The Right Stuff
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

Residential Lighting: How would you characterize the current job market?

Nancy Ahlrichs: Employers are frustrated with the quality and quantity of people applying and tend to think jobs are not glamorous enough to attract quality people. But every job is perfect for someone. You just have to be very clear about who you want.

RL: Where can good employees be found?

Try the places most overlooked. A “No. 2” got through the interview process, but you passed them over for another candidate. We tend to dismiss them, but we [should] instead consider them for future positions.

    “Declines” are people you hoped would take your offer, but they had other options. The tendency is to throw away their paperwork and move on. Well, don’t. One in four jobs accepted doesn’t work out. Plus, if you’ve been gracious, you have an opportunity to get a referral from them. They know your company and what you’re looking for.

    The strongest that I personally have used are “References From Great Hires.” The people who encouraged you to hire your star employee are themselves potential hires. Invite them to interview. Good people, after all, like to work with good people.

RL: What shapes a successful interview?

Don’t ask, “Do you think you can handle difficult customers?” The answer, of course, is yes. Frame your questions as, “Tell me a story about a time when you dealt with a difficult customer. What was the situation? What was the outcome?” You’ll hear how they really handle problems, deal with people and get things done.

RL: What keeps employees happy?

Retention happens one person at a time, and the manager is the key. It’s important for managers to conduct “stay” interviews, as opposed to exit interviews. Have them check on a new hire at the end of week one: “How’s everything going? What do you need? How can

we help?” Do it again at the end of the first month and at the end of either three or six months. “Do you need any-thing to perform your job?

Are you happy? Have you had any good surprises? Any bad surprises? How can we make this work?”

What are your thoughts about compensation?

Have a reasonable base salary and goals that are [rewarded with bonuses] upon achievement. Just make sure you’re rewarding behavior you want exhibited. If one salesperson has a lot of returns, clearly they close sales, but not always on the right products. So, try setting up a bonus that focuses on getting repeat customers or rewards getting referrals.

RL: And reviews?

I believe in “fast feedback.” Have a monthly meeting about what’s working. Give mini course-corrections, but mostly give pats on the back. People need three times as many pats on the back as they need corrective input to stay motivated. Monthly, or every other week, ask “How are you? How do you think the team is doing? What can we

do to help you achieve your goals?” If they ask for help, give it. And applaud their achievements.


  Overlooked Sources for Finding Great Employees
• Vendor referrals

• Alumni referrals

• Professional associations

• Job fairs

• High school counselors

and college professors

• Members of civic groups

Source: Nancy Ahlrichs


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