Typically, the client pays a higher markup percentage than they do for direct hire services and the recruiting firm takes a very “hands on” approach with candidate management to ensure a successful placement.

Ready to order temporary staff? Contact us or learn more about our contracts and services.

Costs and Fees for Staffing

Staff represent the largest expense for nearly every business. When considering the costs a recruiting firm is charging you, consider that they are absorbing many of the costs and risks associated with recruiting for you. For temporary placements, the staffing firm is also absorbing multiple ongoing employment costs as well.

Temporary staffing charges you a bill rate based off of the hourly wages paid to the temporary worker plus a markup fee. This fee accounts for the cost of staff time; advertising your job to attract candidates; software costs and payroll processing fees; employment taxes; benefits paid to the employee, and general expenses that help to “keep the lights on.” They are also paying for and assuming the risks of possible future workers compensation claims, unemployment claims, and labor disputes, such as discrimination or wrongful termination claims.

Conversion costs? When selecting your temporary staffing vendor, ask about costs to convert temporary workers to full time employees if you decide to hire them on permanently. Conversion costs are typically waived after a period of time, typically around 90-120 days. When applicable, fees typically are a percentage of the candidate’s first year annual salary.

Direct hire/executive search is charged in one of two ways: a percentage of the placed candidate’s annual salary or a flat fee per search. These services are offered in one of three ways:

  • Contingency basis—The agency only gets paid when they make a placement
  • Partially contingent basis— A portion is charged to start the search; another portion is due mid-way through the search; and the remainder is due upon successful hire of a candidate. This model allows you to space out the costs, and the final payment is typically determined by the exact first year salary negotiated with the candidate.
  • Retainer basis— As the client, you pay a monthly or quarterly retainer fee to the recruiting firm. Some very competitive recruiting industries with an extremely restricted pool of candidates may only offer retainer-based searches. A retainer may also be useful for a large client who has ongoing hiring needs. The retainer fee ensures that the staffing agency is continually on the lookout for talent suited for your needs.

What about discounts?

Some clients conclude that filling the same role multiple times requires less time, energy, and expense from the recruiting firm. This is simply not the case. Filling three identical positions amounts to about three times the work as filling a single position. The majority of staff time is spent screening and interacting with candidates personally. Volume discounts are sometimes offered not because of the workload but rather the guarantee of future business.

Placement Guarantee?

For direct hire and executive search, it’s also important to ask about a placement guarantee. Most companies will stand by their work and the quality of their placements, but it’s important to have this in writing. Placement guarantees are often open to negotiation and range from 30 days to one year (usually depending on the difficulty of filling the job).

Size and structure of recruitment agencies

Recruiting and staffing firms take many shapes and forms. It’s important to recognize what you’re shopping for in a firm and who you’d most like to do business with.

Local start-up

Many recruiting firms are started specifically to service a specific geographic area. These firms are often located in smaller cities and have civically active owners and operators. Expect more informal dealings and a firm who is uniquely dialed into the local workforce.

Franchises

Large national firms may take a franchise approach. They will be branded as a national chain but be restricted to a particular territory (such as a geographic area or staffing segment). Owners of these franchises will often be enthusiastic small business owners. However, certain aspects of working with them may feel more like working with a large, national firm.

Boutique firm

These firms do direct hire and executive search for a few specific industries from which they’ve previously worked. The recruiters are typically well connected within that industry; they “know people and know the business.” These firms are not typically geographically restricted and you can expect them to be ideal for very specific placements.

Local, mid-sized firm

Peak Performers falls into this category. This type of firm has expanded beyond local start-up and offers a wider variety of services. While they may still have a particular geographic or industry specialization, they have more experience, more customers, more available services, and a deeper candidate pool. Expect from these companies more professional processes, well-trained personnel, and a friendly, local touch.

Large, national firm

These firms have expanded to have many geographic locations nationwide. They will often offer a wide variety of services, have deep candidate pools, and cheaper prices (due to economies of scale). However, there are potential downsides. You will probably never meet your point of contact. Also, they may not take a deep approach to understanding your business and your needs, since they service so many customers at once. These firms also tend to have higher staff turnover, and you may have a hit-or-miss experience with new account managers. Finally, these firms may be less flexible and adaptable to your needs. In addition to the parameters of their corporate rules, they may have restrictions from previous contracts about what companies they cannot recruit from. They are often contractually obligated to avoid conflicts of interest.

Other Considerations for Picking Staffing Agencies

In addition to all of this, here are some other considerations that help you evaluate whether a recruiting company is truly a quality firm.

What is their communication pattern?

A lot can be said about initial correspondence. Is the phone answered? When you leave a message, do they call you back? Are emails professional and prompt? Less reputable staffing firms often cut costs first with their internal staff: having less staff than they need and/or less experienced staff.

Staffing Industry specialization?

A past record of success is the best indicator of future success. For this reason, consider finding a recruiting firm that has experience in your industry. For instance, our specialization at Peak Performers is with the public sector. Many of our clients are state and local government agencies. When you get a firm that specializes in serving an industry, they have an existing candidate pool and referral network from which to recruit. They are also more aware of industry best practices and unique business processes and procedures.

What are their technological abilities?

