Decision making Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Don’t keep your candidate waiting… the only 3 questions to ask before you hire

By | Recruitment, Results

Top talent can be hard to find and enticing them to consider your role may be even harder. Even though our unemployment rate is at 6.3%, A-class super stars are almost always gainfully employed and are rarely actively on the job seeking market. Finding them is tough enough, so this means that when you engage them in a recruitment process, it is critical you move quickly to ensure you ‘close the deal’, don’t miss out and get them on your team as soon as possible.

Easy in theory, yet I see so many employers drag out recruitment processes and hesitate to make employment decisions.  So what makes employers stall? Why do these processes drag out? Why can’t an employment decision be made? It can be one of the most frustrating aspects for an internal or external Recruiter who is facilitating this ‘courting’ process.

Consider this – the candidate’s ego is at an all time high as they have been approached or picked from a large pool of candidates to meet face to face – getting this far is not to be underestimated when you look at the large number of people looking for work. They are excited. They are engaged. They have done their research. They’ve asked around, they’ve googled, they’ve potentially rejected other approaches and they are ready to impress.  The first interview goes well. There is quick follow up, feedback within 24 hours and everyone is on the same page. Well so it seems…then suddenly booking a second interview meeting time gets tricky as there are several decision makers involved and schedules to coordinate, the boss is away, there is a board meeting, there is an internal referral at the last minute or someone on the hiring team starts questioning the role purpose or the candidate’s suitability.  These delays take the ‘shine’ off of things. The candidate goes back to their normal day to day, they take on new projects, their boss might even give them some recognition and you, the new potential employer are at the risk of taking a back seat.

Prolonged or unnecessary process delays are dangerous. You have now entered a zone where your chances of an offer acceptance have started to decrease and you are on slippery slope to achieve hiring success.

Don’t delay! Ensure you ask yourself these 3 questions and then decide!

  1. Can the candidate do the job? That is, do they have skills and competencies to perform the job successfully?
  1. Will they love the job? This refers to their motivation – what is driving them towards your opportunity? In what circumstances do they experience job satisfaction and will your role satisfy this desire?
  1. Can you work with them? Will they fit in to your culture and will your team genuinely enjoy working with them?

That’s it. If you are experiencing hesitation, recruitment delay or decision making avoidance – just ask these three questions to find your answer. If you have positive answers to all three, please don’t delay. Make an offer and fast. Delight the candidate – make them feel special and worthy. The consequence is a return to the drawing board which not only is frustrating for all involved, but costs more time and money and may affect your reputation as an employer of choice in the market.


At Underwood Executive we specialise in sourcing talent where we partner with organisations that value the importance of recruiting and retaining high performing employees. Our up-to-date research and progressive sourcing strategies ensure that we unearth the best talent, giving our clients access to the nicoleunderwood talent community, which reaches beyond the active market. To discuss how we can source talent for your organisation, contact us here.


Stress drowning you out? What I learnt in 7 days of silence ……

By | Change, Results, Work Life Balance

Stress is an epidemic in our 21st century – most of us have experienced it or watched those around us suffer with it. It has become part of our modern lives with expectations of work, family, juggling social commitments and the pursuit of “when I get there…I’ll be happy” philosophy.

I see it working with stressed clients – those that have lost their energy and their desire. They have forgotten why they do what they do and seem a little sad and a little lost in their journey for happiness and fulfillment. I attended a client’s board meeting a few weeks ago and the Chairman admitted that their CEO had lost some of his “mojo”. They want to help him get it back. To see him stop, relax, reflect and refocus on the bigger picture of ‘what’s the point’ in all of this. It was a good reminder, that the leader sets the tone – so this personal clarity and realignment is critical when you are the one steering the ship and setting the example.

To walk my talk, I checked out last week. I left the country and headed for the mountains of Bali where I embarked on a journey of just that – silence, reflection and time to just stop. To remove all daily activity, stimulation and to rejuvenate. There was no wi-fi, no laptop, no iPhone, no contact with family, friends or clients, no email, no twitter, no Facebook …. there was nothing. I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t cope! But in reality it took less than 24 hours to switch off from the “outside” world and it was blissful. I really didn’t miss my daily ‘crutches’ or distractions!

