Hiring Manager Resources

Q4 Hiring Challenges

A hiring manager recently asked me, which quarter of the year is the most difficult to recruit and hire people. Great question, and I thought you may be interested in the answer.

First, I want to say that hiring is never easy, but it becomes especially difficult in Q4 at least as it is related to the Pharmaceutical Industry. Unlike any other quarter of the year, Q4 poses to most significant challenges… Why?

Expensive

The first major challenge is that hiring in the fourth quarter is expensive. Candidates have worked nearly a whole year with their company, exceeding expectations, and dreaming about how all their hard work will pay off come bonus time. Now if they leave, they are walking into a situation where they may not be eligible for a bonus at your company. What has become “customary” is to pay out sign-on bonuses to keep the person whole for their loss of annual bonus. This becomes expensive and a challenge for some companies to pull off. If you’re at a company that won’t buy out a candidate’s bonus, then you’re forced to target candidates without bonuses, like those who are between jobs or come with no experience.

Psychology

But the expense is only one part of the problem, the second challenge is the psychological one. As the year draws to an end, people’s minds aren’t in job change mode. They are focusing on wrapping up projects and getting through the finish line of a long year. Once Thanksgiving approaches with the winter holidays right around the corner, people shift to vacation and family mode. Some candidates may have major vacations already planned, approved, and paid for, which deters them from considering new opportunities.

Relocation

Another thing to consider is candidate who need to relocate… when the fourth quarter hits, their kids are about a month into a new school year, which may be an awkward time for them to think about a new role that may require them to relocate.

These challenges really pose a problem, and the Q4 candidate pool really dries up quickly, which is bad news for managers trying to fill spots in Q4, especially those who may lose the headcount if they don’t use it. That doesn’t mean you can’t hire in Q4, but if we had to pick a quarter that is the toughest, Q4 is the dubious winner of the award.

Needless to say, if you’re feeling the Q4 Crunch and need some recruiting help, I’d welcome the opportunity to partner with you. Thanks!

About the Author

MSL Titling - A Retention Tool

A common question I field from thoughtful Pharmaceutical Companies is “How are companies with the best retention tiering and titling their MSL teams?”

What I’ve seen from the top companies is that they utilize a three, or in some cases, a four-tier MSL titling structure. Today, I’ll be going over the structures I’ve seen and how having such a structure can be a great retention tool.

Experienced MSLs on the team can become slightly disgruntled if someone without experience comes in with the same titles as they have.

The MSL role is a great one, but it doesn’t promote a lot of career growth or trajectory. I heard one candidate tell me one time, “An MSL is the best dead-end job in the world!”  To avoid your MSLs feeling like they are in a dead-end scenario, below is how a four-tier structure could look like for your company:

The first level would be “Associate MSL." This is would be for a person who comes to your company with no prior functional experience.  Why is this a good idea?  Well, what I’ve seen is other experienced MSLs on the team can become slightly disgruntled if someone without experience comes in with the same titles as they have.  My advice is to have a distinctly different level for someone without prior experience.

The second tier is “Medical Science Liaison,” which is a role that would be fulfilled by someone with more than two or three years of MSL experience. This title is a good fit for someone who isn’t at an introductory level but isn’t quite at a senior-level either.

The third tier is customarily referred to as a “Senior MSL.” This would be for someone with more than three to five years of experience who is taking on extra projects and responsibilities.

The fourth tier is the role of “Executive MSL” or “Principal MSL.” This level of liaison is typically for those with more than eight years of experience. Some companies only keep this distinction for people within their company, meaning they wouldn’t bring an outside person in at this level.   

Along with ratcheting up the titles, here are some other incentives that will keep your MSL team engaged and striving for the next level:

1.     Increased salary band. I see most companies have a salary-band increase per level of MSL.

2.     Increased bonuses. Similarly to a raise in pay, a boost in bonuses will provide positive reinforcement as someone advances in title.  Related, some companies give additional stock options or grants according to the level of MSL as part of their annual bonus package.

3.     Increased responsibilities. As a person advances through the tiers, give them additional responsibilities to keep them stimulated. For example, you may consider having higher-level MSLs train those at a lower tier.  Additionally, you could have the senior-most MSLs be part of the interview panel that chooses other liaisons for the team.

