Spend Time Interviewing to Save Time – Sam Barrett

Shaking hands during meeting

Sam Barrett discusses how spending a little time going through an interview process may actually save you time in the long run


In the horticulture sector, we often take job candidates at face value but this can and does blow up in our faces. How many times have you taken on someone for a role for it to “not work out”? This happens often enough with my horticulture clients that I have noticed a pattern. There are often little or no interview structures in place for recruiting new talent into these businesses. Usually, the hiring process involves meeting someone for a chat, over coffee, and if you have a good feeling, you hire them. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who are extremely skilled at informal interviews, can put up a good front and potentially mislead you.


One way to achieve a successful outcome from the hiring procedure is to have a standardised interview process when you are trying to recruit new talent for your business. However, this needs to be coupled with urgency, you don’t want the process to drag out so much that you will lose the person to your more decisive competitors. I recently undertook a LinkedIn poll that had over 6,500 views, and well over two thirds of respondents thought that an interview process with more than two stages was too much. With this in mind, let’s design an interview process for you and your business that will protect you from unreliable new employees and still make sure that you have speedy access to talent.


Keeping the above in consideration, creating a two stage process may be suitable. The first stage of the process takes place on the phone. This not only reduces the time invested
in screening candidates, but you can also tell how someone conducts themselves if approached by a stranger. They will likely not know why you are calling and if they are rude or cold at this point of the interview process, it may be wise to reconsider if you want them as part of your team.


The first stage or telephone screening should be general. You’re not looking to find out anything specific at this point. You’re trying to discover their story. Why are they looking
to move from their job? What are they looking for in their new job? What is their experience? These open questions are excellent starting points for you to begin with. I recommend refraining from talking about salaries or terms at this point. You may scare away talent that you would pay top money for if you quote a figure lower than the candidate is ideally looking for. If you are pressed for a number, it is a good idea
to say something along the lines of, “I am looking for the best candidate for this job and I will pay the appropriate salary for that person. What are you looking for yourself?” This will help you know the salary expectations of your candidates and negotiation can happen thereafter, as appropriate.


You are now at the second and final stage of your interview process. It is important to communicate this to your candidates so that they know where they are in the process, particularly since holding interviews in the sector are not commonplace right now. This will let your candidates know that you are not trying to waste their time. It is at this point that you should consider bringing your candidates onsite. This can be onto a site on which you are actively working or it could be where your office is located. There are benefits to both. Onsite, your candidates can meet other potential team mates they could be working with, and this can help them become more enthusiastic about the opportunity. An office
environment is more controlled and you don’t have to worry about weather. Nothing is more disgruntling than having an interview in the rain. I’ve been there, done that and would not recommend it!

At this point of the interview you will, for sure, need to get into the detail of the candidate’s C.V. and experience. You are looking for motivations: “Why did you leave that role?”,
“Why was this role only 3 months?”, “How were you managed in that role?”. These kinds of questions are targeted and will give you a better understanding if this person will fit with
your business. You will naturally need to focus on specific skills. I find this part of the interview process is easy for horticulture clients. You are now just finding out if this person can actually do the job you need them to do.


If the person fits your needs, you are ready to make an offer. However, this needs to be handled with care. It is important that you make an offer of work “pending references”. This is an oral agreement between you and the candidate with all the terms agreed with respect to salary etc. You will need references from your candidates and it is at this point that you will retrieve them.


I always get at least two references. If they both come back with similar results, then I progress one way or the other. If they are conflicting, then I get a third reference to ensure that I make the right decision. In a reference, I need to find out if this candidate can actually do the job. You are looking to verify their skills with previous employers. A handy question to ask previous employers is “Would you hire this person again?” If they say yes, that speaks for itself. As does the answer no.


You are now at the stage where you can bring your new employee into your business. If you have approached the above steps correctly, you will have massively mitigated the risk of bringing a new employee onboard. Will it be perfect? No. There will always be some people that will fail to turn up at the final hurdle for one reason or another. However, applying the above interviewing process will make your hiring process much more robust.


We are experts in horticulture recruitment and we have specialised services that you may find useful at certain parts of your interview process. We can support you through the
process and sit with you through your interviews. We can help you get to the motivations of your candidates. I have thousands of hours of interview skills that can be implemented on your behalf. We can check references on your behalf, which is something that needs to be done with delicacy, while getting the information that’s required. If you have never written an employment contract, it can be a daunting task. Let us help you with that. Tell us the terms and conditions that you have agreed with your candidate and we can quickly prepare a secure contract for you and your candidate to sign.

Sam BarretSAM BARRETT, has an honours degree from Trinity College in Natural Science (including botany) and has worked within the pharmaceutical, IT and architecture sectors in the Irish and UK job markets before taking up the role as Digital Editor and Recruiter at Horticulture.jobs.
Contact details: 089 476 7424.