If I had to guess, I’d say that your hiring process goes something like this: you throw a job posting on Craigslist, Monster, Indeed or LinkedIn and expect people to come through. You go through a bunch of resumes, call up some of the better candidates, then invite your favorites to an interview. You might even do some reference checks, and then you make the job offer right there.
I think most of us can agree that there are ways we can improve this incredibly-important-but-quickly-becoming-outdated hiring process.
So how do you make this old way better? Let’s talk about the concept of trial week.
Most companies do a 3-month trial, but trial week is even more high stakes. Have your final candidates come in and work for you for a week. Put them on your team and see how they work, interact and communicate.
Basecamp does something very similar for hiring. After looking at resumes, they interview candidates using Skype. And they take their time with these chats. Let’s say you’re at a conference or you’re traveling—you chat for a bit, then travel a little, then a couple hours later you can come back and continue the conversation. It’s not even like you’re driving them through an interview process; it’s more like a long email chain, just through Skype.
When it seems like there’s a fit, they move a candidate into a trial week.
After the interview process, they might say, “Hey, we’ll pay you for a small project.” This lets Basecamp continue to evaluate all the small nuances of a candidate, like how well they communicate with your team, how well they do their work, how well they fit with the culture, etc. They also compensate these people so they’re not wasting their time.
When we put somebody through trial week, we think about how they are as a fit within our team. Just because somebody produces great work doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a long-term fit. If they’re annoying, even if they do the work well, they’re not the right fit. If they spend all their time thinking about themselves, their output and their performance rather than the goals of the team, they’re not the right fit.
Now let’s say we’re looking for a PPC person. We’ll run them through an interview process, talk to them a little bit, and then we’ll give them read-only access to an ads account and ask things like, “What would you fix about this? What opportunities do you see? What are we missing out on?”
We want to see if this person can open our minds up a little more, if they’re going to teach us something, and if they actually know what they’re talking about. Because there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in marketing interviews.
Let’s say you’re looking to hire an operations person. You can run them through a situational interview with a trial week. You can also have them do the actual work. Maybe have them look at your P&L or your balance sheet and have them make some recommendations. Give them some homework, too.
I’ll outline all the situations to a candidate and ask them, “What would you do here?” Then, afterwards, “Based on this, what kind of project do you think you can work on where we can evaluate whether you’re a fit or not?”
The tricky part is figuring out the right workload balance. You want to have people complete projects that show their true skills. But at the same time, you don’t want to make it too extensive since a lot of people that you’re interviewing have full-time jobs. In some cases we’ve found really good people, but they don’t have the time to work on projects.
All in all, I can’t stress to you how important trial week is. Just recently, I almost made a mistake in hiring. This person did really well on the video interview and wrote an in-depth PowerPoint presentation. Then we put him through trial week and the communication skills were just not there. There were a lot of different issues.
We avoided hiring someone that looked really good on paper but wasn’t actually the right fit thanks to the trial week process we had in place.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:
This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.
Take a look at some of the biggest, most valuable companies in the world — companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook.
Most people say their success is due to luck, and that “not everyone can be like Mark Zuckerberg.”
The truth is, one of the biggest reasons why they all became massively successful is because they hired the right people early on.
For example, take Larry Schwimmer, one of Google’s early software engineers. He built an internal tool called “Google Snippets” to keep operations efficient during their period of explosive growth.
Mark Zuckerberg hired rockstars like Chris Hughes, who served as Facebook’s spokesman and eventually went on to run social networking components for the Obama campaign.
If you have the right process for sourcing, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding world-class team members, you’ll vastly increase the chances that your business will be a massive success.
But if you don’t, the consequences could be pretty severe.
A bad hire could cost your company over $50,000.
And in the time it takes to look for someone new, you’ll have to deal with lost productivity, the cost to train a new employee, the cost to recruit a new employee, negative impact on the morale of other top-performing employees, and a whole host of other issues.
In this post, we’ll show you how to build a world class team — from sourcing high-quality candidates to seamless onboarding.
Before you can start recruiting the best people who can help your company grow to the next level, you have to get clear on what you can offer them.
After all, you’ll most likely be competing with big companies in your space for top talent. In the tech industry, this is definitely the case: A-players will have offers on the table from brands like Google or Facebook.
How do you stack up against them?
