Re: Employment Resources (lack of qualified candidates)

Subject: Re: Employment Resources (lack of qualified candidates)
From: Chris Kowalchuk <chris -at- bdk -dot- net>
To: Techwr-l <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 12:56:03 -0500

Umm, "Formal training in creating instructions"?

I had to bite at that one. Are you serious? If you don't have a TW
degree, who the *! has formal training in writing instructions?
Requiring experience in doing so I can understand, but training? Could
we not give some credit to the logical/analytical abilities developed
with any kind of liberal arts education? Granted essays and instructions
are two different beasts, and it can take a BA a little while to adapt
to the "instruction" style, but to suggest that formal training in it be
required as a job prerequisite strikes me as counter-productive. No
wonder you can't find any qualified candidates. My question is, are you
sure you want to hire someone who spent their higher education learning
to write instructions? Should they also have typing as a university
level course, perhaps a minor discipline? Do you have a certificate in
writing instructions? Surely we don't require formal education for every
little aspect of our jobs or lives.

If you require specific skills for a job, and you don't want to train or
allow time for a new hire to train themselves, then request those
skills, regardless how they were acquired, and request that writing
samples or something demonstrating the skills be brought to the
interview. Ask how the writer would handle this or that project or
problem. Get them to send a cover letter with the resume. You are right,
most people will disqualify themselves no matter how carefully you
worded your advertisement. They will apply anyway; you can't stop them.
But if you asked for a letter explaining how they would do the job, or
outlining relevant experience, then you will see right away whether you
have a winner or not. I have found that I can often tell right away who
I will hire just based on their letters. Someone who wrote a good cover
letter seldom disappoints in the interview. For a project we did last
year, we received something like 25 applications of which only four were
even remotely worth considering, two standing out way above the rest.
Certainly we looked at relevant education and the rest, but the real
test was whether the applicant conveyed a sense in the cover letter that
he or she understood what we were asking for and had a sense of how to
approach it. Of our two prime candidates, one candidate in fact laid out
step by step in her letter exactly what she would do. Her educational
credentials were not as impressive as the other good candidate, but she
got the job because she convinced us before we ever met her that she
could do it.

So finally, I guess my advice is not to worry too much about training,
but to make it clear to a prospective employee what the job involves,
then give them a chance to demonstrate that they understand what you are
asking and how they would go about it. I've been on both sides of this
game, and there's nothing I hate more than one of those "fishing"
interviews where the employers have not made it clear what they want,
but are checking whether you make appropriate eye contact (lost a job
once on that one, apparently) and have a degree in what they imagine to
be relevant to their needs despite the fact that they haven't actually
defined them. If you need to hire someone to define what needs to be
done, then advertise that as well. If you are honest with the candidate,
the smart candidate will be honest with you.

Sorry if this came off a little high-horsish; I think the topic just
touched a "pet peave" nerve or something...

Chris Kowalchuk

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