How do we hire better quality entry-level employees?

Question:

Every May, we hire and train 25 entry-level workers. This year’s crop of new employees is the worst we’ve ever had.

Thus far, we’ve dismissed three new hires from our training program and two others look like they’re going to wash out. We’ve talked about putting in a new ad on Craigslist but the ad we placed landed 10 lousy applicants and a bucketful of spam for every good resume.

We need a minimum of six to 10 new applicants. Is it that entry-level jobs and the pay rates appeal only to younger workers and they’re all entitled? How do we find better applicants, or do we just need to continue hiring the best of the worst, train them and hope for the best?

Answer:

Don’t hire the best of the worst. They often bring problem behavior into the organization, frustrate you and other supervisors, and drag down team productivity. When you terminate them, you create a churn that results in morale issues with coworkers who’ve befriended them, complaints to regulatory bodies and even wrongful termination lawsuits.

Instead, ramp up your recruitment process. You’re either placing your ads in the wrong locations or writing the wrong ads.

While Craigslist produces some results, employers who want quality entry-level employees need to branch out into other hiring mediums. Word of mouth works best, especially if you’re hiring younger entry-level employees. Eighty percent of those below age 30 say that they look first at taking jobs they learn of through personal connections. Have you asked last year’s summer hires to text their friends? What about asking new hires to text their friends telling them that you’re looking for six quality new hires?

Three-quarters of Gen Y professionals (those in their twenties and early thirties) visit company websites to learn more about prospective employers. When prospective employees open your website, what do they see?

The NAVAIR website (www.navair.navy.mil/jobs) provides a great example of a website that attracts applicants. This website shows faces of presumably happy employees of all ages and races next to the slogan “Build a future protecting the nation.” The user-friendly website offers easily clickable “search for a job” and “refer-a-friend” options along with information about benefits, job descriptions, workplace culture, employee profiles, training and career videos. Similarly, the Navy.com website offers live chat, “Winter X” and army-navy games, videos and “Navy skills for life,” all a click away.

More than two-thirds of younger applicants use job boards and nearly one-quarter find jobs on social networking sites. Have you considered advertising your opening on Twitter and Facebook? It costs nothing. If you run an interesting organization, you can upload a video on youtube.com that visually describes the highlights of a week in the life of an employee and shows that you offer more than an ordinary job. If you balk at “advertising” your company and jobs, think again; you ask applicants to put their best foot forward — you need to do likewise.

How does your Craigslist ad stack up against other posted jobs? Does it appeal to the “best” applicants with statements such as “Our company is one of a kind,” “Hit the ground running” and “Jump-start your career”? If you write a ho-hum ad, you attract medium applicants.

Next, how do you vet applicants? Do you simply screen resumes and then leap into short in-person interviews? Eliminate some of your early wash-outs by a tiered vetting process. We help our clients create an online email questionnaire asking all applicants key questions. Applicants who provide skimpy answers don’t make it to the next level of screening.

Finally, how do you greet your new hires? Have you and other supervisors gotten so jaded that you signal new hires you consider them “entitled,” or do you invite them to step to the plate? If the former, you turn them off, particularly if they don’t fit that stereotype but instead want more and seek an employer who sees the best in them.

The bottom line: You can find better employees if you go above and beyond.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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