The YOLO Principle: What It Is and How It Can Help with Hiring (Episode 25)

May 14, 2018

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Darcy Grabenstein: Hello from SmartLinx Solutions! In today's podcast, we'll talk about something called The YOLO Principle, and how it can help your hiring process. Our guest today is Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, Founder and CEO of YOLO Insights, helping organizations hire the talented people they need to grow their business. Rebecca is a Society for Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional. She is the author of The YOLO Principle: The Ultimate Hiring Guide for Small Business. Welcome, Rebecca.

Rebecca Barnes-Hogg: Well, thanks Darcy. I'm happy to be here and I'm excited about sharing the YOLO principle with your listeners.

DG: I'm sure they are curious. Well we know that YOLO stands for "you only live once," but why did you choose that as the name for your consulting business?

RBH: I think for me that's kind of my guiding principle for life. If I only have one life, I'm going to live it in a way that gives me joy and happiness, and I work with and do things with people that I enjoy being surrounded by. And throughout my career, I was in so many jobs and so many organizations where I'm surrounded by these really smart people who were just the wrong fit for the jobs they were in, so they came to work unhappy. And that unhappiness filters throughout the organization. And as I looked at what people were doing and how they were being hired and all those things that go into a recruiting process, I realized that most hiring managers or executives or small business owners were missing a critical piece of that hiring process, which was a personality fit, a values fit, a mindset/attitude fit.

You know, we've all worked with those people who are technically competent, but yet never just fit in, you know, they were always the nails on the chalkboard and you dreaded working with them because there was always some issue, right? So for me, I tell my clients when I work with them, life's too short to work with jerks, so you don't want to hire them. And I don't think anybody wakes up in the morning and says, I want to go to work today and be a jerk. You know, I think in our heart most of us want to go to work and enjoy what we do and feel like we're contributing and giving value, and then being appreciated in return for that value. And when you get the disconnect, it's hard to feel valued and it's hard to get excited about going to work.

DG: That's very true. Rebecca, your focus is on small business, but our listeners represent a range of organizations from small to large. So I would ask you, what size organizations do you typically serve, and I would assume that your principle can apply to any size organization? And then the second question, related to that, is how can a smaller long-term care facility compete with a larger one for top talent?

RBH: Great questions. I typically work with businesses that range in size from anywhere about five employees up to about 400. The typical client I work with is usually somewhere between 50 and 100 employees. The YOLO Principle applies virtually to any organization, but for myself personally, I just have a heart for that small business because they make up the backbone of our economy. And it's just heartbreaking to me when they fail or they can't achieve their goals because they don't have the people part of their organization right.

So to answer your second question about how can a smaller long-term care facility compete with the larger one, I think the first thing to do is to stop trying to be like a larger organization. Being small is an advantage that most organizations, no matter what business they're in, don't leverage. They kind of get their mentality stuck in "We can't because we don't have…" whether it's money for higher salaries or generous benefits or other cool workplace perks. Instead of focusing on what they can't do, they should focus on what they can offer and use that to attract their candidates.

And one of the things I believe is a strength of the small firm is that their story is really the heart and soul of their business. And in the small company, your high performers really get that line of sight, that visibility into the results of their work. And they don't have a lot of, typically, that bureaucratic layering that goes through large companies. Now I know in healthcare there's a lot of government regulation, and you can't get around that, you have to follow it. But outside of that regulatory environment, a small business can often act much more quickly on ideas and feedback from their employees, and that goes back to making their employees feel like they're valued contributors. And none of that costs money, which is just an incredible miss, I think, for a lot of smaller organizations. So I think the first thing I would tell that smaller long-term care facility is to stop comparing themselves to bigger organizations and focus on what makes them unique.

DG: That's great advice. I worked at both smaller and larger companies, and SmartLinx is a smaller organization but we're really growing. And it's so true, there's not that layer of bureaucracy that you find in larger organizations. And it's also something that organizations can promote to clients like we do. Our clients get more attention because we're smaller. You know, we can devote that to them. So I agree, there are definitely benefits to being a little bit smaller organization.