If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

About the Author

The Hidden Cost of Going Back to Square One

People develop opinions about companies in a few ways. Sometimes their opinion is developed through being a customer or a vendor. Other times it is based on the advertising messages they see or hear word of mouth. I want to discuss another way perceptions about companies are developed and that is through being a candidate for employment.

When a candidate is being recruited to a company, there are three ways advertising messages get communicated. One vehicle for this marketing message is through the phone lines of a recruiter. The second one comes from other people the candidate knows who may have more information about the company. The third advertising message that shapes a candidate’s perception of the company is what they experience for themselves during the recruiting process–whether as a candidate or prospective candidate.

As an executive recruiter, I get to see many companies handle hiring in many different ways. Some companies have a chronic behavior that sends a negative ripple through the candidate pool. The ripple occurs when a company conducts a search, gets to the end, and then decides to keep looking. Yes, the ole “back to square one” is potentially causing a wave of misinformation to candidates and prospective candidates. Let me explain…

When a company goes “back to square one,” they run the risk of the candidate pool concluding three negative assumptions as they say, “That job is still open?”:

That job is still open?

Attract: When a company goes “back to square one,” they lose the allure of scarcity and appearance of opportunity. Imagine you’re a candidate being readdressed by the same recruiter about the same opening as a month ago. Would you assume that the company is having trouble attracting people? Could you see yourself thinking, “If others don’t want this, why should I?”

Afford: Perhaps the candidate doesn’t think that the company is having trouble attracting people. Instead, what if they start thinking the company can’t secure the winning candidate financially? Typically when a company is “back to square one,” they have offered the job to someone and been turned down. Candidates aren’t oblivious to this. What I’ve found is that candidates aren’t attracted to what they feel someone else has turned down regardless of the reason. Even if this too is a false assumption, going “back to square one” allows the hypothesis to hatch that there is some deficiency in the company or the company’s offering.

Agree: Companies that attract the best candidates are ones that show cohesiveness and sound decision making in the interview process. When organizations have to restart a search, candidates may think that the company has trouble making decisions or agreeing internally. In this scenario, I’ve heard candidates say, “They must not know what they want.”

As a balancing statement, I’m not saying that companies should make a hiring decision just to avoid these three assumptions. Hiring the wrong person can be much more costly than going "back to square one". Sometimes going “back to square one” can’t be avoided and wasn’t brought about by any of the above reasons. What I would advise against is allowing a chronic behavior to develop. There is a cost for duplicating efforts, and as outlined, it may be costing companies in ways that don’t show up on balance sheets.

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What is "The Silent Period"?

If you Google “Onboarding Best Practices”, you will find a ton of great ideas on what to do when your new employee starts. Proper onboarding is extremely important and most companies do an adequate job once the new employee starts. The area where companies and hiring managers can most improve is during the time the offer is accepted and the start date. I call this period of time “The Silent Period.”

With the talent gap widening, a fierce war for top-talent has begun. More and more companies are doing whatever possible to keep their A-Players, and counteroffers are definitely back as a commonplace practice. The old recruiter adage is that more than 60% of those who accept counteroffers leave or are terminated within six to twelve months, and 50% restart their searches within 90 days. As a recruiter, the word “counteroffer” are nightmarish. As someone anticipating a new employee, they should be equally as frightened. So, how can we work together to prevent such a devastating thing from happening? Let me share some ideas about what we can do to bridge the gap between offer-acceptance and start date.

How can we work together to prevent such a devastating thing from happening?

Congratulations!

One way to continue the momentum created in the interview process is to congratulate the winning candidate on their joining the team. Make them feel like they won something that others were seeking. This first step is best done over email.

The Bonding Call

Within a couple days after the Congratulations Email, put a call out to the candidate. Congratulate them again, and let them know that you are releasing the other candidates. This is important because it shows that you are fully committed to them, and it implies an expected reciprocation. I encourage hiring managers to explain in their own words that they have released the other competing candidates from consideration and that they are hoping a reciprocal commitment in that the new employee has cut the chord with other companies.  A counteroffer isn't just an offer from their previous employer; it can also come from one of the other companies they were pursuing during their job search.  If you're a manager who has never been snake-bitten by this, trust me, it happens.  Avoid this from happening by exchanging some commitments with the new employee on the bonding call.

