Don’t underestimate the importance of your interviewing process
By Kara Bradford
As the cannabis industry continues to develop, it is important to make sure human resource practices are in line with those of other established industries and with federal, state and local laws.
The most common question from business owners in the cannabis industry is “How do you find good people?”
If only hiring were as simple as finding the perfect resume. Recruiting is a lot like dating. You often have to sift through a lot of toads in order to find a Prince Charming. Consistently finding worthwhile talent in the cannabis industry is much more complex than posting a job opening and praying that the perfect candidate will submit an application and become the best employee ever.
One area to focus on is interviewing candidates appropriately. A candidate may have the perfect resume, but if you and your team aren’t interviewing prospects the right way, then you may end up making a poor hiring decision, costing your company valuable time and resources. A truly horrible hiring decision could even cost your company its credibility or license.
So, how do you make sure you’re interviewing candidates appropriately? A good place to start is interviewer training. Interviewing does not come naturally to everyone, so it’s important to train the people conducting interviews. As your organization’s leader, you should also go through interview training if you’ve never been through it yourself. If you’re less than confident that you’re observing best practices, an experienced HR or staffing professional should be able to bring you and your fellow hiring managers up to speed.
There are different methods of interviewing. You will want to determine which methodology fits your organization, based on the kind of team you are looking to build.
Once you know how to interview, here are a few tips for designing your interview process. Make sure you set the tone and boundaries of the interview from the beginning. Many candidates in this industry have very personal relationships with cannabis, which makes interviews difficult. The information that interviewees may volunteer could potentially put you at risk with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is a division of the U.S. government that enforces laws regarding discrimination. It ensures that job applicants and employees are not being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, nationality, age, disability or genetic information. Be mindful of the kinds of questions you ask so you don’t expose your company to accusations of unlawful discrimination.
For example, if an individual begins to address a health condition as a reason for their interest in the industry, this could put you in a challenging position. If you receive this information from a candidate, divert the topic immediately and move on to something else. You will also want to keep this information to yourself so other interviewers are not biased to make a hiring decision. Hiring decisions should be based entirely on a person’s ability to do the job and their ability to fit into the culture of the organization. Ask questions that allow them to shine, while still getting insight into their experience, skills and temperament to assess whether or not they would be a good match for your organization. If there are physical requirements for the job, make sure this is detailed in the job description.
During the interview process, many of you might want to administer tests to potential employees as a way to determine their qualifications. While this may seem like an easy way to thin your applicant pool, you’ll want to exercise caution with this approach. Make sure your tests are relevant to the functions of the job and consider having the results interpreted by a third party to help shield your company from potential charges of discrimination.
The cannabis industry is still a very small community. If you don’t provide a positive, professional experience to candidates during the interview process, not only might you miss out on the right candidate, but you may miss out on other great candidates due to negative social media, blog posts or word of mouth. Sending an email to candidates prior to the day of their interview with guidelines on what to expect, including dress attire, directions, hours of the interview, etc., is a great way to create a positive environment for the interviewee.
While there are many more areas to cover regarding the interview process, this should at least help establish a foundation. Think about the interview process as an opportunity, not just a necessary evil. Learn something new from each candidate you interview. If you execute your interview process the right way, it has the potential to invigorate your entire team. It allows you to meet individuals who could bring fresh perspectives and ideas which could benefit your company, whether you end up hiring them or not. Establishing a strong interviewing/hiring process takes time, but it will pay huge dividends.
Kara Bradford is the co-founder and chief talent officer of Viridian Staffing. Founded in 2013 as the first bona fide professional, full-service staffing, recruiting and HR consulting firm in the cannabis industry, Viridian Staffing provides temporary, temp-to-hire, direct placement and HR outsourcing services. Bradford has been an HR professional for more than 15 years. She has an MBA in human resources and organizational behavior, and also has a master’s degree in marketing and nonprofit management administration.