I’ll start this article with a nod to Dan and Chip Heath, whose book, Decisive, has had an enormous impact on the way I handle making important decisions. I’ve learned over the years that while sometimes all you can do is trust your gut instinct, there’s a lot to be said for making decisions as deliberately as possible. The vaccination technique in the hiring process plays the very important role of eliminating a number of the poor options, leaving you with the applicants who are best suited for your position.
Here’s how the vaccination technique works: Let’s say that you’re hiring for a customer service position. Before you write your job ad, think back to the problems you’ve had with previous employees in that position and make a list of the parts of the job that presented the biggest challenges. Now, include those parts of the job description in the ad. If it feels like you’re warning people off the job, then you’re doing it right! Your goal should be to accurately describe the job, warts and all.
Why would you want to focus on the difficult aspects?
You’re inoculating your applicants. You’re giving the candidates who don’t want to deal with irate customers’ complaints a reason not to apply. You’re telling the folks who don’t ever want to work weekends that they’re not going to be happy in the position. You’re essentially screening out unsuitable folks so you don’t have to waste time interviewing, hiring, training, and ultimately firing them.
My favorite way to write an ad is as a challenge to just the right candidate. Emphasize that it’s a very special person you’re looking for, with just the right unique skill set. People who read your ad and say “That’s me!” are the ones you’re looking for. They’re dedicated and prepared to face the challenges of being your customer service rep.
In addition to screening out candidates who aren’t a good fit for your job, vaccination also ensures that your applicants know what they’re getting onto. They won’t legitimately be able to complain that they didn’t know they’d have to work evenings and holidays if you included those details in the ad. Think about the alternative – you gush about what a great company you’ve built, how wonderful the staff is, and how rewarding the work is – some employees may feel like they’ve been misled when they encounter their first real challenge. Oversell the difficulties and let them discover for themselves how wonderful your company is.
When you’ve weeded out the unsuitable candidates, what you’re left with is a short list of much better options, and that means that you’ll be able to make a better decision since you’ve taken the time to deliberately sift out the cream of the crop before you even schedule the first interview. Good decision making is a habit, and eliminating unwise choices is one of the surest ways to improve your long term outcomes and bring on staff who’s in it for the long haul.