Qualities that Show Quality

As their future manager, the number one quality that you can show during The Silent Period is empathy. This is a very stressful time for the candidate, and as their new manager, you can really ease their anxiety by setting clear expectations about the period between acceptance and start date. Be comforting, empathetic, and show them you care about the stressful situation they are facing.  

Any contact during “The Silent Period” is a good contact

“The Silent Period”

As we just discussed, heading toward the unknown causes apprehension. It is naïve to leave your candidate insecurely standing in silence during this time.  Doing so can allow for buyer’s remorse, doubt, and speculation about the silence to creep into their minds. Their former company, even with the reasons they had for leaving, is comfortable to them and may end up being a safe-haven if they don’t hear from you during this period. The war for talent is at its peak at this time, and often new managers will rest on their laurels thinking the deal is done...the war is won. Welcome them and keep in close touch with your new employee, and don’t allow the war to be lost in the final hour.  Any contact during “The Silent Period” is a good contact, whether it is an email, a quick conversation about benefits, to talk shop, to get an opinion, or a call just to see how things are going. These gestures will keep the candidate mentally engaged in your organization instead of focusing on their former company and the drama that has ensued following their resignation.

About the Author

Reverse Rejection

As an executive recruiter, I have a very interesting vantage point from which to observe an interview process. I intimately see both sides and the emotions each experience. I’ve noticed something that is consistent in candidate behavior, and I wanted to share it with those who are in a position to hire.

As time passes after an interview and there is no feedback given, candidates develop a defense mechanism that I call Reverse Rejection. When the interviewing momentum stalls, the candidates start thinking of all the reasons that they don’t want the job. In anticipation of being rejected, the candidate starts unconsciously rejecting the company. Here are a couple scenarios of when I have seen Reverse Rejection:

At the Beginning of the Process: When a recruited candidate gives a recruiter permission to share their resume, which they just invested a few hours in updating, they expect a quick turn-around. Except for extreme cases, most everyone gets to their emails in 24-48 hours. I usually see candidates getting antsy and wanting to know where things stand after 72 hours have passed. If they call the recruiter after three days and there is no feedback from the company, I see them starting to back off from the excitement they had initially. They ask themselves, “If they aren’t interested, why am I?”

Often, a person’s only perception about a company is generated while interviewing. In many ways, a recruited candidate can gauge how organized a company or a manager is by how quickly they react to seeing their resume. Also, candidates get a sense of the speed of business at a company through their experience in the interview process. When there isn’t a quick turn-around, I see candidates starting to develop negative feelings about the company, and start talking themselves out of being interested.

At the End of the Process: Well-prepared and well-intentioned candidates go into final interviews with the highest of hopes. They’ve spent many personal hours making sure they represent themselves in an accurate and professional way. The interview goes smoothly, yet at the end of the interview they learn they’ll hear back in two weeks. The candidate hears “two weeks,” understands “two weeks,” but they are unprepared to emotionally handle waiting “two weeks.” Again, as we hit the 72-hour mark after the interview, candidates start getting hungry for some form of feedback. When the recruiter and candidate hear nothing but radio silence from the company, I notice candidates starting to compensate for their lack of power.

Of course, I’m a recruiter, not a psychotherapist. I can easily see, though, when companies don’t deliver timely feedback to candidates, they begin to feel powerless. When that sinking feeling of powerlessness sets in, I then see candidates compensate for this feeling by grasping for power. The only way they can balance the scales is to start rejecting the company before the company rejects them.

Why It Matters: There are three reasons why it matters. The first reason is great companies know that candidates are people – not applicants. Great companies realize that these people gave much of themselves throughout the process and deserve timely feedback. The second reason is that the best companies understand that some people’s only perception of their company was created by interviewing with them. That perception, whether it be positive or negative, is going to be shared. Regardless of whether the candidate gets the job or not, the premier companies make sure the experience is pleasant. Timely feedback is a major contributor to candidates having a positive take away feeling, even if they don’t get the job. The third reason is that the companies who have the best talent have it because they won it. The top companies aren’t trying to close candidates who have been mentally rejecting them for over a week. Time allows talent to wiggle off the hook by letting doubt and competitors to creep into the picture. A steadily moving interview process with timely feedback attracts the best talent. Not only does it attract the A-players, it wins the A-players.

