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Thread: What is the most effective recruitment process?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    What is the most effective recruitment process?

    Okay, here's the deal. A budget request for a new long range planner position was actually approved last week. I will be looking for someone with about 7 years experience in long range planning, demographics work, etc. Alberta is not a planning mecca... it is hard as hell to try to get a good planner out here.

    Any words of wisdom on recruiting talented individuals?

    Here are some questions to get you going:
    --- Is it worth it to pay the big advertising bucks to post ads online on the APA job website or CIP job website? Are there other advertising opportunities that bring good candidates in?

    --- What is a good bargaining tool for bringing in a good candidate... perks if you will? We don't have the best salary in the area, so we cannot compete with larger cities like Edmonton and Calgary. I have budgeted to construct a real office (no cube) for this planner and will likely make some conference/training money available to them. Other perks that sway you one way or the other when looking at a job?

    --- What is the most effective way to screen candidates? I will likely ask for a writing sample or have a writing exam at the interviews. It will likely be a limited panel interview, with a follow up interview.

    --- Lastly, any opinions on whether sending the job recruitment to other Planning Departments works? I know we get them all the time, but I don't know if as an employer they are worth the time/postage/etc.

    I'm sure I'll have more questions later. We did a recruitment a year ago that was hell... luckily it was for a more entry level position where you look ofr potential as much as experience. Now that I'm looking for an established planner, I definitely need help. Thanks everyone!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Some of the perks I would expect at that level are a private office and conference money (also time) as you plan to offer, but also:
    - Encouragement to participate in professional organizations, such as the sytate APA. This benefits the organization in the long run as your employee will network and be exposed to ideas. Offer to pay the membership dues and give then time for meetings.
    - Assistance in relocating to the community (if moving from elsewhere), and
    - Vacation time. With seven years of experince, the person you hire will often be in a job with three weeks of vacation. There is nothing worse than hearing "...one week after six months, then two weeks each year...."
    The failure to offer most of those (particulalry in California) is why I have turned down a few job offers.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    As someone who is actively job hunting and who has helped hire a few people here are my suggestions.

    1) I'd first check with the AACIP to see what their fees are. The reason I suggest this versus the CIP site is that if someone wants to live in ALTA they will be looking there also. It is also probably cheaper.

    2) Writing samples and the such, I've only been asked twice for them. Both times I was told that they had no major bearing in not being offered the job. If someone has 7 + years of experience they can probably write well enough to get the job done and may only need some coaching.

    3) On perks, in the interview clearly explain what they are. Maybe a line in the job ad stating that the department is commited to personal and professional development, followed by preference to members of CIP.

    4) When you call the people to set up the interviews, do a short preinterview/outline so that they know what is going on and why they were selected for the interview. You may be able to weed someone out at that stage versus the formal interview stage and not waste yours or their time.

    5) I'll second Cardinal's answer re: vacation time, get real I already get lots of vacation and you want me to start over at 2 weeks?
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4

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    The last recruitment I worked on took months, but it was for a very demanding position. My thoughts (and I am actively looking for creative planning work right now, too, so this is very much in mind):

    1) offer reasonable vacation time -planning is a stressful job and three or even four weeks won't cut it for someone you expect to be creative,

    2) offer travel to conferences/training, also to pay CIP or APA dues, which are outrageous for individuals,

    3) focus on the cover letter, which, in my estimation, is the most important writing sample (I automatically toss all covers that just say "here's my resume," they should tell you why the job is important to them), but also I disagree with Donk about writing samples, I think they can be critical (I spent large parts of my consulting career cleaning up messes made by planners who had lots of experience, but could not write),

    4) take a page from academia and make the candidates you actually interview do a presentation before your staff and select board or commission members,

    5) sorry about the cost, but I think it is worth national advertising for an important position like this one. I have never tried direct mail to other planning departments on a systematic basis, but would send announcements to people I actually know.

    6) DO NOT require GIS skills - if you're going to spend training money, you can send them if need be - but I think people are automaticaly putting this in ads and eliminating experienced planners who focus on people skills, which are essential for long range planners.

    7) As already noted, telephone pre-interviews are essential to winnow out the chaff.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Donk, Lee, excellent comments. What do you think about referring people to work posted on a web site? I have begun to mention that samples of my work can be viewed at my organization's web site. Is that helpful, or a good policy?


    I forgot to comment earlier, yes, do advertise at APA and CIP. Planners may hit many sites in a search, but they will always begin there.

