The Importance of a Written Job Description in Recruitment and How to Attract the Best Candidates

Interview with
Sarah Lee
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The Importance of a Written Job Description in Recruitment and How to Attract the Best Candidates

Sarah Lee, General Manager of The Job Squad, runs a company that recruits potential employees for businesses  During the Dot Com Boom, Sarah came to New Zealand as an IT employee, working on a project in Toys R Us, designing a system for them.  Then she thought she could make some money putting some contractors there herself. 

In the bigger cities, recruitment is based on job descriptions and finding the skills to match them.  However in provincial areas such as  Taranaki, 85% of the jobs go through word of mouth and shoulder tapping.  However, Sarah warns that this is not a good practice.  Personalities have to match the job.

There are three types of people, according to Sarah.  The Firestarters, Lawnmowers, and Well Poisoners.  A Firestarter is someone like her where nothing is a challenge and everything is possible.  A Lawnmower comes in and is behind a Firestarter.  Well Poisoners can go in and poison the pulp of a company within three days.  As an example, on Facebook, Firestarters start the thread.  Lawnmowers like and share the post.  Well Poisoners make the negative comments.  You would want to hire a Firestarter for a startup company and trust their instincts. 

On working with family, Sarah advises against it.  She says it is one of the worst mistakes you can make and it’s going to be a nightmare for employees to deal with.

When writing a job description, be very, very specific.  Do not cut and paste from templates.  You need to be honest because people respond to honesty.  Her job descriptions have a different flavor.  She avoids clichés.  Her title for an advertisement for a bath company was “Is the Bath Half Full?”  She also put in a lot of terms common to the industry.  As a result, she is able to screen applicants.  The ones that get the meaning or the message are clever enough to have worked out it’s for a bath company.  They’ve read the ad and are bright enough to pick up her little messages in there.  Her screening is done.  If she gets a lot of people from overseas or foreigners, they don’t get the humor or the sarcasm or any of that, so they screen themselves out. There’s a method to the madness, according to Sarah.  If you cut and paste someone else’s job as most people seek and try to do, you’re always gonna get what you’ve always got.  If you want a real person to fit your business, you have to stand out.

One of the main mistakes employers make is not giving applicants feedback, even if it’s a no.  It is not good PR for them because these applicants will tell ten people who will tell ten people.  These applicants also have mortgages to pay and other concerns, so Sarah believes that informing them is the decent thing to do.  You can even do it through email.

For small- to medium-enterprises, Sarah advises you to get a clever ad and advertise where it’s free.  Forums work. So does Facebook.  Trademe is also a possible place to advertise but you won’t find the good stuff there.

People look for flexibility these days.  Allowing flexibility for your people in the workplace is huge and if you give it to them, they’ll give it back to you tenfold.  For those who hold jobs in manufacturing, job sharing is a way to go. 

Managers are sometimes the main reason people leave their jobs.  Some of them don’t have people skills and lose the company’s talent.  In one instance, Sarah got a bunch of CVs of people working with a Telco.  She informed them that they may be having a problem because their people were looking for jobs.

Companies should never poach employees themselves.  Going through a recruiter will shield them better.  The company will never know who she’s taking them from because I was the one who approached them.  So you can’t actually blame the company at that point.

The trouble with companies is they go out there and look for someone that’s good at sales.  The really good sales people are already with good jobs and this is where it is.  Check it out with recruiters cause they’ll know who’s in sales who may not be happy, maybe they’re making the money but they may be willing to shift and then she can talk them into leaving. They’re not on trademe.

A really good tip for employees as well, if they’re interviewing sales people and their top salesmen are bringing in x amount of dollars, so okay, can you prove it?  Cause they’re salesman, chances are they’re lying and one of the best ref checks was a sales guy and we went through and it looked like fine, fine, fine, and then I said, “Have you got anything else to add?” And he said “yup!  That guy is a pathological liar.  He couldn’t lie straight in bed.” So, all she does is ask to see their bank statements with their commissions reflected in them.

