Ditch the Resumes: How This CEO Hires Better
Not having a formal business education (I was an English lecturer at a community college back in the day), the weakest part of my processes has always been hiring. I knew it every single time we expanded. I knew when the candidates we interviewed were wasting our time and theirs. I knew it when I had employment troubles — especially if the employees weren’t on board with the way I was steering the trip.
Over twenty years of hiring hundreds of people and managing thousands of volunteers in my endeavors, I’ve learned a thing or two and I want to share them here.
Step 1: Look inward first
Whenever we had issues, the advice was always to hire someone that knew better — but the thing I really came to understand was YOU have to know better to hire someone better. All the startup people will tell you different, but I bet you they had their share of damaging flops while they tried to do that. So . . . educate yourself. Know how to spot those people who know more than you and recognize that they won’t hold you responsible for knowing less.
A lot of times, I’ve found I can avoid a hire by looking at my team and what they do best and finding that they can take on the role we need (as long as we shift something to someone else as well to lessen the burden). Our company doesn’t hire for positions higher up — we generally hire people and work their positions out with what our highest need is at the company at any given time so that role can change repeatedly.
Step 2: The job description
Once you’ve determined that you actually need this hole filed, and you don’t have the right person to do it, you’ve got to do the job description. And this shouldn’t be a chore, you should putting every ounce of yourself and your company culture into this thing — if you want the best people you can afford, show them you are going to make it worth their while.
What does that include?
- A career page: It’s super long winded but that’s by design. If you read that, you’ll know what you’re in for and you’ll tailor your application accordingly. What it specifically calls out: what makes us different employers than the usual, any employer awards we’ve earned, a general focus on what we look at from a high level, and an overview of the hiring process. Not everyone will read it, but if they’re the type to care, there you are.
- The job description: This is a big one for me — everything in a job description matters. We do a lot of story telling that sets the right person up and keep it free of jargon (but we try to make our workplace like that, too). Some key elements: what the job will be like day to day, what job responsibilities and/or accountabilities will be, very specific requirements, salary, time requirements and benefits. Equal opportunity hiring statement.
- Application button.
A couple things to also look out for if you’re trying your very best: sexist or dog whistle language (like rockstar, ninja, family)and make sure your requirements do not weed out applicants needlessly (Does this person REALLY need to be able to lift 50 pounds? Does this person REALLY require a driver’s license? Do they REALLY need 5 years’ recent experience or a college degree, and why?).
Step 3: The Application
The next step is as simple or as complicated as you need it to be and I need to pause to acknowledge that I got this system from Katya Sarmiento, so if you like my version, go buy hers to get set up.
- In your application form, ask for only the basics. We debate whether to allow a spot for resumes or not all the time, people feel better when they upload a resume, but our process really doesn’t allow for that if it’s working right. BUT, right in the middle, ask for a keyword that you’ve put in your job requirements. Like, right in the list, it will say “The code word is FLAMBOYANT.” And they have to either remember it or take the second to go back and find it. If they can’t do that, nope, thanks and goodnight. You’d be surprised how many have this happen to them. We have a Zapier (Hey look, here’s an article I wrote for them!)setup with Google sheets/forms to automatically detect if they fail or not. If they do not fail, then we use our management software (Asana) to get put into our HR records/hiring process. It will automatically email them the assessment with instructions and letting them know they have however many days to complete or we assume they don’t want the job.
- If they pass the first test, we send out a really detailed assessment that has been altered a bit from the one I reference above (go buy her system, you literally have no reason not to). It’s basic components are: An introduction to our company for context, instructions for how to proceed, and then the assessment. Design it so it really should only take someone competent about 20–30 minutes to do. The detail orientation tests are: can they make a copy, make it shareable, rename it, and answer it in a specific color? Cool. Then we have assessment tests that could be a real workplace scenario where they describe their choices, to what their favorite recipe is and why (we use this one to look for people who like mundane work, if they’re bakers or they have really thought out reasons for liking tiny steps, that’s a keeper in that case). We have a spot for them to ask questions, and a spot for them to leave a joke or meme — and absolutely interviews get landed if a meme lands with our hiring people. And finally, a timer so we can see how long it took — so that way we know how hard they were trying and the context of the other stuff lets us know if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Step 4: Filtering
So now all you have to do is go through these assessments. The people that peaced out won’t be mad about their time and energy with you. The people that do it will have decided it was worth it (and honestly, most thank us in the question section because it’s fun, different, and showcases our values really well). It will be very easy to find your “hell yeses” in there and turn down the others. In Asana, it’s as simple as us selecting “turn down” as a status and Zapier will email them a gracious note and move their file into the archives.
If they submit their assessment, Asana assigns it to the hiring manager and gives them 5 business days to look. We literally don’t look at the application, or even the name — were we able to open the file (there’s always a few), did they change the title, did the answer in the right color? Cool, then let’s move on to the questions.
THIS IS THE SECRET SAUCE — THE RUBRIC
You can’t do the assessment without also doing the rubric — aka, answering the questions yourself how you’d like to see them answered. Doing this sets a baseline for what you’re looking for so you can confidently weed out weak responses or even strong responses that don’t fit with the way you like to have people do business.
Sometimes you’ll get someone that answers way better than you imagined and you have your “hell yes!” right there — schedule the interview!
Again, be ruthless with these and turn them down if you get any “meh” at all — if you have only “meh” you misstepped on one of these things, or didn’t post it in the right places.
So there you have our hiring and screening process. We can move onto interviews and job offers, but that’s for another time.
If you liked this — leave a message of support, follow me, and I can continue with our interview process or whatever else interests you!