Dear style & substance,
I am a local Plattsburgh employer, employing about 15 people who have a wide range of duties to make my small business operate smoothly. Recently, I advertised a position and am appalled at how people show up unprepared; “messy” is the word that comes to mind both with grooming and filling out applications. Without sounding too nitpicky, could you advise me on how to get the point across with the applicants that come in?
First of all, you have the right to be “nitpicky”, as these are your employees and they are the face of and represent your company both at work and in the community! The difference between being particular and sounding like a ridiculous broken record is stating your expectations ahead of time.
I (Michele) recently had the opportunity to serve as an Evaluator for 4-H Public Speaking Presentations. The young people presenting were not only articulate and engaging, they dressed the part! A young man, eight years old, presented on fluid power; wearing navy trousers and a crisp white oxford with a complimentary tie. To complete the look, a polished dress shoe – he knew that the presenter of hydraulic and pneumatic systems had to show up dressed for success – and succeed he did. He obviously was coached by 4-H leaders and parents to play the part, which unfortunately is not happening (or not being taken seriously) in all teaching and home environments.
We share this story with you to make this point - his success did not just happen, there were steps and guidelines all along his path. As simple as this is, people rise (or don’t) to meet an expectation, the same as your potential employees. You may not want to tell perspective employees how to present themselves, you may believe that an individual should just ‘know better’, but as you can see, this has not been working for you.
Our advice: any future advertisements should include your expectations for an employee. You do not need to be overly prescriptive, a simple line or two, such as, ‘polished, professional, articulate individual with excellent writing and communication skills’, or more subtly, ‘be prepared to interview’.
If you are requesting an “apply in person” response, have an instruction page on top of the application. You or your first point of contact can briefly explain that this is part of your screening process. It can start with required dress/grooming code and that filling out the application neatly and accurately will determine the next step in the interview process. If they have met those two requirements upon application submission, they proceed to step 2. At this time, another explanation of the pending interview process can be issued. This requires time up front on your part, but it will actually make the process easier and more efficient. The interview explanation can let them know time frames, who and how many people they may interview with, a point of contact and whether or not phone calls are welcome, and a list of what they are being considered on: professional/job appropriate appearance, knowledge of the business, current skills and experience, trainability, communication….
This also helps you and your management team to clarify what it is you are actually looking for and shows potential employees your style of management; that you are upfront and clear in expectations.
“ I simply believe it is common decency to be presentable.”
— Elizabeth Wurtzel
If you are working hard to keep yourself and your business “presentable”, your example and setting an expectation will keep it going in a positive direction!
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