  6. #6

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    I have referred people to work posted on a web site in some of my current applications. We'll see how/if it works.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    ....3) focus on the cover letter, which, in my estimation, is the most important writing sample (I automatically toss all covers that just say "here's my resume," they should tell you why the job is important to them), but also I disagree with Donk about writing samples, I think they can be critical (I spent large parts of my consulting career cleaning up messes made by planners who had lots of experience, but could not write),....
    I agree with your sentiment LN but I think you need to be wary of relying on material that may have been proofed or edited by others. This would extend to professional reports as well. One of your underlings would no doubt use the version of their writing you have fixed rather than their own original.

    Getting back to your original question Nerudite, you ask about effective recruitment techniques. IMO the best technique is targetted recruitment. You focus on someone you already know can do the job to the standard you want and then try to formulate a package that interests them.

    We rarely use this approach because we have very restrictive recruitment laws governing us. They require, even if we wanted a specific individual, us to use a transparent and defensible selection process. Also there simply aren't enough good planners around at the moment to target.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Good feedback everyone!

    Luckily, we offer decent vacation time here. It's accrue-as-you-go, so you can't take vacation time for your first six months. But we get three weeks a year and several holidays, so it's not that bad. I was planning on giving time for conferences/training, as well as training money.

    Donk... love your idea about putting our dedication to personal and professional development in the job ad (city pays for related higher education tuition, as well... which I forgot to mention earlier).

    Cardinal I also like your idea about working with professional organizations... I'll be sure to mention that at the interviews.

    And Lee... luckily we have two GIS specialists, so no GIS required (not that I would ever make that a requirement anyway). The presenation idea is a great one (maybe in concert with a quick written test?)... I once had to give an impromptu presentation to a mock City Council meeting as part of an interview. I found it very bizarre (only had to do this once), but I was told later that it was an obvious strong point for me in comparison to other candidates, which I found hilarious because I was *so* nervous. But I think it would be a good indicator of their organizational skills and whether they can quickly think on their feet. Good call...

    I'll have to be careful with how many 'tests' I incorporate into the process though, as the City of Lacey interview process I participated in gave me the feeling that maybe the municipality has a lot of problems with Council if the interview process is so rigorous.

    Rem... I'll echo everything you said. There just isn't a good 'stock' of planners here to recruit away from other jurisdictions. Most of the planners in the region work in Edmonton, and I would be reluctant to hire anyone from there as they are so pigeon-holed in their jobs compared to a smaller town generalist.

    Any more words of wisdom anyone? I can use all I can get these days.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    All of this advice is very good so far. Kudos.

    A pearl I learned from the prez. of my new firm: Tell them why they should work for you. Employers (and I was guilty of this too) always ask, "so why do you want to work here?". When you find quality talent -- and dont settle for Mr. or Mrs, you-might-do -- you need to convince them that highly motivated people reap great personal and professional rewards for their actions. Even put your self in the posiiton that you are being interviewed to be this persons next employer.

    It doesnt take a 'planning mecca' to convince the right person that your town is the place to be. It takes a good work environment.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    On the presentation suggestion. I've had to do two. One I was given the topic to present when the interview was offered (2 weeks notice), the other I was given 30 minutes to prepare for.
    One was general the other was specific. If you are going to get someone to present something, give them adequate notice of the topic and what is expected. Asking someone to come in prepare and go through something with no notice is pretty unfair.

    Finally, figure out what you want to get from the presentation before choosing a topic. Do you want to see how someone answers the question, how someone reacts under stress, how someone presents ideas, how someone interacts with a panel.........

    After having so many interviews this year, I would not want to be the next person I am involved in hiring.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by donk
    If you are going to get someone to present something, give them adequate notice of the topic and what is expected. Asking someone to come in prepare and go through something with no notice is pretty unfair.
    I would suppose this would depend on what they are attempting to assess. In my current position, I am often called upon to speak in meetings or to interact with developers on a monent's notice. Perhaps they were trying to assess how well you can think on your feet and speak extemporaneously.

    My more recent interviews have sometimes included a request to sit and prepare a writing sample (again, mostly California) but I have not had to give a presentation for an interview for my last three jobs, or the searches that led to them. On the other hand, I did receive unsolicited invitations to apply for jobs after some of the presentations I have given at conferences.

  12. #12

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    I have mixed feelings about whether the presentation should be improptu. Planners do have to respond at a "moment's notice," as Cardinal suggests, but in an interview context, I think I would want to see the best a person has to offer, which means giving them a chance to prepare. You can always throw them off-the-wall questions in another part of the interview.

    I once endured a full day interview in which the candidates were all there and pitted against each other. I don't think it works. But I think a full day interview experience (which is pretty much the norm in the nonprofit world, for senior positions) is good, both for you and candidates. It allows candidates to understand the situation and make a decision (they are interviewing you, too, if they have the right attitude about it). It allows you to see them relax a bit at some point (or if they don't, to decide on someone else).

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