One of the key things employers need to look for if they’re looking to fill sales or operation roles is a person’s body language, they should learn to read more about body language.  Everyone blinks on the lie word.  People can’t help it.  They can’t help themselves.  If people are looking up to the left, chances are there’s a lie coming.  If they look at the right and it’s due to the different sides of the brain the creative side versus the logical side.  If they look down, they’re looking to their emotions so chances are the truth’s coming out.

Inviting them for coffee is also a strategy Sarah uses.  People are relaxed over a cup of coffee cause they think you’re their friend.  They just tell you the truth.  They’re more likely to tell you what’s really going on in the background, why they really want to job or you know, “Oh yeah, I’ve got divorced.”  They will tell you all about stuff which is actually you want to know before you hire them but you can’t actually, under the law, ask them.  So if you go have a cup of coffee, you’re their friend.

Things to look out for in a recruitment consultant are:

 

  • How long they’ve been doing it;
  • How wide their networks are;
  • Their interview process; and
  • How much they charge.

 

For Sarah, what’s more, important is getting her applicant a job.  She also gauges how much her clients can afford because there’s no point in charging them too much and not get paid.

Sarah knows the ins and outs of the recruitment business.  Her experience spans over 15 years and she has many satisfied clients.  For more information on The Job Squad, visit her website or find her on Facebook.

www.jobsquad.co.nz 

Transcript

 

Craig:  You are familiar with the challenges and frustrations of finding the right people for businesses and how the wrong decisions can create other stress and can cost lots of money, right?

Sarah:  I would say so.  One of my companies has grown from 2 people to 46 in three year period with me doing the hiring.  That was a massive challenge.  I had just as many staff as most of the people we were recruiting for.

 Craig:  How did you end up in recruitment?

 Sarah:  Completely by default.  I came into New Zealand as a geek and thought the world was gonna blow up because of the year 2000.  I was working on an IT project and the first contract I got was over in Perth.  Then, I got sent out to New York to work with Toys R Us, month on and month off, designing a system over there.  When I came back, there was a Dot Com Boom.  I thought, “Oh, I could make some money putting some contractors there myself.”  So that’s how it all started.  So we went from zero to hero in three years.  We also made it second in Deloitte’s Fast 50 around 2005.

 Craig:  One of the hassles for recruiting staff is finding the right staff.  Where do they go find them?

 Sarah:  First off, there’s a difference between Auckland and Taranaki.  In the bigger cities, recruitment is based on the job descriptions and finding the skills to match them.  However in Taranaki, 85% of jobs go by word of mouth.  Shoulder tapping mates results in an epic fail.  As soon as you get your mates working, it might cause trouble.  Businesses in the provinces need to write down the picture of their perfect employee they want sitting in that position.  Personalities have to match the company and the job.

 Craig:  How do you judge people?

 Sarah:  I have three ways of judging people when I meet them.  There are Firestarters, Lawnmowers, or Well Poisoners.  A Firestarter is someone like me.  Nothing is a challenge and everything’s possible.  A Lawnmower comes in and are behind someone like me.  You need really, really good Lawnmowers because if not, there’d be chaos out there.  Then, you’ve got the Well Poisoners.  They can go in and within three days of being in an organization, they can poison the pulp.  On Facebook, the Firestarters will start the fire on the thread.  The Lawnmowers will typically like it and share it.  The Well Poisoners will put the negative comments up.

Craig:  Are Well Poisoners easy to pick up?

Sarah:  Even when you’re interviewing, they say things like, “Oh yeah.  I don’t want to badmouth my last boss.”  There you go, that’s a Well Poisoner.  They’re the first to complain or tell you there might be a subtle hint that they didn’t like their last workplace.  However, the other thing to bear in mind is that 80% of people leave their jobs because of their managers.  People don’t leave jobs they love.  There’s always a personality clash somewhere.