RBH: Yeah, and I think some of the more recent studies out there show that particularly millennials are now the largest demographic in our workforce, I think that happened somewhere around 2015. And studies are actually showing that that age demographic actually prefers a smaller organization because they get a more diversified experience, they get more challenging work, they get exposure to more than one role. And that doesn't happen in a larger organization for the most part.

DG: Right. So Rebecca, one of your YOLO principles is clarity. Can you tell us why that's so critical?

RBH: Yeah, it's funny, I was just having this conversation with a potential client earlier this morning and I think it goes around the expectations. So here's a situation I hear commonly. You know, "I hired this person to do this job, the job description's pretty clear, they came on board, and now I'm disappointed because they don't seem capable of doing what I need them to do." And when I dig into their process on what they did in terms of their job postings, their job descriptions, how they interview, really, the underlying theme there was they didn't understand their own needs. So if you don't know what your needs are and you can't communicate that clearly, then it's impossible for the person you hire to be that psychic mind reader and know what you want. So without that clarity, it's hard for you to hold people accountable, it's hard for you to set those expectations for them.

And a quick example is, you know, one of my very first clients had a problem keeping a receptionist. And as I talked to her, she said the biggest problem was, no matter how many times she told the receptionist "Ask all the clients if they want to add on service," that one simple phrase wasn't being done. And when we looked into how she was hiring, the part she missed and she wasn't clear about is that she needed someone who had, not necessarily a background in sales, but someone who was comfortable and had kind of a selling mindset, like their personality was in tune with selling. So she was hiring people who were great administratively but they lacked that sales orientation.

And one quick calculation I did with her was if that position asked that question, and 30%—which is a conservative number—said yes to a $25 service on top of what they were already purchasing, what would that do for your business. And her response was, oh that'd be you know, probably another $130-140,000 a year in revenue. OK, for a small business that's huge. What would you do with that, you know, what problems would that solve in your business? So that's where that clarity piece in knowing what you need and setting expectations just is so insanely critical and it's a big miss for a lot of organizations.

DG: Got it. So, Rebecca, what would you say is the first step an organization can take to make hiring easier? And what about the long-term care industry, which hires a lot of hourly and part-time workers? How can they attract quality caregivers?

RBH: Those are great questions. I'm going to tackle the first one. So the first step I think is to get that clarity. Sit down and think about what you really need your workers to do and what goes into that work. So it's more than just a list of things they have to do. It's more than responsibilities. What's behind the success of the person in that area? Do they need certain attitudes and behaviors and mindsets, and what do they look like in your organization? So for example, you might say, "I need someone who has compassion," right? In long-term care that's huge because it's a very emotional and heart-wrenching decision for a family to put a loved one into a long-term care facility, right?

DG: Right.

RBH: So the people you hire, you want them to have compassion and probably a healthy dose of empathy. So what does that look like in your facility? How does that match with your expectations for the service you're providing to the patients and to the patient families? And really define that, you know, and that goes into listing those competencies, those characteristics, and then defining what that looks like in your organization. Because it's going to be different for each organization. And then from that, you've got that clarity, you've got those definitions, you have the expectations. And you can design those interviews around those and how you ask questions. A whole host of things comes out of that one basic thing, and the only investment you're making in that is a couple hours of your time.

So to answer the next question, your hourly and part-time workers, how do you attract them. I think the first thing to do is to really make it about that worker. Right now, the economy nationwide — it's going to vary regionally, in cities and that sort of thing — but our economy is pretty much at full employment. So that means the people you're hiring probably already have another job. They're working for someone else, they might be working for your competitors. So it's more important right now than ever before to change and shift that thinking around how you attract people. You know, it's no longer I put a job ad on a job website, you know, Career Builder or Monster or Indeed or Craigslist, and people apply. You have to really think like a marketer. You have to write a very candidate-focused job posting and send it out there. You have to also tell a story about what a candidate can expect. What is it going to be like. How can you put them into a visible picture of what it's like to work for you. What will their workday be like. And what does it mean to work for you. What's your story. And you have to really pull at them to make them want to leave their current job and come to work for you. And that's a skill that I think everyone needs to learn. And I always recommend to people, just take a couple of quick marketing courses. There's tons of free stuff out there, so again it's just a quick investment of a few hours of time. But it really helps in shifting that thinking.

