Keara Johnson didn’t see herself working at a staffing firm. She graduated from Virginia State University with a sociology major and social work minor, prepared to work for a school…
Companies don’t intentionally place employees in the wrong position, but it happens.
Sometimes, sudden vacancies or rapid growth can cause a company to make hasty hiring decisions, but that can end up being costlier in the long run.
Sarah Fulton – Branch Manager at The Lee Group’s Chesapeake office – takes pride in making sure she finds the right fit for both employee and employer.
“It’s the secret sauce,” Sarah said. “Virtually any company can be successful if it has the right people.”
Growing up with two brothers and career-minded parents, Sarah recalls an active and somewhat competitive childhood. As the oldest sibling, Sarah took on a natural leadership role in the family and wasn’t afraid to try things her brothers or other boys in the neighborhood didn’t think she was able to just to prove them wrong.
“Anything I tried I wanted to be good at,” she said.
Her drive and ambition lead her to consider careers in both broadcast journalism and law – both of which are innately competitive – but life, as it often does, had a different plan.
After graduating from James Madison University in 2007 with a double major in Media Arts & Design and Spanish, Sarah applied to law schools within driving distance to her hometown of Newport News, but was waitlisted. In the meantime, she was gaining experience as a legal assistant at a local firm.
Two years later, her dad called and invited her to lunch. He had recently become co-owner of an independent staffing firm called The Lee Group. She figured the lunch was innocuous – a typical father/daughter get-together, but her dad had an ulterior motive.
It was 2009 and the economy that had once been booming, was now coming down off its high. Business was slow, and her father – Walt Graham – was a new business owner and needed help keeping the company out of the red.
Lunch – it turned out – was a segue way into a job offer. He asked Sarah to come work for him as the sales lead in The Lee Group’s Chesapeake office. She accepted, and the rest is history.
The Lee Group Way
After two years in sales, Sarah dipped her toes into the staffing side of The Lee Group and found she had a knack for it.
“Staffing is very relationship-driven, people-oriented and solutions-driven, and I found that I really thrived on that,” she said.
Sarah also enjoyed finding the proverbial “needle in the haystack” as well as the challenge of finding a perfect fit for clients who had trouble hiring in the past.
“I’m really drawn to people and problem-solving, which is what hiring feels like most of the time,” she said.
The Lee Group’s approach to staffing is unique and highly effective, going beyond the basic screening criteria.
“A lot of times companies think they know what they are looking for in a candidate, but they end up inadvertently passing up good candidates because a certain skillset is missing,” Sarah explained.
Sarah said the fact that The Lee Group looks beyond what’s on paper gives them an edge on their competitors who may still be using old-school hiring methodologies.
“We evaluate the person, not the skillset,” she said. “We spend all day interviewing.”
Sarah said another tool The Lee Group utilizes if a company asks for it is a personality assessment called CORE.
“CORE allows us to match a person’s innate energy with the type of work that is required,” she said. “For example, if a job involves repetitiveness, we’re not going to place a highly creative person in the position. We screen people in to jobs instead of screening them out.”
Secrets to Staffing Success
Hiring the right employees is not as easy as some may think. Sarah offers some tips on how to find the right person for the job.
Tip 1: Closely examine your position – what are the key tasks of the role? Do you need to re-write your job description and can you change the type of candidate you are looking for?
Tip 2: Hire strategically – interview and hire for the few core tasks, and consider what you can teach if you find the right person.
Tip 3: Evaluate your cultural “must haves” and look for them in the hiring process. Identify “deal makers and deal breakers” – and don’t break your own rules, even if you “like” someone.
Tip 4: Be open minded – consider candidates with transferrable skills and validate them. Test writing ability, computer savviness and customer service capability
Tip 5: Conduct experiential interviews – give a candidate a real-life scenario to work through as part of the interview process.