Business is Personal

Do You Scare Off Applicants?

The last thing you want is to hire somebody who can't get along with your team

By Mark Riffey

I’ve talked to several young people in the last month or so who are looking for new gigs. Some were college grads, some not. Each of them had some level of imposter syndrome. And yet, they all had skills, experience, and training in their chosen field.

Ever feel you’re not qualified to be in the role you’re in, or that you’re applying for? Wondered, waited, and expected someone to figure out that you have no idea what you’re doing? Thinking you’re a fraud, a poser, or a fake?

That’s imposter syndrome. It affects both newbies and experienced, highly-accomplished people. The shade tree psychologist in me suspects it’s something our minds cook up to “protect” us. If you’ve ever felt like you were out of your league (even if you weren’t), it might have been imposter syndrome.

Don’t scare them off

Now imagine that your company is looking for entry-level or inexperienced help. Do your ads actually make that clear? Does the ad scare off these applicants?

Sometimes we add extra qualifications to ads, hoping we’ll find someone extra qualified. Some see those qualifications not realizing what they are: “nice to have but not required”. Result: They don’t apply, or they come into an interview “knowing” they aren’t qualified. It seeps out of them – but isn’t always obvious.

When you’re looking for less-experienced help – say so. Be crystal clear about what you want. I know, you’ll get applicants who don’t have the qualifications you’re asking for – even of entry-level people. As you know, that happens anyway. There might be a gem in the group.

You may have experienced people who can do your company’s work in their sleep. These applicants know that. It feeds the syndrome. They’re trying to figure out how they could fit in given that you have those people.

They may not realize your experts started out in entry level roles. They’re wondering why you’d consider them. Be clear you’re looking for someone ready to grow into their career at your place.

They assume you’re looking for someone who can step in and part the Red Sea. Meanwhile, you’re looking for people interested in learning how to swim. Be clear that you’re looking for good people to join the team who are ready grow into the open roles.

If you’re hiring people who have less than a couple years of experience, you’re going to retrain them. Mention that you know few of them will walk in the door and immediately become productive. Discuss that the necessity of training. Even if they could step in and be productive, let them know you want them to do what you do the way your company does it.

The what doesn’t matter, whether it’s sales, building and servicing products, deliver services, whatever.

Engaged and interested

When you meet them, are they engaged or asleep at the wheel? Are they interested and curious? If they never apply, you’ll never know.

I don’t mean you’ll take anyone. You’re looking for motivated, engaged people with the right attitude. People interested in what you do who don’t have a five to ten years of experience.

The last thing you want is to hire somebody who can’t get along with your team. You don’t want someone who isn’t a good person, or however you’d describe the right ones.

There are usually signs they’re hard workers and/or team players. I remember one resume came in where the applicant had worked on an Alaskan fishing boat. That alone left no doubt they were a team player and a hard worker.

I saw a similar resume recently where the person had worked backcountry trail crew before getting technical training. The kind of person who can do that work not only has to work hard, but they have get along with the same small group for weeks at a time. They don’t get to take off for home every night. They’re living and working with their crew. Someone who isn’t a team player won’t be there long.

In your ad for these less-experienced people, focus on the personal qualities you want to see in the right kind of applicant. Ask questions that enable them to reveal those qualities – or that they don’t have them. Good team members are what you need. You can teach them, train them, get them where you need them to be – if they apply.

Mark Riffey is an investor and advisor to small business owners. Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or email him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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