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Making the Offer: How Nelson Staffing Evaluates Top Job Candidates

Podcast interview with Tony Bartenetti, SVP and Business Leader of the Nelson Family of Companies

Tony Bartenetti, Senior Vice President Nelson StaffingTony Bartenetti

Joining us today on TalentDecisions is Tony Bartenetti, Senior Vice President and business leader of the Nelson Family of Companies. Nelson is a leading employment services and human capital management company with offices located throughout Northern California, and is lead by a team of senior executives all of whom have long records of success building and managing high growth companies and share a common passion to create industry-leading solutions for global 2000 companies.

TalentDecisions is brought to you by Checkster - the leading Talent Decision platform leveraging Collective Intelligence, and providing organizations with cloud computing solutions to recognize and grow great talent. Checkster's goal is to improve the world's productivity and harmony by increasing job fit and work achievement, as well as personal career satisfaction and fulfillment. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at Checkster.com.

The focus of this program is the final four - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a Talent Acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Welcome to Talent-Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is the Final 4 - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Talent-Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes, including interviewing, reference checking, and 360 quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at checkster.com.

Joining us today on Talent-Decisions is Tony Bartenetti, senior vice president and business leader of the Nelson Family of Companies. Nelson is a leading employment services and human capital management company with offices located throughout Northern California.

Tony, welcome to Talent-Decisions.

Tony: Thank you Peter. Thanks for having me.

Peter: Tell us about Nelson and the focus of your staffing services.

Tony: We've been in business for over 40 years as a company, doing both temporary contract and direct placement. We focus primarily in Northern California for the majority of that 40 years; however, we're starting to expand into Southern California, both in San Diego and LA, and we opened up a location in Austin, Texas last April.

We provide services, both temporary as I mentioned in contract, direct placement, and search. We also have services for payroll service, manage talent acquisition programs, specifically project-based recruiting efforts and on-site management for our clients. We're able to support directly positions that need to be filled in the administrative clerical space, production assembly space, human resources, legal, interactive/creative, which is for computer gaming and mobile gaming, engineering, finance, accounting and technology.

When people ask us what our specialty is I say we're so specialized, we're almost generalized. We can pretty much do it all.

Peter: As you mentioned, you have I would say a particular focus in the human resources arena and as a profession, this has been particularly hard hit by the recession. How has that impacted your business over the past several years?

Tony: Specific to our business, it's been difficult because a lot of our long-term client contacts who function in HR have lost their jobs and these are people you feel for in so many different ways and the challenge of trying to find them a position when the market isn't even warm for them to find a new career with a new company. We've (1) had to go through the struggles with our candidates and the challenges they face as they do their search. At the same time, we need to learn from our new contacts within those clients how do we best take care of their talent acquisition needs because they may either tend to lean on us more heavily or pull further away from working with us.

It's been very challenging. We're starting to see it warm up again, which is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Peter: That's good. What industries do you work with?

Tony: Primarily if I look at the product or client mix, we typically take on the look in the geographic market that we're in. We have over 17 branch locations. To answer your question, we work with over 70 wineries, we work with over 20 computer gaming companies, and then we have a plethora of renewable energy and biofuel firms as that continues to emerge, and then we work with all technology firms and all financial firms that are in the markets in which we operate.

Peter: Just out of curiosity, Tony, how do you go about finding talent for, let's say, Nelson engineering division?

Tony: That's a tough one. We basically look at networking, networking, networking. We find that these candidates for the example of mechanical engineering positions we have, are not highly visible on social network sites, and to identify them on the boards it's difficult to connect with them. We have to look for referrals from satisfied clients and/or candidates. We're really challenging ourselves to identify in each market in which we're operating where the talent communities lie, so we can find those engineers. And in order to gain credibility with them, we need to provide them white papers, other value add information about what's going in the economy and so on, so they can see us as a resource. What we're finding is that it's taking three to six months to make these types of contract and direct placements because of the process of (1) identifying the candidate, getting them to a point where they feel the time is right to make a move or to engage in a new opportunity. That's really what we're finding. It's just very challenging, and if I find the magic wand for this, I'm going to make our company very, very successful.

