“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?”


Picture this scenario – you are interviewing for a job you really, really want. Things have been going great. You’re connecting with the team, and you’re slinging answers to your typical interview questions like a pro. You’ve finally reached the last interview of the day. Your interviewer asks, “If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?” You freeze.




While this question may seem completely random, you may encounter something similar throughout your interview process. There are many other types of tough interview questions that interviewers ask to get a better idea of your experience, your interest in the role, and your personality. At PSG, our team is equipped to help you work through how to answer these toughies. My colleagues, Michael Bergeron, Senior Staffing Manager, and Frank Gentile, Director, have offered some of their own examples and insights to get us started!


  1. “What’s something you would change about yourself?”
    1. “The answer is never “I’m perfect.” Hiring managers are looking for a little humility and self-reflection, which is challenging to do mid-interview. I would practice an answer ahead of time, making sure the weakness you’re discussing isn’t critical to the job. Also, it is never a good idea to say that your fault is your organizational skills, as all roles need them. Same thing with punctuality!” – Michael Bergeron
  2. “When I talk to your manager, what will they tell me?”
    1. “Hiring managers will want to get an idea of what they’ll hear from your manager when they call for references. This is an excellent time to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. As you are preparing for your interview, come up with three strengths and one weakness that you have supporting example stories for that you can discuss with your interviewer. These stories can also come in handy later on to help you answer other potentially tough questions. – Frank Gentile
  3. “Why are you interested in this job?”
    1. “The biggest mistake people make on this question is that they never mention specific items from the job description. You can gush about the company you’re interviewing for, but make sure you still mention some of the key duties from the job description!” – Michael Bergeron
    2. “The position you’re interviewing for should be a natural progression from your current role or aligned with your professional goals. This will help you hone in on why you want the job, and why you’re excited about the responsibilities– Frank Gentile
  4. What are the low points of your current role?”
    1. “Your interviewer is hoping to get a sense of how you respond to or handle potential ‘lows’ within your role. Talk about something that is outside of your control, such as a change within the team. However, you need to ensure that your response isn’t shedding a negative light on the company, your peers, your boss, etc. You want to make sure that you are turning this ‘low point’ into a positive. Did you view this ‘low’ as a challenge and rise to it?” – Frank Gentile



  1. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
    1. “If you are asked this question, don’t fall into the trap of trying to explain where you think you’ll be – no one really knows! Instead, let your interviewer know that your current focus is on attaining the role at hand. You look forward to mastering it, and, when deemed appropriate, you’ll be more than willing to take on additional responsibilities. This shows that you’re dedicated and focused on being an immediate value add to the team.” – Frank Gentile


And, finally, because I know you’ve been waiting:


  1. “If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?”
    1. “Questions like these are unorthodox, but they can show up. Managers don’t actually care what animal you would be – they want to see your creativity, logic, and how you think on your feet. Use this as an opportunity to insert your personality into the interview, and don’t freeze up! For example, my usual answer is a Peregrine Falcon because; 1. They have no natural predators 2. They have sharp eyesight 3. They are the fastest animal on earth, and 4. I could fly, so I wouldn’t have to take the MBTA anymore!” – Michael Bergeron


Any of these questions sounding familiar? Any interview questions you’ve encountered that you want advice on? Need help picking out what your animal would be? Reach out to us – we’re here to help!

Your Job Postings Don’t Work


4 Reasons Your Job Postings Don’t Work

Now, hear me out – there could be way more than 3 reasons why your postings are not working (spelling errors much?), but these are all too often overlooked and very easily fixed.

  1. It’s not targeted, and quite frankly it’s boring.

This sounds harsh, but job postings need to be able to sell to your ideal candidate.  This is your opportunity to grab their attention and then sell why your organization and this role is the one they should apply for.  Right now, good candidates have a lot of choices so the first step is to get them to notice you.  Best way to do that?

#1 – Know who you are targeting!  Do some research and figure out who that is and what is important to them.

#2 – Use your research.  Is your targeted candidate someone who values growth? Highlight that in a real way in your posting (X company has grown by X amount in the last 2 years and we are projected to continue…)

#3 – Highlight your company culture – and no I do not mean stating that you have cold brew on tap.