I gave up my control freak, let go of my to do list and forgot the constant multi-tasking. This was a retreat to focus inwards. It certainly wasn’t what I would call a ‘normal’ holiday. No cocktails by the pool, eating whatever I want and long lazy sleep in’s. Now before you think I ran away to a “happy clappy” cult where we all sat around chanting, it was actually a profound reminder of the benefits of switching off.

In our group of 25, there wasn’t a dreadlock or nose-ring in sight; this certainly wasn’t a hippy commune in Nimbin. There were people from all over the world – successful entrepreneurs, a real estate agent, a builder, an advertising executive, HR manager, board director, retail manager, martial arts guru and even an ex AFL coach. However, it wasn’t about any of these labels or how we define ourselves in our lives back home. First and foremost, we were just individuals having some much-needed time out from our busy lives to give attention to the person we least give it to – ourselves.

A full detox from alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, media, technology and our daily addictions, we found ourselves experiencing the lows and highs of de-stressing our bodies, de-cluttering our minds, re-energising, being creative, feeling free and experiencing the magic of simplicity. I learnt the ability to switch off, I made new friends, I listened to different perspectives and concluded that perfection doesn’t exist – being in the present moment right here and now, is the most important thing of all.

Sometimes life can deliver an opportunity that puts us outside our comfort zone, as this certainly was for me. It is in these moments, when you’re least expecting it – you can learn the most profound lessons, see the most obvious with clarity and generate new and creative ideas that honestly just wouldn’t be possible in our normal day-to-day lives.

I left a lot of stress, stories about the past and worries for the future in those Bali mountains. I’ve returned grounded, refreshed, light and free….ready to paint a blank canvas.

Feeling like you need a re-start button? Visit www.oneliferetreats.net

Are you ignoring staff issues? 4 ways to get your head out of the sand

By | Communication, Leadership, Performance

This week a friend of mine told me he quit his job after being head hunted for a new opportunity (closer to home, more money, leading a bigger team and better long-term career prospects). I was pleased for him and wondered why he didn’t seem that excited.  “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My current boss hasn’t spoken to me for over a week since I resigned”. Sorry? Your boss is ignoring you? Yep. Pretty much since the meeting where he resigned, his boss has been so ‘disappointed’ that he has decided to give him the “silent treatment”.  Not exactly your classic successful leadership technique!

It appears this “bury your head in the sand” technique is not isolated to just this leader either.

In another example, a client was telling me about a problem employee who despite ongoing feedback, remained unreceptive to improving his performance. Interestingly, he had not yet responded to a meeting request from this employee from a week ago, telling me he couldn’t be bothered and that he was over investing any more time and energy in the situation.

Now, I get it. I do. As a leader you can often spend hours coaching, supporting and providing advice to help develop your team members and there are days it can feel like a thankless job.  However, I challenge you to look at your own behaviour. Are you setting the tone? Are you leading by example? Are you perpetuating the undesired behaviour inadvertently?

4 ways to turn it around:

1.    Don’t bury your head in the stand

Like my client, there are many days where as a leader you probably feel like mimicking my 4-year-old by putting your fingers in your ears saying “I can’t hear you …. La la la”. But ignoring something or pretending that a situation with your staff member is going to improve, disappear or fix itself is just plain stupid.

Ignoring what’s happening will never make a situation better. A real leader will address the situation head on, openly discuss the problem (without blame or emotion) and together encourage a solution.

2.    Make a decision – imagine the perfect scenario

When I was frustrated with employee issues it always became worse or the problem was enhanced when I thought about it, talked about it with others, analysed it, worried about it – but things only ever changed or improved when I actually made a decision.

A great way to obtain clarity is to imagine in 3 months time that the person has improved and the performance problem is solved – how does it make you feel? Positive? Then you can commit to moving things in the right direction. Can’t image that situation or it still feels ‘off’? Chances are you have a cultural mis-alignment and even if the performance improves, this person is not the right match for you and your team.

