At left, my wanna-be Jake and Elwood in their Blues Brothers House of Blues shirts, about 7 years ago along the Missouri River in Ft. Benton, MT. Who would hire these guys? 🙂
One of the ways you eventually become an advisor to other business owners is by making (and usually learning from) your own foolish mistakes.
How to advertise for and select employees is one of those areas where you can get plenty of “learn by doing wrong” experience. Making mistakes is ok. Making the same one repeatedly is not.
The first time I placed an ad for programmer was back in my mainframe days. Silly me, I used the word “assembler” in the newspaper. Everyone and their mom who had ever put two pieces of anything together in a manufacturing environment was calling, faxing etc. Seems that outside of the geek world, “assembler” means “someone who puts things together”. Whodathunkit?
A few years later, older and presumably smarter me was looking for a new tech support person. I had a weird idea and figured I’d give it a shot. Instead of putting a bunch of detail in a newspaper ad and having to filter through all the folks who weren’t qualified, I took a different tack: I’d let them filter themselves.
I put a one line ad in the paper: “Windows technical support person wanted for Columbia Falls software company. Email MS Word resume as attachment to email@example.com”.
I included no phone number. No address. No company name. Anyone paying attention could get all of that information from the domain name used in the email address. Anyone who didn’t get that really wasn’t qualified for the job.
I got 43 inquiries in 2 weeks, from places as far away as Austria, from an ad in a weekly, small mountain town newspaper in rural Montana.
Let’s break down the ad.
First: “Windows technical support person wanted for Columbia Falls software company” – this says you need to know Windows, you need to know how to do tech support, you’ll be working for a software company and the job is in Columbia Falls (well, mostly).
The point of this is to eliminate as many people as possible while attracting the right candidates. People with Windows experience who understand what tech support is for a software company. The rest is details at this point. Get rid of anyone who is scared of those words, cuz they aren’t a good fit.
Next: “Email MS Word resume as attachment to some email address”.
This gets rid of a lot of people without me having to do anything. It also tells me whether or not they can follow instructions. First of all, anyone who can’t understand what I just asked is not likely to apply, or not likely to be able to apply. Which is just what I want.
- If they don’t use or have access to Word, I’m not interested.
- If they can’t send an email, I’m not interested.
- If they don’t know what an attachment is, I’m not interested.
Results? Found the best employee I ever had from this ad. She still works in that job, 5+ years later.Â She is a superstar at that company and now runs that entire department.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses using that method. We got a lot of phone calls with questions. We got a lot of the same questions by email. Lots of wasted time.
Soooo the next time, I fine tuned the ad:
“Windows tech support person wanted. For details, see www.website.com/job”Â (note: the newspaper ad salespeople really don’t like this, but I really don’t care).
On the web page, I went into detail about the job, the expectations the candidate should have for us as well as the expectations the company would have for them. I suspect the SHRM-trained human resource folks reading this blog are going to flip when they read the anonymous version of the “Hire me” page but it is what it is. Er, was.
Last but not least, if you were interested, you were NOT to call, you were to again email a MS Word resume as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, it required following instructions. Anyone who didn’t follow instructions, even Bill Gates, was not considered.
It also eliminated a lot of the questions that the previous method didn’t address. I could easily address workplace, people, karma, qualifications, and anything else I wanted on the webpage. I used the page to not only attract the right candidates, but also to make sure to get rid of / scare away the people I wasn’t interested in.
We hired two people from that ad. One worked out and still works there. The other, far more experienced one, was fired for non-performance within a month or so (Montana law says you are an at-will employee on probation for substantially longer than that, SHRM-boy).
At the time, someone had advised us to hire two people and keep the good one. We did. I understand the other one is doing fine now, they just weren’t a good fit with us.
So what’s the next step? Video want ads, as seen in this Wall Street Journal Independent Street story.
It takes a step beyond the website idea, plus the face and the voice in the video makes it more personal (I like that idea, ya think?).
How would you improve the process?
SHRMers, I’m curious: What’s your take on this process from HR’s “dot the i’s, cross the t’s, keep all the lawyers happy” perspective?