  1. You have too many ‘qualifications’.

I get it.  You’ve got client meetings and emails to respond to, the absolute last thing that you have time for is digging through unqualified resumes – but here is the thing: no matter how many qualifications you put, you are always going to have folks that apply that are in no way qualified for the role that you are hiring for.  So why bother trying to screen them out?  Instead, use this as an opportunity to continue to sell your organization and your culture.

Now, I am not advocating for erasing requirements from your job posting.  If you are looking for someone that needs to have knowledge of InDesign, than that needs to be there – it’s the bullet points that are completely dedicated to seeking someone who is “detail oriented” I’m saying to toss.  Everyone believes themselves to be detail oriented, but having in-depth knowledge of InDesign is something a candidate can either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to.

Keep it to 3-5 key items max.

  1. You’re using Gender Coded language.

Folks, we talked about this.  I won’t go into extreme detail here (if you’re interested you can head here to learn a bit more), but here is what you need to remember:


4 Steps to Behavioral Interviewing

4 Steps to Behavioral Interviewing

There’s a saying I remember from my time as a writing student that I know made many of my classmates groan – “show don’t tell.” For example, “don’t tell us its cold outside, show us!” or “don’t tell us this character is mad, show us.”

While this concept seemed unimportant to a class of elementary school kids who just wanted to go outside for recess, “show don’t tell” actually has an important lesson to teach us about how we can conduct interviews that are illustrative, effective and fair.

As a hiring manager, you want to make sure you’re hiring the most qualified candidate for the job. However, it can be hard to gauge a candidate’s potential job performance when your interview questions get responses that don’t really get to the meat of what a candidate can or can’t do, knows or doesn’t know, or that give you the feeling they’re just giving you the answer they think you want to hear. When you want to dig deep into a candidate’s experience, asking behavioral interviewing questions can get you there.

What’s behavioral interviewing you ask? Great question! Behavioral interviewing – considered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to be the most effective interviewing strategy – is a strategy that employs asking questions that prompt a candidate to give direct examples of skills and experiences that will provide you with a better idea of how they will react to potential situations they might face on the job.

For example, if being able to use sound business judgment while working independently is super, super, SUPER critical to your position, having candidates tell you “I have good business judgment, and I’m independent” likely doesn’t give you everything you need to determine if they truly have these crucial skills. Instead, go for a question like, “Tell me about a time you needed to make a time-sensitive decision, and your manager was unavailable for consultation. What did you do, how did you come to that conclusion and what was the outcome?” A question like this will prompt the candidate to give you an example that will help you evaluate whether they have the skills and experience to deal with situations that may arise in the position. Plus, it will help you gauge whether or not their response to the situation fits what you’re looking for in your future employee – you want to make sure they’re a culture fit, too!

You might be saying “this behavioral interviewing sounds great, but I’m not sure how to get started – I’ve already got so many things on my plate!” Fear not – I have laid out some steps below, with some help from the good ol’ SHRM, to help you get you started.

  1. Define the critical competencies for the position: Between you and your selected interview team, come up with a list of the most important skills, behaviors or specific knowledge that will be crucial for success in the position. You’ll likely take these from the job description. If you can, keep the number of competencies between five and ten to allow for a more in-depth interview process around these competencies. Additionally, the quicker you can get your answers to the most pressing questions, the faster you can turn around a potential hiring decision and score that top candidate.
  2. Design behavioral interview questions based on these competencies: Using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Results), come up with interview questions that will prompt candidates to respond with a situation they faced and the task they needed to complete, what action they took and what results came out of it.
  3. Create a simple rating scale: Whether it’s “1-5,” “exceeds expectations to beneath expectations,” create a rating scale that will allow your team to rate the candidate against the agreed-upon competencies. This rating scale will help you compare candidates easily and also potentially cut down on potential bias as each candidate is being evaluated based on the same set of competencies and questions.
  4. Assign competencies to interviewers that best exemplify them: So you aren’t having the candidate sit through the same interview multiple times, assign specific skill sets to interviewers that best exemplify them on the job. They’ll be responsible for asking those behavioral interviewing questions relevant to their competency to gauge whether or not this candidate fits the bill. Ensure that you are keeping your interview panel and questions consistent across candidates to allow for a more direct comparison.
  5. Interview away!

For your next open position, take some stress out of finding your next hire and employ behavioral interviewing tactics – get your candidates to show you what they can do so you can be confident that your next hire is the right one!