3.    Manage the performance up or out  

Once you have committed to addressing the problem head on, it’s time for the conversation where you discuss where the employee’s current level of performance is and where you would like it to be.  This discussion should highlight several areas as to where the employee needs to improve and the action steps they are going to take to develop. Ultimately, this should result in someone stepping up or off – either way; it’s a better result than the current situation of non-performance.

4.    Communicate with good intent

To give the employee (and you) the best chance of success, you need to operate and speak with good intent. You can’t fake this. Be authentic. Demonstrate  that you want to see this person succeed in their role and that you are here to support them in reaching the desired behaviours/objectives.  This means showing strong belief and using positive language in your conversations.

Don’t forget as the leader, you are always on show and every interaction – positive, negative or otherwise is being observed and often recreated somewhere else in the business. If you are not feeling “in the zone” or you can’t project the vibe you want to create – best to take some time out, close the door or reschedule that team meeting – people can spot a fake a mile away! Whether you like it or not – the leader sets the tone.





Too busy to be the tooth fairy….a lesson in prioritisation

By | Productivity, Results

Today I got a reality check when my daughter came into the bedroom crying that the tooth fairy hadn’t visited her in the night. This was a BIG deal and I felt terrible.  I had forgotten. No excuses.

How do important things get lost in the haze of busyness? How is it that there was something more important than delivering a gold coin under her pillow? Well the truth is, there wasn’t anything more important and I can list 100 reasons why I forgot, but I’m not into excuses, only solutions.

Have you ever missed a deadline? Forgotten to return a call? Let it slip your mind that something had to be done by a certain time? We all have.  We all make mistakes.  Just this week I was speaking to a client who was given an opportunity by the Managing Director of her company to deliver a report on a special project.  2 days after it was due, she remembered. Gulp! We discussed how to avoid this in future:

  1. Daily ‘to do list’ – yes I have spoken about this before here. I can’t emphasize this tool enough. Now, I must tell you at this point she argued with me that she does in fact use a ‘to do list’. On further investigation it was a random set of notes on a page that were in no logical order and did not provide any direction or motivation.
  2. Be specific – tasks on a page need to be very specific.  Ring Henry Jones re: credit card payment or email Heather the ABC report by 5pm.  Anything that says, “do reports” or “make calls” is not going to happen or if it does, you will still miss tasks due to its generic nature.
  3. Projects – this is where it goes pear-shaped for most people in my experience.  You have things you would like to do or a project in the distance that you have to start at some point.  So on the to do list goes “Project XYZ”. And then it gets re-written and moved to the next day and the next day….and so on.  The idea is to break it down so the only thing that goes on the do list is something specific to do with the project eg: “Research competitor products”. Once this is done, part 2 of the project can go on the list. Before you know it, your project is well under way and there is no chance of missing the deadline.
  4. One location – it turns out my client was using her task book, in-tray, outlook calendar and inbox to keep and track her workload.  When I asked her how she missed this important deadline, it turned out that she had printed the email, highlighted it and then put it in her in-tray. It had been lost in the pile. One location and one list is the key.
  5. Human contact first – so when your list is 2 pages long and it is 2 o’clock in the afternoon, how do you decide what to do and what gets moved to the next day? People first! Anything that involves human contact gets done before close of business.  Verbal contact is the most important thing! This is where you build relationships and your own reputation as someone who does what they say they will do.

On reflection, this high achiever sees that she missed a moment to shine and deliver – but just as importantly she has learnt a valuable lesson in responsibility and prioritisation. I feel quietly confident that she won’t let a deadline slide again – with a new system in place and a big picture view of her own reputation and values.

By the way, the Tooth Fairy did deliver and there was some guilt money involved! She delivered her first bank-note, instead of the standard gold coin! I’m quite sure she has learnt her lesson too of important vs urgent.

The Fortunetellers wheel of fortune…..what does success mean to you?

By | Change, Results, Success

Last week I was flying to Brisbane to run a workshop with an up and coming HR Consultancy. To kick start the first session I opened with the topic of success and what it means to their business and the individuals within it.  Before getting into the nitty gritty of achieving top performance and putting action steps in place, I felt it was a pre-requisite to know what success means to those making the contribution.

