Adventures in Hiring

Since coming home from the hospital, most of my time has been consumed by physical therapy and hiring new Personal Assistance (PA) staff. I terminated the employee who dropped me in January. leaving me with a huge vacancy in my PA schedule. In addition, I am home-bound now (at least for the next six weeks) and require assistance during the day. During my hospitalization, the staff and other patients often asked me about the process I use to recruit and hire new staff. This is my routine. It may not work best for you or someone you know, but I have found it to be successful.

The first thing I always tell people who are new to hiring PAs is to remember you are seeking an employee. You are not hiring a friend. You are not looking for someone to take control of your life. You are hiring an employee who will assist you in living the best life you can live. You may develop a friendly relationship, but at the end of the day that PA is paid to be your staff. Treat your role as an employer seriously, and learn your responsibilities. This may include learning some basic information about how to write a job posting, how to conduct an interview, what questions are illegal to ask, or when to make the job offer.

One of the best resources I have found for recruiting new staff is Craigslist. I place my job posting, and within an hour I have applicants sending me emails expressing their interest. Granted, not every applicant is worth an interview. But for sheer volume of potential employees, I find Craigslist to be the most economical.

Last year, on the advice of peers, I began using an online screening survey to help weed out select potential candidates for interviews. This brief survey includes questions about prior experience and the qualities I deem essential for employment. Most applicants are willing to complete the survey and the results have made my recruiting and hiring efforts less taxing. The survey is the best tool I’ve used to help me identify candidates worthy of a phone interview.

The phone interview is important for many reasons. First, I schedule the interview with the candidate so they are required to call me at a set time. If a candidate cannot keep an appointment for a phone interview, they will never be able to make a scheduled shift on time. Of the candidates I invite to participate in a phone interview, approximately 50% fail to call at the scheduled time. Second, the phone interview helps me eliminate people who are not good candidates for in-person interviews. I can ask questions about any of the candidate’s survey responses which may have caused concern or seemed not quite truthful. I am surprised at how many people say one thing in the survey but then contradict themselves on the phone. And third, sometimes the candidates simply are not interested in pursuing the job after learning more during the phone interview. I would rather eliminate someone who knows my job is not the right employment opportunity for them at this stage. It saves time and energy for both of us to not have them come for an in-person interview for a job they know is not a good fit.

Last week, I received eighteen responses to my job posting in just three days. Seven candidates completed the online survey. I held two phone interviews (the third person never called). I knew after the phone interviews there was really only one person I wanted to interview in person. She came to my house on Saturday for an interview. After telling her more about the job, and my expectations for an employee, I asked her questions. In addition to saying all the right answers, she had an upbeat personality and glowing references. Her questions for me showed maturity and understanding. Thankfully, she accepted the job offer and will start this week.

One of my most popular posts last year was this post about the importance of meeting personal needs. It takes a carefully curated team of paid PA staff, family and friends to maintain my independent lifestyle. Since returning home from the hospital, my support network has gone above and beyond expectations – assisting me with personal care, doing laundry, bringing me meals, doing my errands and grocery shopping. Their help allowed me the time required to successfully recruit and hire new staff without worrying about how to meet my basic needs.

With my personal care needs met, I now feel like I can finally begin the process of adjusting to my new “normal” at home. Having adequate staff means I can complete my home exercise program three times each day as recommended. I can drink more fluids since I have more consistent assistance using the bathroom during the day. I am able to focus more on recovery than the tasks required just to stay alive.

Current status: Sitting in a sunbeam in my dining room, preparing to write thank you notes, drinking another cup of coffee because I can go pee later!

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Redefining Disability Challenge – Question 32

Each Wednesday, I post my response to a question from the Redefining Disability Challenge. This is my response to the thirty second question in the Challenge. As usual, I am not looking ahead to future questions, so I may inadvertently address some topics which will come up later in the Challenge. Here is this week’s question:

At what age were you or your loved ones diagnosed?

I was originally diagnosed at age 3.

That is about as much of my personal medical history as I am willing to share in this post. Sure, I have shared more information in prior posts, and could easily go into detail here as well. I am fairly open about my disability and am willing to explain what some consider personal information in an effort to help the nondisabled understand what it is like to live with a progressive neuromuscular disease.

I am an adult, and capable of making this decision myself. I decide what information I share with media during interviews. As a former Ms. Wheelchair New York and in my current occupation, I routinely speak to reporters. I know how much of my life story I am willing to share and where I am willing to share it.

One of the reasons I participate in this blogging challenge is to tell my disability experience in my own words, as I want to. I have control over what you read when I answer these challenge questions. I make the choices related to language and the tone of my posts.

Telling your story can be wonderful. I told my story to a local television station in 2001, and it led me to the man who would be my boyfriend for the next four years (it also made for a great “So, how did you two meet?” story). Sometimes when I am out in public after an article or interview has aired, people recognize me and tell me how I influenced their views related to disability. It is an honor to know I am reaching an audience and teaching them something new.

Telling your story can also cause regret. Sometimes your requests for disability-positive language are not honored. Quotes may not be accurate. Once a reporter wrote that I lived alone and then gave the name of my apartment complex. As a single woman with a disability, that is not information I would have willingly shared in the largest area newspaper.

I am a member of a Facebook group for bloggers with disabilities. The other group members are creative and articulate. Each day, I read blogs which cause me to think critically about my own perceptions of disability and my identity. Last week I read an article by Carly Findlay, What to Consider when the Media Asks You for Your Story. In the article, Carly lists a series of questions to consider when you are approached by the media and asked to tell your story. If you are considering a request from the media, it is a good idea to do research so you know what to expect. I urge you to check out Carly’s list of questions. Even if you don’t use them, they are useful to help you formulate your own clear idea of what you hope to gain by sharing your story publicly.

Have you shared your story? How was your experience?

I’m curious and would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!