I hope this information helps ensure that your interview process is attracting and landing top talent. Furthermore, I hope this article helps your company avoid the potential for Reverse Rejection. If you have any questions about this topic from a recruiter’s perspective, contact me anytime.

About the Author

Attract While You Evaluate

My name is Michael Pietrack, and I head up an Executive Search Firm called TMAC Direct. We specialize in field medical affairs and physician recruitment in the Pharmaceutical Industry. Today I’m sharing some hiring advice.

An interview is a very unusual situation. Both the candidate and the company have to play the part of buyer and seller. The candidate knows inherently that they have to sell themselves, but some companies fail to realize that they too have to sell; they only want to wear the buyer hat.

The best companies are willing to attract while they evaluate.

The best companies are willing to attract while they evaluate. I’ve seen some companies dedicate an interviewer whose sole mission is to sell the opportunity to candidates.  

Understand we are in a candidate driven market and the top candidates are going to have options. The companies who are willing to woo are winning the war for talent. Those who are not willing to do that have to increase their financial offering to win top talent.

I hope this is valuable advice. I am open to discussing this or any other topic at your convenience. Feel free to call or email, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Minivans, Pawn Stars, and the Judge

The Frustration of Consensus Interviewing

Minivans

Imagine a family of five driving along in a minivan and it’s time for dinner.  The family has been out all day, so nothing has been prepared at home.  The question gets posed, “Where does everyone want to eat?”  The Dad is thinking that the steakhouse sounds good, yet the Mom wants to go to the new build your own salad place.  The youngest wants chicken nuggets, the middle child wants pizza, and the teenager apathetically claims to not care.  Sound familiar?

The eventuality is that the family is going to eat somewhere, but the decision is going to be painstaking and someone in the group is going to be unhappy with whatever decision is made.  In the end though, the family eats and the need is fulfilled.   Where am I going with this?

Many companies today are attempting to hire using consensus interviewing, which means that everyone on the interviewing team has to agree to hire the candidate before the company makes the hire.  Many companies use the consensus interviewing model in an attempt to avoid a miss-hire.  Additionally, the complete buy-in decision is spread to many stakeholders, and in doing so, the risk for blame of a miss-hire doesn’t fall on any one person.

 

The Judge

Imagine a world class ice skater reaching their dreams of representing the US in the Olympic Games.  The time comes when the skater takes the ice, and they have the routine of their career.  They are landing triple luts sow cows like it nothing.  As the routine ends, the skater knows they earned the gold as bouquets litter the ice.  The scores begin to come in…10…9.8…10…9.7….9.9….now the Judge…8.  Eight!?!  That one person’s perspective and subjective bar for evaluation costs the skater the gold medal.  What’s the point?

The potential downside with consensus interviewing is that the entire interview (the evaluation of a candidate’s ability to do the job and fit in with the company) is highly subjective in nature.  Each interviewer has a valuable perspective yet a variable understanding of the role.  Also, not every person feels the same amount of urgency to fill the position nor does everyone have the responsibility of carrying the extra workload if the opening persists.  Furthermore, the interview team might each have wide-ranging opinions on what traits would make a candidate a good cultural fit at the company.

Though the idea and intent of consensus interviewing is good, the results are not always better.  What I’ve seen is that with the consensus model settling on the right person takes much longer, and the process is very frustrating for the actual hiring manager.

 

Pawn Stars

Have you ever seen the show Pawn Stars?  A guys walks in with a sword from the Civil War and claims it is authentic.  The pawn store owner looks at it and it seems legitimate, but he calls in a couple experts for advice.  The decision to buy the sword and what to pay for the sword is the owner’s decision, but the advice from others is highly valued.  I’ve seen a similar approach to interviewing work.

I would never suggest a one-size-fits-all solution, and this is just an idea to consider if you’re feeling the frustration of consensus interviewing.  What I’ve seen work more often than consensus interviewing is an approach that empowers the hiring manager and includes 2-3 support interviewers.  The support interviewers evaluate from their area of expertise, and point out strengths and weaknesses that are uncovered.  These interviewers help the hiring manager make a well-vetted decision rather than having an equal voice like in the consensus interviewing model.

