Finding the right people for your business

Recruitment Strategy: Finding the Right People for your Business

I believe most business owners and practically every recruiter focus on the WRONG criteria when matching people to a role. The wrong criteria are “experienced” and “qualified”. These words should never be used – they should be replaced with “capable of doing the job” and/or “core skills to do the job”. I have seen many Experienced and Qualified people who are NOT capable of doing the job; aside from the next criteria which should be “fit into our team”.

The best way for me to demonstrate this is to describe the process I used to find my Personal Assistant.

Some crazy stats – in a 48 hour period we assessed just 200 applicants, tested nearly 100, brought that down to a short list of 6 – which were the ONLY ones I interviewed (on skype over a 3 hour period) to select the perfect person for the role.  I paid an overseas worker $80 to run the process – plus the cost of the paid advertising.

If you take more than 2-3 days to start someone – in a lot of cases the good ones have gone.

So this is the process I used.

First, I wrote (several versions) an advert for the position that “described the tasks, therefore the skills” and did not mention “experience or qualification”.  It went something like this:

“Crazy Australian Entrepreneur owns 6 businesses and needs your help organising everything.  If you enjoy working in chaos where things change suddenly and randomly while having a load of fun, then this role as Personal Assistant will suit YOU.  You need to live in the Manila, Philippines Area and be prepared to commit yourself fulltime to this role.  Send your details to”

Then we placed various versions of this advert on ALL the free and as many of the paid portals we could find.  This ranged from the type websites, to the Craigslist type websites to UpWork, Freelancer etc.  We were open to the worker being in an office or home based.  The “Manila” area was because I have a home there, and when I’m away I need someone to check the place, water the plants etc.

We then wrote a “test” which was converted to a PDF.  It read something like this:

“I’m Bill Smith.  I own a Carpet Cleaning business in Perth Australia at XX Queen St in the CBD. Mrs Jones keeps ringing us complaining about all sorts of things.  She says we did a horrible job, my cleaners were sloppy and rude.  Every time she calls she has another version of what went wrong.   My cleaners are fantastic people they would never do any things this silly lady accuses us of.   Her address is XX That Street, Freemantle.

I want you to write a letter to Mrs Jones so she no longer bugs us.   Use a word document, name it with your surname, and then attach it to a “reply to” email.

I hired a Virtual assistant and instructed her to watch the email.  As soon as a response came in, look at the details to determine they were in the “Manila Area” – if not in the area then delete the email, if they were near Manila then past this text into a reply and attach the above test PDF.   The email text went like this:

“Thanks for applying for the role as Personal Assistant.  Attached is a small test.  This test is timed, and that time started when we sent this email.  Please complete the test as required.”

Over the next 2 days 200 applications came in.  Note we did NOT place “one” advert we placed about 20 adverts in every place we could.  “CAST A WIDE NET” the more applicants the higher the chance of finding the ideal person.

Every application was opened and assessed ONLY for “location” (Manila).  Roughly half were outside the area so were deleted, the rest – nearly 100 were emailed “the test”.

I designed the test to assess to the CORE SKILLS needed for the role.

  1. Speedy response means they were very “online” – the role needed a net savvy person.
  2. The content of the letter showed us their “people skills” – outstanding people skills is the main criteria for the role. I can teach the operating systems we use – I can NOT teach “People Skills”.
  3. The letter in itself showed the degree of written English skills.
  4. The instructions around File set up and how to send, tested their ability to follow instructions.
  5. The “need someone in a specific location” was needed due to the circumstances.

My focus was to assess as many as I could, in as short as time as I could, for a low cost, with minimal input from me – to the CORE SKILLS I needed to be my Personal Assistant.

I instructed my helper to assess the best 6 for the role, given the 5 criteria I just mentioned.  Then I asked her to set each one up for a skype or phone call from me on day 3.

Then On the third day,

I received a single summary report with the list and times.  I’m notorious for hating resumes – I believe they are, at minimum embellished, if not full of fibs. There was a special mention to read the resume of one particular applicant.

I quickly scanned the resumes, rang each one – focusing on “do we click/get on with each other”.

That applicant ended up starting the next day as my Personal Assistant.  She wrote a great letter, apologising in my behalf, explaining the action that would be taken (to rectify future jobs).  She lived close to my Condo in Manila.  Yes she is Filipino who had lived in Australia for 15 years where she sold Real Estate.  No, she had never been a Personal Assistant.  Yes, she’s brilliant.

Yes, it takes time to settle someone into a role like this.

If you use a practical testing system, it’s amazing what you can find.

FORGET “experienced” and “qualified”

In conclusion, you should focus on “does this person have the ability (core skills) to do the job”.  Test them – lots of them.  React “now”.  Teach them the rest.

Think about this – an “experienced and qualified” person is probably NOT with their previous employer because they are NOT brilliant in is the role.  Why employ “left overs”.   I have great people working for me because I start with the core skills and teach them the rest – I create them.

Then I lead by painting a clear picture of “why” and expect them to self-manage themselves – but that’s another story.

Mike O’Hagan