DG: That's so true. We do that at SmartLinx. As a member of the marketing department, you know, instead of talking on and on about our products so much, we like to talk about our users and how it solves their programs. So that's really good advice in terms of hiring.

RBH: Right. And the same principles transfer and are highly effective.

DG: So, could you give us a behind-the-scenes look at some of your Insightful Interview™ questions? And I know you have a trademark after your "Insightful Interview," so I'd like to hear more about that.

RBH: Yeah. I'm in the process of getting that registered as a trademark. So the Insightful Interview™ question takes your questions and tweaks them, basically. It's like a question makeover. We used to ask these questions, you know, behavioral-based questions. Tell me about a time you did X or Y, or what happened here or there and you listen for these answers. Well, the problem now is that every candidate has access to the same things on the internet that you do. And so they're going out there and they're looking at this, and they're reading the questions they know you're going to ask, and they're researching the best possible answers, right. So you need to catch them off guard. And there's nothing wrong with the behavioral-based questions.

What you need to do is turn the behavioral-based part of it into an insightful interview question, and that's going to give you the insight into the real person. You're going to know who that person is. Because we talked earlier about how we oftentimes hire someone who interviewed great and we're like, "Well, what happened? They're not performing." Well, that's the reason why. They've researched the same questions and answers that we have.

So one of my favorite questions that people always ask is, "Could you tell me about your weaknesses?" or "Could you tell me about your strengths?" So instead of asking that question, what you want to do is just tweak it a little bit. So I change that question into: "Could you tell me about a time when you were faced with a project or a task that you didn't have the knowledge or tools or skills to accomplish?" So that does a couple of things. It tells you strengths and weaknesses in one question. But it also gives you a true picture of how that person, a potential worker for your long-term care facility, is going to act when they're on the job. Because their answer could tell you how flexible they are, what kind of learner they are, can they adapt to change, are they resourceful, where did they go for help, do they ask good questions. You get such rich detail from answers to that question, it's amazing. And people don't always connect that to the strengths and weaknesses question, but you get a lot of information that you wouldn't get if you just asked that other question. So I tell my clients, always have an idea in your mind, know what you need to learn for every single question you ask. So you don't have to have an interview that's 15 or 20 questions long. You can literally have four or five questions that will tell you everything you need to know, and then as candidates tell you their story, you can ask for details or clarification or you might surface a follow-up question. Those kinds of things come out of the insightful interview question that don't necessarily come out of a traditional behaviorally based question.

DG: That makes a lot of sense. I like that idea. So I'm going to talk a little broader now. How can an organization create a hiring strategy to get from where they are now to where they want to be, in other words from point A to point B?

RBH: Yeah, that's a great question as well. I like to use a GPS analogy. Back in the day, we used to have to pull out a map and look at where we are and where we want to be and hope that the roads hadn't changed in the meantime since the map was published and all those kinds of things. And the same thing is true when you're setting a strategy for hiring. You need to know where you are now, but you also need to know where you're going. Because like the Cheshire Cat said in Alice in Wonderland, if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? So you have to have those defining points like where are you now, where do you want to be. And those goals are going to be different depending on the organization and where they are. And once you know that, you can then start looking at all your alternative ways to get there.

So it might be that you need to invest in technology, or you might need to take a couple of those little marketing courses. You might need to rework job descriptions. You might need to work with someone in marketing who can help you craft a story for your potential candidate so you can start that more attraction-based thing in terms of finding those people you need. So you know, there are a lot of ways, different ways, to get where you need to go. And they have varying levels of cost. You can get there very inexpensively or you can spend a lot of money. It just depends on what your needs are, how fast you need to achieve those goals, what your overall community is like in terms of availability of workers. Some areas have a shortage of laborers so you might have to go outside your geographic region and recruit and look at relocation fees and things like that. So it's going to be different for everyone, but once you have that starting and ending point, you can look at a number of different ways to get where you need to be.

DG: Right. So you mentioned technology. At SmartLinx, we offer tech solutions for HR, including applicant tracking software. So what technology tools do you feel are essential to being efficient and effective in the hiring process?

