July 12, 2009

So, I Placed the ‘Help Wanted’ Ad, Now What?

By Paul Bieber

You finally did it, you placed the ad. You are upgrading your workforce. You are expanding, you are going to be ready when the business turns strong.

Well, almost ready. Now you have to select the candidates you want to meet, finding the one or two that will fit into your organization and help to improve it.

Create the selection and interview process that fits the candidates for the job, or how do you get the right people to interview? If the job is for a glazier in the shop or the field, take phone calls as the first contact. Set the time of the phone calls between 6:00 and 8:00 in the morning, or between 5:00 and 7:00 in the afternoon. Plan on spending a couple of days taking these calls.

You can always say in your ad to call at these hours, or fax a resume, but most mechanics won’t have resumes. Plan no more than four or five minutes on that initial phone call. Prepare a one minute summary of your job opportunity and your company. Something like this: “We are an all-round glass and glazing company, on the north side of town. Our regular hours are from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm, but occasionally we do require overtime or a Saturday. We offer an hourly salary and pay 80% of your medical and dental insurance. We don’t require you to have your own tools. We do pre-employment drug and alcohol testing, and check your driver’s license.” “Now, let me ask you a couple of questions.”

This is where you let the person on the phone do the talking. “What is your experience in commercial glazing?”, or “How long have you been a glazier, and where?” “Why are you looking for a job now?” “Tell me about your current/last job and why you are no longer there.” “What was your hourly rate at your current/last job?” “What benefits did your receive?” Where possible, ask questions, ask them with an open-ended style, for instance—“Tell me about your last job,” compared to “What did you do most at your last job?” By the way, you will usually gain valuable info on your competitor’s pay scale an benefits offered!

Pick one or two questions. Then let the candidate speak for a minute or two. Do they sound coherent? Are they respectful of the last/current job? Are they looking for a permanent job, or just another stepping stone? Do they make more money now than you are offering? (often times, this will end the phone call)

You might want to ask one technical question about the glazing systems you use. “How many hinges would you put on a 32″ x 72″ shower door?”, or “How do you drill a hole in laminated glass?” After all, you do want to make sure that are a glass mechanic.

It’s OK to let the conversation stop for a few seconds. You don’t have to keep talking. See if the person picks up the ball with a question about your company. You probably place a higher value on glass skills, but you need a person that will be able to get along and communicate with other employees and your customers.

What if the applicant is not conversant in English? If you are in a multi-lingual area of the country, really try to have a person available in your shop who speaks the other language during your phone-in periods. If your current employees are bi-lingual, or even primarily non-English speakers, this has to be part of your phone program. It would be nice if everyone spoke English, but it just isn’t going to happen. You may have your political opinions, but if you let them interfere with running your business, you will loose out in the long run.

The initial phone interview for a glass worker should be no more than four or five minutes. If the person is worth talking to further, schedule an in-person interview. If the candidate was making 20% or more than you can offer, let it go. If their commute is beyond a reasonable distance (have this amount of time set in your mind), then pass. When gas prices go up, you will be hit for a raise.

So, you like someone from the phone…set an appointment right then. If you are not sure, you don’t have to make up your mind right now. Make notes on each phone call, placing some people in the “I’m going to think about category”. If you are sure the person doesn’t fit, thank them for their time and tell them you will try to call them back once your firm up your interviewing schedule.

At the end of the calling period, usually two or three days after the ad runs, you should look back at the ‘maybe’ pile. If someone still sticks out in your mind, call them to set up an interview.

Some owners ask every one to come in and fill out an application, and then create a call-back list. This limits you to people who are not working now, or just happen to be free during your walk-in hours. You think by getting a look at them and how will they fill out a form you are getting a leg up on the interview process. You are…but only on the lower half of the employment pool. The upper half, those currently working, usually can’t stop in during business hours to fill out an app!

Next week we’ll discuss the initial contact for office and admin jobs, and follow that with some interviewing techniques and tips in the weeks to come.