I find through my coaching that success ultimately is very different for everyone and it can be quite a personal definition.  Mainstream success usually equates to financial wealth, asset generation, career climbing and social status. But is that your definition?  I like Christopher Morley’s “there is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way”.  That is, what you want it to be and what you’re striving for.

It has propelled me to reflect on my own journey as it has been 8 months since I decided to leave my executive role to start my own business (Quit while your ahead….10 tips for going out on top).  I know from the outside, it appeared like I had ‘everything’, but on the inside I wanted to contribute more in my own way and create something unique, that not only I could call my own, but live and breathe my offering that genuinely makes a difference to others.

Chris Savage’s blog post got me thinking last week (you can read it here) about success and living life authentically with no regrets.  He talks about ‘people on their deathbed living with no regrets’. I can honestly say I haven’t been that in touch my ‘spiritual’ side – always choosing to invest in my health, family, career and personal development as a priority.  However, I have to admit that a month before I actually made the decision to go it alone, I was at a corporate function – a fundraiser for the Julian Burton Burns Trust when I experienced something quite unusual.  There was a tarot card reader there and my team thought it would be fun to have our ‘futures told’.  I didn’t think twice – a bit of fun!

My cards read that I had an amazing opportunity, something that I had wanted to try for some time and that I should trust it.  This spinning wheel of opportunity was going to affect other areas of my life (family, finances etc) initially, but it would ultimately be successful.  Now, for you skeptics, yes this could have been referring to anything and been a “generic” reading, but does it matter? Sometimes we need a push and even if it comes from an unusual source, perhaps we should be more in tune with the messages the universe sends us! Of course I didn’t make my decision based on a fortuneteller, but it certainly gave me some added inspiration to propel me into action.

I realised I was in my comfort zone and it was a nice place to be (Are you green and growing or ripe and rotten?) but someone once said to me “sometimes being safe just means we live in the shadows of how great we can actually be”.  That being said, success to me means driving forward for my own purpose, living authentically with the intention of positively contributing to others.

It took some time, but I feel immense satisfaction that I took the plunge and like Chris Savage says, I have no regrets!  Sometimes we spend so much time focused on building the success of what others want or the image of what others think success is, that we forget about actually doing and achieving those the things that are important to us and actually make us happy.

Set your own agenda, define your own success and then enjoy the journey of making it happen!

Empty the cup…are there benefits of time-out?

By | Change, Strategy, Success

Last week I left my job after 10 years (see quit while your ahead…10 tips for going out on top) and since I announced the decision I have had lots of well wishes, feedback, new business offers and advice.  My head has been swimming to say the least.  Then one clever person said to me stop! You need to empty your cup.  My blank look obviously prompted him further…his philosophy is that good ideas, innovative thoughts and break through moments can only happen once you are clear and have emptied all your thoughts, emotions etc that are tied up with your current/last situation.  In my case, 10 years of “stuff” to un-learn and let go of.  Hmmm easier said than done!

So day 3 of my ‘time out’ – I’m struggling. I have cleaned out my office, re-organised files, had meetings with a web designer, accountant, photographer, business mentor, attended a committee meeting and updated my social media profiles. Did I mention a journalist rang, I’ve been invited to enough coffee meetings to last the next few months, I’ve given advice on an execs resume, signed my business registration docs and applied for a range of insurances? There is no time to empty my cup!

Or is there? If I do “nothing” for the next 2 – 3 weeks, what will happen? I’m sure I won’t evaporate or my networks will forget me? Worst case? I miss a few opportunities.  And that’s it. I can’t honestly think of anything worse.  On the flip side, what are the benefits? I take the opportunity to refresh and recharge.  I might be lucky enough to spark some new ideas, gain a different perspective or clarify my business plans.

So that being said, I am going to attempt to ‘empty the cup’. I have committed myself to a week away and I am looking forward to the opportunity to re-assess my goals and see what comes up for me. Wish me luck!

Have you ever taken time out to empty your cup? What benefits did you receive?

Quit while you’re ahead…10 tips for going out on top

By | Change, Leadership, Results

4 weeks ago, I made a BIG decision. I decided to leave my job. 10 years after founding Entrée Recruitment and leading the company to it’s most successful year on record, I felt it was time …. and what better time to do it than when the business is at its peak? My decision has been met with a range of reactions – congratulations! Why? Well done! About time! Really? Are you sure? Hmmmm that’s a big risk, are you crazy?

