Several months ago I was helping a local company fill some critical manufacturing technician positions. This area has very low unemployment with a very high cost of living, therefore identifying, recruiting, and retaining high level employees can be difficult.
Several resumes crossed my desk that did not meet the minimum requirement: basic mechanical knowledge. Any type of mechanical knowledge would be sufficient, such as being a car mechanic, craftsman, or in a perfect situation someone with manufacturing experience. One resume did not meet the minimum requirements, but came with considerable political pressure. There wasn’t any mention of anything even remotely associated with mechanical skills on his resume, so I resisted moving forward, but ultimately I decided to interview him to placate an executive. During the interview I probed for even the slightest mechanical inclination, or even the potential to develop a mechanical ability, and couldn’t find anything. Ultimately I was pressured to bring the person on for a three month probationary period, which I feared would be a difficult time for the employee and the company.
Over the past six months he has turned into one of our best manufacturing technicians. He rapidly learned his job, freely suggests improvements, and is very team-oriented.
How could we have known? But what really concerns me is how many people like him have we summarily dismissed? With the small applicant pool in our area, we can’t afford to let potential high performing employees slip through our fingers. What we have learned is that we can’t use the resume and even a first interview as a first full screening mechanism. There must be a better way.
Toyota received over 60,000 applicants for 2,000 positions at its new San Antonio plant, thereby making it more competitive than being accepted at Harvard. But what really struck me in an article in Manufacturing News was how intensive the initial screening was:
Toyota is now in the process of assessing 3,000 applicants per week. It is sending them to six community colleges where they spend four hours filling out online forms and going through an interactive Web-based multi-competency assessment. They are tested on basic math and fourth-grade-equivalent English skills. The San Antonio factory will not be bilingual, so applicants have to be proficient in English.
If an applicant makes it through this screen they go through a full day of interactive assessments including a simulation of an eight-hour work shift on a Toyota production line. Screening is done based on an applicant’s ability to do quality work, follow safe work procedures and directions, keep up the pace, come up with ideas to improve a process and complete exercises that determine how well they work on a team. "We have something that would be akin to a personality test and when we bring them inside we can watch them and see how they perform against standards," says O’Connell. If they make it through this assessment, they go into a final interview, background checks and a potential job offer.
This would be difficult for most companies, but think about the true cost. In our case had we not hired our new star, we would have operated for several more weeks with insufficient technician support, and we would have spent considerably more management time finding and interviewing other candidates. Investing in a very effective up-front screening process probably saves money later on.
On a somewhat related note, BusinessPundit has an interesting post on how jobs, and qualifications, are not what they used to be.
Work is multidisciplinary, which is why it is short sighted to focus so strongly on experience, which is what most companies do (at least that is how they come across if you read job postings). Why? Because it is unlikely you will find someone with the varied background you need if your primary evaluation criteria is "7-10 years experience designing databases." You will attract people who think that rank and years of experience matter more than anything else.
Something to think about.
That sort of thing does happen, but my experience is that you got lucky with the “Diamond in the rough” with no real signs of aptitude.
That gamble paid off once. We end up using a temp service to staff beginning operator and technician slots. We probably go through 50 “No Hires” for each one we get that works out….
I have worked with plenty of folks that don’t show aptitude initially, and then never manage to “Get it.”