Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
Interview With a Plan


January 5, 2009
By Andrew Hind

Topics

The success of any garden centre depends to a large degree on the
quality and effectiveness of its staff. While advertising, cost
controls, inventory management, and appealing merchandising are all
important elements in retailing, few would argue that the defining
factor in any store’s success is the impact – for better or worse –
made by its employees.

How to hire the right staff

staff  

The success of any garden centre depends to a large degree on the quality and effectiveness of its staff. While advertising, cost controls, inventory management, and appealing merchandising are all important elements in retailing, few would argue that the defining factor in any store’s success is the impact – for better or worse – made by its employees.

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Many of your staff will be only summer hires and part-time seasonal workers that will need to pick up an understanding of your methods and a capability in their assigned tasks quickly and with the least amount of supervision. It’s therefore vital to you that you hire well, selecting the best and brightest from among applicants. But how does one separate the good from the bad?

The key is a well-thought-out interview plan to make sure you find the right people, without wasting your time and resources. Without a plan, sorting through dozens of applicants can become a nightmare.

Before starting the hiring process, it’s worthwhile to undertake a “job analysis” to ensure that you, the employer, have a full understanding of the job you are about to post and its purpose. Put a plan together that gives you a clear idea of where you are going and what you need, in terms of the number of people per department and in which categories. This allows you to sort them into various “pots” based on which department you feel their background and interests suit.

This analysis should include three things. The first element is an evaluation of your business. Here you need to justify the positions and look at how hiring more staff can help your garden centre. You can’t simply take on 10 people every summer because that’s what you did last year. Your business will shrink and grow from year to year and hiring too few staff will leave your customers unattended, while extra employees will cut into your bottom line.

Once you’ve narrowed down the number of people you want to hire, develop a description of the each position’s functions, duties, and responsibilities. The final step is to specify what you’re looking for in a candidate. This is an assessment of the qualities a person would need to be successful in this position and can include educational and experience requirements, required skills, and necessary behavioural characteristics.

It’s not enough to simply say to yourself, “I need another sales associate.” That doesn’t give you much to go on when determining who, from among the applicants, is best suited for the job. Conversely, if you were to conclude that you required, say, a part-time sales associate to oversee the chemical department after the full-time associate has left for the evening, you’d have a much better idea of what qualities you should be looking for. As a result of this analysis, you could post a job for a candidate who is available to work nights and weekends, has the ability to work independently, and ideally possesses some horticulture experience or interest.

After carefully considering your needs, and with them foremost in your mind,
it’s time to sit down and design the interview plan.

Write out the questions you are going to ask to ensure you cover the main points in the interview. Asking each candidate the same set of questions makes it much simpler to analyze the results and weigh the various individuals against one another. It’s important that the questions are truly position-related; why waste time exploring aspects of the applicants experience or abilities if they are irrelevant to the job she is applying for?
 
And here’s an important secret used by many in the corporate world: always have in mind the right answer to any given question. If you know the answer you’re looking for, it will make it that much easier to pinpoint the perfect new hire.
 
Formulate open-ended questions that will encourage a candidate to give a revealing answer. And don’t be afraid to include situational questions in which you describe a scenario and ask the candidate to explain how they would react under those circumstances. Start with general questions and then move into specifics. Interviews can be a stressful experience for the applicant and starting things off gently will help you put the candidate at ease, ensuring you’ll receive a more thoughtful response to the questions you pose.
 
Be clear about the information you want to gather (in other words, define your interview objectives), and structure the questions so that you truly get what you need out of the process. When you are talking with the candidate, listen four times more than you talk. The interview is about getting to know the person and finding out facts about them. Bring a pen and paper so you can take notes and keep track of questions that come up.

Don’t focus on the details of the person’s application. Yes, you ideally want someone with prior experience, but most importantly you want people who are friendly, eager, and self-starters. Look for people who are willing to learn, because they can be taught how to mesh with your operation. Chances are, they will be more flexible and willing to change to suit your garden centre’s working style and structure.

Last but not least, address, with confidence, any questions and concerns the interviewee might have. After all, you’re also trying to sell this position and your garden centre to a potential employee – in some job markets, applicants may have several options when it comes to selecting a job.
 
A structured interview plan is vital to navigating through the quagmire that interviews often represent. It will save you time and stress, allow you to make crucial hiring decisions that aren’t based solely upon impression and give you a better chance of selecting a person who will prove a boon to your retail operation. Time spent devising an interview plan is time that is wisely invested, indeed.


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