Beware of applicant
  • The other day I was quite struck by a seemingly ordinary sentence at the end of a job posting that I received from Santropol Roulant.

    “We encourage applicants to drop their CVs off in person.”

    I was a bit taken aback, less by the statement itself than by my own reaction to it. It felt strange to me. But why?

    It occurred to me that none of the organizations I’ve worked with over the years had ever thought to approach the hiring process with such an open, invitational spirit. We had gone along with the conventional “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach. We kept things closed and tightly managed. Our assumption was that we wouldn’t want job applicants dropping by in person because it would be a waste of time to talk to so many people when only a handful of them would be closely considered in the end. And we certainly wouldn’t want to have to explain to the applicants who are least qualified for the position why that is the case. That would be time-consuming and awkward.

    I had never considered what we might be missing by taking such a narrow, anxious stance. Perhaps people who don’t end up getting hired might decide to get involved in the organization in other ways- as volunteers or donors? Or perhaps there is potentially something important and nourishing in each new encounter, regardless of outcome.

    I was still a little skeptical, though, so yesterday I stopped into the Roulant a few minutes before my volunteer shift to chat with some of the staff about how they experienced this open hiring process. The conversation started off with Julian. His off-the-cuff reaction was, “Why would anyone not do it this way? It just makes so much sense.”

    Elana and Helen were equally positive. They described the process as energizing rather than draining. They spoke of how much easier it is to get a feel for applicants’ personalities when you meet them face-to-face, rather than relying solely on a pile of CVs and cover letters. And applicants could likewise get a better sense of the organization and whether or not it might be a good fit.

    What I love most about this simple shift in thinking is that it is aligned with the Roulant’s general way of working. The organization sees every aspect of its functioning as an opportunity to build community. Hiring, fundraising, networking, meeting together, providing core services, and even moving to a new building can all become doorways to experiencing the organization’s core purpose.

    September 1st, 2010 | Tana Paddock | 2 Comments

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  • Mark 09.01.2010

    There is a clear duality here, of course. At one end there is the open, inclusive cultural socialization process that begins right from the beginning of the hiring process (about which I write extensively in my thesis). At the other polarity, there is the subtle, and often tacit process of discrimination at work, in which the organization members form a near-instantaneous impression of whether the potential recruit will “fit in,” based on all sorts of unknown (perhaps even to the person forming the impression) biases, assumptions, and “unfair” criteria.

    If the recruiting organization would invest the time with each person who drops off the CV, to be able to form a realistic impression that informs the issue of organization-cultural fit, I would say that those organization members are truly striving to create organization-ba and become a UCaPP organization. On the other hand, if it’s a simple and perfunctory greet, handshake, and size-the-person-up, that could be far more problematic.

    On balance, though, I vote for more relationship building and closer connections rather than the impersonal, send-the-resume-into-the-void style of recruitment that so sadly pervades most of the corporate world.

  • I love this idea. And it’s not just about interviews: I find that in the work I do (social media and marketing), many clients also miss this vital step with their clients. How often do businesses take an adversorial stance with their clients? An assumption that it’s a price war and that clients don’t care about quality, etc.
    Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on market research that reduces everything to numbers and variables, most businesses would also benefit from this open door policy. It’s an idea that requires a certain amount of creativity to implement, obviously. You’d have to find ways to keep the membrane between your business and your clients permeable. To give you an example: if you’re a manufacturer of cleaning products, you would benefit by hanging out with, reading the blogs of and generally shooting the shit with Moms. Because (yes, it’s a stereotype, but it’s also mostly true) they do most of the cleaning. And they probably don’t feel very appreciated for their hard work. Once you make that empathic connection, you can work not only to fill your clients’ needs better, but your company could almost be an advocate for them in the world. THAT’S meaningful marketing.
    To bring it back to your example though– by meeting more applicants, a company would also be broadening its community. Sure, only one person may get the job, but you might meet people who can contribute in other ways– ways that you can’t possibly guess at till you meet them. There’s my two cents. Love the blog!

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