Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recruiting & Interviewing in the Village

Recent Mehendi Competition at Rangoli
How do you fill an open, women-only job position in a village?  With no standardized, centralized recruiting process (no or talent agencies here).  In a society where there's a cap on how much education a girl can (or should, according to many) attain.  Surrounded by so many social rules that dictate should-not's and can-not's for women.  This would be no easy task...

About 3 weeks ago, we began on a mission to find a "padhi-likhi ladki" (educated girl) who can assist with daily duties at Rangoli, further develop the customer experience, and build relationships with the clientele.  So the ideal candidate would be a girl in her late teens who: has completed at least up to the 10th standard, has strong math skills, is a good communicator, and can sell (after all, in retail - it's all about the up-sell!)

Step 1: Resume Review
As luck would have it, we had a list of resumes from girls who had previously completed a computer training course with this NGO in Saurath.  From that list, we picked the top candidates and contacted them for a short informational interview at the office.

Step 2:  Interview at Rangoli (Personal Support Team Included)
Group interviews seem to be the thing here.  See, girls tend not to travel alone (mostly for safety purposes), so they bring their friends and family along.  And since the community is a fairly small one here, everyone seems to know (or know of each other). So the interviews at Rangoli went something like this:
  • Candidate enters with friends and they all greet Bhavana
  • ~15 minutes of social exchanges: How is this one?  And that one?  She left to Delhi already?  Her train was late, wasn't it?  The train is always late these days.  The weather is so bad.  Too cold. Etc...
  • And now, to the meat of things.  I was quite excited and proud to see Bhavana lead the meeting, explaining to the candidates what the job responsibilities are and what her expectations are.  I was only there on the side for support, which she didn't seem to need. :-)
    • Here, the friends and family companions chime in to show that they too understand the job and think the candidate is a perfect fit.  It's quite like having a personal brand support team by your side to tout your capabilities to others.  (Who wouldn't want this?!)
    • And as is common here in the village, all the neighbors sense some "official business" going on, so they start peering out of their homes to find out what's going on.  Some even come and stand in the doorway, blatantly watching and listening.
  • Any questions?  Generally, no.  Although the question of salary is always an awkward one.  Some are shy about it, looking at the ground and whispering as they ask what pay the job offers.  While a few are bold and will directly ask and state their salary requirements (I think these are mostly girls from higher-caste, and higher-income families).
Step 3: Close the Candidate
This seems to be the hardest step.  Many girls face constraints at home from male family members who do not like the idea of their daughter/sister/granddaughter working in the store.  The concerns range from worries about the girl having to travel to and from work daily, to the issue I seem to keep running into: marriage-ability - will this job affect our ability to find a good groom for her?  Will people think less of her or the family if she is a sales assistant?

Fortunately, after much back-and forth with several candidates, we have finally been able to confirm someone.  Aparna, an 18 year old from Saurath, began working at Rangoli a couple weeks ago and is slowly coming to understand her role and responsibilities.  The training process has begun on the daily store activities: recording sales, verifying stock etc.  The uphill battle now will be more around the soft skills of selling techniques and relationship building to develop strong ties with the community and attract more and more women to the store.

More to come...

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