By Peter Gray

Your aim is to deflect non-performers who look good on paper and talk a good game. Here are some tips for attracting viable candidates.

1. Write a Position Specification

A specification is statement of particulars. Answer the following before you write the Position Specification.

• Is this position
o new to the organization or an established function?
o full time, part time or temporary?
o employee or a contractor?
o flextime or job share?
o for an individual contributor or a team member?
o for a staff member or a manager?
o for a person who will create plans or implement them?
o equal opportunity?

• Will you
o require examples of prior work?
o define an education level or number of years in service?
o ask for a hand-written cover letter?
o sponsor someone?
o pay relocation?
o offer benefits?
o verify references before inviting a candidate to interview?

• Are there extraordinary physical requirements or environmental or ergonomic issues?

• Will the person travel a lot, a little, or not at all?

• What are you required by law to include in every job posting?

2. Write a Person Specification

Answer the following before you write the Person Specification.

• What are the three key characteristics required to do this job?
o How might you determine whether a candidate exemplifies these traits?

• What are three types of problems or situations the person must be able to handle?
o How might you determine whether a candidate will be successful handling these types of problems or situations?

• Create a picture of the person …
o Knows about
o Must be able to (deal breaker – if they cannot do this, then it is ‘no deal’)
o Would be good if able to
o Will be learning about
o Will be learning how to
o Expert in these tools (deal breaker)
o Familiar with these tools

3. Decide Key Points for Screening

Set criteria for vetting the resumes/CVs you will receive, and for follow-on telephone screening. Include specifics, attitudes and personality/emotional factors on your list. To set the criteria, review the Position and Person specifications. Decide and list the key selection criteria. Then decide how you will screen for them when reviewing applications and screening by phone. Create these lists before you write and post the vacancy.

4. Be Precise and Meticulous

Outline the announcement before you write it. Include at minimum a Position Specification, a Person Specification, deal breakers, terms (full time, P/T, temporary or contract), pay and benefits, starting date, information required by law, and contact details.

When you write the announcement, be meticulous about grammar and punctuation. You don’t need a best seller to tell you that this sentence needs fixing. We seek a person that has their driving license. Be fierce about quality. Present yourself as you would like your future employee to represent you.

5. Include Only What’s Essential

• Include all information required by law.

• Omit details that qualified candidates would know. For example when recruiting an accountant, you needn’t write attention to detail and responsible about deadlines.

• If the job title is open to interpretation (Business Analyst, Management Consultant, Trainer, Logistics, Office Manager) specify carefully and fully what the person will do and produce. If the job skills are essentially similar but require specific experience leave out the skill requirements and specify the background. For example when recruiting an editor, you need only specify the genre and industry, such as engineering books or women’s magazines.

• Some jobs are self-explanatory. If you need someone to set up a site in Dreamweaver, it’s can do or no. Likewise when it comes to tools such as economic modeling, market research, and most application software; applicants will know what they are, or not.

• Leave out what’s common sense. You will look for people who get along with others so you don’t need to specify it. Specify creative problem solving if that’s really part of the job. You won’t hire someone who doesn’t aim for quality and doesn’t show initiative so don’t waste space and money saying it. You can determine those traits at interview.

6. Write in Your Organization’s Cultural Voice

“Employees must arrive in appropriate business attire at all times” sets a very different tone from “Dress for success in jeans and a tee.” Let people know what’s it’s like at work. It’s often overlooked yet a real time-saver.

To draw people likely to be happy where you are, use language to portray the way it feels to be there. To depict an informal setting, use active not passive voice. Use short sentences and meticulous grammar. To represent a more formal setting, you may use longer or complex sentences, bullet points and lists, few adjectives and little or no emotional language.

7. Announce the Vacancy Strategically

If the job is to work on a shift or in a clerical position or if the job requires local knowledge — say to deliver orders on a busy route or to handle customers in your geographic area – advertise locally. You may need people to work overtime. Living near the job can reduce stress and increase the chance people can fill in on short notice. An ad in the classified section of your local newspaper is likely to produce candidates for these positions, even if the paper isn’t online.

If the job is highly specialized and you wish to advertise locally, contact the nearest schools or university where people learn this profession, skill or trade. If you post a highly specialized position nationally or internationally, you must consider paying relocation.

For senior managerial or professional jobs, provide a telephone number or email address for informal enquiries.

8. Consider Additional Ways to Fill the Vacancy

Here are other ways to post your employment notice.

• Look internally or check with HR; there may be a talented person underemployed or stuck at a dead end.

• Ask colleagues about people they know.

• Use a trade or professional association Job Bank; or advertise on their web site and in their membership publications.

• Consider engaging a work-study student or university intern. You will discover the person’s aptitude, attitude, ability and cultural fit.

• Use a government or private employment agency. If you use a private agency, watch out for the cookie-cutter effect. Typically they are reluctant to send people with strong or unusual personality traits. If you are looking for innovation and ideas, interview the agency personnel carefully until you are sure that they understand and will try to meet your specification.

• Search online sites where job seekers may post resumes/CVs and describe the job for which they’re looking.

• Some big firms post and distribute flyers or post flyers in local restaurants. Include postal address, phone and fax since many people still do not use computers.

• Employee referrals can be productive. If you work in a large company or organization, unless you know the referring employee well, check and verify details of the proposed candidate.

9. Start Slowly with Online Job Search Sites

Postings may draw responses nationally or internationally even if you specify local candidates only and no relocation. Unless you are willing to do so, state clearly that you will not provide sponsorship. The cost is significant so try the shortest run first; you can always extend. Be specific about experience and prior work. State that you won’t reply to people who don’t meet your requirements. Check for opportunities to have a star or highlighted listing. Read the fine print thoroughly before signing up, even for a free trial.

10. Follow a Routine and Keep a Tick List

• Screen applications against pre-set criteria.

• Set a telephone interview schedule.

• Notify candidates and set up telephone interviews.

• Screen each candidate by telephone against your pre-set criteria.

• Set the short list — those who you will invite to interview.

• Invite short listed candidates to interview. Advise in writing of events such as exercises, tests or other screening activities.

• Make the offer.

• Verify and check references.

• Negotiate terms, if appropriate.

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