Hiring new people is one of my least favorite tasks. It is a lot of work pouring over emails and resumes trying to figure out who may be a good fit. Especially these days when so many people are looking for work. A simple ad on Craigslist describing how wonderful we are to work for elicits dozens of responses. And, after finally picking someone, they turn out not to be right for the job. Either the work is too hard, or the weather (we work outside) is too hot, or too cold. One guy told me that using the chisel and mallet hurt his elbows. Kind of a problem if you’re an aspiring carpenter.
So I wondered, how can I start filtering out applicants?
I remembered reading an amazing story about Sir Ernest Shackleton leading an expedition to the South Pole. Needing men, he placed a rather blunt and honest ad.
“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”
I like it. It lays out the truth. It doesn’t sugar coat it.
As an employer in a perfect world my help wanted ad would generate one response from the perfect employee. But being that the world’s not perfect, I have a greater chance of creating a perfect ad. One that scares off those who won’t be a good fit and entices the people that will. Here is my Shackletonesque ad:
Carpenter’s assistant wanted for hard work at $11 / hour. No experience
necessary. We are willing to train. We do most of our work outside so it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Long term reliable work is questionable as the economy of late has been questionable. I will do the best I can to keep the best people working as long as possible.
Don’t bother contacting us if…
you are the kind of person that thinks “good enough” is good enough.
you are the kind of person that doesn’t take pride in your work.
you are the kind of person that points out problems but doesn’t have any
you make excuses and don’t take responsibility for your actions.
you are not creative.
you are not reliable.
you don’t like hard work.
you don’t have a can-do attitude.
you are not willing to learn.
If none of the above apply, you have a great attitude, and you are
interested in building really amazing structures out of timber and steel,
Visit our website at https://www.threeelements.com to see what we do.
These are the people I am looking for. We do provide health insurance, and paid vacation and holidays. The wage is increased after 90 days, assuming they are still here. I didn’t want to put that in the ad. I wanted people to apply that really wanted to do the work. They are excited about what we do.
Twenty-eight men responded to Shackleton’s ad and gave the expedition a go. Thing is, they never made it. Their ships were crushed by the ice. Still, Shackleton managed to survive and bring home every one of his crew alive. Every single one. How?
Before the voyage began the crew shared a common vision influenced by a simple, yet perfect, ad. Shackleton didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining about the conditions because that is what they signed up for. They knew what to expect going in. His ad attracted risk takers, a team of men who weren’t afraid of challenges, more so, they expected them. You have to get people working together that believe what you believe. The ad acts like a filter.
So what happened with my ad? I sent the ad to some of my friends before I placed it to get some feedback. Most said they liked it but I think they were lying to me. They seemed politely skeptical. I placed the ad on “Connecting Colorado” and after two weeks I received only three replies (be careful what you wish for). The first two were not a good fit. The third is a young guy that is really excited about what we do. We’ll see. He’ll start next week and I will keep you posted.
What are your thoughts? How do you go about hiring people?
I would appreciate any feed back you may have.