RECRUITMENT DRIVE: Attracting candidates to the regions
Published on 04 March 2021
SmartHub Business manager Elize Hattin sits down with Gideon Genade from Gideon Town Planning to find out more about recruiting his first employee and the strategy he adopted to attract the best candidate; not only to find the right person for the job, but someone prepared to uproot their lives and relocate to Rockhampton.
Since starting his town planning business three years ago, Gideon Genade has enjoyed both a strong market and business growth, which saw him appoint his first hire within the first few months of starting out.
He said a few months in, he realised he needed to free up his own time and recruited his first employee, to assist with the operational, administrative, and financial functions.
“My first employee was a part-time role for administration support while dealing with my accountants and overseeing the back of house stuff, making sure invoices go out, the important stuff…while I was growing the business, meeting with clients, getting projects underway and keeping them moving.
“It was getting somebody in that was across other things as well. I could pull them in on a bit of marketing and I could pull them in on getting the day-to-day stuff done as well. So, it worked both ways for my employee at that stage and was great in terms of flexibility and it just worked for us,” Gideon says.
When considering your first hire, he recommends thinking about how you can free up your own time and what kind of person would help you do that?
Gideon says often this will be an administrative or executive assistant role to deal with the tasks you probably do not enjoy doing as much, and that are tedious, but important.
Prior to the hire, Gideon ensured he felt comfortable with the prospect of recruitment, by looking at the financials and questioning whether it was the right time to bring somebody on board.
“You never feel it is the right time to bring somebody on board, so it was a bit daunting at that early stage, but at the same time, after the first month or two, you just realise that there's a role that needs to be filled by somebody else,” he said.
Two years on from his first hire, Gideon knew his growing business needed another town planner.
“In terms of business growth and project work that was coming on board, we started looking at recruitment of another qualified planner, a senior planner, somebody with a bit more experience.
“We got all the marketing material together and then I got a bit apprehensive about moving forward and just taking that leap, which to be honest, looking back at COVID in 2020 it was the right decision at the right time.
“So, we have been looking to get somebody on board the last two years and being regionally located, getting a qualified town planner on board is exceedingly difficult.
“There are no qualified people in the industry that just float around…also a lot of the universities that offer town planning courses are either up in Townsville, Cairns or Brisbane, so even just bringing on a student is quite hard.
“Down South, there's planning students and these students quite often get experience by going to work at various businesses on a weekly basis in order to get their experience levels up.
“Whereas obviously being remotely located, there is no opportunity for us to do that,” Gideon explains.
Realising he would need to recruit outside of the region added another level of complexity; finding candidates willing to relocate to Central Queensland.
“It's not just them switching jobs from one office, they’re actually uprooting their life from wherever they're coming from; Cairns or Brisbane or further South, so you're responsible for that person relocating to the region.
“Then obviously there's financial considerations of bringing somebody permanently on your payroll, or even just moving them from being a part-time/casual employee, so it is about covering superannuation and annual leave payment, sick leave.
“I had discussions with my accountant to make sure that firstly, we're financially stable to do that.
“As everybody got out of the COVID freeze last year around September/October, we realised the property market and the industry were moving a lot faster and we started to get a lot more enquiries.
“We got to the point where we recognised that all those tools and processes that we implemented over the last two years to help the business run smoothly, was just not enough anymore.
“I thought maybe we should get our recruitment drive on, and timing wise, it just felt a lot better,” Gideon reflects.
The timing of Gideon’s recruitment marketing campaign coincided with the graduation season, with qualified students finishing their university courses.
Adopting a unique pitching strategy for recruitment, Gideon engaged a marketing agency to help create a video that promoted the Rockhampton region where the role was based.
“Working regionally for the last 13 years, whenever there was a recruitment drive, the standard process was advertising on the usual platforms. However, there was just not enough interest sparked out there using that approach.
“My focus was actually on going straight to where the students come from and straight into the universities. Once again looking at our timing in terms of the end of the year and targeting the new graduates out there,” he recalls.
Gideon briefed the marketing agency, explaining the video needed to attract somebody that is going to be willing to move to the region, and entice them to move to here.
“It's all about attracting them to the region, so part of that wording was saying, give it a go, come here for six months. That's how we come up with that idea for a very short, sharp video,” he explains.
Gideon targeted his key demographic through social media; first posting the 15-second video on his business’ LinkedIn account, then linking that back to the Facebook pages of the universities individual departments.
“We got a really good traction on it, and then the applications started rolling in … I had it open for about two weeks and we received over fifteen applications.
