Though we haven’t quite worked off all those Christmas cookie calories yet and the calendar on the wall shows us March is in full swing, we are only a couple of pages away from the start of the busy summer season! That’s right. Soon the phones will start heating up, our docket will start filling up and we’ll be scrambling for good people to cover all those jobs.
Or will we?
We all want that confident feeling of sending a great crew out on every job – a crew made up of guys who are (a) great movers and (b) great people. The interesting thing is, we can train someone to be a great mover. We can’t train someone to be a great person.
In this month’s Main Feature we take a look at finding and hiring the kinds of people we want on the job – and in our organization.
Mini Table of Contents
- The Importance of Hiring Good People
- How to Find Good People
- Knowing What Potential Employees Want
- How To Make a Good Job Description
- How to Make an Effective Job Application
- The Interview: Before, During, and After
- A Few Final Words
1. The importance of hiring good people
Hiring good people goes way beyond building a crew of good movers. Hiring good people means creating an environment where everyone adds to the overall positive energy of the workplace. We all know what it’s like working alongside that guy who shuffles around complaining about everyone and everything, right? As the minutes and the hours pass we can literally feel our energy being sucked away. But when we go out on a job with that guy who is always upbeat, always positive, always encouraging everyone and helping get every part of the job done? We start feeling like world conquerors. And the next day we hope we get to go out with that guy again.
There’s no magic and no coincidence here. And it’s probably no surprise to any of us either. But it is something to keep in mind when we are looking for new guys to join our team. We don’t just want strong guys or experienced guys. We want good guys.
So what, exactly, is a good guy? A nice, honest, reliable person who will do his job without complaining? Well yeah, those are all good traits. But we’re looking for more.
“The good people you’re looking for are positive, happy people,” says Leon Logothetis. “They are people that will inspire you to be a better person, provide you with motivation to achieve your goals, empower you to make the changes you need to succeed and cheer on your success. In the workplace, good people tend to be productive people. They’re organized, create schedules they stick to and don’t get easily distracted from the end goal. And all this help you be more productive.”
2. Like Attracts Like
Stanford management professor Bob Sutton tells us that we are the ones responsible for bringing good people into our organization, largely through the kinds of people we show ourselves to be. We ourselves need to be good guys, but we also need to act like leaders. We need to “know how to project power… since those you lead need to believe you have it for it to be effective.” A leader (and that’s what you as a boss needs to be) sets the tone of the workplace through the attitude he holds and the confidence he projects. At the same time, we need to create loyalty within the ranks.
Great. How do we do all that?
Simple: by setting an example for our crew to follow. Sutton explains that employees will “monitor, magnify, and often mimic their (boss’s) moves.” Think back to your previous boss or bosses; what were they like, and how did everyone respond? On a broader scale, think of someone who turns heads just by walking into the room. What kind of person can do that?
While Sutton talks mainly about CEOs, the same applies to all of us. In any industry, he says, “the best bosses work doggedly to stay in tune with this relentless attention (to how their people view them) and use it to their advantage… They know that the success of their people and organizations depends on maintaining an accurate view of how others construe their moods and moves—and responding with rapid, effective adjustments.”
In plain English, bosses and leaders need to pay attention to their behavior, and their people’s reaction to their behavior, if they want to build employee loyalty and workplace positivity. I see the same dynamic in action as a father but let’s stick to the workplace for now.
Setting the example in the workplace is not only huge in creating a positive atmosphere for those already in your organization, it shows anyone who walks in your door what your company is all about. This includes potential new hires. The good guys who walk through your door are likely to walk right back out if they don’t see any other good guys around.
3. Knowing What Good People Want
Our friends over at Glass Magazine offer us three tips for “finding, recruiting and keeping great people.” These folks deal with issues similar to those in our industry. One, a cyclical (seasonal) pattern of busy and slow times that limit opportunities for on-the-job training. Two, physical demands of the work resulting in a high rate of attrition (or burnout). These guys, then, are worth listening to.
#1. Understand who you are hiring. Millennials, who make up the 18-34-year-old sector of the workforce, “tend to seek jobs that fit their lifestyle: flexible work hours or remote work, a good culture fit, eco-conscious and charitable companies, and meaningful work. (They want) team-oriented work environments that offer professional development/ training, recognition and frequent feedback.”