The frustration of consensus interviewing can feel like being stuck in that minivan evaluating restaurant after restaurant until everyone agrees to eat somewhere.  If your company’s open positions are persisting because it is hard to find a candidate that everyone can agree on, try the approach above. 

About the Author

That Job is STILL Open?!?

The Cost of Going Back to Square One

People develop opinions about companies in a few ways. Sometimes their opinion is developed through being a customer or a vendor. Other times it is based on the advertising messages they see or hear word of mouth. I want to discuss another way perceptions about companies are developed and that is through being a candidate for employment.

When a candidate is being recruited to a company, there are three ways advertising messages get communicated. One vehicle for this marketing message is through the phone lines of a recruiter. The second one comes from other people the candidate knows who may have more information about the company. The third advertising message that shapes a candidate’s perception of the company is what they experience for themselves during the recruiting process–whether as a candidate or prospective candidate.

As an executive recruiter, I get to see many companies handle hiring in many different ways. There is one common misstep that most companies take that sends a negative ripple through the candidate pool. The ripple occurs when a company conducts a search, gets to the end, and then decides to keep looking. Yes, the ole “back to square one” is potentially causing a wave of misinformation to candidates and prospective candidates. Let me explain…

When a company goes “back to square one,” they run the risk of the candidate pool concluding three negative assumptions as they say, “That job is still open?”:

Attract: When a company goes “back to square one,” they lose the allure of scarcity and appearance of opportunity. Imagine you’re a candidate being readdressed by the same recruiter about the same opening as a month ago. Would you assume that the company is having trouble attracting people? Could you see yourself thinking, “If others don’t want this, why should I?”

Afford: Perhaps the candidate doesn’t think that the company is having trouble attracting people. Instead, what if they start thinking the company can’t secure the winning candidate financially? Typically when a company is “back to square one,” they have offered the job to someone and been turned down. Candidates aren’t oblivious to this. What I’ve found is that candidates aren’t attracted to what they feel someone else has turned down regardless of the reason. Even if this too is a false assumption, going “back to square one” allows the hypothesis to hatch that there is some deficiency in the company or the company’s offering.

Agree: Companies that attract the best candidates are ones that show cohesiveness and sound decision making in the interview process. When organizations have to restart a search, candidates may think that the company has trouble making decisions or agreeing internally. In this scenario, candidates may say, “They must not know what they want.”

As a balancing statement, I'm not saying that companies should make a hiring decision just to avoid these three assumptions. Hiring the wrong person can be quite costly. Sometimes going “back to square one” can’t be avoided and wasn’t brought about by any of the above reasons. What I would advise against is allowing a chronic behavior to develop. There is a cost for duplicating efforts, and as outlined, it may be costing companies in ways that don’t show up on balance sheets.

About the Author

Revealing Interview Questions

Interviewers ask questions to reveal those necessary details about a candidate that drive a hiring decision.This article provides seven questions that will reveal the hard-to-find information about a candidate’s soft skills, which is vital inhiring.These questions don’t stand alone, though.Each of them needs follow-up questions such as: “Why do you say that?”, “Help me understand what you mean?”, or “Tell me more about that?’.The reason these questions are powerful is that there is no “right” answer and really no way to prepare for them.In your next interview, ask one or all of these, and see what is revealed to you.