 Craig:  So it’s finding the right fit for the business rather than the right skills?

 Sarah:  Using the principles of getting out there, when you’re looking at any role, whether their business is small or large, first, identify.  You’re never gonna get an admin person that’s confident and can go out and sell.  It’s just not in their nature.  So you really have to identify what you want that role to be.  If you want to grow your business, always hire a Firestarter, without a doubt and then trust them.  Trust their instinct that they can do it.  You wouldn’t give that startup company to a Lawnmower.   

 Craig:  Part of the challenge of working in a provincial area is that there are so many businesses run by husbands and wives.

Sarah:  Don’t employ family.  That’s one of the worst mistakes and it’s always gonna be a nightmare for employees to deal with.  It’s fine if you get on and they can work together but it’s really hard for staff to deal with.

 Craig:  How important is having a written job description?

 Sarah:  When you’re sitting there working out what’s your dream number of staff, you have to write a list.  For example, if you have four or five women working for you, you wouldn’t necessarily put a man in the middle of that.  I say, “I like a woman, ideally this age group because they will get where we’re coming from, and an experienced point of view.”  You have to be very, very specific.  Then you write the about the job.  People cut and paste from template documents but that’s just corporate nonsense.  If you want them to do payroll, “Your job will involve payroll and you’ll probably have to do some invoicing and you’ll be expected to answer the phone with a smile.”  That’s the truth about the job.  You need to be honest because people respond to honesty.  My job descriptions have a different flavor.

 Craig: So explain to me the ads.  I have seen some of your ads and they are quirky. 

I refuse to use words like “motivated individual with a desire to succeed,” I have seen, “Sense of Humor essential.”  How do you enforce that?  Actually, every job that comes in cites a specific trait.  I’ve written one for a bath company.  My title is a little bit quirky, “Is The Bath Half Full?”  I gave a lot of information about the company in the advertisement without saying which company it is and I used terms that they would use in the industry and things specific to baths.  Doing this, I am able to screen applicants really fast because the ones that get the meaning or the message are clever enough to have worked out it’s for a bath company.  They’ve read the ad and are bright enough to pick up my little messages in there.  My screening is done.  If I get a lot of people from overseas or foreigners, they don’t get the humor or the sarcasm or any of that, so they screen themselves out.  It’s easy for me then.  There’s a method to the madness.

 Craig: So you need to go back, write down what the sort of person looks like that you want in your company.

 Sarah: Yeah and what your target personality you want sitting back there.  But the thing is, if you cut and paste someone else’s job as most people seek and try to do, you’re always gonna get what you’ve always got.  If you want a real person to fit your business, you have to stand out.

 Craig:  From what you’ve seen, what are some of the main mistakes when hiring employees that you can see them making, straight away?

 The first and biggest issue is a job ad runs for a month.  People apply and they want a response.  The biggest failings of every company I’ve come across is not giving feedback.  No feedback, even it it’s a no.  At the end of the day, the candidate will talk and tell.  So that they might tell ten people that they applied for that job and didn’t even both getting back to them, that ten people can tell ten people.  It’s also hard on the candidates.  It knocks their confidence.  So giving feedback is being a decent human being.  You can even do it through email, as long as they hear something.

 Craig:  How should people be advertising for a start?  What’s the best way for small- to medium-businesses to do it?

 Sarah:  Get an ad.  Get a clever ad and advertise.  Go where it’s free.  Go to forums.  I was looking for truck drivers for Christmas and put out an ad on the Australian trucking form that’s got over twenty-one thousand followers.  Oh Lordy!  They really played with me there!  I was just entertainment for them.  I got those from Facebook and it’s free! 

 Craig:  It’s hard to find decent staff in Taranaki.  Are there people who move here from the cities and do companies offer them to move down here?

