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Marketing Matters: Auditioning for employee rockstars


April 13, 2020
By Cathy Bartolic

Topics
Photo courtesy of CAHRC.

Editor’s Note: This guest column was written for Fruit and Vegetable’s magazine’s April print issue and published before Canada formally established COVID-19 protocols. The employer tips can still be followed, just modified with added social distancing measures. 

Are you looking to hire several people at one time? Are you unhappy with the interviewing techniques you have used in the past? Perhaps it is time to consider doing job auditions.

Hiring staff, especially seasonal staff, can be time consuming, draining and not always rewarding. Unfortunately, a traditional interview only lets the employer and the candidate learn a limited amount about each other during an hour-long interview. It is difficult to know after that short period whether the new hire is a good fit for your business and how they will interact with existing staff.

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Many companies, including on-farm markets and agri-tourism operations have developed a new way to recruit and it seems to be working for them. They feel that auditions let them assess the potential employees’ skills in a real-world environment. Job auditions can take on a few different forms but most of them will start with some type of group interview. These make sense if you are looking to fill several positions of relatively equal skill levels and the positions require strong teamwork and good communication skills.

They feel that auditions let them assess the potential employees’ skills in a real-world environment.

Group interviews can also be big time savers. It can take six hours to interview six individuals, but with a group setting you shorten your interview time to two hours.

Here’s an example of how one farm I know executes this hiring method. Candidates are given instructions to sign up for a specific session at a given time, and to bring their completed applications with them when they arrive for their time slot. This detailed process is actually step one in the interview process. Whether or not an employee follows the instructions gives the employer some indication on how well these candidates can follow written directions in the future.

During the audition, recruits are required to interact with others. They interact with current staff and fellow applicants, but they won’t know who is who. Candidates often feel more comfortable with people they perceive to be in a similar position to themselves and will comment about the process, the potential job or the employer. These remarks are good feedback to have. Sometimes, candidates are presented with tasks to complete that are similar to the job they ultimately will be doing. Other times it may be a team project to assess leadership and problem-solving skills. They could also be asked to take part in a role-play exercise.

A group interview can help you identify rude candidates, aggressive ones or those who have actually become bored with the process. This helps to purge unwanted candidates early in the process.

If you decide to go this hiring route, make sure you have enough trained staff at the interview to be able to help with the screening process. It is important that staff understand what the objectives of the process are and how their role will impact it. Written score cards are also useful to keep track of reactions and responses.

The job audition process is definitely not for everyone, so be up-front with candidates about what the interview process will be. This process shines a spotlight on candidates’ personalities and extroverts will most likely overshadow introverted recruits. Which isn’t a bad thing if you are looking for outgoing, friendly folks to hire.

The job audition process is definitely not for everyone, so be up-front with candidates about what the interview process will be.

At the end of the audition, always leave time for all the candidates to ask questions and thank them for their time and participation. Using this audition process can help you learn whether recruits can follow instructions, how they interact with existing staff and whether they are open to new ideas. That is valuable insight for any employer to find some rockstar employees.