The reality of trying to hire ‘100 percent’ Caymanian

I refer to the editorial in your issue of Sept. 9, “When showing up isn’t optional,” as well as the many articles I have read over the past several months related to the high unemployment rate and its relationship to expat workers taking jobs from a ready, willing and prepared local workforce.

I am currently opening a large retail operation in Grand Cayman, and a very considerable amount of money has been allocated to a project that has been three years in the making. Part of the company initiative from the outset has been to hire as close to 100 percent locally as we can. As an employer we feel this is our responsibility; however, it has turned out to be a difficult task to succeed at.

We started by running a full-page colored advertisement in the Compass, offering entry level positions at $10-plus an hour for permanent positions. In the first four days we received fewer than eight responses. Since that time, we have advertised almost daily for set-up staff and have scheduled interviews on multiple nights over two weeks, with interviewers working up to 8 p.m. at night to accommodate people’s schedules. We have responded to everyone that has sent in a resume without leaving anyone out, provided they are local or have the right to work.

What we have found is somewhat disappointing. There are a startling number of responses that simply email without a resume saying “Interested Call Me.” There are resumes that are sent as a picture off of a phone, all folded up and barely readable.

Then there are those that will not start the process of setting up an interview unless they are told the wage, for the reason they “won’t leave the house for under $8.50 an hour.” After committing to an interview within the past 24 hours, fully 25 percent have not shown up and failed to provide the professional courtesy of a phone call. Only “one” person has been professional enough to call to cancel, and the reason provided was that it was raining and they didn’t wish to get wet. Being on time seems to be an issue as we are often told “I can ‘try’ and be there ‘around’ the scheduled time.” Dress is more than often not business casual, as would be expected.

Then there is the individual that arrived with a child who was left in a running vehicle. This person proved less than attentive as they proceeded to use their phone through the interview process. When the interviewer ended the interview due to the fact he did not have this person’s attention, he was then told to “F off” before the person left. Not to be left out is when we ask a person being interviewed to tell us about their work experience and what they feel they would bring to the job. On more than one occasion we are told they should get the job because they are entitled to it as a Caymanian, and feel they need to add nothing further other than “anyone could do this job.”

I fully believe that you can not and should not paint everyone with the same brush, and we are also very much aware that you have to do a lot of interviewing to find the right people. I must say however that given all that is said about how many people are looking for work and the concerns of employers hiring expats, it is more than shocking to live our reality of going through this process. There seems to be a lot of attitude and a complete disregard of business professionalism, a lack of interview preparation and poor resume preparation, with most being out of date including phone numbers that are out of service.

I imagine and am fearful of what will happen when we actually provide a start date and people are expected to show up on time and prepared to work. Our expectations are high, as they should be, and we will not open a new business that provides a poor customer experience for any reason, which includes poor work ethic of our team members.

We hope that we will not be further disappointed by the options provided in our commitment to hire local, but it should be noted that the process is anything but as easy as some would indicate. I believe if this situation is going to change there must be a good deal of training made available and, to be blunt, a change in the general attitude of some people looking for work. There are no free rides and there is no entitlement no matter where we are from, and throughout life there will always be somebody behind us to take the opportunity we failed to grab on to.

Let’s prepare the local workforce for the process. As a local employer I will personally step up to assist in the process if given the opportunity. The schools would be a great place to start.

Michael Allen
Buy $mart, Galleria Plaza


  1. I am reading in Mr Allen letter, that he advertised $10 . 00 per hour for entry level ” permanent jobs ” . How many permanent / full-time jobs would you have and need in the retail business ? Maybe management and departments heads . How come some applicants asked about pay , and some said they would not leave the house for less than $ 8. 50 per hour . I think that this sounds like you’re expecting to pay $ 10. 00 per hour and no way to move up and get more pay for management position , and minimum wage for part time help , but trying to make it sound like you’re trying to help Caymanians . I hope I get as many thumbs up on this comment as you got on the letter , because this is the most thumbs up I ever seen on any letter or comment .

    I think that this issue is some of the reasons why there’s a need for so many work permits needed in Cayman Islands , when some business are paying minimum wage , and the people can get a free hand out from Government and not have to work for it . I think that this is a very serious issue that the Government has on their hands , maybe Government should offer no free hand out , and people would take those minimum wage jobs.
    Did Mr Allen have a sign in sheet to show how many came to apply for jobs ?

  2. While I do sympathize with you Mr. Allen I wish to make it clear that the bad apples you have encountered on those job interviews are not all that are in the barrel so to speak, and although the saying goes “a few bad apples spoil the entire barrel” I can assure you the Cayman Islands do have a great many other extremely hard working and responsible apples (Caymanians) either already employed or currently seeking employment.

    As in every community and every nationality there will be bad apples which seem to stand out more prominently in a small community such as these tiny Islands…….I encourage you not to be discouraged from your attempts to “hire Caymanian” but to continue your efforts and should you require further reason to do so, kindly glimpse the article written on the young Caymanian just called to the Bar appearing alongside the editorial which I am replying to. This is the true reflection of what the Cayman spirit is all about, one which our hard working forefathers went to sea and tilled the ground for, whose sweat of their brow remains in the land you are now seeking to build your business on.

    I am quite aware of the right to freedom of speech and I know also that the press has the right to print what it so chooses but negative media such as this serves no purpose other than to rile tempers and destort opinions. I wish you every success in your future endeavors and blessings with your new business.

  3. The labor department should be very interested in this business hiring. It would be interesting to know how many individuals were referred via their office. I recently helped a young Caymanian to process through there, and that office is very professional, insuring the unemployed applicant has all the required documentations and eligibility. The Labor office would be a good place to start for any business seeking workers. Good luck with your business Mr. Allen

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