Recruiting from Welfare to Work Programs Part II of II

We are a society that lives by standard expectations, norms and procedures. You want a job-you write a resume, read the paper, network, fax, call, and interview and with a combination of luck, timing, and talent, you are hired. If you recruit people for jobs-you utilize high tech methods, job fairs, networking, and selling-and voila, you have found the “perfect match”. The hiring of a “welfare to work” population, does not fall within these norms, thus the course of events leading to the recruitment and hiring of individuals who are traditionally difficult to employ must change in order to be successful. Is it worth it to you? Think carefully before attempting recruiting because successful outcomes will follow only if you are willing to think and act in non-traditional ways. Don’t bother making a one shot effort and say – “I tried”. If you do you, as many other before you will feel a tremendous sense of frustration and perhaps even a sense of “I knew this wouldn’t work”. You certainly won’t be alone with this feeling. Recipients of welfare may experience difficulty getting from one place to another. Often they have never left their limited neighborhoods – born raised, grown in the same ten block radius that is “home”. They know the culture, the people the smell and feel of their own environment. To leave these surroundings to go to a conference or job fair is for many a monumental effort causing extreme anxiety – anxiety so great that they never want to repeat the experience, and so often, even when excited about possibilities, will never make it to an interview. This is just the travel – what about when they get to you? Here you are offering them the world on a silver platter – almost guaranteed employment. One minute they are living in a shelter, on public assistance, and here you are giving them a time and place and letting them know that pretty much all they have to do is show up! What a life transition! By now you must be certain that there is no way this is worth it – to seek to hire a person that can’t even get from point A to point B without raising these major neurotic responses! BUT WAIT – remember all the good news, the rave reviews that these employees are getting, the dedication they show on the job, the loyalty they have to an employer who took a chance on them. So if you are ready to take another shot at this consider the following: * Go to the population – rent out a space in the neighborhood and hold a job fair, you can probably get free space from local community groups, churches, local business and not for profit organizations. * Don’t just recruit – understand. Ask questions about how they came to hear about you, what are their goals, their aspirations, and their fears. This is not what you do? – take someone with you who can focus on these issues as they relate to employment – a trained employment counselor perhaps. This will make the next step easier and maybe they will make it to an interview. * Check your approach – are your expectations too high or too low? Did this come across when you met with the applicant? Take the time to explore their expectations and always ask – what is your motivation to work now? * Follow up after you set an appointment. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to say – “Hi, it was really nice to have met you and I am excited about speaking to you further about possibilities in our company”. Remember the chronically unemployed have integrated many of societies negative stereotypes about themselves. Just hearing encouragement in your voice can often make a tremendous difference. * Link up to job training programs in your area that can or may have already complied an initial applicant screening or employee training for you. That way, you are not interviewing random applicants. Consider this an opportunity to “piggy back” on someone else’s work. These programs are ideal for holding mini job fairs. I would close by saying Good Luck – but it’s more than that, it’s good business sense!

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Doreen D. Gibbs is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) experienced in developing programs to assist individuals with disabilities to return to work. She trains potential employers in the recruiting, training, placement and support of chronically underemployed and undeserved populations. As the founder of G & G Geriatric and Disability Care Management, Inc., she provides ongoing technical assistance to companies, and serves as a liaison between the for profit and for profit communities in the formation of successful partnerships.

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