As an enlightened business owner, you understand the importance of doing market research on your prospective customers. For example, you want to know where they're located, any common characteristics they may have and, ultimately, as much as possible about how they think - their needs, wishes, and motivations. The goal, of course, is to refine your ability to effectively and efficiently target your message to those with whom you most want to do business.
Well, you may be surprised to learn that this wisdom equally applies in seeking prospective employees. In fact, marketing for customers and marketing for employees address the similar four key questions:
- What is my likely trading area? (Where are my likely employees located)?
- What is my product? (What is the position?)
- Who is my "ideal customer"? (What are the qualities of my "ideal employee"?)
- How can I best attract their attention?
Even when you are feeling the pressure to quickly fill an unexpectedly open position, you'll save yourself a lot of grief if you take the time in advance to get very clear on the answers to those four questions.
Marketing for employees
First, you want to know your "employee trading area." Unless it's a position with no geographic restrictions, location is important. The rule of thumb for most inbound businesses declares that customers will rarely drive more than 20 minutes to trade with you. This proximity effect applies to employees as well, and companies often forget that. At our company we discovered that those employees who live beyond a 30-mile radius of the office suffer a commute that simply adds too much time to their day. Ultimately, no one is well-served by this situation.
Second, once you know where to look for your employees, you'll want to define your "product" -- or what someone will do in this position. At this stage, think less about the actual work, and more about the kinds of work to be done and the qualities that would contribute to the likelihood of success in the performance of that work. Your goal should be to recruit candidates who have the aptitude and ability to perform certain kinds of tasks or actions, not necessarily those who have experience with the precise tasks or actions practiced in the position.
Third, identify the qualities of your ideal employee. Just as some businesses stagnate when they come to over-rely on "experienced" customers (those who habitually continue to come in and buy) and forget to pay attention to the needs of new customers, too often we'll recruit and hire "experienced" employees who will end up doing whatever is required to be done in their - and not necessarily your - way, and who will eventually leave for a job that offers them more challenge. Instead, your ideal employee would be a candidate who has the minimum required skills and qualities and who can be challenged to apply their skills and aptitude in new ways - your ways. You want to find someone who will happily approach the work and your company with a "student's mind."
Lastly, to attract their attention, don't advertise new positions based on job titles, rather recruit for candidates who have the characteristics, attitude, and qualities that represent the best fit for your position. And to be fully successful in this recruitment process, you must challenge your old ways of advertising as well.
A new way of recruiting
A client of mine needed to fill a Patient Intake Receptionist position, but for the first time did NOT place the ad in the "medical" section of the job postings. Instead, he assessed the ideal qualities for the job, and crafted his ad to ask: "Do you have a voice that smiles and projects confidence? Can you multi-task and prioritize in a fast-changing environment? Do you have impeccable spelling abilities, and can you write and speak clearly and concisely? Are you comfortable dealing with strangers from all strata of society? Do you possess a level of comfort in basic keyboarding and office equipment operations?" He reasoned that if someone possesses these skills and aptitudes, and if he had systems in place to support the tasks, it was really not necessary to have had previous experience as a "receptionist."
He ultimately hired a young woman with no previous receptionist or medical experience - but who did have all of the stated qualities, and who has since become a star in his organization and is on a solid new career path. She was the right candidate for the job because she lived within the "employee trading area," and could perform the kinds of work that needed to be done in the manner that my client wanted them to be accomplished. She could therefore ensure that the duties of the position were carried out correctly, because she was able to apply her essential qualities to the systems accompanying that position.
The next time you have a position open, why not think about how you can incorporate these market research principles in your recruiting system? You just might find your ideal employee!
What do you think? What special considerations do you incorporate into your recruiting process? What has been your experience recruiting for aptitude over experience?