The Employee Experience: Recruiting and Interviewing

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When restorers get together, there’s a good chance hiring and retention will come up in conversation. In fact, in last year’s State of the Industry report by C&R and KnowHow, hiring was the number one answer to the question, “What do you find as the biggest challenge for your restoration company?”  

Hiring is harder than it’s ever been before, but there’s one thing we may be doing that’s making hiring more difficult than it needs to be: settling for any person instead of being patient and finding the right person. What makes someone the right person for the job? Two things: being the right job fit, and being the right culture fit.

Between culture fit and job fit, job fit should be top priority. It doesn’t matter if someone fits the culture if they aren’t equipped to do the job you’re hiring them to do. There are hiring assessment tools that can help you match the right people to the right seat, while also saving you tremendous amounts of time and money! If you do choose to use pre-employment assessments, be sure they meet the EEOC’s guidelines, and consult with an expert to make sure you do it the right way. Ultimately, you want to filter all candidates by just the ones who are qualified job fits, then choose the one candidate who is the best fit for the culture.

Assessments set up our future and current team members for success by pairing their natural strengths and abilities with the traits that are required to do a job effectively. For example, you wouldn’t want to put an introvert in a sales role, and you shouldn’t put someone who doesn’t care to follow processes in a technician role. You should define the traits and skills that are required for success in each role in your company, then actively seek out matches to those traits. 

Once you’ve determined if a candidate is a job fit, you’ve got to determine if they’re a culture fit. This means you seek to find alignment between the company’s core values and mission and the individual’s values and purpose. There are numerous ways to weave your values into the hiring process, including the language you use in your listing to attract candidates, observations you make during your time together, and questions you ask during the interview. 

In this series, I’ll break down the employee experience into a few sections: job listing and recruitment, interviewing, onboarding, retention, and separation. This month, we’ll focus on finding the right person for the job and for the culture.

Job Listing and Recruitment

Typically, your online job listing will be the first impression you make on a candidate. If you haven’t freshened up your online ads lately, now is a great time to take a look at them from a candidate’s perspective. While you’re at it, take a look at the ads your competitors are posting. A good practice is to compare yours to theirs and determine where you would want to apply if you were the job seeker. No pressure here, but you’ve got to stand out and make someone stop what they’re doing, read the listing, determine if you’re a fit for them, and apply! 

Here are a few tips for writing effective ads:

  • An ad is not a job description. If you’re just copying and pasting the job description, you’re losing the reader. Think of the job description as an HR function, and the job listing as a marketing function. You’re selling the candidate a future with your company. Make it interesting but don’t bait and switch. Be real.
  • The listing should be focused on the candidate, not on the company. Yes, you should have some info about your company in there, but you are speaking to the candidate. Make it about them first. Add your company description at the end and include your core values and mission. After you write that description, read over it, and ask yourself if it sounds like a place you want to work.
  • Earlier, I mentioned that you need to identify the traits that will make someone successful in each role. Your opener should vividly describe the ideal candidate for that particular job in a way that resonates with them when they read it. Equally important, someone who’s not a fit should know to move along without applying.
  • A candidate should be able to look at the listing and quickly determine if this job is a fit for their strengths and if your company’s values are in alignment with theirs. If it’s not abundantly clear, it’s time to either rewrite it or pay someone to write it for you.

Once you post the job, you’re not done. You’ve got to search! Everyone on your team should be helping you look, and if you don’t have a reward system in place for employee referrals, now is the time to start! A word of caution for referral fees: it’s best to set up a system that pays the referral fee once the new team member reaches 90 days or pay half at 90 and the other half at 180 days or more. Ideally, when culture is communicated consistently, your team members will only refer to people who are the right fit for the culture. 

When it comes to expanding your search, you can use grassroots marketing to find your next team member. Once the listing is live, share it with those who are familiar with your company, your values, and your expectations. This might include your database of customers and your local chamber of commerce. Get familiar with your local trade school, community college, and university faculty and share openings with them. Always be recruiting. If someone delivers excellent service to you when you’re at a store or a restaurant, use that opportunity to share your career opportunities with them.

Websites like Indeed.com allow you to search their candidate database. For a small fee, you can browse candidates who match the keywords and locations you choose and contact them through their preferred method of communication. While you’re there, you may want to search your company name to see if any of your team members have recently updated their resume. If so, use that as an opportunity to have a one-on-one with them and gain more insight into why they’re looking. 

