Earlier this month, CBH Homes of Boise, Idaho, held a job fair to find 15 new sales representatives to meet the needs of its growing business. CBH Homes, the largest home-building company in Idaho, has experienced the effects of the falling market, but this BUILDER 100 company seems to be managing the downturn better than many.
Coming into this year, CBH Homes made a several moves to support its business during the downturn. It bought property at low prices, which allowing the builder to offer more competitive pricing on new homes. It reintroduced smaller square footage plans to capture more entry-level buyers. These ideas appear to be paying off; CBH Homes sold 35 more homes in March than in the previous month, a 46% increase.
Of course, whether CBH Homes’ numbers are an anomaly or an early sign of improvement in an industry paralyzed by financial gridlock and hiring freezes remains to be seen, but regardless, the company needed more people and decided to hold a job fair.
“With business up 46% from last month, we needed to find new people fast," says Ronda Conger, vice president of CBH Homes. "Generally, the interview process can take weeks or even months [when] bringing in candidates one-by-one with several interviews each.” Condensing this long process into a few days meant that applicants were put through an interviewing whirlwind in the span of an afternoon.
More than 200 people, mostly from the Treasure Valley region of Idaho but also from surrounding states and representing sales backgrounds ranging from real estate, to car sales, and retail, came to apply and face the six stages of the job fair designed to find exactly the type of individuals CBH needed. “We wanted people who are sociable and outgoing, that can work well in groups,” says Conger. “This method forced them out of their shells.”
The first few stages judged applicants on the obvious criteria: appearance, first impression, and preparedness in bringing all the required materials such as a resume and references. However, applicants were given one unusual request to test their preparation; they had to bring an object that represented ‘home’ to them. Candidates got creative, bringing everything from pot roast and mashed potatoes to a toy helicopter. One man even brought his pregnant wife.
The next stage? Speed dating.
“Each person had to do 60-second ‘dates’ with four people from the current sales team,” explains Conger, who says the task tested the applicant’s sociable side and ability to sell himself (or herself) quickly.
Applicants then moved on to a pop quiz about CBH Homes and a selling-skills test, where each person had to pick a random object from a basket--which included a football, water bottle, hard hat, tea cup, and a book--and sell that item to the head of the sales team. Lastly, once applicants proved their mettle through the multiple stages of the fair, they were asked to take a personality test put together by CBH Homes to determine whether they would be a good fit with the sales team.
Not everyone made it that far.
“Applicants could be eliminated at any stage of the fair,” says Conger, who says at the fair's end, the builder had “48 people that we feel are really good.” Those 48 top candidates were then given weekend homework, which included helping at the registration tables at the MS Walk in Boise. (CBH Homes is the title sponsor of the event.) “We wanted to see them in action, working with our team and see if they the type of ‘happily serve’ attitude we are looking for,” says Conger.
This group of applicants also had to read the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, a book from Gallup developed to help people discover their talents and nurture them in the workplace. The 48 candidates then faced three more rounds of elimination on the following Monday and Tuesday as the company whittled down the group to the final 15, which included six people with real estate sales backgrounds, a former pharmaceutical representative, and the rest from various sales backgrounds.
The final 15 will now face a four day training program including “tests, homework, and scavenger hunts,” says Conger, “to learn about CBH Homes, our culture, and our expectations.” Then they will train in the field and once a week in the office for the next few months.
Conger, who coordinated the fair, now swears by the condensed, although intense, approach. “I don’t think I’ll ever interview in any other way," she says, adding: “It was really fun.” One candidate who “was a comedian by night” says Conger, “kept us entertained the entire time.” His home item was an empty box, because that is what he joked that he would living in if he didn’t get the job.
Kelsey Williams is an editorial intern at BUILDER magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Boise City, ID.