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What to Look for in a Qualified Employee

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Running a business is both a challenging and rewarding endeavor. With so many facets and angles to worry about, the importance of hiring exceptional—not just qualified—employees gets overlooked. If you own and operate a small business, a dedicated HR department might not be in your company’s budget. Whether you have a dedicated hiring team or not, here are some helpful tips on how to hire new employees and what you should be looking for as a business owner.

Ask the Right Questions

Interviews are all about learning everything you possibly can about your potential employees. You can’t get an accurate overview of a candidate’s experience and qualifications if you aren’t asking the right questions. Some of these questions might sound obvious, but they are important to ask nonetheless.

  • Tell me about your greatest achievement at work.

An applicant’s answer will reveal a lot about their values as an employee and what they consider to be important.

  • What kind of work environment and culture are you looking for?

Finding out what an employee wants out of their work environment is important. You want your employees to desire the same climate and energy that your company provides. This is one of the best ways to make sure your new employee is a going to be a good fit.

  • Where do you see yourself in 2 years? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

As an employer, you want to make sure that you’re hiring someone who wants to stick with your company. An applicant may not always answer this question honestly, but it’s still an important question to ask as it will reveal some of their short and long-term goals.

  • What skills do you bring to the table and what can you contribute to the company?

This is an interesting question because it will force the applicant to ponder on their skills and qualifications. You need skilled laborers and employees; while a resume can reveal what kind of experience they have, it may not indicate the skills they picked up along the way.

  • How do you stay current on your knowledge and skills in the field?

If an applicant stumbles over their answer for this one, you know they probably aren’t taking steps to keep their knowledge and skills sharp. Your business needs someone who is determined to be the absolute best at what they do. A qualified employee stays motivated outside the workplace in the development of their craft.

Conduct a Thorough Background Check

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Every employer is required to do a background check, but it’s important to consider your timeline, especially if you desperately need to place someone in an open position. So how long does a pre-employment background check take? Traditional checks can sometimes take up to a week, so you are going to want to make sure that you have enough time for the check to come through before you give your new employee a start date. Online screening services can expedite the process, so shop around and find a convenient (and trustworthy!) screening solution that will give you the information you need. Obviously, you want to avoid hiring anyone with a criminal record. A background check can give you the details you need to decide if their past will disqualify them from the position.

Credit Check

Depending on what jurisdiction you live in, there can be some strict rules and regulations regarding credit checks. Before conducting a credit check on a potential employee, make sure you are in compliance with your local laws. You may be required to get consent from the interviewee before you can obtain their credit history. A credit report is a great way to see what kind of debt and credit your new employee might have.

References

Call the interviewee’s references before the interview if you can. A former boss or manager is going to know more about their former employee’s work ethic and qualifications than anyone else. Far too often employers completely skip over this process. You might be surprised as to how many fake references someone will put on their resume. Taking the time for this important step can save you the trouble of hiring a dishonest employee and cut the number of interviews you will have to conduct.

When it comes to hiring new employees, trust your instincts and use these tips and tricks to streamline the process, saving you time and money.

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7 Apps That Can Make You A Better Writer

Writing is one area of life where you can continuously improve. There’s always some little tweak you can make to create an even better piece. However, when you’re strapped for time, how can you find a way to improve your writing? Rather than proofreading the same piece over and over, there are some amazingly handy apps that can take the hard work and time out of getting your content creation just right.

In this article, we take a look at seven of the best apps currently on the market for finessing your work. Through downloading and using a few of the following, you’ll become the best writer you can be.

ProWritingAid

If grammar isn’t your strongest point, you can use ProWritingAid to check everything you write. It provides 25 different reports on spelling and grammar mistakes, style issues, and readabilty issues. It does cost you money though but there are often special offers that enable you to save dollars while making your writing impeccable.

Hemingway

The Hemingway app identifies any sentences that may be difficult to read while also providing simple alternatives. If you have an issue with passive writing or using too many adverbs, the app flags these up too. Using Hemingway, you also get an idea of the reading level of your work. It gauges the lowest education needed to understand your piece.

Flowstate

Flowstate is for you if you constantly get distracted as you write. You set a font and timer and go for it. If you stop to daydream, your work will be lost!

Draft

Draft is a free web app that enables you to control features in word processors such as Google Docs. It’s therefore excellent in terms of collaborative writing. Additionally, its “Ask a Professional” feature lets you get advice and input from others on your writing. You can also keep abreast of any revisions you’ve made to your piece to assess how it’s changed as you’ve rewritten or tweaked it.

Scrivener

Scrivener is a tool with robust features that take time to get to grips with. However, this is a crucial app for many writers and is known as a complete writing studio. The app provides you with one single place to store all your writing and ideas. It’s perfect for you if you want to keep everything in the one place in terms of writing and organization

Microsoft Word

An oldie but still a goodie, Microsoft Word is still a very valid and valuable tool for any writer. You can do almost everything in Word with its app-specific keyboard shortcuts, formatting options, collaboration, draft versions, customizable toolbars and more.

Inspiration Maps

If you tend to come up with random ideas and find these difficult to organize, Inspiration Maps could be the app you’re looking for. You can simply utilize a template to collate your thoughts, images and ideas. You can then even convert these into a Word document.

There are hundreds of writing software apps on the market today. Not all will appeal to everyone. However, this list of seven will help get you started. Good luck!

Jen Starr is part of the community team at Next Day PC. Jen enjoys staying on top of the latest tech trends and sharing how new tech can positively impact people’s lives.