 Sarah:  It’s always nice if they can offer them relocation cause it’s not cheap moving but I think some of those salaries, you’re always gonna get ten grand more up in Auckland.  If you get sixty grand up there, you might get fifty grand here.  But then again, housing’s cheaper here.  We’ve got all this taken into account but getting people here is not the problem. 

 Craig:  How about clients who are in the trade business who can’t find the right people here?

 Sarah:  Yeah, they have to look further to fill them but you can post a job on a forum in Facebook in Wellington, so there’s…trade and seek, I always go trademe for your clients but then again, I personally don’t like job boards, so I do everything I can not to use them.  Facebook is free.  So is LinkedIn.  If you just copy it into a profile.  You don’t have to pay to advertise or anything.  You can just still put a link to your blog or our website. 

 Craig: I’m an advocate that you don’t necessarily have to pay people more to come and work for your business.  There’s other things to training good staff and then keeping them, which is the most important thing.  What are your thoughts on those?

 I think the world has changed that used to be eight thirty til five thirty hard.  People don’t like being micromanaged anymore, you know?  As you grow older, I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older, I’m perfectly capable of running my own diary.  Biggest thing is flexibility cause again, most parents these days, you wanna go and watch your kids play sports.  You wanna pop down or leave work early cause you’ve got a meeting, with meet the teacher.  Allowing that flexibility for people in the workplace is huge and if you give it to them, they’ll give it back to you tenfold.  My decision is amazing…So I’ve got a fantastic job I love.  I’m not micromanaged but I will be on Facebook at ten o’clock at night if like someone contacts me looking for a job or someone needs help.  So, and it’s because I have the flexibility during my day, I think nothing about taking a call over a weekend or anything like that and that’s what people want. 

 I know that is ultimately what employees want.  They want flexibility.  So, I know and I know it would be hard to do.  A job sharing, see?  But if you can get someone to fill in your gap.  I mean, so say you know someone that works in the same company and they don’t work on that day and they can come in two hours for you to cover you, that would make all the difference to those employees.  It would just transform how people work for you.  But I know it’s harder.  That is a tougher one.  Anything that is a full-time job that can be done into a job share, will always suit women. 

 Anything and that is…the female work force with kids, is the most reliable work force out there.  They do everything for their family.  They’ll take a part time job for their family and they’ll take any job.  They’ll downgrade their skills.  I’ve got top, trained accountants that will take an admin role because at the moment, they just want to be at home with their family.

 Craig:  So, you’ve said it before.  One of the reasons people do leave businesses is the manager.

 Sarah:  First, there’s a difference between managers and leaders.  Unfortunately, managers are just not the greatest people to work with.  I mean they…usually, the typical trait I would say, of a manager is they’re…they want to manage.  “I’ve got so many people under me.  Oh, I want to be a manager.”  Seriously?  Why would you ever want to manage people?  That’s one of the hardest jobs.  If you’re actually not skilled enough to do it, they don’t have people skills and literally, the number of people that come to me and just say, “I’m looking to leave cause I just don’t like my manager.”  And right there, you’ve got talent leaving cause of one person.  That person can affect a whole team.

 As soon as that goes on, and if I…the other thing I get is if can I see lots of candidates coming through from a certain company…and I did this up in Auckland.  One of the telcos.  I used to get suddenly a whole bunch of CVs coming through from one department and I called one of the top guys, the directors, and said, “Have you just gotten a new manager in there?”  And it’s like, “Yup!”  And I says, “Well, I’m telling you now, the department is all registering with me.  This is not gonna be good for your business.”  “So we actually have a colleague, we’ll sort it all out.”

 Craig:  So what is your opinion on shoulder tapping, head hunting, and poaching?

 Sarah:  The companies should never do it.  They’re better of doing it through someone like me, a recruiter.  I do it all indirect with the background.  It’ll never go back to them.  If they were the ones and they just said, “Go get me that person,” I can go get that person.  The company will never know who I’m taking them from because I was the one who approached them.  So you can’t actually blame the company at that point.  But people are great.  Once they get shoulder tapped, it strokes their ego like you’ve never seen before.  It’s fabulous!

