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How do you prepare applicants for what the job's really like?

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Question: “At my office, we are bombarded with e-mail, multiple phone lines ringing, interoffice instant messaging and people walking in and out of cubicles all at the same time. When we describe the office scenario in interviews, job candidates nod and say they can handle it.  Then they get here and say, “Why didn’t you say it was this busy?” — Kristin Patterson


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackeline February 20, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Yes, it really gave me a good perspective and even though I have advanced in my career with this company, I still consider the front office the hub. Unfortunately, our current receptionists do not have this perspective (the individual who interviewed moved on in his career and the new boss has different “standards”).

I also like your job description; make it work! Sometimes I look at my job description to see where it’s located because everyone expects me to do/know/have everything and whatever I can to make it happen. Oh the joys!

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Sheri February 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Do you compensate the potential employee for this time?

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ManyHats February 16, 2009 at 10:55 am

Jackeline, I love the hub analogy! I am the only “non-technical” (meaning purely admin) person here. Know what my job description is? Three words: “Make it work.”

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Jackeline February 13, 2009 at 2:56 pm

My company is sneaky too: all of our job descriptions have this at the bottom of the responsibility list, “and other duties as assigned.”

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Jackeline February 13, 2009 at 2:49 pm

The above things mentioned are wonderful ideas for they give the candidate the experience of what it would.

When I interviewed at my job, it was for the front office: answer and transfer calls (we had 20 lines at the time), take phone leads, help out faculty, staff and employees, work on minor projects, work on major projects–it was a place of constant interruption. So one of the things my interview panel informed me about the position I was applying for was: the front office is the hub of the company. The wheel can only turn because of it. Therefore, what you say and do reflects the company. This left me with a good impression of what it would be like.

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Mark February 13, 2009 at 1:35 pm

We have what we jokingly call a truth in hiring disclosure. In a finalists second interview, we tell them about the not-so-pleasant parts of the job, such as, for example, that we each take turns cleaning the grounds outside (picking up garbage, cigarette butts, etc), we all take turns shoveling snow on the sidewalks, the fact that if someone is out of balance we look for the amount regardless of how much it is (many financial institutions only look if it is over $1.00), we track accuracy and sales monthly, and things like that. That way, a new hire won’t be shocked and say, “What? I have to go clean outside. I wasn’t hired for that.” Now, if they say something like that, we can say, “Well, yes you were hired for that. You were told in the second interview that we all take equal turns in cleaning up.”

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Barb February 13, 2009 at 11:56 am

I think the job shadow idea is great, but if you don’t at least you could walk them through their potential future office area. They are sure to notice the chaos if it’s as bad as you say. :) For the record, many employers warn up front that they are busy, so I can understand prior hires took your words with a grain of salt. Maybe go into a little detail of the extent of it, and ask how they think they would handle the multi-tasking required for such an environment.

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GMS February 13, 2009 at 11:37 am

I put candidates through something like this on a shorter scale as part of the interview process I had them proof a document, answer pretend phone calls, and stuff like that. My boss, the hiring manager, told me to stop that I was scaring people away.

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Jill February 13, 2009 at 11:08 am

Give your top 3 candidates a work day trial period. Have them work the shift for a day and then at the end of the day get their notes and feedback, that way you don’t waste money training them and they get a taste of what you really mean.
Sometimes words don’t always make a clear meaning.

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Lisa February 13, 2009 at 10:57 am

I am thinking the same as JoJo’s comment. Have your top candidates come in individually during really busy times to see what life is really like in the office. You will also have less turnover. :)

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Sharon February 13, 2009 at 10:55 am

I once interviewed for a job in which part of the interview process was to actually work there for one day. I was paid for that day. They wanted whoever they hired to see EXACTLY what a typical day would be like. Your company may want to consider doing this in order to avoid hiring the wrong person.

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JoJo February 11, 2009 at 5:51 pm

We had the same problem. A year ago we began testing our employees before the actual interview and this includes having a potential employee shadow us for 8 hours. The person they shadow also types up an impression of the person. We have had many people after they spent the eight hour day shadowing decide the position is not what they wanted. This has saved us so much time, effort and training.

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