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8 Questions to Answer Before You Start Writing Your First Book

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“Start writing, no matter what,” novelist Louis L’Amour once said. “The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” And while no one would argue with L’Amour, who wrote more than 100 well-known books, there’s nothing wrong with creating a little method to the madness. Or better yet, you should develop one.

Don’t worry. Pondering strategy won’t hamper your creativity. Here’s a few questions you can consider before getting started:

  1. Why is this book important to you?

Yes, you have a “why.” Every great author starts with the why. Really think about this question. Dig deep, without fear, to unveil your inspiration and drive. It’s equivalent to a company’s mission and values statement. How honestly you answer this question will roadmap and guide you through your writing journey. It will affect the type of book you will write, publishing plans, and even how’ll market and create buzz.

For example, it’s common for people to write books with the sole purpose of generating new prospects and leads for their business. Take Hubspot, for example. It is well-known for releasing comprehensive books on marketing best practices. However, their end goal is to eventually snag the reader as a new customer. If content marketing is your goal, you may even choose to go for a non-traditional form of publishing, such as releasing the book as a downloadable PDF.

Some aspiring authors want sustainable income through book advances and royalties. This goal also could heavily influence your publishing process. You’ll probably spend a great amount of time soliciting the assistance of an agent, and certainly aim to work with an established publisher.

And others are inspired by the story that’s burning inside of them.

Find out your why and clearly outline your motivations. Then, as you embark on this journey, you can refer to your underlying motivation to help you make decisions along the way.

  1. What is your book’s structure?

Many authors, especially first-timers, jump straight into the writing process, expecting their free-flow of ideas to float them to the finish line. But structuring and formatting will play a major role in your finished work, whether you like it or not. And if it’s not prioritized in your writing process, it certainly will be tackled by your editor in preparation for publishing.

Get in front of it. Think about your book’s structure and any major content you know up front will be included in it. You don’t need to try to outline the book’s flow, just broad parameters to give your writing process a bit of definition. Is it a collection of short pieces, such as recipes or essays? Are you the sole author or will you be collecting stories from others? What other forms of media do you want included, like photos or illustrations? Just think about it.

  1. Who is your ideal reader?

Keeping the reader’s experience in mind is also a debatable point among artists. Do you write for your audience, or do you write for your narrative’s sake? It truly depends on the goal of your book. However, it can’t hurt to know your reader so you can truly spark their interest, connect with them, meet their needs and provoke their emotions. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” advised Robert Frost. “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Of course, your emotional connection to your story is unshakeable — especially if you’ve dreamt of writing your book for years. But your book is not about you. It’s about your story. It’s about your readers.

Tell a story they want to hear. Share facts and advice that they’re searching for. Make them feel or think what they want to feel and think. Unless you’re already Kardashian-level famous, no one will read your book because of you.

To do this well, create a profile for your reader. Imagine what their life looks like. What motivates them? How long will it take them to finish your book? What are their hobbies and interests? What challenges are your readers trying to solve?

Keep this profile in mind as you jot your outline. This will affect your voice and tone, your structure, and how you communicate your story.

  1. What’s your budget?

Your budget will depend on your answers to the previous three questions. For example, every author needs an editor and proofreader. However, depending on your motivation for writing and the book’s structure, you might also need an illustrator, a fact checker, even an attorney. Whether you have an agent or you’re going it alone, plan out your costs and begin building your budget so you don’t panic at the amount of money spent at the end of your writing process.

  1. Do you have competition?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. In the modern era of Amazon, savvy authors know they need to research their niche to confirm that the story they want to write hasn’t been written already.

Competitor research can be easy. Browse Amazon or head to a local bookstore. Check out the top titles in your genre or field. Look at what other best sellers are positioned near them. Check out the authors of these top books and scan their bio to see what else they’ve written. Scan Amazon reviews to see readers’ praise or criticism of these top books.

Be prepared. You might find that what you want to write has already been extensively covered. If so, pivot.  Think of a new approach to the topic. Often times, competitive research can be inspirational in and of itself, broadening your approach to a topic beyond the boundaries of your own ideas. And if that doesn’t work, think of a new topic.

  1. How will you prove your book’s value?

Never judge a book by its cover. But that’s literally what all of us do when deciding what book to buy from the store or borrow from a friend. The title could attract us, or the endorsements, or the quirky descriptions on the inside of the book jacket. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and come up with a plan to visually convey your book’s value.

  1. What’s your deadline (realistically)?

Even if this is simply a passion project, you need to have a clear timeline to hold yourself accountable. Don’t be that author who takes their manuscript to their grave. The world wants your story. The readers need your passion. So, set a timeline and stick with it.

  1. What tools will you need?

Every author is different, but writers have often identified several key tools that have helped them to be successful at the craft:

  • A physical notebook: Jot down quick ideas and inspiration on the go.
  • A smart word processing tool or app: Get one that’s specifically for writers. This saves you time, headache, and helps you write more efficiently. If you’re writing on a Mac, Mellel may be just what you need.
  • A printer: In this digital age, more and more people, opt out of buying a printer. But it’s one of the best ways to proofread your work.

These 8 steps are only the beginning, but they certainly set you in the right direction towards contributing your masterpiece to the world of ideas.

Amber Massey is a wordsmith and communications enthusiast with over 10 years of experience. Editing is her passion. New media is her medium. She is currently the CEO of Mellel, a powerful app redefining word processing for Mac.