Blog inspiration and informational source:  Behavioral Interview Guide: Early Career Job Candidates from SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management)


Job Postings and Gender Neutral Language

Job Postings and Gender Neutral Language

What is the purpose of a job posting? To attract candidates with a desirable skill set for a specific position, Right?

So why do so many companies overlook gender coding in their online job postings and job descriptions?  The answer is fairly simple:  Folks may not realize the impact the words they use have on their audience.

Everyone wants their advertisement to stand out from the rest, which is why we will see a number of ‘buzz’ words or phrases used (does the phrase ‘we are looking for a rock star’ make anyone else roll their eyes a little?).  Facts are that some words skew more masculine and some skew more feminine and that impacts who is applying to your job.

So what do we do?

  1. Educate yourself – What adjectives are more masculine vs. more feminine? What are their gender neutral alternatives?

As a quick example, we can explore one of the more commonly used adjectives – Bubbly – often times we’ll see this word in an advertisement for front desk personnel, administrative roles, or receptionist positions.  While we may use this word to attract someone who is outgoing the word itself sits on the more feminine side and may screen out those that don’t identify in that way.  Consider replacing the word all together with something more neutral.

  1. Review, change, re-post

It’s easy to make the right changes in your posts – especially with tools out there like the Gender Decoder for Job Ads.  This is my all-time favorite tool and I frequently double check what I’ve written to ensure that the post uses neutral language that will not unknowingly screen out qualified applicants.

  1. Make it part of your everyday

Last but not least – embrace gender neutral language in your everyday communication.  Using the ‘they, them, their’ pro-nouns when referring to someone (either in a written post or in conversation) keeps your language inclusive!  While some of these changes can be tricky, you are ultimately ensuring that every individual you interact with feels comfortable.

There is A LOT we as staffing professionals can do to weave this into our everyday (job postings, interviews, etc.).  This only scratches the surface, but is certainly a step in the right direction!

The Evolution of ‘Shirley’ – PSG’s Resume Robot

The Evolution of ‘Shirley’ – PSG’s Resume Robot

Technology has taken us to places we never thought we’d go before.

  • Real time health and wellness tracking? Check
  • A drone delivering your paper towels for that week? Double Check
  • Snapchat filter that turns you into a baby? Triple Check

So why did it take us till 2017 to leverage technology to do the tedious work for us?  We didn’t know where to start!

Once upon a time, one PSG team member was tasked with sitting in front of their computer, Outlook inbox open, poised and ready to qualify a resume as soon as it came in.  We figured out a while ago, that if we reached out to a qualified applicant in 5 minutes or less – we were (x) amount more likely to get that individual on the phone.  Of course – getting that person with the stellar resume to answer a call from an unfamiliar number is not always the easiest.  So we started emailing them.

As we took steps to modernize our recruiting process, we kept asking ourselves ‘there must be a better, faster way to qualify these resumes’.  We were having a valuable member of the PSG team spend countless hours staring at an inbox when they could be impacting other areas of the business, and while this is a crucial role we knew that there had to be a better, fast, more efficient way.

Here’s what we did:

  • We pulled together tens of thousands of resumes
  • We reviewed resumes of candidates successfully placed into opportunities with our clients
  • We pinpointed common keywords on those resumes, and fed them into our algorithm? (Think ‘administrative’ or ‘Microsoft Office’)

After that a dedicated team met daily to review the results.  How many resumes were qualified correctly? How many were missed? Why were they missed? What changes need to be made to push the qualified % up?

It took months of tweaking key words, working with the algorithm to make sure the right words were identified in the right spot, and A LOT of painstaking attention to detail.

But we got the robot to be 90% accurate in qualifying incoming resumes.

The best part? Since this is now out of the hands of a human, technology moves so much faster!  We went from scheduling one out of every 5 candidates, to one out of every 3! AMAZING!

3 Ways PSG Improved Candidate Response

When it comes to calling up candidates (let’s be real – even your family and friends), the odds of getting them on the first, second, or even third try is SLIM at best.  And why wouldn’t it be?  In this day and age, we have so many different avenues of communication that picking up an ‘out of the blue’ call just seems exhausting.

That’s why we changed EVERYTHING about how we approach connecting to our candidates in three steps.

  1. Email is great – texting is better

This was an easy suggestion to make, but came with a lot of “what if” statements.

“What if this is too much?”

 “What if response is negative?”