Read that again, and you can almost see our company and our crews in action. True, not everyone wants to haul furniture and boxes every day. And hey, not everyone can. But being part of a team, working with a charitable company, receiving training, recognition and feedback; these are all things that we can readily offer if we don’t already. And that part about a good culture fit? That goes back to creating a positive workplace, doesn’t it!
#2. Know what employees value. In short: appreciation, inclusion, opportunity and respect. To be more specific, these are the things the good guys are looking for in a workplace. Not just in a job, but in a workplace. Sure, interesting and meaningful work is also part of any good package. But the bigger picture of being appreciated and valued as part of a team is not to be ignored.
We’ve all experienced working in the height of the hectic summer (and that includes yours truly). We know that sometimes we just need a couple extra pairs of hands to help get us through the day. But some of those extra pairs of hands turn out to be pretty darn helpful, and it would be a shame to lose them as soon as the workload starts to drop off. Sit them down and tell them you see their good attitude, you recognize their skills and you want to give them the opportunity to do more within the organization. Even if you can only do it on a part-time basis at first, the reality of seeing this gig moving furniture turning into something more – and with a pretty cool company – might help you keep that good new guy around until things pick up again.
#3. Use proven recruiting techniques. All right, we’re not sure about $100 cash vouchers (too expensive) or putting flyers on windshields (too random). We are sure about targeting the kinds of people we are looking for – physically fit, motivated, outgoing types that we might find in places like gyms and health clubs, high schools and local colleges, job fairs and staffing agencies and town recreation leagues. Putting your name and your ‘We’re Looking for a Few Good Men’ signs and flyers in front of these people will likely bring you more of those good potential candidates you crave.
4. The Making of a Good Job Description
Entrepreneur Magazine is speaking to all of us when they say:
“Outline exactly what the company is looking for in a new hire
and include that in the initial job description.”
What are you looking for in your next good guy? Energy. Positive attitude. Communication skills. Clean driving record. Start writing it all down. The list can go on and on but that’s all right, just let your ideas of the ideal good guy flow. We’ll clean it up later.
Now that we’ve got our good guy looking like a super hero let’s get his attention. As ZippyApp tells us:
“job descriptions are a vital piece in your recruitment marketing strategy,
since they give the first impression of your company
and is what connects you with a candidate.”
To help us along they hook us up with their 4 Tips to Lean and Mean Job Descriptions.
- Think of a job title as a story headline. Catch people’s eyes with something more creative than just ‘Mover Wanted’. Include incentives like guaranteed hours or time-based raises. Add a word or two that describe the job specifics. To take ZippyApp’s example and tailor it to our industry, we might say something like: “Full-time Mover (with possible promotion to Crew Leader) – Joe’s Moving, Oceanside”
As an exercise, go to Craigslist or Indeed and plow through the job announcements for movers. Take note of which ones catch your eye. What do they have that the others don’t?
- Cut out any filler words. There will be plenty of time to explain all the on-the-job details in the interview. For now, laying out the basic requirements should suffice. Again, catch people’s interest with a little creativity – a break from the norm in a job description translates into a different kind of company, at least in the person’s mind. Example: Instead of the overused ‘Must be able to lift and carry 50 pounds’ try something like ‘Willing and able to handle heavy and fragile items with agility and care.’
But back to the first point. Avoid making the job sound like, as ZippyApp puts it, “a prison sentence”. Listing every possible task that may come up on a job can be intimidating, to someone who has never worked for a moving company before and might not have any idea what all these things even mean. Besides, looking for a job can be bad enough, there’s no advantage to making anyone read a short novel on what the job entails.
- Include any job requirements. This may sound contradictory to the previous point but here we are talking about the things you consider to be necessary skills, certifications or experience. Your good guy doesn’t need to know how to shrink wrap a sofa or strap a baby grand to a piano board, but if he needs to have a driver’s license and be able to work Saturdays he needs to know this up front.
One other bit of info that we need to make clear in the job description is our location. Houston is not very helpful. 550 Main Street, Houston gives the potential applicant an idea of how far they have to go just to get to work. And if it’s too far, it’s better they know this before they apply instead of finding out later.
- Be specific about the job benefits and salaries. “Candidates love to be incentivized,” ZippyApp says. So whether it’s health insurance, CDL training or that potential promotion to crew leader, make it clear these things are part of the package. As far as providing info on pay: “If you don’t want to post your salaries, or if salary depends on the candidate’s experience, providing a salary range is better than not putting anything about what can be expected.”