Peter: Yeah, I'm sure you are. How is the economy in Northern California? Are things improving and are the companies that you're working with hiring?

Tony: Yes, people are hiring. They're very cautious and the candidates they're looking for are hard to find. You said it earlier, this is not easy right now. The most recent two calls I've been on each of the last two months have shown that California as a whole and Texas are both growing at just shy of 1 percent up to 1.1 percent on a month to month basis. Further, to expand on your question, it showed the United States all but one state was either flat or growing economically. So I'm very encouraged by what I'm seeing.

Peter: Tony, given your expertise in HR and recruiting, what are some tips you can share with the corporate recruiters who listen to this podcast.

Tony: Oh boy, putting me on the spot here. I truly respect all the corporate recruiters I've worked with and they're wise and probably know more than I do about this. I would go to two simple things.

Make certain that you're accessible and that you call candidates back since they can become one of your best referral sources, when I go back to looking at engineers and the networking, networking, networking statement I made. Don't undervalue the need to be responsive to folks when they're reaching out to you. Just make certain that you're always tending to your network because that is a talent network, and those loose ties you have within your network could be the most resourceful tools you have to finding that difficult to fill position, that candidate for that difficult to fill position.

Peter: I heard an expression recently, which is 'temp is the new perm.' Would you agree? I mean I think you have a very unique perspective as placing both temp along with executive search.

Tony: I do see a bit of a movement towards the contract positions, even more so than temp being utilized by companies. I don't know yet if it's a trend, but I certainly do see companies going that route first.

There are two things that have happened when we come out in an economic downturn. The risk averse folks in companies may use that temp avenue as a way to say if we're looking good after the first or second quarter, we'll hire for this position but right now we need to get this job done, so let's bring a temp in. If the economy turns, if things go our way, we'll hire them full time.

So I don't know if it's going to be an ongoing trend towards that or if this is just the typical thing you see after coming out of an economic downturn where clients lean towards a temp assignment or contract assignment prior to making a direct hire.

Peter: Sort of in that same vein, Tony, looking at contract assignments and that kind of approach, are you seeing candidates more interested in contract work these days?

Tony: Yes, and it's almost like their willingness to work with a staffing firm back in the day folks didn't want to go through a staffing firm, but then they saw it was a viable option to getting into organizations. Now as everybody is reading the paper and learning about healthcare benefits and so on and so forth and how companies are operating, they understand that they have to look at contracts as their potential avenue in as opposed to going direct as a direct hire candidate. So yes is the answer to your question.

Peter: Following up on that, what is the biggest mistake you see candidates making in a job interview?

Tony: There are probably two that I see. One is with the information that it so readily available to us on the internet these days, failure to do research on a company before you meet them and even to research the person that you're going to be meeting. How easy is it today to just go online and Google, Tony Bartenetti's name and see what you can find out about him. Now there maybe multiple Tony Bartenetti so you don't want to lean on that too much. That's the other side of error being so confident in your research that you think it's all exact. That's a critical thing - making certain that you don't seem lazy and that you take the time to research the company you're going in to speak to and the person that you're speaking to.

The other side of it, the other item that I think is a concern is looking at the candidates who have been out of work for awhile. They can become a little defensive or sound desperate and get away from their offensive approach to finding a job and almost feeling like they're not good enough. It's a real confidence thing. You have to find out within yourself how to find that confidence and ensure that you're not seem desperate by not asking good questions of the company you're interviewing with and searching to make certain it's a good fit for you. You want to make certain that you continue to look for a job that's the right fit for you, just like that company is looking to see if you're a good fit for them.

Those are the two items that I see as mistakes right now.

Peter: A particular focus of Talent-Decisions is the final two or three or four candidates being considered for a position. When you get down to the last couple of candidates, all of whom meet the qualifications, how do you evaluate and make that final decision to make the offer?

Tony: That's a good question. We do a lot of this on our business development site to how do you avoid the decision being made by a flip of a coin. That's kind of the question I hear you asking.

I look at things that are definitely available and there is nothing earth shattering here. The knowledge of our company and the industry that that candidate was able to demonstrate. How did they differentiate themselves by coming in and knowing about our company and our industry? I heard your question said all things equal.

