When a large, multi-national retailer opened in the Orlando area a few years ago, their HR Manager set out to create a hiring experience that allowed the company to learn more about how the candidates would act in job specific situations, while also allowing the candidates to learn what their work experience would be like at the company. By providing a transparent look into the daily work life of employees and a candid disclosure of the work environment they would experience, the candidates were able to make an informed decision about whether or not he job and company was a fit for their needs. This process allowed the retailer to not just hire the best people for the job, but to expand their search to find a match between what people wanted out of a workplace and what they could deliver as an employer. The result was a first year turnover of only 21%, compared to an average of 100% turnover experienced by stores from the same company opening in other markets across the country.
While realistic job previews are strongly recommended for entry to mid-level positions in an organization, there are clearly some benefits to be gained from employing this process for higher level positions as well. The difference between the levels of the organization should dictate the actual process used for the preview to ensure the candidate is learning exactly what he or she needs to ascertain about the organization. A well structured and transparent system can significantly reduce the amount of turnover experienced within the first 90 days of employment, the period where both the company and the employee are typically on a “probationary period”.
How should you design your realistic job preview?
• Include each stage of the hiring process in the realistic job preview. From the recruitment function to the job offer function, the standards and practices the company employs to communicate and relate to both internal and external customers should mimic the hiring processes employed by the organization.
• If you have a working environment that has differs from a traditional workplace, consider including this difference during the interview process. Do you need your employees to be at work by 4am? Or to work in a freezer? Then perhaps conducting an interview at 4am in a freezer could allow you to more accurately judge the candidate and the candidate to more accurately decide if this job is a fit for him or her.
• Does the job you are hiring for differ from the experience of your job applicants in some significant manner? If so, consider having the candidate sign a waiver to allow you to have them “try out” the job for a few hours during the interview process. If you are looking to hire a commercial cleaner, a cook, or a housekeeper, provide them with an opportunity to experience the function first hand. For example, if you are hiring a cook to work the breakfast shift, ask the candidates to make an omelet. Their performance will give you a realistic view of their abilities and them to decide if your kitchen is up to their expectations.
• Peel back the curtains to reveal your true culture. If you are hiring an executive or manager, provide them with a clear understanding of what the organizational culture really is, not just what your brochures say it is. Do you believe in autonomy? What about autocracy? Do you function in a hierarchal manner? Or do you value input from all levels? Do you want someone who will help keep stability in how things are done? Or do you want someone who will rock the boat? Be honest with yourself. If you do things differently from others in the company, let the candidate know up front. The quickest way to destroy the morale of a newly hired executive is to hire them based on one set of expectations, then spring a completely different set of expectations on them when they begin to settle into the role.
• Are your employees the face of your business? Do they interact with customers or clients away from your supervision? Then consider implementing leaderless group discussions during the interview process to observe how comfortable they are in conversing with strangers, answering difficult questions from difficult people and how they handle opinions opposite from their own.
• Is an understanding of some sort of technical or mechanical knowledge important to your employee’s success? If so, consider implementing a stage where they need to build something or solve some sort of problem. Even having them work through a P&L you have created will provide you with a better sense of their business savvy.
• Understand your organization’s level of bureaucracy. Do you react quickly to issues or problems? Or do you rely on the input of many people and have processes that time more time to formalize a decision? Whichever describes your situation, use that same situation for your hiring process. Just be truthful with yourself and your candidates. If you don’t like what you see from your analysis, change the structure before you change the system you present to your candidates.
There are many, many ways to create a realistic job preview for your organization or business. If you are stuck, consider contacting a consultant well versed in designing hiring practices. Find someone who can facilitate a change to your system designed specifically to your situation and culture. As the economy recovers, and the job market rebounds, there will be a time when the market is a buyer’s market again, not a seller’s market. Creating the systems and processes now will put you in front of your competitors in the future.
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