Andrew Field of – Part 3

Here is part three of the interview with Andrew Field of In this part, he talks about how the company recruits people in Montana, where their employees are from, and what their hiring/training processes are like.

Question 8: How do you recruit people in Livingston, Montana? I’ve seen companies have a hard time recruiting people in bigger cities than that.
Answer: We work very hard at it. We have four and a half person HR department, which is very large for a company this size (it’s about double the size you would typically expect). Most of those people spend a substantial amount of their time on recruiting. We advertise heavily, we continually doing all various advertising venues including newspaper ads around the country, radio ads locally, and it just takes a work.

It’s is basically a numbers of game. You have your funnel: 80 resumes, 10 get preliminary interviews, 2 may get the final full day interview, and 1 of those 2 we hire. It’s really just a numbers game.

We’ve developed a pretty good reputation in the local area as a good employer. We have very progressive benefits – we have a health savings account program where the money goes directly into the employees’ accounts and they can spend it on first dollar coverage or if they are fortunate enough not to have any medical expenses, it’s their money and it’s portable. When they leave or retire, they can keep that. We have a heavily subsidized child care program for infants to 4 or 5 year old, which is very attractive to working moms and dads. We try to treat people really well.

Most importantly, we don’t hire jerks, and if we do, we remedy our problems rapidly. I think that is one of the most important things – people want to work with great people and we try to have it be an environment with great people.

Question 9: Are most of your employees from the area or do you have to convince recruits to move?
Answer: It’s a mix of both.

About 70% were already living in the area when we hired then. About 30% are “imports” so to speak.

Some of that 30% that are imports previously lived here, grew up here, and/or went to school here. We have a saying in Montana that the biggest export is college graduates. We have a great university and colleges here. People grow up and go to school here and then to go get opportunity, they head off to San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, New York Los Angles, Denver, Salt Lake, etc. At some point, they say “now I’m 30 and I’m thinking about having kids. I want to move back home.” They’ve seen the big city and they are ready to get back home. Those former Montanas looking to come back are a great demographic for us. Another similar one for us is you have a couple somewhere in the country and one of them is from Monatna and they met at Harvard or something like that or at school or in the workplace. Now they are married and want to come back here.

Those are very common and good demographics for us.

Question 10: What is your hiring process? (How many interviews, any pre-interview screening, etc.)
Answer: It’s pretty thorough. Everybody whose resume appears to pretty much qualify for a given position gets kind of a pre-screen, pre-interview and that can be 10-30 minutes long. If they make it through that, the next step is a longer interview.

We use Bradford Smart’s “Topgrading” system. After the initial pre-screen interview, candidates get a “topgrading” interview – those are about 3 hours long and they go over every single job you’ve had in detail. Then, if they make it through that, because we handle credit cards, we have to do personal credit and criminal background checks to comply with MasterCard compliance rules.

After that, we get them in for an all day onsite process. It’s mostly interviews, but there are a few other assessments – they shadow the position for an hour or two in addition to the regular interviews.

We recognize that employment is a two way street – we just can’t make an offer and have everybody accept the offer. They have to believe that this is the right place for them.

The numbers are similar to what I said above. For 80 resumes, there will be 40 or less pre-screens, 10 full length interviews, 2 full day, onsite interviews, and then we hire one.

Question: Do you do any sort of employee personality assessments?
Answer: Yes. We do a personality assessment, some cognitive build assessments, particular math test, technical aptitude (widely in their ability to deal with a computer), how fast can they learn a new software program. We put them in front of one or two software programs and give them a print out with what we want them to create. We then say, “OK – create it.” We’ve done enough of them now where we have sort of a benchmark of how good it should be and how long should it take.

Question 11: Could you elaborate on the training process the PFL employees go through when they are hired?
Answer: Certainly.

The area that has the best developed training is the front line people that talk to the customers. We call them TSRs (technical service representatives). They go through 14 weeks, full time, classroom training.

It starts with the big picture of the company, mission, values, vision, what we do, who we serve, how we make money. We give them a big picture understanding of our funnel: web visitor to contact to customer to retain customer.

We then dive into a lot of the subject matter expertise that they need to have in order to do their job intelligently and effectively with the customers on the phone.

We have a very robust platform that we’ve built that essentially is the primary tool for almost everything we do. There is a lot of training on that. Then, we get into file processing itself. That’s the heavy work. We start with Acrobat, then go to Photoshop, and go through and cover all the various applications.

There are tests throughout the whole portion of it. After the 14 weeks, the representatives graduate. Last week, we had the big graduation dinner, which is the culmination of the 14 weeks of training they get.

Once they are out on the floor, they get at least one hour a week of a one-on-one coaching session as well as regular reviews of their performance with their manager.