Funny isn’t it….but setting up Entrée all those years ago was a risk too.  It was late 2001 and the market was going through an interesting time with Sept 11, the HIH disaster, Ansett had collapsed and many big spending Adelaide corporates such as Fauldings were moving interstate.  It was a turbulent time that did see several recruitment companies go out of business.  Meanwhile, at 23 I was relishing the opportunity to start up a business from scratch with not a care in the world about the market, the economy or my competitors.  I wanted to do things differently and I had a vision – the rest seemed irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.

As I have cleaned out my office this week, going through 10 years of “stuff” – I have reminisced on my journey and the highs and lows. Many lessons have been learnt, many relationships formed and many successes enjoyed.  On reflection, I would summarise my 10 biggest lessons in 10 years as:

  1. I can’t do it all – in the early years, I subconsciously thought I could do it all.  I would try and solve every problem, take on every task, talk to every client and I wanted to know everything that was going on.  The result? I was close to burnout and I became a control freak. Letting go, learning to empower others and take a big picture perspective saved my leadership, long-term business success and my sanity!
  2. Health must be a priority – working long hours, drinking copious amounts of coffee, eating poorly and irregular exercise left my system running on empty.   An adrenalin junkie going full throttle is what I thought would deliver the results I wanted. I learnt putting health 1st, family 2nd and work 3rd actually delivered better results for all three areas.
  3. Recruit for culture – in the early days, I had relatively high staff turnover.  It would drive me crazy that I had spent so much money recruiting and then months training only for newbies to leave. I had to have a good hard look at where I was going wrong.  I was recruiting on skills and experience and not on culture (see previous post who’s hot and who’s not….what the perfect resume won’t tell you). As soon as I changed this focus, my hit rate dramatically improved. I learnt that there are 5 competencies that people must demonstrate to join the Entrée team (coachability, achievement drive, negotiation, persistence and decision making).  No matter how great their years of experience in recruitment, I would not hire them if they couldn’t meet these criteria.
  4. Goals = results – every year the team and I have set personal and business goals at an individual level that would then link to business’ overall goals.  This discipline ensured that every year our results improved and people knew how they were contributing to the big picture.  Without a target, people don’t know what to aim for.
  5. Coach on behavior, not the person – have you ever wondered why people end up in tears in your office or you think oops that didn’t come out the right way?  It would happen to me and I realised the issue was in my delivery – not my intent. As soon as I change my communication to focus on observed behaviours, rather than what I thought, things changed dramatically! Suddenly performance increased, staff were motivated and driven and I wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
  6. Set expectations early – why is this staff member texting me that they are sick and not coming in? Why is she wearing that to work? I learnt that you should never assume. People don’t know what you want or the way you want them to do things unless you tell them.  I set expectations right from the interview stage – “this is what we expect here at Entrée…” This way there is always something to go back to if behviour goes off track (see blog how to get what you expect).
  7. Leadership = retention – do you want people to stay? Become a better leader. Simple.  My retention rate went through the roof the moment I started investing in my leadership skills.  This peaked at an average rate of 6 years for consulting staff – a rate the smashes the industry average.
  8. Staff are number 1 – one of the first business books I read that had an instant effect on me was Richard Branson’s “loosing my virginity”.  It taught me many things – the most profound being that staff must come first. When staff come first, clients get great service and the profits look after themselves.  This mantra has proven true year on year in my business.
  9. Feedback & coaching – giving people feedback consistently is imperative to keep them learning, interested and performing.  This delivered immediately with good intention tells them that you have a genuine interest and belief in their personal success.  This regular coaching has easily doubled the profitability of the business. See previous post show me the money, 9 tips to profitable growth.
  10.  Ongoing learning – the leader sets the tone.  Lesson number 10 is imperative to keep the business at the cutting edge of new information, tools and technologies.  If the Leader isn’t learning anything new, then neither is the business.  Doing the same thing actually means the business is going backwards.  I have always maintained continuous learning through coaches, mentors, conferences, business books, blogs and the like.  Up to date knowledge is not only smart business, it actually makes us more inspiring and interesting to be around.

