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Business As Usual By Stuart Friedman

Hire With Greater Scrutiny . . . Find Candidates Who “Get It”Stuart Friedman, Business As Usual

For some entering the fourth quarter, there isn’t a whole lot to show for 2011: income is down, disposable income is vanishing, discretionary spending is up, unemployment remains north of 9 percent, and stock performance is mixed at best. This is certainly not the bright picture we hoped for back in January.

With persistently high unemployment nationwide, it stands to reason the pool of available prospects is quite large. For companies fortunate to be hiring, that means they probably don’t have to work hard to get lots of applicants. However, regardless of why an opening exists, companies must use great scrutiny in their selection process.

It is very clear to me that many job seekers are not savvy or particularly smart when it comes to finding work. In fact, many tend to “de-select” themselves from consideration early on.

The following example came to me from a business owner in Long Beach:

Pat posted a job on Craig’s List, and several other venues. The posting contained specific instructions for applying: “Please forward your resume via email to email-address, and a cover letter summarizing work history and salary requirements, and/or send to job-title, company, address, Long Beach, CA, 90814.”
Of course, the key term was “and” (as in send your resume and cover letter via email and/or via “snail” mail). While this might sound picky, the wording was deliberate. Pat wanted a detail-oriented candidate who could follow directions. Missing the fact that both documents were required made Pat’s job weeding out people who couldn’t follow directions easy. Only 35 of 100 applicants sent their resumes and a cover letter either via email and/or “snail” mail. All others failed to make the first cut.

You may think Pat potentially missed out on some talented people in the “no” pile, and you are likely correct. But here’s what Pat was thinking: if an applicant can’t follow simple instructions (and Pat’s company has very specific processes that need to be followed), why would I hire him or her?

There’s a well-known phrase about performance: how and what someone did in the past is a good indication of future performance. Human beings are creatures of habit. People do not change their stripes often or easily. That’s why it is so important to hire slowly and fire fast.

When hiring, you are investing money and looking for the highest return possible. Do NOT hire and hope. Pay attention to all aspects of potential candidates. If they can’t follow instructions when applying, what makes you think they’ll be able to once hired?

You must rid yourself of past “business as usual” hiring practices in favor of a process that probes, questions, gathers data, uses personality surveys  . . . and more!

Consider these additional methods for filling your qualified applicant pool.

• Network with colleagues.

• Be open to people from different industries.

• Learn Social Networking applications

• Hire someone as a consultant and do a “test-drive” for 90 days with no obligations other than to explore mutual fit. Someone willing to put some of their own skin in the game should be open to such an approach, plus it gives the prospect a chance to “test-drive” you as well. Finding out sooner rather than later whether a relationship will or won’t work helps minimize time and dollars spent on the wrong individual.

Pat continued the path selecting only those resumes escorted with a cover page summarizing work history and salary requirements (per the instructions). Of the 35 applicants remaining following the first cut, only 10 met this requirement. Of those 10, just five resumes and cover letters did not contain spelling errors or typos. In all, only 5 percent of those who applied were considered to interview!

My experience is that you need to identify a minimum of five “finalist” candidates to fill an open position, and Pat found and hired someone out of five (congratulations!). Pat showed that, with little effort, he could minimize the time and effort necessary to invest in hiring for an open position.
Sadly, the average job-seeker today does not know how to find a job. Set your company up for success by creating a process that uses the greatest of scrutiny so you can find candidates who “get it” and who know how to help you find them.

Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates, Inc. He is a business visionary who helps his clients get their companies “Unstuck!” He guides organizations through cultural shifts by getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. He is a leading consultant, speaker, coach and author. Friedman can be reached at stuart@pma-co.com.)