Hiring Great (and Not-so-Great) Staff (1149 words)
By Susan J. McIntyre
Catalogers have a uniquely tough time when hiring employees, because good cataloging requires several skills that many people don't have — skills like math.
"I can't figure out this math problem," said the designer, a recent college graduate with a good GPA.
"Well, I hope I can help," I said doubtfully. Math classes were far in my past.
He placed a sheet of paper in front of me. "The regular price of this item is $40, and there's a 10-percent off sale. So how do I calculate the new price?"
Catalog math isn't that advanced. But spend an afternoon calculating breakeven on a catalog with 200 SKUs, or building a circulation plan and sales projections for a catalog with seven drops and five versions, and most people will say cataloging can be math-intensive.
This poses a problem when you're hiring, because the sad fact is, a vast number of people can't do arithmetic — including many college graduates.
The solution? Give all job applicants a simple math test. You'll feel a bit embarrassed at first, as if you're asking them if they know how to breathe. But as the number of applicants who fail the test keeps growing, you'll soon realize how important it is.
"I'm leaving," she said.
I'd hired this woman straight out of college just two years ago. She'd done an excellent job.
"What's happened?" I asked in alarm, visions of an employee lawsuit flashing through my mind. "You've got a great salary, interesting work, you're learning from the best in the business, you like your co-workers — this is exactly the job your college major prepared you for. Why are you leaving?"
She gazed earnestly at me. "I just don't feel passionately about cataloging," she said.