To use the idea of that possible promotion again, consider adding something about what kind of pay increase such a promotion would carry. This is exactly the sort of thing that a motivated applicant would find attractive. Remember, we take care of our people. We want everyone to know this.
Entrepreneur urges to be transparent in describing any offered position. It’s best if not crucial to give the potential applicant a clear view of the job from the job description.
“Sugar-coating a challenging position may help fill the position now,
but it will likely cause turnover later.
Filling the same position twice is far more time-consuming and expensive
than finding the right person to begin with.”
5. Job Applications: Friction & Efficiency
The job application serves a dual purpose. Obviously it is a record of all the applicant’s basic and pertinent personal information. But, if administered with a little thought, your application can also provide a glimpse into what kind of person exists behind all that info.
Hiring Monster talks about “friction” in the job application process. While some sources of friction – a ridiculously long application or strange, unorthodox questions for example – will turn a good applicant away, a certain type and amount of friction is a positive thing. As Monster explains:
“Good points of friction are those that present a reasonable and valid hurdle that helps assess whether the applicant is a good fit for the job and the company. Examples include an efficient job application, reference-checking and interview process and job skills tests.”
An efficient application. This means functioning with the least amount of wasted time and effort, but it also means producing an effect. Here are a few ideas for achieving both.
- Name / Address / Phone Number That’s enough. Go ahead and ask for both home and cell numbers, email addresses, present and permanent addresses and emergency contact information if you want but is any of that really necessary at this stage of the game?
- Social Security Number Skip it. Instead have the applicant check Yes or No for ‘Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?’
- Position Desired Another common application phrase but this tends to pigeonhole the applicant in both their and your eyes. Alternative: categorize positions – ‘On Site, Warehouse, Sales, Office Staff etc.’ – and have the applicant check one. Adding boxes for Full-Time or Part-Time might help, but doing so gives the impression you are hiring part-timers. If you are, okay. If not, asking ‘Are you available to work full-time?’ might be more appropriate.
- Salary desired This question is for a different world of employment unless you plan on negotiating the person’s hourly wage. Skip it. You’ve already decided what you will pay your people.
- Employment History Time and again I’ve seen companies ask for a person’s jobs for the last five years. This invites all kinds of useless information and amounts to a waste of everyone’s time. Instead how about asking for ‘Work experience involving teamwork, transportation, physical labor or working outdoors’ – or some variation of these. Asking the applicant to then explain that experience will provide you with a much better idea of the applicant’s skills related to the job in question while also giving you an idea of how well they can express themselves on paper – which is one of those things that won’t make or break a person’s ability to do the job but offers a peek at their personality nonetheless. If you are hiring office staff or salespeople or warehouse help in addition to movers, include something like, ‘Work experience related to desired position.’
There’s a chance the applicant will have no experience related to the job you are looking to fill. And that applicant might be exactly the good guy you are looking for.
- Professional References will play a significant part in the application, as an opportunity for you to find out what a good guy the applicant is and, of course, as a means for you to perform your due diligence in screening every applicant you are interested in, regardless of their work history. Be sure to ask for two if not three, along with a brief explanation of the jobs performed for those references (once again getting a glimpse at the applicant’s habits of self-expression).
- Education Simple. Box chart with ‘Name / Town or City / Year Graduated’ for High School / College / Trade School / Other. I’ve seen applications ask for addresses for schools. Phone numbers for schools. Seriously, who knows the phone number to their high school?
Additional questions that are easy to answer while providing important information:
- Are you at least 18 years of age?
- Can you work weekends/Saturdays?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license? If so, have you been convicted of any moving offenses in the past X years? Please explain: _____________________.
- Have you been convicted of a crime in the last X years? If yes, please explain: __________.
At the bottom, you might consider inviting your applicant to add any additional information about themselves that they believe would be relevant to their application and provide a blank space or a few lines for them to do so. The applicant leaving this part blank shouldn’t be taken as a positive or negative, but if they do write something it could help give you some insight into their personality and motivations.
Important!! There are certain questions, and certain kinds of questions, that are prohibited by law in the course of the application process. The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for most companies to ask “Is there any health-related reason you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?” on an application or even in an interview. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it unlawful for an employer to use phrases like “college students” or “recent graduates” in their job announcements and advertisements. Likewise, asking for an applicant’s age or date of birth on an application could potentially be seen as a form of discrimination – hence the question ‘Are you at least 18 years of age?’ Check out the policies/practices outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in this piece on Labor & Employment Law
If you find you are not getting all the information you want from your applicants solely from their applications, that’s all right. Asking about their previous jobs at the beginning of an interview provides an easy ice-breaker and allows both sides to ease into a conversational rapport – assuming one is coming.