Modern recruiting firms use applicant tracking systems, advertise jobs widely across the internet, and have robust internal processes for ensuring employees are paid on time. Finding a firm with good digital tools reflects an investment on the part of the company toward working efficiently and effectively.

Are they your future recruiting competition?

For executive search positions, make sure to ask about the firm’s policy on recruiting candidates away from your organization in the years following your work together. Who is “off limits” and how long does that last? (The industry standard is two years.)

What is their reputation with job seekers?

It’s worth taking a moment to read online reviews of the staffing agency you’re about to do business with and approach it as though you were a job seeker. Are they getting bad reviews online? Do they seem to be responsive and empathetic to those negative reviews? Remember that a recruiting firm represents you and your brand among jobseekers. Moreover, the workforce they provide you will become a part of your organization, even if it’s only on a temporary basis.

If you ever have questions about whether Peak Performers may be right for your needs, reach out to us by contacting info@peakperformers.org or calling (512) 453-8833.

So…What Do You Do?

Focus Your Job Search

“So…what do you do?”

Don’t you hate that question? You get it at parties, you get it at job fairs, you even get it at the dentist! I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more than just my work. If I’m a job seeker, though, my resume is not the place to tell you who I am.

Employers get hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications for every position that they post. This creates a mountain of reading that recruiters just cannot do. Often, computers read your resume first and rate it based on how relevant it is to what the recruiter wants. Or, if you’re an overworked recruiter, you read really fast (i.e. 6-10 seconds per resume).

“Who” is a complicated question that gets to the core of our humanity. “What” is a lot easier to communicate. In recruiting, it’s how we evaluate a candidate for further consideration. In this article, I want to get your resume from “Who” to “What.”

Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for a Job

One of the hardest parts of the job search is knowing where to start. Full time work provides a location to work, equipment to work on, a community to support and direct you, and, in most cases, clear instructions on what to do on a day-to-day basis.

When you are seeking work, that can all go out the window very quickly. Job searchers must now turn inwards and answer a couple of deep questions.

  • What do I want to do?
  • What can I do?
  • What place (where) do I want to do it?
  • What do I expect from my work?

I have found these questions to be the most basic as well as the most troubling. I ask you to ask yourself, because every day that I’m at a job fair I ask job seekers, “what do you do?”

We’ll take a deeper dive into each, but first you need to gather a few tools:

  • A copy of your resume you can write on
  • A pen
  • A highlighter

1) What do you want to do?

For just a minute, I want you to imagine a perfect world where you don’t need to work but instead just want to work. What would you do? I want you to ignore the lightness of your wallet and the anxiety you feel about being around the house all day.

But I’m going to make this harder. You now need to answer this question in three words or less. Write them at the top of your resume where it’s so big you can’t ignore or forget what you wrote. 

2) What can you do?

Now, write down a list that ignores your list of what you want to do. This list is for the things you can do whether you want to do them or not. Here’s where I want to you get really specific and list all of the things you can do.

This is the most important part to recruiters and companies. Many will train you, but they want you to come in being able to meet the minimum job expectations.

Now I want you to condense this list down to just three words. Maybe you can do a lot! That’s great, but what are your key skill sets? What would jump out to me as a recruiter? Write these skills down on your resume.

3) What place (where) do I want to do it?

The easy answer to this is “within a X distance drive.” Let’s include this and then go beyond the physical location. You should also consider things like a welcoming environment, a company with a social mission, a younger/older workplace, a progressive/conservative workplace, etc. These are going to be different for each individual.

4) What do you expect?

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of the job details. Realize that expectations may have to be compromised, but it helps to write them down. Start with the most obvious expectation and the reason most of us go to work each day. Here are some things you might expect

  • I expect to make $XXXX
  • I expect XXXX kind of health insurance
  • I expect XXXX other benefits
  • I expect to have some level of autonomy in my day-to-day work
  • I expect to be valued for my creative contributions
  • I expect to work in a team-oriented environment
  • I expect to maintain a work-life balance

We expect a lot out of our work. As well we should. We spend a lot of time there! But get this down into three words.

Edit Your Resume

A common misconception is that resumes should be only one-two pages. A resume should be as long as it needs to be provided that:

  1. It accurately and concisely represents all of you
  2. Is long enough to thoroughly address everything that a job description asks for

We’re going to make a generic resume from which you can start. You will constantly be editing this resume for every single job for which you apply.

  • Highlight: I want you to highlight everything on your resume that points strongly to one of the words that is written above. It can (and usually should) be the word itself.
  • Circle: Anything that may be relevant for a job. Education is a good example; you may well need or should include it on your resume, but often the role you’re applying for does not explicitly require it. Often, these circled items will be listed on your resume but de-emphasized.
  • Cross Out: There’s probably a lot of stuff left on your resume. Cross it out. These are like hoarding shoe boxes or 1980s Christmas decorations or Beanie Babies. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and throw it out.

Want more resume tips? Be sure to check out this article.

Getting to “Who”

It’s not that recruiters and HR managers don’t care about who you are…it’s just that resumes are not the appropriate place for it. “What” is clear and objective. It’s also what catches our attention in a stack of resumes.

Once you get to the interview, show off “who” you are in order to stand out from the other applicants.

Are you looking for work? Check out our open jobs.