Interviewing

In the second column in this series, we covered how your company is like your team member’s home away from home, and you should look at your surroundings with fresh eyes every once in a while, to make sure it feels inviting to visitors. 

Once you’ve got a great candidate in the pipeline, and you’ve used an assessment to determine they’re a job fit, and have conducted a phone interview, it’s time to get them in the door for their first interview. When they arrive, give them a clean and comfortable place to sit and wait. It’s a nice touch to have framed photos on the walls of the people who might be their future teammates. Even better if those photos were taken on job sites or at fun team building events!

Whoever is responsible for greeting the candidate should be informed of the candidate’s name and appointment time. They should offer them something to drink and be able to carry on small talk that puts them at ease. At my company, our Director of First Impressions does a great job making people feel welcome in our space, which relaxes them before the interview.  Plus, she gives us little nuggets of information she learned about the candidate during their time together. 

Make an attempt to bring in candidates during a busy time of the day so they can get a feel for your atmosphere and have numerous interactions with your team. For our company, we shoot for late in the afternoon when our technicians are coming back in for the day. The candidate is in a high-traffic area where they can hear us interact with each other. Chances are also high that they’ll hear laughter and joy while they’re with us. During our monthly company meetings, we give updates on open positions and let everyone know when they can expect to see candidates in the building. We have an expectation that when they see a candidate, they smile and say hello, because it takes a village to hire an all-star!

When we take candidates to our interview space, we intentionally sit them in a chair that’s facing a wall where our TECH values logo is on display, so they have no choice but to notice our core values. Just to be sure they know how important culture is to us, we ask questions that revolve around our values and mission to find out if there’s alignment between us. 

While it’s tempting in this market to extend an offer after one great interview, it’s better to bring the candidate back in for a second round, preferably with a different team leading the conversation. You’ll want to know if the candidate’s demeanor changes once “the boss” isn’t in the room. It may take some time to find what works best for your company but think about bringing in people who will interact with the candidate on a regular basis, especially if office space or vehicles will be shared. You’ll also want to choose great brand ambassadors to be involved with the team interview, and let those people take the lead in answering the candidate’s questions when appropriate. The key to making this process work is performing a team recap as soon as the second interview concludes and having thorough documentation that allows you to compare both rounds of interviews. 

One upside to the team interview is when you do hire the candidate, the ones who interviewed them can be charged with greeting them on their first day and introducing them to the team, which makes the first day feel a little less overwhelming. But a word of caution: if you choose to involve your team members in interviewing, please make sure you train and coach the participants on what they can and can’t ask or say in an interview. 

Chances are high that your best candidates are also interviewing at other companies. Make sure you have a hiring process and follow it swiftly and consistently. Don’t drag your feet with candidates and be sure to tell them what to expect for the next step in your process. Also, take advantage of opportunities to communicate purpose during your time together. Have some stories to tell about your best team members and the impact your company makes. If a candidate is weighing your offer against two others, you need to be memorable. Your people, your purpose, and how comfortable they felt with you will help you stand out against the rest.

Also, mind your manners when it comes to hiring. If you expect your candidate to be on time, you should be on time as well. Be ready for the interview. Do your homework and ask questions related to their past experiences and show them that you took the time to prepare. Give them ample time to ask you any questions during their interviews. If you know they won’t be moving on to the next round, go ahead and let them know instead of giving them false hope. If a candidate gets to the end of the process and isn’t chosen for the job, notify them with a phone call and thank them for their time and interest. Remember, your hiring process should be a reflection of your values and should leave a lasting positive impression, no matter the outcome. 

Knowing that hiring isn’t getting any easier, and that company culture is a competitive advantage, it makes sense to build a hiring process around the culture if you want to attract the best candidates. The experience you deliver during recruiting and interviewing builds the foundation for an effective onboarding experience, which we’ll cover in the next column. If you feel inspired to start working on your hiring process after reading this, just remember to think of every step in the process from the employee’s perspective, and always ask yourself, “Would I work for me?”   

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Katie Smith, CR

Katie Smith, CR is the second generation owner of PHC Restoration in North Carolina, an independent company committed to making a positive impact on its team, customers and community. Passionate about servant leadership and building relationships, Katie plays an active role both inside of her company and within the industry. She currently serves as the President of the Restoration Industry Association, the oldest and largest non-profit, professional trade association dedicated to providing leadership and promoting best practices through advocacy, education & professional networking opportunities for the restoration industry.

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