Note: Here too, it is critical to stick to questions that are relevant to finding out if the applicant is suited for the job he is applying for. ‘What were your main duties at your last job?’ is appropriate. ‘How often did you miss work due to illness?’ is definitely not. We’ll go over more on the interview process below.
6. The Interview: Before, During & After
In their HR Toolkit, hrcouncil.ca suggest telling or reminding applicants when we call to set up interviews what the hourly pay for the job is. “Then ask them if they would like to proceed to an interview,” we are told, to “avoid interviewing people who later refuse a job offer on the basis of salary.” In addition, we can mention or reiterate the days and hours the job requires and, of course, where we are located. Better to turn them off over the phone than waste time setting up an interview that will lead nowhere.
When nailing down a time for an interview, avoid asking the applicant when they can come in. You are a busy person running a busy business, you can’t have job applicants determining your schedule. Figure out a couple of times you expect to be available and give the applicant a choice. By doing this, you are getting the applicant to commit to coming in. Tell them to come in whenever they can and you may never see them.
Of course it sometimes (usually?) happens that just as we are ready to get an interview underway the phone rings or a customer walks in and we have to tell your interviewee to wait. Good guys will have no problem with this. Offer them a place they can wait – preferably a place where they can have a seat – and let them know you’ll be with them shortly. THEN…use this opportunity to get a glimpse of your candidate outside the interview. Ask one of your staff or one of your good guys to poke their head in and say hi to the now-waiting applicant. Get them to engage in a little small talk. This may help you find out more about what they are like outside of an interview.
With the interview about to begin, we presume you’ve gone over your applicant’s information. You know what experience they do or don’t have. You know where they went to high school and if they went to college. You’ve read about the duties and requirements of their previous jobs. You can see how neat or messy their handwriting is.
Now forget about all of it.
Not completely, of course. This information is what you will base a good portion of your interview on. But by the same token, there is a reason for conducting an interview after acquiring all the basic info.
We’re not hiring info. We’re hiring good guys.
There’s a widely-accepted truth about hiring people: You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude.
On paper, Joe might look like a better candidate than Bob. But then Joe walks in and plops himself down and starts running off at the mouth about how good a mover he is with all his experience and how crappy the movers at his previous company were. An hour later Bob sits up, looks you straight in the eye and tells you that while he has never worked as a mover before he has had a few jobs that required both physical labor and interpersonal communication and is particularly interested in that bit about possibly being promoted to crew leader at some point, after he learns the ropes.
When can you start, Bob?
In Workopolis’s “Why You Should Hire the Unskilled, Unemployed Candidate” we are told that even in the white collar world there are plenty of people – 73% according to one recent report – doing jobs unrelated to their studies. So how much importance should we be placing on education when we are looking for our few good guys? While a certain level of education can be a good barometer of one’s aptitude to learn and willingness to be trained and be professional, it is certainly not the litmus test. Go ahead and ask your applicant to tell you about his schooling, but any answer you get would tell you more about the applicant as a person than as a student – which is exactly why we conduct interviews.
Long periods of unemployment can also be a misleading factor in evaluating a candidate. As the same Workopolis piece explains: “People may be out of work for any number of reasons that have no relation to their potential job performance – family obligations, special projects, illness, or maybe just the fact that nobody will hire them because they are out of work.” Furthermore, “consider how grateful a new hire who has been out of work for a long time will be. That person will work harder and be more loyal than someone who didn’t really need the job. Take another look at the unemployed candidate. There’s a very good chance that person will turn out to be the best hire you ever make.”
Turn your attention away from the hard facts of experience and education and look more at “soft skills” like interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to think through a problem, process information and exhibit emotional intelligence. On the job, these things matter. The following will help us get a good look at the soft skills the person sitting across from us possesses.
Interview Questions should, like the job application, be efficient. We don’t want to come across as robotic but we do want to give the candidate the opportunity to do most of the speaking on topics that relate to the job. Career One Stop lays out a few pointers for preparing effective questions and offers a few example questions which we will tailor to the needs of our particular industry.
