Go ahead, be scary.

The field I work in is a high stress, low pay field with elevated levels of turnover.  When I first started with my current organization, we faced a turnover rate among our full-time employees of about 50 percent annually with our part time rate over 100 percent. Although our mission is very fulfilling, it takes much hard work and a thick skin to face both the physical and emotional challenges that can come when working here.

As I dug into the hiring process, I quickly saw one issue that could make an immediate impact.  During the interview process, we (both in HR and within the hiring departments) were not being up front about the challenges of the work.  One thing I heard was:

“We don’t want to tell them about the bad parts of the job because they may not take it.”


So, rather than being up front and honest about the job, we hoped to just pull the wool over the candidate’s eyes until they were hired, trained and ready to go. Only then would we spring the realities of the job on them.  Needless to say, our turnover among those working for the organization 3 months or less was HUGE and kept

It's not all fun and games!

any hope for stability for either staff or those we serve merely a dream.  We were perpetuating our own issues by not being willing to admit that many of the jobs we have to offer are often HARD and DEMANDING and that people were going to figure it out. 

Spring ahead a couple of years and now we do our best to challenge people and even make them uncomfortable during the interview.  We talk about the potential of being bitten or hit and that being a 24/7/365 organization requires people to work at nights and on holidays.  Sure, we do have people leave the interview from time to time saying “no thanks” but I would much rather have them go on down the road and find something that is personally fulfilling without having taken the time, energy and dollars to train and possibly miss a truly great candidate for a position because we have hired someone for that particular spot (although we have taken steps to stop this practice as well!)  Our turnover is less than half what it was when I first started, even among our part time employees (who are primarily college students from Indiana University.)

I tell our hiring managers to go ahead and scare give an accurate real life view to the candidates during the interview.  Reality is not always pretty and even though we still have an occasional miss on a new hire, we are now in a much better position to handle that miss as our staffing level has stabilized.  When someone can come into a job with realistic expectations about what it takes to do the job, it makes the chance for success greater. 

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4 Responses to Go ahead, be scary.

  1. Matt Heller says:

    Great points, Bradley! I’ve seen this, too, where the goal was to just get people in the door, whether they were the right person or not! I also think so much of what we do with re-training and performance management is really about making up for a bad hire. Being scary (or real) up front saves time, energy and frustration.

  2. Brad,

    This is excellent. You can’t begin a relationship on lies. Nicely done sir!

  3. Very true Brad, honesty from the outset helps applicants weed themselves out of the process and also lays firm foundations for those that make the decision that this job is for them. Establishing the expectations from the very beginning and then reinforcing them during induction, on the job training, management actions on the job and through all communications and policies creates a strong focused working team!

  4. Heather Barnes says:

    Great points and well stated. Our interviews are now group interviews that test the skills required on the job at a much higher degree than before. It certainly helps set expectations and better positions potential future employees to succeed!