  1. If you were interviewing for my job, what would you be planning to implement right away? This question is more revealing than you probably think. When listening to the answer, you will find out if this person is acultural fit for the company. You’ll learn if they will be able to buy-in to the direction of the company or team. Also, you might be surprised on how much information you gain that you can actually implement as you develop future strategies. This person might go from a candidate you’re considering hiring to an employee you begin grooming for a bigger role in the company.
  2. Based on all the managers you’ve had, what advice would you give me about management? Try this on your kids first, and ask about teachers instead of managers. The first thing they will tell you is what a teacher should not do…like assign homework. The same is true with a candidate, where their first thought is generally what not to do, and this will quickly reveal whether they would thrive in your company culture. Who knows, you might pick up a tip about management too. Most importantly, you’ll have revealed in a snapshot the type of manager the candidate does and doesn’t like. With that information, you can assess how well they would fit within the organization and your management style.
  3. What things do you accomplish in the morning before work? Okay, this question is not about personal hygiene, so we are not looking for what they do to get ready for work. This questions is about what a person does to get ready to be great at work. The reason I like this question is that it reveals what a person does to set up success. You might learn that the person reads the Bible every day. Maybe the person is a disciplined runner or works out every morning. Perhaps you’ll find out that the person reads industry news or current events. What if you find out they wake up 30 minutes before work? Regardless of the response, you’ve now been revealed their personal priorities.
  4. If you had an unexpected one-hour lay-over and all you had with you was your phone, how would you use your phone to occupy your time? What a person does with unexpected extra time is crucial to evaluating them as an employee, especially if they are given a great deal of autonomy. When you throw in the phone component, what you really need to learn about them is revealed. Are they going to answer emails, read an on-line book, call a customer, peruse social media, or play a game? Maybe they won’t use the phone at all. Perhaps they will put the phone in their pocket and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Regardless, this scenario truly reveals much about their personality style and work ethic.
  5. If today was a free day without any work or family responsibilities what would you do? This is similar to Question 4, but it removes the element of responsibility. Knowing what a person would do with a completely free day is revealing in many ways. Maybe they would spend it alone. Maybe they would read inside or do outdoor recreation. Maybe they’ll sleep or watch a movie. Perhaps the person would chose to be with their family even with responsibility taken away. This question will help you learn about what is truly important and what motivates them. This is not likely to help you make a hiring decision, but if you do chose to hire them, it will help you better manage them.
  6. When you resign from your current position, what is going to be the hardest for them to replace? This is a better question than asking about a person’s strengths because it infuses a real context. You’ll find out about what they do best. You’ll also get a glimpse of their emotional intelligence. The logical follow-up question to this is to ask, “How do you think your employer will react to you resigning?” This will reveal the relationship the person has with their manager, which will likely be the relationship you’ll have with the candidate down the road. Also, you will get further insight to why they are looking for a new position and whether they would consider a counter-offer. All of this is great information to have revealed before offer time.
  7. What is something interesting that you have recently learned? When I ask this question, I am looking for them to light up. I want to see what impassions them. The logical follow up question is to have them teach it to you. By doing so, you can see how well organized their thoughts are, how well they can covey potentially complex ideas, and how well they truly understood the new information. The ability to learn and teach others is invaluable in any market. Having revealed to you whether the candidate you’re interviewing can learn new things thoroughly is vital.

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Selling the Remedy

As the job market shifts to a more candidate-driven market, the top candidates have become more selective than they have been since before the recession. Now, more than ever, the interviewers and companies doing the hiring need to prepare to attract the best talent.

The intent of this article is to help companies realize that the A-player candidate can be lost, especially when they are expected to do all the selling in an interview. My advice is to learn about their non-resume information, learn their motivations for making a job change. We call this Uncovering the Pain.

Often times, our clients go into the interview unprepared to sell to the candidate, and the company blindly assumes the candidate wants their job more than the others they’re pursuing. The best companies court the employee while evaluating them. They take the time to learn about their pain and prepare how to Sell the Remedy.

What is the Remedy?

Every candidate has pain, and all pain has a remedy. Pain is what is motivating them to go through a job interview and eventually make a job change. If the candidate’s motivations aren’t sincere or if the pain isn’t great enough to make a job change, they shouldn’t be in the process. Uncovering that pain and conveying it to the company is one of the duties of your recruiter. Creating a remedy is the job of everyone in the interview process (recruiter, hiring manager, interview panel).

Here are some very basic examples: If a candidate is concerned about his company’s long-term stability, sell the remedy and promote your company’s stability. Share stories about your attrition numbers and how your company did through the recession. If a candidate is frustrated with her lack of career progression and growth, present how going to your company is a remedy for that pain. Share your story about how you got into your management position or explain the career ladder that is in place at that company.

A Simple Solution

Take a few minutes to call your recruiter and learn about the non-resume information about your finalists. Uncover their motivations and pain, and begin to diagnose if your company is the remedy. If it truly is, then craft a message that is consistently presented by everyone on the interview panel. The A-player candidate will come away from the interview realizing that going to your company is the remedy for their pain.

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