During the application process, Gideon requested candidates provide a two-page CV as well as three points of why they should get the position, or why they were a good fit for the position.
His view on this being it is not about getting the highest scores or even having the most specific town planning experience or background, rather understanding the interests of the individual.
“A lot of CVs look the same, everyone has got a few months’ work experience, they all have a university qualification, but in the end, what was their CV going to tell me about them?
“That's why I asked that short question in the beginning and that kicked off my process.
“I read those three points first and out of them, I think there was one or two of those that immediately we didn't even go and get to the CV because of how they responded.
“I could clearly see through their response that some of them actually did research on Gideon Town Planning, which was great.
“One of the main key things I looked at was what other experience they had, in terms of dealing with people and clients,” Gideon reflects.
In terms of the interview itself, Gideon says he made it clear from the start of the interview he just wanted to talk to them, to get an idea of their attitude, personality, interests and whether the candidates would be able to settle into the region and be happy in Rockhampton; not just in the workplace, but also after work.
“We had five people shortlisted, set up the meetings and some of the candidates were not prepared, they didn't have Zoom or the correct set up beforehand.
“Obviously, it is about them being prepared as well, but all the candidates were really good and would be able to fulfill the role.
“I was looking for a graduate planner role, so it was about getting somebody who was willing to learn, and willing to move here, but then also someone I felt I could work with and could work with our team.
From a business perspective, Gideon needed somebody who could engage with clients, government departments and stakeholders the business dealt with daily. Somebody willing to pick up a phone, answer a call, pick up the phone and give a call and find something out.
Gideon said he looked back through the applicant’s CVs at the other roles or jobs they had held, as getting somebody with experience interacting with customers, was important to this role.
“People get lost in marks and their university results, but it's about everything that goes with it.
“Even though town planning is a lot of paper and office work, there is a large component where we do engage and interact with people because in the end, we work with the community,” he says.
Gideon himself worked as a part-time tour guide in a lion park in Cape Town, where he gained broad engagement experience interacting with tourists from across the globe.
“I think that really helped me engage with people and talk. I was forced to tell the story about the Lion park and things that happened there and how it operated,” he recalls.
When it came to decision time between the two top candidates, Gideon says the process became very real.
“The two top candidates were really good, and it was awfully close in terms of making that one decision.
“It came down to how comfortable and natural our conversation was during the interview. That was the end result for me,” he says.
With the job offered and accepted, Gideon’s latest recruit relocated to Rockhampton in Central Queensland within three weeks.
Gideon’s new hire came up a week prior to starting at Gideon Town Planning, and went into the office before starting the job and introduced herself to the team, which he commended as a great initiative on their part.
Gideon was able to then do a quick, tour of the office and show off the space where they work within at the SmartHub.
“That introduction, that step was actually great. The following week when she started, it was almost just a rolling process.
“We did a brief induction in terms of processes, the general office, workplace health and safety and then we just got straight into work, which is the good part,” he says.
TYRANNY OF DISTANCE
While being a regional business can have its own set of challenges when it comes to recruitment, Gideon says the trade-off for the candidate is the board range of experience regions offer.
“In the regions, you get such a broader range of experience. We do deal with a diverse range of clients, industrial, commercial, and residential projects.
“The current market is so busy, with so much interest in property development. The experience she is getting at this stage is just phenomenal.
“Now we have got a full-time person on board, it has freed me up again, after three years, to look at the overall business, and focus on the business operation component.
“I've got a technical person assisting with the planning work, and I'm still very heavily involved with that and with clients, but it's just given me that bit of flexibility to reconsider and look at, "Okay, what are we doing for marketing? What are we doing with the existing clients and existing projects and how do we keep the clients happy? How do we keep the projects moving?" he says.
So, what is Gideon’s advice on what to do, and what not to do, when it comes to recruitment?
The first thing he says, is if you think you need half a person, you probably already need a full person for the job.
While this might be daunting, Gideon says, sometimes it is just worth taking that step.
“Like any business decision, yes, things can go wrong, but I would say just take the leap and go for it.
“However, do not do the standard recruitment process, do something different.
“That's some of the feedback I got through the people that applied for the job is that the video and media we created, was the thing that cut through Facebook as that's where the candidates were.
“If I did the normal printed job ad, they might not have seen it and if they did, it may not have even sparked their interest to look any further because they would have seen the position was in Rockhampton. Whereas the video did capture that interest.
“It's about sparking the interest and capturing people's attention for that 10, 15 seconds…so be different,” he advocates.
Gideon Genade is the founder of Gideon Town Planning, a three-year old business which currently operates from the SmartHub in Rockhampton, Central Queensland.
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