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Hire like a freak

What if there was a way you could get the wrong candidates to de-select themselves for you?

There is a growing movement to change the way businesses recruit new team members, one that seems counter-intuitive but is freakishly effective. In short, place obstacles to overcome in front of those applying to work for your company in order to ensure you are bringing on people that are truly committed and possess the right attitude for your workplace.

Economist Steven D. Levitt and journalists Stephen J. Dubner, bestselling authors of Freakonomics (2005)  and SuperFreakanomics (2009), have released a new book called Think Like A Freak (2014) that encourages readers to consider new ways of approaching common tasks in life and business. One of the strategies they espouse is to “get your garden to weed itself” during the hiring process.

Most traditional hiring processes rely on the use of resumes, testing and 1-on-1 interviews to select candidates, ideally from the largest possible applicant pool. Many hiring managers focus primarily on what skills the candidate possesses and a disproportionately small amount of time looking at indicators of attitude.

Levitt & Dubner recommend adding additional steps to dissuade people who may not be truly serious from applying, rather than having simple clicking a button or send an email with their resume. Many companies balk at this suggestion, fearing that it will limit the candidate pool. Doesn’t a wider pool mean better candidates? Not necessarily. Imagine the benefit of “weeding out” those not truly committed: fewer resumes to read, fewer interviews to hold, lower chance of having a newly hired person quit after a short stay.

The authors also reference the practice of U.S. shoe company Zappos to offer new hires $2,000 to quit at the end of their training process. CEO Tony Hsieh says this helps them discover whether the employee “cares more about money or [if they] care more about this culture and the company” He reasons that any worker who opted for the cash wasn’t the right fit and would cost the company in the long run.

A different type of hiring process

The business coaches at ActionCoach have been long-time advocates of a systemized approach to hiring that includes multiple opportunities for a candidate to de-select themselves.

Our company has used many of the recommendations in ActionCoach’s hiring process. We have found that adding fairly benign obstacles during the application process, including requiring candidates to leave a voice message during specific hours answering three easy questions, helps us to:

  • Get a sense of how the candidate communicates on the phone
  • Get an initial perspective on their qualifications
  • Eliminate those not willing to take this step (we have noticed that as little as 10% of those who clicked on an online ad actually left a phone message)

Here is a summary of a “de-selection” model for hiring:

Step 1: Determine the exact characteristics that you want in the candidate. This should revolve mainly around attitude and ‘fit’ within your organization.

Step 2: Utilizing many of the descriptors determined in Step 1, prepare your ad and make it compelling – it is just like a marketing piece – you are trying to attract the right candidates. Ensure the ad is disseminated in as many media as possible – electronic hiring boards, social media, word of mouth, trade publications, newspapers, etc. The purpose is to cast as wide a net as possible.

Step 3: Obtain a separate phone number with an answering service – and instruct potential candidates in the ad to phone that number if they are interested in applying for the position.

Step 4. On the answering service leave a message thanking them for applying for the position and instruct them to leave their contact information at the end of the message. – Then you will ask them to answer one or two simple questions. Advise them that they only have 2 minutes. You will be amazed how many people cannot be bothered to call the number; they simply want to e-mail off resumes. This is the first de-selection step – they de-select themselves by not bothering to call.

Step 5. From the calls you can then select the ones that you would like to continue in the process. – You will get in touch with them for the resumes and advise them that there will be a group interview on a specific night for all interested candidates. The group interview will only be held on the one night and to be considered for the position they must show up on that date and time. This is the second de-selection process. Some people will not want to participate in this type of interview process to they will not be willing to re-arrange previous commitments to attend on the specific date.

Step 6. Hold the group interview and be sure to have other members of the organization, especially people who will be working with the new hire, present to participate in the process. Existing team members should be expected to ask questions and rate the candidates.

Step 7. Once there is a consensus on the top 2 or 3 candidates the remainder of the process follows traditional lines – invite back for 1-on-1 interviews, check resumes and schedule any extra testing that is appropriate for the position. It generally is also a good idea to run personality profiles on the final candidates to ensure that you have as much information as possible to make your final decision.

Step 8. Perform reference checks every time! – Benefits of the de-selection process. The purpose of the process is to ensure that the candidates applying for the position:

  1. Are willing and open to do a little different process. Really good candidates will hear the message, hang up, prepare their answers and then phone back in – you will hear the difference in their answers.
  2. Are willing to follow the process – if they do find out who the company is and by-pass the phone message and just send in their resume they have effectively de-selected themselves.
  3. They are willing to put themselves in competition for the position and can handle the pressure of a group interview – which takes most people out of their comfort zone. They actually are willing to put out significant effort to come work for you!
  4. It also has the added benefit that it prevents the company from having to sort through hundreds of resumes that generally inundate an owner or HR office. This saves incredible amounts of time and energy.

This process has proven time and again to deliver high success rates in hiring candidates that come with a great attitude, fit well into the organization and become long-term, productive employees.

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Clear Path Employer Services

Certified HR consultants and medical professionals at Clear Path Employer Services
Clear Path Employer Services is a team of certified HR consultants and medical professionals dedicated to resolving the human resources and claims management challenges facing businesses across Ontario. The company was founded in 2003 by Anna Aceto-Guerin, a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) specializing in WSIB claims management and NEER cost containment, with a focus on return-to-work programs and acquiring SIEF cost relief for employers. Read more
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