Today, 10 years later, I feel inspired with a similar energy, a new vision, and still a desire to do things differently and better. I want to work with people like me – who are driven to succeed through developing their people and leadership skills.  An entrepreneur at heart, I have taken what some see as a ‘risk’, but what I see as an exciting next chapter to modernize the way things are currently done to recruit, retain and achieve optimum results through people.

My sincere gratitude to Mark Hender, the person who took the chance on me all the years ago, his belief in me was the linchpin that made the journey possible. Lastly, to all the folks who have worked with me over the years, I say a big thank you! Thank you for being patient, open, determined and loyal to me and the vision that we have achieved. It’s been quite a ride!

Trust ‘ya’ gut! Do you overlook this recruitment tool?

By | Recruitment

You know that little “something” that niggles at you, the voice in your head or that “thing” you can’t quite put our finger on.  “It” often prevents us from making decisions or if we ignore it, we end up kicking ourselves that we didn’t listen to it when we make the wrong decision.

Gut instinct, a feeling, intuition, I can’t explain it, I can’t teach it and to be honest at interview I can’t assess whether you have it either. So it becomes very frustrating and hard to justify using your ‘gut’ in recruitment because it is subjective.  It isn’t based on fact or skill.  It’s that intangible intuition that you develop over time through interviewing hundreds and hundreds of people and observing human behaviour in what can be one of life’s most stressful situations – a job interview.

A few weeks ago I was interviewing a candidate who had a great CV, presented well face to face, answered all the behavioural based interview questions well and gave great reasons for wanting the job….but there was just something missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I kept asking more questions and yet my gut was saying something is not quite right here – but I had no facts to back it up.  This was quite unsettling because in recruitment I like a valid reason to say no I’m not going to refer this candidate to this job or to my client.  However, within 24 hours my gut proved right through this candidate not following up with promised referee names and numbers and a failure to follow simple instructions – my gut was right.

To use this “recruitment tool” to its full potential, here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • Acknowledge the feeling – something isn’t quite right here, I’m not 100% sure what it is, but I recognise I’m not completely sold or comfortable
  • Ask questions – to validate the concern or to prove yourself wrong, you need to ask great questions to find the facts
  • Time – if you can’t find the answer immediately or evidence to make you go one way or the other, sit on the decision for at least 24 hours (something always tends to come up after the event)
  • Seek advice – can you gain a referral or speak to someone who has dealt with this person, product or service to give you some feedback on perhaps what did or didn’t work for them? This process, might clarify that gut instinct for you.
  • Previous experience – if you have made similar decisions in the past and been right, then it is reasonable to use this gut instinct again and realise that you have made a similar decision correctly in the past. For example, I have chosen not to hire experienced Consultants working for competitors due to my gut feeling that they won’t fit into the Entrée Recruitment culture.  This is very difficult to listen to when everything on paper is telling me they would be a good hire. Previous experience tells me it won’t work so I don’t ignore this urge to hire just on skills and experience (see previous blog Who’s hot and who’s not….what the perfect resume won’t tell you).

This isn’t only in recruitment – it occurs in all parts of life’s decision making.  I know for myself, I haven’t listened to this intuition on several occasions around picking service providers for our new house.  The disaster with our blinds could have been prevented if I had listened to my gut and the warning signs of cancelled appointment times, not returning phone calls and then the commented “yeh we’ve never sold these types of blinds before….”! I think sometimes we just get in situations where we hope that things will work out even when we can feel those little butterflies in the stomach trying to tell us something.

At the end of the day we all make incorrect decisions and we learn from these mistakes. The hard part is when we ignore our gut feelings and continue to make the wrong decisions.

Trust your gut – it is rarely wrong! In the recruitment world we have hundreds of tools at our disposable to help make the correct hiring decisions – screening measurements, tests, interviews, reference checks, coffee meetings and psychological assessments and yes they have their place in the recruitment process. But when was the last time you used this very powerful recruitment tool of gut instinct? Did it work? Would you use it again?