RBH: I don't think I could possibly survive as a recruiter without an ATS system. And that keeps me organized, it keeps me on track with where a candidate is in my process. So I don't lose them because I'm not paying attention to them. One of the worst things you can do with a candidate is not be human and fail to communicate. Because if you're not doing those two things, someone else is and you lose them to your competition.

So that's the first one, and a lot of it, depends on the ATS system. Some ATS systems incorporate this and some do not, but a scheduling program. And that makes it so easy to schedule your candidates through your interview process. How many times do you go back and forth by email or text or some other method to try to find a mutually convenient interview time? Whether it's in person or phone or Skype or some other platform for an interview, the scheduling tool allows you set blocks of time. And what I do, the tools that I use, for each position I'm recruiting for, I block time for those positions on my calendar and I create a link that I send to the candidate I want to schedule. And they go in, they see all available times, and they choose the one that's best. It puts a calendar appointment on their calendar, on my calendar, and then it sends reminders so you don't have those no-shows for your appointments.

And then also, one of the other tech tools I use is an email grabber. So there are extensions that you can put on your browser so it's probably more detail than we have time to go into here, but I do a lot of passive sourcing and recruiting. So I'm reaching out to candidates who have jobs, and trying to attract them to my clients' positions and get them excited about it. And in doing that, I do a lot of Google searches, I use a lot of social media sites, but you don't always have contact information for your candidate. So these email grabber programs that are extensions that you can use on your Chrome browser are one of my essential tools.

And then just using the words, the words that you use. I have a book called Words that Sell.

DG: I have that book!

RBH: Isn't it a great book? I mean it's used by marketers, right? But I use those words in my email and my outreach on social media when I go and send an InMail on LinkedIn to someone that I want to connect with. I get responses because I'm using my words wisely. So those are just a couple.

DG: That's great. So I have to tell our listeners that I did not pay you to talk about the ATS system with the scheduler. But just so our listeners know, our ATS does have a scheduling capability, you can automatically schedule your interviews. So thank you for sharing that.

DG: So Rebecca, in the long-term care industry, it costs $16,000 on average to fill a nurse vacancy. That's $7,000 for recruitment, which includes posting, screening, and hiring, and another $9,000 for interim coverage including temp staff, overtime, and lost productivity. On top of that, it takes an average 82 days to fill a nurse vacancy. So, in your experience, exactly how much does a bad hire cost across the board?

RBH: The numbers on that range. Some say 20 or 30 percent of salary, and others go up to six figures. I think it depends on the position and where you're at in an organization. One of the things I work on is getting — you said 82 days to fill a nurse vacancy, and I know nurses are high demand and there's a shortage there as well. So all of those things impact that 82 days, but if you're able to shrink that, you save a lot of money.

I do have a calculator on my website that's downloadable for free that will take you through all of the various aspects that go into a vacancy, including hard costs like advertising and overtime and things like that, the interim coverage, but also some of the soft costs like impact on morale, the stress and lowered productivity of the current staff who is picking up extra duties because of those vacancies, ramping-up time, retraining costs. All of those things that sometimes we forget about when we're calculating that bad hire cost. So that's a free tool that's available on my website that anyone can take advantage of and just calculate that directly for your own organization.

DG: Great. So I have to ask you, Rebecca, what do you enjoy most about your job?

RBH: So me, it's making those connections, and hiring people who love what they do, and then having the organization that hired them have an employee that helps them meet their goals. And for me, that's the magic because that's when you get that employee engagement that's so important. You reduce so many problems and headaches and save so much money, simply because you took the time and you invested on the front end to get the right employee. So you can be so much better in terms of your efficiency, your productivity, and ultimately your profitability when you take that time. And I love just seeing the success of an organization when they get it right.

DG: Great. Well thank, Rebecca, for sharing your YOLO insights with us today. And to all our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you'd like to learn more about Rebecca's consulting services, visit And if you'd like to learn more about SmartLinx and our fully integrated suite of workforce management solutions, including our applicant tracking system that streamlines the recruiting process from job posting to onboarding, visit us online at

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