“What if we are over stepping our bounds?”

These are all valid questions, and it’s natural to be nervous about implementing something that we have never tried.  However, we were letting perceived fears get in the way of pushing forward with something new and ultimately successful.  Overall, we saw that we received over 80% of our responses from text message, while email trailed behind.

  1. Follow up, Follow up, Follow up

Texting was a little scary – this downright terrified some people.

The thought of sending multiple messages to individuals in a short period of time brought to mind that episode of The Office – with Ryan trying to convince his co-workers to invest in a new social media platform (WUPHF.com) that would send (at once) a Facebook message, a tweet, a text, an email, and a fax.  Hilarious as the episode was, Ryan’s service seemed a little like overkill.


However there is a big difference between gentle follow up, and aggressive outreach.

We found that by sending non-responsive candidates a quick “Did you see this?” text after the initial message moved our response rate from 48% at the end of quarter 1 to 63% at the end of quarter 2, and rather than receiving the much feared “stop it!” text, we saw much more “thank you for the reminder” responses.

  1. Diligence in responding back

This one seems like a no brainer, but often times we are so wrapped up in getting the message out that we neglect to put the same care and attention into what we do when we DO get a response.  The speed in which you respond to an engage candidate matters more than any of the above which is why we adhere to a 5 minute response rule – and staff for it.

Anyone that responds to any kind of alert from PSG receives a response in less than 5 minutes to schedule next steps.  In doing this, we ensure that when we have someone’s attention – we keep it – providing a positive experience on both sides.

Massachusetts’ Unemployment Rate is Lowest in 15 Years

News that Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is at the lowest point since 2001  follows a trend that we’ve been experiencing for several years now. The unemployment rate has been decreasing, especially among workers with college degrees in professional roles, as the economy has continued to get healthier.


While this news excludes other trends, such as the number of workers who are in jobs that they actually like or those who are working part-time when they’d prefer to be in a full-time position, it is trend in the right direction. Another positive trend includes the recent news that wage growth hit 2.6 percent for the past year, the highest level since the Great Recession. Job and wage growth are signs that employers are feeling confident and investing in the economy.


What does this mean for employers? As many Boston firms know, hiring talent when unemployment rates are low means being flexible, acting quickly, and staying focused. It’s also important to focus on retaining existing staff and to make sure you are on top of staff development and promotions to reduce the risk of losing people. PSG is proud to help clients meet their recruiting and hiring goals in this challenging market.


4 Tips for a Successful Relationship with your Recruiting Firm

Even if you’ve worked with a recruiting firm before, there are several considerations for getting the most out of your relationship. PSG President Aaron Green shares his tips for choosing and managing a recruiting firm:


Tip #1: Consider the Fit – It’s important to find a partner that can accommodate your needs and has the right industry experience and a successful track record with other firms of your size and organization type. A recruiting firm that sells a broad range of services will be able to offer a broad range of solutions for your needs.


Tip #2: Look for accessibility to their recruiting base – We all have become accustomed to on-demand services and the recruiting industry is adapting to this same trend.  Successful recruiting firms make themselves accessible to their candidates. For example, PSG responds to new candidate inquiries within five minutes of receiving a qualified resume on weekdays between 8am-9pm.


Tip #3: Ask how the firm adapts to the needs of the market – Not only do recruiters need to understand when to engage candidates, they must understand how to engage them. Many candidates expect instant access and answers. Recruiters that leverage technology, including online chat and mobile apps, for communicating will have an edge. Interview your potential recruiting partner to explain how they use technology to engage with candidates.


Tip #4: Remember that a relationship is a two-way street — Consider how you can make yourself attractive to a recruiter — many of whom are turning away business in this tight employment market. This may mean partnering with your recruiter to provide quicker, detailed feedback or taking other actions that make you a more attractive client without spending a dime more.


Aaron Green 0904 22

Predictions for Boston Hiring Trends in 2016


PSG President Aaron Green sees some interesting trends emerging around hiring job candidates in the Boston area this year.


“Hiring has become a painful experience,” Green says. “It’s painful for employers because there’s a shortage of qualified candidates for most open positions and because HR departments are stretched pretty thin.”


Green is referring to the low average unemployment rate in Massachusetts that has been below 5 percent since last April. As hiring picks up in certain sectors – such as technology and healthcare – organizations like hospitals and universities are looking for candidates with specific talents and skill sets, like workers who can support new initiatives in online courses.