There are a few things to keep in mind when attracting the right talent:
If you’re a smaller company trying to compete against bigger brands for top talent, then chances are you’re not going to beat them when it comes to salary, benefits, or other “tangible” perks.
You’ll have to focus more on the intangibles. And one of the biggest intangibles is your company mission — i.e. why you do what you do.
It’s important to nail down what your business does, why you’re different, and why anybody should care. It’s the same thing you’d need to close any deal and hiring is no different.
For example, at Single Grain, we have a statement on what differentiates us right on our home page:
Once you’ve got that down, you can move on to constructing the foundation of your entire hiring process — your hiring funnel.
You probably have some sort of marketing funnel when selling products for your business. Through that funnel, you have ways of measuring your conversion rate, your drop-off at each step, and more.
You can apply the same concept to your hiring process.
By creating a hiring funnel, you can systematize your process for getting new hires on board and turn it into a repeatable, scalable model instead of a random process that feels very scattered.
For example, this is the hiring funnel we use at Single Grain:
At the first step, we’re focused on finding the right candidates. This means tapping our network for referrals and putting up job ads to get a wide range of qualified applicants.
The next step is to screen applicants. This way, you can eliminate “résumé blasters” and other unqualified applicants from your hiring funnel, and push the more serious candidates forward. When you post a job ad, you can expect to get a large number of candidates who are unqualified or aren’t actually serious about working for you.
A simple way to do this is by making candidates follow some sort of direction when submitting their application. For example, when hiring for an SEO position, we might ask candidates to write “SEO is cool” in the subject line of their cover letter. Those who don’t will get disqualified. This is a quick way to eliminate the vast majority of applications you get, and focus on the serious candidates.
From there, we’ll interview candidates, make an offer, and go through with onboarding.
Here’s how you can run through some of the major parts of this process on your own to build a team of world-class employees.
Your core values set the foundation for your entire hiring process. It helps inform the type of candidates you want to hire, your company culture, the type of interview questions you ask them, and what you expect from them after they come on board.
Some entrepreneurs think “culture” means having a cool office, bean bags, and a casual dress code. In reality, culture is much deeper than that. Culture is made up of the personality traits that everyone in your company has that drive your company forward.
Read More: The Statistical Case for Company Culture [infographic]
Image source: Growth Everywhere
For example, at Single Grain, we value the following traits:
These values determine who to hire, fire, and what to prioritize within the company.
Having strong core values is much more important when you’re hiring remote workers. Because you can’t see them working throughout the day to make sure they’re engaged, it’s important that they have the right core values so you can trust that they’re doing good work and contributing to your business.
Here are Twilio’s core values as another example:
They value things like:
Those are just some examples of team qualities that might fit well with companies that are looking to grow quickly. You should never copy another company’s core values, but checking out others’ values can be a great source of inspiration for your own business.
Here are a couple of key things to think about when creating your core values:
Here’s a video where we talk more about how to create core values for your business:
When looking for new candidates to hire, one of the biggest things business owners look for are credibility markers.
That can mean respectable companies that a candidate has worked for in the past, results they got for a previous employer, and so on. One of the best ways to “shortcut” your way to finding credible candidates is by tapping other trusted people in your network.
By using tools like LinkedIn, you can quickly search the connections of other people you respect in your network to see if they’d be willing to make a referral.
For example, let’s take Tony Conrad — a pretty credible figure in the world of startups / venture capital.
Let’s say I wanted to tap his network to find a new content marketer. I could scroll down on his LinkedIn profile and search a key phrase that represents what I’m looking for. These results are what I got after searching for “content marketing strategist”:
If I wanted to, I could click through to each profile that seemed appealing, and make a note of the people who have the appropriate level of experience.
From there, you can reach out to your “credible” connection to see if they’d be willing to refer you to the list you narrowed down. Here are a couple of templates we recommend using:
If your connection is a friend of yours, here’s an e-mail template you can use:
I hope all is well. We’re looking for a Paid Advertising Manager and it looks like you have a few good connections on LinkedIn.
Who do you think is exceptional in this list?
[LIST OF NAMES]
If your connection is an acquaintance or someone you don’t know that well, you can use an e-mail template like the following:
I hope all is well! I wanted to reach out because I’m looking for a [JOB TITLE] to help with [RESPONSIBILITIES]. This would mainly involve [TASKS]. Do you know of anyone who might be interested?
Thanks in advance!
