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Leadership starts at the interview: How to make a strong impression with new recruits

Oct. 7, 2020
Tom Moriarty says we complain about the difficulty in finding skilled tradespeople, but employers aren’t showing basic respect to qualified people during interviews.

Vincent Edward Jackson was born in Bessemer, Alabama, on November 30, 1962. You may know him better as Bo Jackson. Many gifted athletes have played both professional baseball and professional football. Jackson is the only person ever be a Major League Baseball All-Star (Kansas City Royals) and a National Football League Pro-Bowler (Los Angeles Raiders).

About the Author: Tom Moriarty

An interesting aspect of Jackson’s history is how he ended up playing football for Auburn University as opposed to the University of Alabama. Jackson grew up a Crimson Tide fan. Alabama had a legendary coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. The expectations were that this highly recruited player would choose to play for Alabama. So how did he end up at Auburn?

Coach Bryant sent an assistant coach on the recruiting trip to meet with Jackson. Being a highly competitive person, Jackson was eager to play. Jackson asked the assistant coach how soon he could make the starting lineup, the assistant coach said, “maybe in your junior year.”

Auburn’s head coach at the time was Pat Dye. Recognizing the talent of Bo Jackson, Coach Dye personally went to see Jackson. When Jackson asked Coach Dye how soon he would get to play, the coach said you can play your freshman year, but you have to earn your spot. That’s all that Jackson needed to hear. He became an Auburn Tiger, playing in three sports (football, baseball, and track and field). He earned the 1985 Heisman Trophy in football.

What is my point for this history lesson on Bo Jackson? Coach Dye showed respect and provided opportunity. Coach Bryant didn’t express the same level of respect and provided no near-term motivating opportunities.

In the middle of a skilled labor shortage, I was amazed to hear how inept some employers can be during the recruiting process. Just about every company touts that employees are their most valuable assets. Yet when a prospective hire shows up, they aren’t treated with basic respect. The prospective hire shows up early for an interview. Twenty minutes after the appointment the prospect is told the people that he/she was to meet with got tied up. Can you come back tomorrow?

How can we be complaining about the difficulty in finding skilled tradespeople when employers aren’t showing basic respect to qualified people that show up early?

Think about the process to purchase new equipment. That new system may cost $50,000. You spend weeks looking over specifications, scrutinizing every detail of the purchase, as you should. That asset will be expected to be used for 10 years. Throw in something like 15% of the purchase price, per year, as an on-going cost to maintain that asset. Total cost over 10 years is something like $117,500.

Now consider an employee that will be hired for $45,000 per year. The total cost, after adding in benefits and taxes, is more like $58,000 per year. Without any escalation over ten years this is about $580,000.

What’s the lesson? The cost of human resources are substantial. Yet too many people don’t make the effort to make a good initial impression. They don’t make people feel welcomed and motivated to work there.

Beyond the hiring process, organizations should invest in supervisor and manager leadership. If a tradesman is hired and subsequently leaves, it costs the organization about 25% of the burdened rate just to hire a replacement – that’s about another $15,000 for this hypothetical employee. About 70% of how a person feels about his or her job is related to his or her supervisor. Poor leadership skills create turnover.

So, if you’re a tradesperson looking for a job, be like Bo. Choose an employer that shows up for your interview. Ask to speak with people you’ll be working with. Assess if you will truly be their most valued asset.

If you’re a manager or supervisor, show up for the hiring interview. Invest time into reviewing resumes. Ask people what their aspirations are. Be like Bo and be great at your profession. Leadership is your trade. Get leadership training if you need it, and get refresher training every couple of years. Go forth and do great things.

Human Capital

This article is part of our monthly Human Capital column. Read more from Tom Moriarty.

About the Author

Tom Moriarty | P.E., CMRP, President of Alidade MER, Inc.

Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alidade-mer.

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