At the same time, organizations are more mindful of having their HR department be the “right” size. That means ensuring there are enough resources to handle all the functions expected of HR, while staying flexible to adapt to changes in the economy – a lesson many learned the hard way during the last recession.


For many mid- and large-size companies this means considering outsourcing some parts of the recruiting process. PSG is seeing an uptick in clients using its Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) services. In some cases, clients outsource some aspects of the recruiting process, such as sourcing and screening candidates, so their internal HR team can focus on more strategic functions, like interviewing and onboarding new hires.


Green says the hiring process is also painful for job seekers. “It’s almost like hazing,” he says. He believes this will change, starting in 2016.


“Economics, combined with the availability of information online, is forcing businesses to look at the candidate experience in new ways,” says Green.


Ratings systems that leverage digital data – such as the star system on Glassdoor and use of the short survey that quantifies a Net Promoter Score (NPS) – are driving change and helping the recruiting process evolve.


“PSG will be rolling out a new NPS for candidates applying for internal staff positions,” explains Green. “For many years we’ve conducted NPS surveys with candidates we meet and consider for placement with clients; and the data from those surveys has informed our recruiting and interviewing processes. Now we’re applying that experience, along with research we’re currently conducting – including feedback from candidates we hired as well as those we didn’t – to help us build a stronger candidate experience all-around.”


Retailers have long lived under the adage that “the customer is always right,” which comes from a desire to make sure customers have a positive experience with their brand. Now many employers are applying that methodology to the hiring experience. They’re treating candidates like customers and using new tactics to ensure that even candidates who don’t get hired come away with a positive experience of the process and, subsequently, the brand.


Another local hiring trend is how quickly compensation is changing. Green says that aggressive recruiting by private equity and venture funded companies is partly to blame. Unlike traditional businesses that are run for long-term profitability, PE and VC funded firms can offer outrageous compensation packages for short-term employment periods. This practice forces wages across the local economy to rise and compensation plans that were created even one year ago are now out of date. On the other end of the spectrum, increases in Massachusetts’ minimum wage  are also helping to accelerate the changes in compensation.


Another big trend in recruiting and hiring is matching candidates with an organization’s culture to increase the odds of making a successful hire. When it comes to culture fit, Google is championing the idea. In his book Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, Google’s Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock explains that “culture underpins everything we do at Google.” Bock offers several tips for interviewing for culture fit, including knowing where to find the type of workers you’re looking for, using “work tests” in which candidates are gauged for their reactions in typical work situations, and testing candidates against the traits that are most highly valued at your organization.


In the future, Green foresees a hiring process that’s built around a candidate’s needs, rather than a company’s. While this likely won’t come to fruition in 2016, our use of digital data and the examples of hiring practices at companies like Google are showing that it’s possible.


In 2016, companies are better than ever at hiring, but it’s still a painful experience. Fortunately, a focus on improving the candidate experience and hiring for culture fit can help Boston organizations improve the process.Aaron Green 0904 22


Boston is Popular with Recent College Grads

A recent report from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) ranked Boston as the third most popular major American city among young college graduates.


This trend appears to be a reversal of a study two years ago that found a “brain drain” occurring as recent college graduates were leaving New England at a faster rate than any region in the country.


Among the eight economic and quality-of-life factors in AIER’s Employment Destinations Index that influenced migration patterns of college grads ages 22-35, the most important were:

  1. A high density of people with a college degree
  2. A low unemployment rate
  3. The ability to get around without a car


Other factors in the Employment Destinations Index included bars and restaurants per 1,000 residents, as well as earning power, rents, competition for jobs, and ethnic and racial diversity.


Massachusetts’ unemployment rate recently fell to its lowest rate since 2008 and the unemployment rate for workers with college degrees is about half the national average.


Despite the MBTA’s recent troubles, Boston takes public transportation seriously. Several PSG clients have chosen to relocate to more accessible, urban locations when upgrading their office space. This is an important consideration for attracting Millennial workers who may be eschewing car ownership.


PSG clients, and other Boston-area employers, are also attracting younger workers with state-of-the-art office design that promotes collaboration. Benefits such as providing free and healthy meals are also popular recruiting and retention tools.


What is your organization doing to attract younger workers? If you’d like help recruiting and hiring talent from this demographic, give PSG a call today.