Learn More: Forced Hiring: An Amazingly Effective Way To Find The Best Hires
Writing a good job description is like writing good marketing copy.
If you write bad copy for, say, your website’s landing page, you might not get any opt-ins. Or worse, the opt-ins you get might be from customers who won’t buy. By writing an effective job description, you’ll boost the chances that you’ll get the right applicants for your business.
If you write a poor job description, you might be left with a flood of low-quality applicants that will just waste your and your team’s time.
Here’s an example of a job description we wrote at Single Grain for a junior marketing manager position:
Notice the key elements we included in this job description:
Job descriptions like these help you narrow down serious, qualified candidates who might be a good fit for your business.
One of the simplest things you can do to get high-quality candidates directly from your own audience is publish a blog post about it.
Buffer does this really well — check out this blog post they wrote that outlines how they hire. In the post, they outline the key characteristics that make a candidate a great fit for the company:
At the end of the post, they include a link to their “careers” page to anyone who’s interested.
While this post helps inform other entrepreneurs and business owners how Buffer hires, the post also helps Buffer attract higher quality, more targeted candidates.
At Single Grain, we did something similar — when we were hiring, we wrote a blog post with all the roles and corresponding job descriptions and optimized it as we would with a regular blog post in order to reach a wider audience.
Once you have a pool of candidates to choose from, you can start narrowing them down even further by creating more “hoops” to jump through.
You might decide to give your candidates a test. For example, if you’re hiring for a marketing position, you might ask them to analyze your site or a competitor’s site, and ask them what they’d do to improve it.
Tasks like these:
Giving candidates a “trial project” might be especially helpful in hiring remote workers. By watching how they work on the trial task (including the work quality, how they communicate with you, etc.) you can get a sense of how they work on their own.
After you’ve narrowed down your pool of applicants, you can start pushing candidates to the interview stage to further assess whether they’d be a good fit.
Many companies prioritize technical skill when looking at what candidates to hire for a given position. But here’s what the data shows:
In other words, the qualities that companies screen for the most in their hiring process are usually the least important when it comes to employee success.
That’s why it’s important to hire for attitude, in addition to skill. Interviews are the perfect place to gauge whether a candidate has the right attitude to excel at your company.
Here are some questions you might ask to get a feel for their attitude and motivations:
You should also make sure that you get an adequate understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
Steli Efti from Close.io uses a tactic of his own to get to the core of an employee’s honest weaknesses, while also giving them an honest understanding of his company’s weaknesses.
At a certain point in the interview process, he asks candidates to discourage him from wanting to work with them, while he tries to discourage candidates from wanting to work with his company.
By going back and forth this way, both sides are able to get an “insider’s look” into each other’s weaknesses, so that there aren’t any surprises six months down the line. He talks about it more in this 20-minute video:
If you’re looking to grow your company quickly, it’s important that you assemble a team of self starters who are obsessive about personal and professional growth. Here are some questions you could ask to get a feel for whether your candidates are growth-oriented:
Here’s a more comprehensive list of questions you could ask in interviews that can give you insight into a candidate’s priorities, leadership abilities, how they work in a team, how they solve problems, and more.
Learn More: 150 Sample Interview Questions for Every Startup
Just like any software product, effective onboarding is one of the biggest keys to retaining employees for the long term.
This is more important now than ever before. In fact, 21% of millennials have switched jobs in the last year. And over 50% of them did so in their first year of employment with a company. In an age where A-players have multiple options to choose from, proper onboarding is crucial.
Many companies have an informal onboarding process. In other words, employees are left to figure out the ropes of their new role on their own. But without proper onboarding, employees can often feel undervalued and overwhelmed.
According to Wagepoint, your onboarding program should address a few key areas:
Only 20% of businesses hit all four of these requirements in their onboarding process.
Effective employee onboarding is one of the most crucial elements to generating high levels of retention, yet most businesses don’t give it adequate attention.
But if you put a priority on making sure that your employees feel properly onboarded, you can increase the likelihood that your business can be one of the few that keeps employees around for the long term.
Building a world class team that sticks with you for the long term is a combination of a variety of things — like starting with a proper hiring funnel, sourcing quality candidates, conducting interviews and screening employees in the right way, and ultimately giving them a high-quality onboarding experience.
What will you do differently the next time you need to hire someone new? Leave your response in the comments below.