By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
your organization is one of those that participated in
the uptake of 146,000 new jobs the US economy
created in January of 2005, probably the last thing
on your list was discouraging seemingly qualified
applicants' interest in working for your outfit.
But it may be one of the smartest things you could
A story by Marcus Franklin, in the St. Petersburg
(Florida) Times, tells of a graphic video being used by
the city's Police Department to make sure potential
new officers have a clear picture of just exactly
what they're getting into.
The ten-minute short, entitled Realities of Field
Training Officers shows, among other things,
of severed limbs, violent confrontations between
police and residents, pictures of authorities zipping
up body bags, and the greatest surprise of all to
potential recruits - the massive amount of paperwork
required for almost every incident.
At a per-recruit cost of more than US$34,000 for
hiring, training, and pre-service salary, the
lost about US$750,000 last year prepping the 23
aspiring officers who quit before they got a
The film is just one of a series of measures the St.
Petersburg Police Department has taken to reduce
the attrition of new officers in the first few months
of duty. New applicants also are required to ride
along with officers before going any further into the
application process, and to talk to those who've
been in the job for a few years, and who are
encouraged to be brutally honest in their descriptions
of the experience.
This employer wants to make sure that police
officers, after being duly informed of what they can
expect, still have the potential to be happy,
productive, and successful in their new work.
We can think of a few other professions that should
be painstakingly forthright about the realities that
successful candidates should expect:
* Food service
* Child care
* Elder care
* Utility repair
* Customer service call center workers
* Anyone wanting to work for a lean, entrepreneurial
These jobs, and others we didn't mention, are tough,
and require a special breed. While just about anyone
can pursue these lines of work, not just anyone can
If you're in a position to hire, how can you be sure
you're making the best picks - picks that are likely to
stick - and flourish in the job?
We've got a few thoughts that might help:
1) Make a list.
Think about the job or jobs you recruit, interview,
and hire for. Make a list of the non-technical "fit"
requirements for those jobs. Not the degrees,
certifications, experience, skills, and technical
aptitudes that might qualify someone for potential
success, but those other attributes, most of which
are even more important. Enlist the help of those
already doing the job, to set your sights on the
critical success factors.
Here are some questions you might ask. To be
successful in this job, do you have to:
* Like traveling? (Not just be able to tolerate it, but
really enjoy it.)
* Work an unpredictable schedule?
* Have a really friendly and outgoing personality?
* Be OK with repeated relocation?
* Really like to help people?
* Have a passion for the work that surpasses your
need for money?
* Be able to tolerate a fair amount of ambiguity?
* Be comfortable submitting to authority?
* Work without immediate gratification?
* Enjoy "detective work"?
* Have a high threshold for frustration?
* Get your thrills at work?
* Have a high stress tolerance?
* Be OK with being shot at?
We see all sorts of mismatches between the person
and the job - mismatches that cost the employer,
and the employee, who has invested time, energy,
and emotions in an endeavor that was hopelessly
doomed from the beginning.
If you work in a field that employs part-time workers,
for example, are you hiring people whose lifestyles,
income requirements, and expectations are truly
commensurate with part-time work? Or are you
hiring people who really need a fulltime job, but will
take the part time position, to get their foot in the
2) Stick to your guns.
Once you've determined what's necessary to have a
chance of making it in the job, ardently maintain high
standards. Make exceptions very judiciously, if at all.
To do otherwise is a cruel fraud on yourself, the
employee, the rest of your team, and your
customers, all of whom expect, and deserve
3) Tell the truth
Beginning a pattern that everyone will appreciate,
before, during, and after the entire employment
relationship, do as the St. Pete police have done,
and be completely forthcoming and honest about
what potential hires can expect. Tell the truth in
your recruiting ads. It'll cut the time wasted in
interviewing non-starters. Tell the truth while
interviewing. Encourage applicants to ask the tough
questions, to make sure the commitment is solid from
Likewise, expect (no, insist on) the truth in return.
We can't think of many jobs where having a truth
factor problem is anything but a detriment.
And, if it comes to light during any part of the
process, that this is not a good match, provide a
quick, comfortable way out to be used by either
party, that enhances your organizational and
4) Try before you buy:
Maybe the best, most cost-effective, and most
accurate way to make sure you, and the applicant,
are making the best decision, is to offer a job tryout.
Whatever the job - a minimum wage starting
position, or something at the six-figure level.
A company called Vocation Vacations
acations.com) offers a chance (for a fee)
to tryout a "dream job" while on vacation from your
current position. Great option for those who can
But there's no reason you can't offer the same thing,
to those you've pre-qualified, and who can take the
time to test drive the job. Bring 'em in, pay them of
course, and immerse them in the reality of the work
and your environment. It may be the best recruiting
money you'll ever spend.