 Craig:  I think people need to see that it happens in the real world and get over it.

 Sarah:  The trouble with companies is they go out there and actually for someone that’s good at sales.  Well, the really good sales people are already with good jobs and this is where it is.  Check it out with a recruiter cause I know who’s in sales who may not be happy, maybe they’re making the money but they may be willing to shift and then I can talk them into leaving.  So I would say, go on out and say I want a sales executive that’s gonna bring me in millions of dollars.  They’re not in trademe.

 A really good tip for employees as well, if they’re interviewing sales people and their top salesmen are bringing in x amount of dollars, so okay, can you prove it?  Cause they’re salesman, chances are they’re lying and one of the best ref checks was a sales guy and we went through and it looked like fine, fine, fine, and then I said, “Have you got anything else to add?” And he said “yup!  That guy is a pathological liar.  He couldn’t lie straight in bed,” right?  So, all I do is ask to see their bank statements.  They can black out everything.  All I wanna see is their commission payments.  Black out the rest of it.

 Craig:  If you’re looking for a sales or an operational role, what are the key things they should be looking for?

 Sarah:  Body language, they should learn to read more about body language.  Everyone blinks on the lie word.  People can’t help it.  They can’t help themselves.  If people are looking up to the left, chances are there’s a lie coming.  If they look at the right and it’s due to the different sides of the brain the creative side versus the logical side.  If they look down, they’re looking to their emotions so chances are the truth’s coming out and there’s some body blocking, all that stuff.  It’s actually worth reading, I promise.

 The other thing is, interviewing over a desk, that’s actually…I’m not a keen supporter of that one.  I actually get them out over a cup of coffee.  People are relaxed over a cup of coffee cause they think you’re their friend.  They just tell you the truth.  They’re more likely to tell you what’s really going on in the background, why they really want to job or you know, “Oh yeah, I’ve got got divorced.”  They will tell you all about stuff which is actually you want to know before you hire them but you can’t actually, under the law, ask them.  So if you go have a cup of coffee, you’re their friend.

 Craig: So, if someone was thinking to hire their own recruitment consultant to help them out, what should they be looking for?  What questions should they ask the consultant before they employ them?

 Sarah:  So what you’d really want to know about the recruiters is how long they have been doing it cause typically the turnover on this…the other agencies is very high.  You’d be lucky if you get one to two years out of any recruiter cause the burnout’s high because obviously, they’re paid on commission and if they don’t put the roles in, it’s a vicious circle.  So, the length of time on the job, is a biggie and I would look at their networks.  How much of a networker are they cause you know me, I’m never in.  I’m always networking.

 So my network is huge.  People can’t go and sit behind their desks and recruit.  It’s not how it works.  It’s who you know.  It’s a whole package there.  Unfortunately, because they think they put a job out, they then pull the applicants in to interview them.  That does not make them a good recruiter.

 Craig:  One thing I’ve come across from most people I’ve spoken to is that they don’t want to hire a recruitment specialist because they charge too much.  What are your comments on that?

I cut any deal and it can be from five hundred bucks up to ten thousand dollars because I’d rather see that person in a job and unfortunately, most recruiters don’t see that.  The more people you have out there that have been working through you, the more your business will grow.  It’s logical.  So you have to gauge the size of the business.  You have to say, could they afford it?

 But you probably have to look at is what’s very important is getting that person a job or me charging fifteen percent and they’re not paying it?  Not taking that person on?  I can’t jeopardize that person’s job. 

Earlier on, when I set my hands up, someone said to me, “You’ve got to be prepared to take three months’ salary, throw it in a bucket, and set fire to it.”

If things go wrong.  You did that and anyone you take on, you’ve got to be prepared to take those three months’ of wages.  Cause it’s gonna take someone three months.  But again, if you get the right personality in and they fit in your company, they’ll pick it up a lot faster.

 

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