FARGO, N.D. -- DCN, also know as Dakota Carrier Network, has been strategic in its hiring process, according to the company's business manager, Nancy Bjorndahl.

It is one of the reasons it seems to have little turnover.

Bjorndahl, based in Fargo, N.D., recently answered questions from Prairie Business about how the company approaches hiring new employees and the important skills and attributes it looks for in potential new hires.

An approach to hiring new employees

What’s the best way you’ve found to let prospective employees learn about openings?

We are fortunate at DCN to have a very stable employee base and therefore have very little turnover. When we do need to hire, like a lot of businesses, we use a combination of ways to get the word out including social media and posting our job openings on Indeed. However, I think our most successful tool is sharing the opening with our team. Even though an employee may not be interested in the position for themself, they may know someone who has the right qualifications and may also be a good cultural fit for us.

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What does your company’s hiring process entail?

In the fall of 2019, DCN got very intentional and strategic in our hiring process and implemented a plan that we continue to update and modify as needed. Once all the behind the scenes work has been done – the position has been approved to open, the job description has been developed or updated, etc. – HR determines the best channels to get the word out. Openings are always posted on our intranet and external placement usually includes places like Indeed.com and DCN’s social media pages. We typically keep a position open for two weeks.

After the job closes, HR establishes a matrix with job-specific criteria, enters each applicant on the matrix, and posts on Microsoft Teams. The department head and CEO choose an interview committee and the committee recommends which applicants to interview based on resumes and the matrix. Then we go through the interview process until we select the final candidate – usually two or three rounds.

Are there new strategies you plan to use when hiring in a post-pandemic world?

We actually had two new hires come on board during the pandemic! For one job opening, we had completed the interview process before businesses started closing, but for the other opening we finished the process with video interviews.

When it comes to hiring, I think the biggest take-away from the pandemic is that video interviews really can work. In the past, video interviews seemed so impersonal and awkward, but now that the world is used to them, I think it will be a valuable part of our hiring toolbox. Moving forward, when we have an out-of-town, -state, or -regional candidate, we will definitely incorporate video interviews into the process. Not only does it save the company the cost of bringing in candidates, but it saves the candidates valuable time by eliminating the need to travel.

Important skills and attributes

What are the most important attributes and/or skills you look for in a potential new hire?

As you can imagine, since DCN is a broadband company, technical skills are a top priority for most of our positions – and those skills are easier to assess. The bigger challenge is making sure a new hire will be a good fit for our culture. A person can have the best technical skills in the world, but if they don’t believe in our core values – reliability, responsiveness, and valuing long-term relationships – they aren’t a match for DCN, so that is something we really focus on during the hiring process. To help us do that, we utilize People Analyzer to more clearly identify someone who can fulfill the technical needs and fit our organization’s culture.

For DCN, since we have a relatively small team of 36 employees, one thing that’s important to us is that our new hires can hit the ground running. Our goal is to hire people who are skilled in their technical area and will be confident in their work. By not having to spend a lot of time on skills training, we can focus on training new hires on how things are done at DCN.

What leadership skills are most important for a new hire to bring on board?

When looking to fill a job that would traditionally be considered a “leadership” position, sometimes it can be hard to put your finger on exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. Sometimes it’s easier to identify characteristics you don’t want. That said, we look for many of the skills common to good leaders: being a good listener, good communicator, not afraid to ask questions, and able to contribute to success and productivity of those that report to them. In order for someone to be a successful leader, those skills are critical.

How does the company train or encourage internal candidates to prepare for executive roles?

The first step in training or encouraging internal candidates for leadership or executive roles is knowing what they are looking for in their career. That starts with strong communication. Not every employee wants to be “the boss” and it’s important to know what each employee is looking for in their career.

We encourage our employees to always be learning and to pursue learning opportunities. One thing that DCN offers is reimbursement for approved continuing education programs. Whether it’s a sale’s person who wants to earn their MBA or a tech who has an associate degree and wants to earn a bachelor’s degree, they can work with their supervisor on their plan and get final approval from our CEO. In fact, our CEO took advantage of this program. He joined DCN as a sales account executive and moved into product and business development roles. During that time, he used our continuing education program to earn his MBA and was later named CEO.

Highlights of the company



What’s the company’s philosophy on work/life balance?

Research consistently shows that time off and disconnecting from work is good for the employee’s mental health and enhances productivity when they return to work. DCN recognizes the value of work-life balance and gives employees a generous vacation and sick leave package in addition to six paid holidays and four floating holidays each year.

Because us Midwesterners have such a strong work ethic, sometimes we don’t take full advantage of our time off. At DCN, we periodically remind employees in team meetings and through our company intranet that we want them to use their vacation time and take a break – they deserve it!

What’s the best thing about working for your company?

I think there are two things that make people want to work at DCN and keep them here: the stability of our company and the fact that even as we’ve grown, it still feels like a family. These days, stability is important and can be hard to find, so employees appreciate that. With 36 employees, it doesn’t take long before everyone knows a new employee and a new employee knows everyone, including the CEO. There’s something to be said for being able to walk into the CEO’s office or call them on the phone and be greeted with “how’s Bobby’s baseball team doing?” or “what did you shoot golfing the other day?”