“I see that you organized a team project at company X. Tell me more about that experience, including challenges you faced and how you overcame them.”
“The person we hire will need strong communication skills. Give me some examples of when you had to use your communication skills to get something accomplished.”
“We need a team player who can also assume a leadership role from time to time. Talk a bit about times you’ve had to assume the role of leader. How did it go?”
Questions like these relate to the applicant’s work experience and can give us plenty of insight into the kind of person we are looking at. We might choose to use less formal language but maintaining this sort of line of questioning keeps both sides on track, giving us a decent idea of how good our guy is in a short amount of time.
The good folks up at the Ontario Human Rights Commission provide us with another good question we can use – along with an idea that may protect us legally. (Yes, we know, Ontario is in Canada, but if they’ve got laws on this you can bet the United States of Litigation does too.)
To cover ourselves against charges of discrimination in the hiring process we should do our absolute best to follow the same line of questioning for every applicant. This means avoiding questions like How would you deal with racial slurs by a customer? “Instead,” the OHRC advises, “ask all candidates how they would deal with difficult clients or challenging customers.” (Even without any legal considerations we think this is a much better question.)
Give the applicant an opportunity to ask questions. This is our best chance to really see how good our guy might be, opening up the conversation to the topics of our applicant’s choosing. When this final part of the interview is over be sure to thank the applicant for coming in and tell them you should be making a decision shortly (or as soon as possible, or once you’ve interviewed all the candidates – a phrase that does not stick you with a specific time frame).
Evaluate the candidate. We hope that during the interview you are taking note of the applicant’s appearance and demeanor. Once the applicant is gone – and you have a few moments – go down a checklist of points, good and bad, about the person. Here is a list of 10 Questions to ask yourself regarding the applicant. Answering these may help put each candidate – if you are interviewing several – into a useful relative light.
Talk to others who had interaction with the applicant. The staff worker or the crew guy who poked his head in to say hi might have some input as to the person’s personality in a more natural, spontaneous setting. He may have been all smiles and politeness in the interview but totally different outside those doors. Granted, he may have been nervous, or he simply may be a quiet person – so consider this input as just one of many factors in your overall assessment of the person.
Call their references! Not only are references an extremely helpful source of input for evaluation, but they may be necessary should any legal developments arise. In this piece on Labor & Employment, we are warned of ‘Negligent Hiring’, explained by Attorney Donald Burke. “Employers who know, or who with reasonable diligence should have known, that their employees are incompetent or dangerous are potentially liable for injuries those employees cause to third parties.” In other words, if you hire an individual who, in the course of his previous employment, has proven himself or even shown signs of being a danger to others and you did not know this because you didn’t check his references, you could be held partially liable if something happens. Chances may be slim, but even aside from the possibility of these legal ramifications, you simply don’t want to hire a bad guy. Checking an applicant’s references can help guard against exactly this.
On a more practical, everyday level, these tips on performing reference checks might come in handy for getting the most out of those 5-minute phone calls.
Use social media to your advantage. Business News Daily suggests we “make it a point to do a background check (including at least a quick Google search on the candidate’s name) to see what comes up about that person online. But if you’re not looking through the candidate’s social media profiles, you could be missing a key way to find out more about the individual as a person and an employee…Because how that person behaves on social media is a good indication of what kind of person the individual is and how your prospect might fit into your company’s culture.” Some may call this snooping. We prefer to call it completing the interview.
7. A Few Final Words
Clearly, getting good guys in the door and onto our team requires thought and planning. Employment Solutions tells us in no uncertain terms: “Don’t be reactive.” We aren’t just collecting warm bodies to put on a truck. We are building a quality team. As such it is imperative that we “plan for organizational needs, anticipate attrition, develop bench strength in critical areas, and strengthen relationships with staffing partners.”
Yes, it is only March. But it is not too early to start getting those good guys in the door. The most ambitious and forward-thinking people are already poking around for summer work. As much as your own schedule and plans allow, why not try to get a couple new guys on board with some part-time on-the-job training? You’ll be building their skills and confidence while showing them you are interested in them enough to invest in their development so when the summer crush hits you can all hit the ground running.
We are building a business. We are building a team of people. So think of it this way:
We’re not just trying to make it through the busy season, we’re trying to turn this into a busy business. (Tweet this)
Hire guys you’ll want to keep – and treat them as though they’ll be staying.
Your good guys – both old and new – will appreciate it.
As will your customers.