We all understand the importance of a process to achieve certain defined goals in our company. For instance, the sales pipeline process is well understood and frameworks such as “Predictable Revenue” have been adopted successfully to build sales teams and achieve targets. When it comes to our hiring, we also have cues of sound processes from larger dynamic companies as well as recruiting experts. However, surprisingly, many of the small and growing companies that I encounter lack a defined hiring process and have not put in place on objective steps to decide on a candidate. How many times have you started with “I have a good feeling about this one” and realized you made a mistake because of certain basic discords between the role and the person? Through an example below, I will outline our own hiring process step by step, which will reduce the guesswork and lead to consistent decisions, whether its made by you or your HR manager. As you go through our company’s four step process below, use it as a framework to write down questions of your own for each step, and make sure you include them (where appropriate) in your application process:
We are a web software company where customers mostly sign-up for an online trial and interact over email and chat with your support team. And we were looking to hire a customer happiness rep. We could have posted the job on 5-6 boards, made a generic push, or gone super specific and looked at LinkedIn profiles one by one. But we started with the following questions: a) What are the most important qualities we are looking for? Answer: 1. Empathy, 2. Technical troubleshooting skills, 3. Great written & verbal skills, and 4. pride in the customer support role (loves doing it) b) By when do we need to hire this person? Answer: 2-4 weeks c) Do we need this candidate in our office in San Francisco or can they be equally productive if remote? Answer: Remote Based on this, the best odds for us to run into such as person would be on a board like: weworkremotely.com. We ONLY posted the job there and got 120 applications over two weeks.
To shortlist from these 120 applications we needed an objective process to test for our four stated requirements. We added two questions to our application form to test for: a) technical troubleshooting: applicants were asked to signup for our trial and tell us how to do one specific action on our software. It was not too easy but not too difficult either. b) Written/Verbal: We could assess the written based on their response to the above, and we also requested a video clip explaining why they would be a great fit. If they made the cut based on the above two, then we would take it to the interview and test for c) empathy and d) pride in customer support role It is crucial to have this criteria defined before you begin screening candidates.
I set up the intial interview over Skype and we chatted about their current/previous roles and their motivation for future roles. In the interview, there were two specific questions: a) For empathy: I asked them how they would go about selecting a gift for a friend’s upcoming birthday. (its interesting how non-obvious and different the answers were!) My motivation was to understand how they think about other people. Some folks focused on what is important to the other person whereas some folks stumbled on their own ability to make choices. b) Pride in role: A lot of folks shared stories about how they had made a customer happy. This was super important to them. Others shared about how they were apt at understanding tools and solutions. This is related to the point above, but what was important to us is to learn that they deeply cared about the impact their role had, not just the fact that they could execute it well. This depends on one’s company culture, but having customer service folks that draw energy from their work leads to a very superior experience for your customers. These examples have to be noted in your interview notes (ideally within your applicant tracking software) so your team members have some data about what separates one applicant from another. I realize there was no question in this point, but it is an observation.
Having another team member / manager do a shorter interview with folks who cleared all four requirements is super valuable in either validating your assumptions or questioning your evaluation of the four qualities. Even for this interview, you should have internal questions that you need to evaluate. For us, the only gray area in the above four qualities was pride in role. So a team evaluation provided some new perspective or observation on our final pool of candidates. Hiring for different positions at different companies can be quite diverse and full of exceptions, but defining the steps of the pipeline through questions leads to a more objective process.