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Meet Minnesotans Who Are Successfully Employed

Small Company Hiring Practices – NLFX Pro – Bemidji, Minn.

Smaller employers tend to go beyond traditional means when seeking out new employees.  The situations that drive this need can be fueled by work demands, but there are also times when the right person comes along and a position is created for that individual, explains Ben Stowe, president of NLFX Pro in Bemidji.

"Sometimes, it's the other way around," said Stowe.  "We don't have the position, but we need the person."  One of Stowe's friends is a corporate executive who, when starting out, couldn't get hired to a sales position by a particular company.  He offered to work commission free for a month or two, but told the employer that after that, they would need to pay him a lot of money.  "Now, they do," Stowe explained.

Unconventional Hiring Practices

Traditional job candidate reviews aren't the norm at this small company.  "Resumes aren't always what they appear to be," said Stowe.  Some of the company's best people come in with a more basic skill set, but a desire to learn.  Others who come in bringing a high level of success may find it harder to do things the company's way, he explained.

If a highly skilled person doesn't have the right attitude, it won't work, said Stowe, who frequently draws analogies with professional sports.  "Stars can destroy a team," he said.  "Teams win, stars don't."  People with the right attitude tend to produce more consistent work, said Stowe. 

At NLFX Pro, interviews are probably the most important part of the process, the president said.  Some candidates are smart, but don't do well on academic tests.  Others are capable, but don't present themselves well socially, Stowe said.  Typically, just one or two people will interview a job prospect.

Interviews are two-way communication efforts at NLFX.  Those on the company side try not to intimidate job candidates.  Instead, they try to get to know them.  "We hope to be forthright about who we are, what we're about and what they can expect … including the challenges of the position," Stowe said.  The process is as much seeing if the company is a good fit for the candidate as it is to see if the interviewee fits well with the organization.  NLFX interviewers can be frank about sharing the challenges the company faces in the industry.

Interviewees receive a tour and meet members of the team.  This allows for some impromptu interviewing, with casual questions, such as, "What makes you interested in NLFX?"  This approach allows Stowe and staff members the chance to "feel a person out a little bit," he explains.  Interviewers at NLFX will ask candidates plainly about how they would feel about being employed there.  Questions like this can throw people off balance, but tend to get beyond the prepared responses, giving a more accurate picture of who the person really is. 

"We try to get in a real conversation, and you'll see what lights people up, what their passions are," said Stowe. 

NLFX seldom checks employment references.  "The sad thing is, I'll do a background check before I call a reference," he said.  Online Google and Facebook searches can tell an employer more than they could possibly need to know about a person, the president explained. 

For those who make it to the offer, job stability and commitment often follow.  Stowe's 17-year-old company has a number of employees with almost 10 years on staff, and most have been on for five years or more.  "Ultimately, what we look for are team players, people who won't wilt under pressure, people who won't become toxic under pressure," said Stowe.  He seeks "people who will stand arm in arm, yoked together."