19 February 2020
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Who's the "nasty little bitch"?

At Switzer we’ve developed a hiring process that runs really well. After thought and team involvement on what the new position requires, we put an ad up on SEEK. And yes, we get inundated with applications.

Except for those businesses using recruiters, that’s what most people do, I guess. But here’s where are our hiring process differs.

One of our team goes through these applications and short lists anywhere between 10 to 15 applicants (depending on the response). This is done purely on the quality of the written application. But how often can you be disappointed between what’s on paper and what you see and hear in the first interview!

So we invite all these ‘short-listed’ people into Switzer one evening for what we call a hiring seminar. The attendees get to see us and we get to meet them in the flesh. As many of our staff as possible stay back to be involved in this process – after all, they’re going to work closely with this new person so this gives them a say in the hiring process.

There’s a 10-minute talk by a senior person at Switzer about our values and culture, then each person is invited to a 3-minute fast-paced one-on-one interview with two Switzer staff, where three rapid-fire questions are asked. On completion, the interviewee can rejoin the group in one of our large meeting rooms, where others in our team are talking about the role, what it’s like to work for our company etc. The applicants are told they can freely ask questions from our staff, or if they don’t feel that our company and the role suits them, they can leave. To date, no one has ever left.

The process takes about an hour.

After all candidates have departed, our staff get together briefly to compare notes. Almost to a person, there’s unity on the three people selected to be asked back for a more in-depth interview.

This process has never failed us.

A few weeks back, we started the process. A tailored ad went up on SEEK. After the initial cull, this time I was sifting through some of the remaining applications. The role was in editorial, which is my beat so I was interested to see the mix of candidates.

While reading through one, I was quite impressed with her skills but she’d clearly stated that she was running two businesses. I thought for a while, considering whether it was wise to potentially have someone on staff who could be diverted from her 9-to-5 job with these side businesses.  I decided to email this applicant and put her to the test. If she replied saying that the businesses were purely a blog or a hobby, or that she even intended to close them down, then I would’ve asked her to come in for an interview. So I typed the following email:

“Hello Libby and thank you for your application. As this is a full-time role for someone who wants a career here at Switzer, we aren’t looking for anyone who has their own business. Kind regards. Maureen”

I was hoping that her reply might be “I do want a full-time role, Maureen, and I am interested in this position. I’d be interested in meeting you.”

Perhaps I could have gone into more detail with my email to her but from my experience, even getting a reply for an employer on SEEK is unusual. Most people only reply to those few applicants from whom they want more information and that’s what I was doing. What came back was something I didn’t expect:

“Wow that’s patronising and presumptuous. I wouldn’t want to work for such a nasty little bitch, who jumps to conclusions anyway. Good luck finding a robot to work for you.”

And then another email followed two minutes after:

“And just to be clear, I don’t care if you don’t want someone who has side things but you didn’t even ask questions about it, and you were unnecessarily rude.”

Mmmm…me, a nasty little bitch? And me rude?

As employers, we put ourselves out there and quite often we hire people who are ‘oh so wonderful’ in the interview process but after a grace period, they can turn out to be the employee from hell. And yes, an employer can be a monster too, but the employee has the option of just walking out the door. The bad hire becomes a headache to an employer and to the team, and it takes warnings through a draconian dismissal process to remove a piece of work from a business.

Aren’t I glad that this one showed me her true colours right from the start! I hate the word ‘bitch’ which is even worse when you add nasty and little to it. However, she did me a favour. I think I just avoided a potential disaster.

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