The other item is looking at reference checking and making certain that they seem to have a network that supports the reference check process. We use a company called Checkster to do that right now, and it's really brought back relevance to the reference checking process because we're actually getting quick response from the folks who are providing the references and meaningful information, and it's not coming from peers and friends; it's coming from former managers and supervisors.

I looked at that, how much do they keep their network alive from their past firms, and are they able to get a reference from them. That's very important.

And then we also have a behavioral assessment that we utilize. We don't utilize that so much to make 100 percent the decision on who we're going to hire, but so we can understand who we are hiring, how do they respond in stressful situations, what motivates them, and are they a good culture fit for our organization. Our goal - as it should be for any company who's doing hiring I believe - is to have a long term relationship with our team member, our employee. If the corporate culture fit is there, that's going to help you get there.

The final thing is really looking on the results and tenure with their past companies that they worked for.

Peter: I think you bring up a really important distinction here. I think when most people think about reference checking they think, "oh well I'm just going to refer my three best friends" and that's not going to give an accurate reference check at all.

Tony: You're right. We have a standard where we have to have a minimum of two from former managers within the last three years. The Checkster tool has allowed us to really be compliant with that process and has allowed us to follow up with the candidate and put the onus on them. "Peter, I want to place you. I cannot do that until I have these references done. They have not responded. Will you please reach out to them?" It gives us a management tool so we can achieve our standard operating process of having those references, and it allows us to, in a more timely fashion, get that candidate to help us manage that process. That's what Checkster has allowed us to do. It's amazing.

I had the risk-averse approach and wondering is this really worth the investment. When I look at the reports (and I still actively look at the reports), we use them internally and I also look for some of our key candidates that we place; it's amazing the information we're gaining.

Peter: That's fantastic. Do you have any hot jobs you're looking to fill you'd like to tell us about? How about some of these engineers?

Tony: The top of my list actually! ☺ We're always looking for mechanical engineers and engineers who deal with game development. When one of my recruiters said when we were down at a game development conference in Austin in October, "if I was an engineer here I'd just jump up on that desk right there and say, "okay who's willing to pay the most here" and the bidding war would begin." Engineers, we've got a plethora of open positions - over 60 open engineering positions we're looking to fill right now.

Paralegals - we're always looking to fill paralegal positions.

QA managers for manufacturing and QA test engineers for game development. A

Believe it or not, these are hot jobs and they are ways to get into companies for folks who are starting their careers. Receptionist positions, those are hard to fill; not a lot of people want to be a receptionist these days.

You asked the question and I'm answering.

Peter: Yeah, that's great. What's the best way for candidates to engage with Nelson?

Tony: We have our own job site called Nelsonjobs.com, so they can go there and peruse some of the jobs we have posted, some of the jobs that we have active. They can also apply through that site.

The other way is to go to our website and just look for nelsonstaffing.com and reach out to one of our 17 offices that's located close to you, and we'll be more than happy to help you.

When Gary Nelson opened this business over 40 years ago, the main goal that I still share with everybody was to have a candidate feel better when they're leaving our doors than they did when they walked in.

Peter: What didn't I ask you that you'd like to share with us, Tony.

Tony: What I've been sharing with folks is don't be down on the economy; every indication is it's getting better. Continue, if you're in a job search, to believe in yourself because you will find that opportunity. The primary thing you can do to help yourself is to network.

I had five new hires for our company sit at a lunch table with me three weeks ago. It wasn't part of my plan when I sat down with them, but when I started asking them how did you find your job? All six of us - because I found my job through my network - didn't have to float a résumé anywhere, it was a friend referred us in.

Simple thing that's been around for years, it's not a new web-based tool - networking. Make certain you have an active network.

Peter: Tony, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio's Talent-Decisions.

Tony: Thank you Peter. Have a great day.

Peter: You too.

Tony Bartenetti is a senior vice president and business leader of the Nelson Family of Companies.

Thank you for tuning into Talent-Decisions, a co-production of TotalPicture Radio and Checkster. Through our best in class talent decision platform, Checkster empowers organizations and individuals to make better talent decisions for more engaged organizations and a better world. Visit checkster.com to learn more and perform a talent checkup today.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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