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Pre-employment screening of job candidates is important to make certain that companies get the employees they want for food safety positions, according to experts in the fields of recruitment, evaluation, and resource development.
While candidates’ experience and abilities will always be central to their aptitude for a given position, experts emphasize that the potential employee’s attitudes, beliefs, and values can be equally important in determining whether a person has the “right fit” for a job.
“We look first of all for experience, and then we look at education secondarily, but we also try to get someone who understands the Costco culture,” says Craig Wilson, vice president for food safety and quality assurance at Costco Wholesale in Issaquah, Wash. “We have a dynamic operating culture at Costco, and we need to have somebody who will fit into that.”
Ascertaining the necessary skills, attitudes, and beliefs of candidates for food safety positions in the food industry often falls to recruitment or workforce development organizations. Food Quality & Safety spoke to several experts in these types of companies to explore what qualities are most important in finding the best candidates for these vital posts.
Pre-employment screening is one part of a systematic approach to ensuring food safety, quality, and security, notes Preston Hicks, PhD, LPC, vice president of resource development and evaluation for the Global Food Protection Institute (GFPI) in Battle Creek, Mich. Training and education can provide a candidate with the skills necessary for a position, he says, but screening is key to determining whether that person has the correct intentions for use of those assets, as well as defining his or her unique learning path.
“At the front end, you try to ensure that the applicant has the sheer knowledge, skills, and abilities you need, or can fast acquire those. You try to create systems that provide quality training for that prospective employee before they even become an employee,” Dr. Hicks says. “But when you talk about screening in food safety, it comes down to the person’s intent. What does the person do with that knowledge, those attributes?”
Recruitment and workforce development firms have developed sophisticated software systems and testing regimens to help determine the attitudes of job candidates before food companies commit to hiring them for food safety positions, Dr. Hicks notes.
“These systems create a benefit for the company on the front end, so they don’t spend money on training and end up not getting a good return on their investment,” he says.
One such company is Educational Data Systems Inc. (EDSI), in Dearborn, Mich. EDSI performs candidate screening and recruiting initiatives for client companies in food and agriculture as well as other fields.
“We usually start with an assessment of what the customer’s needs are,” says Kenneth Mall, managing director for EDSI. “We try to define what kinds of skills the company is looking for, but also what type of person would be successful in their environment. When we start looking at candidates, we want to assess not only what skills they bring, but also their personality profile.”
To accomplish this, EDSI uses a range of tests, depending on the job and the company’s needs. The screening battery may include an aptitude assessment (Bennett or Ramsay), a basic math and reading level evaluation such as the Tests of Adult Basic Skills (TABE), and a predictive index to establish a personality profile.
“Generally, I like to see that the certification was updated within the candidate’s last position.”
—William S. Maywood,
owner, Careers in Sanitation
Another firm involved in pre-employment screening is MuRF Systems, a consultancy in Amarillo, Texas, that assists companies with workplace relationship issues. Jody N. Holland, owner and president of MuRF Systems, says one of the aims of screening is to try to predict potential employees’ behavior before committing to a hire.