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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Resumes, interviews and branding

APL Landscape Solutions in Bloomington, MN uses an online questionnaire/application -- a little more sophisticated than our email response to initial resumes. Theirs is a good approach, but frankly, we want to see the initial resume and send the questionnaire after it arrives (even though we don't read it except to find the email address to send the responding questionnaire). Why? We can compare the resume and questionnaire responses, and review for inconsistencies.

I've observed several times in this blog that your marketing and brand development depend highly on your employees -- the attitudes, responses, and respect your employees have to current and potential future clients will weigh far more in market success than any advertising you place.

But that leads to the next question: "How do you find the right employees?"

It is this: The resume and (conventional) job interview are virtually useless in determining who to hire. Throw them out!

Well, not exactly, of course -- if you want to get that radical, you probably will have an organization with one employee -- yourself! But I advocate rethinking traditional approaches in developing a hiring model that reduces pain, bureaucracy, and allows you to select both the best qualified candidates and the individuals who really want to work in your company.

The problem with both the resume and interview is that they are contrived, and often tell you little about the person you are considering hiring. And no one likes wading through hundreds of resumes, hoping to pick out some worthy for follow up -- or sitting through interview after interview, where your mind glazes over with the repeated scripted questions (and often scripted answers).

Here is how we handle the situation. Consider the differences from conventional practices.
  1. Everyone who answers the ad or posting for the career opportunity receives a response -- a cover letter describing the work, and a one-page questionnaire asking some things that we think are essential for the work. (This is all done by email -- we are not interested in hiring anyone who can't use a computer for basic email!)

  2. The questionnaire asks things that are skill and job related -- for administrative employees, for example, we include some grammar and basic math/arithmetic questions. We want to see if they have the basic level of intelligence either to know the answers or at least to look them up or get some help.)
  3. I've found that 80 per cent of the people who send in the resume, don't bother completing the questionnaire. So why should we spend time reading every resume in the first place? For the remaining 20 per cent, we can compare the resume with the questionnaire responses, and notice inconsistencies. And of course, we can also eliminate from consideration the people who truly get the questionnaire wrong. (Note also this is all documented so we are prepared if there are any complaints about fairness -- and our questionnaire obviously is designed to avoid any questions that would offend anti-discriminatory or human rights legislation.)

  4. We have a brief phone interview -- this just allows us to determine if the person is really interested, and allows us to set the next stage: The working assignment. (For sales careers we put in another stage, an online sales aptitude/sales test). The candidate who says: "When is your interview", gets the response: Do the work, and we'll see about it!"
  5. Now we are fair about this working assignment -- we pay for the time, either at our conventional freelance rate, or with hourly pay comparable to the level of which the person would be paid if hired. Here, we find if the person can really do the work, and how well he/she interacts with other employees in completing the assignment (and their feedback is an important part of our final hiring decision).
  6. We listen to our current employees' observations, plus review the success/failure of the working assignment, and then can hire with virtually 100 per cent confidence that the person we select will be competent, and ready to work well within our organization.
Oh yeah, where is the interview? For local candidates, the interview is effectively built within the day or two working assignment in our offices. I'll visit out-of-town finalists after they successfully complete the working assignment, but this is more a validation than a conventional interview -- they've already proven they can work well in our decentralized organization.

The result: We are building a cohesive, collegial team; and clients can see this -- and feel comfortable doing business with us. The only problem with this model (and it is a big one) is what do you do with your current employees who really shouldn't be there! (Not a problem here now, thankfully). But that is another issue, and another posting.

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