How to design a hiring process that you would want to go through
October 22, 2019 / Startup / Greg Atkinson
If you were joining your company again today, would you want to go through your hiring process? If the answer is no, it’s time for a change.
The hiring process is a journey of discovery for companies and candidates. Hiring managers strive to fill open positions with the best talent, which can take months, and require reviewing hundreds of CVs, scheduling countless interviews, and tracking every step of the process. And for applicants, the process of submitting a CV in a different format for every company, going through multiple interviews for each, and often travelling or taking time off from their existing jobs to do so is no picnic. All too often, the process can feel like an ordeal to survive, rather than an opportunity for companies and people to grow.
Like any meeting, first impressions matter. While you are forming early opinions and fact finding, it is important to remember that the other party is doing the same. A successful hiring process needs to blend the DNA of the company with that of the candidate, with a focus on their values, mission, and purpose, as well as the benefits the candidate will receive in return for their work and commitment to the company.
As a young start-up, we recognised the need for a thoughtful and engaging talent acquisition process. Martyna, our Head of People, interviewed individuals in the startup community, including our existing team, to get feedback on the hiring processes they had previously experienced, and their vision for an ideal process. Because inclusion is one of our core values, and women are often underserved by standard hiring processes, Martyna spent a lot of time interviewing women in particular. This has allowed us to generate a process which better acknowledges the need to consciously think about inclusivity and diversity.
This manifests itself in a hiring process we feel you (and we) would want to go through:
1) Create inspiring job descriptions
The hiring process starts the moment a candidate reads one of your job descriptions. The hiring process is not exclusively owned by the company: rather, the first choice (to apply or not) sits with the candidate. To maximise the probability that strong candidates will choose to apply, create job descriptions that articulate:
- What is expected and required to succeed in the role.
- The culture of the company, what you are here to achieve, and who you serve.
- How successful applicants will be rewarded (financially, intellectually, socially, etc.) by accepting your offer.
When thinking about skill requirements, be explicit about which skills are need-to-have versus nice-to-have. Many candidates, often women, do not apply for jobs unless they have all of the “required” skills, so an overspecified job description can actively deter qualified individuals from applying. Use inspiring, gender inclusive, and engaging language: we are big fans of text analysis tools that help to identify unconscious bias, but also recommend testing your job descriptions with women and other members of historically under-represented groups to get additional feedback. Use a consistent template across all of your job descriptions to create a unified experience for candidates looking at multiple openings. And finally, offer hiring managers clear guidelines for updating and creating job descriptions.
2) Pre-screen your candidates once
Data shows that 36% of companies can take as long as 4-8 weeks to hire and 27% say it can take as long as 8-12 weeks, which is expensive, and comes at an opportunity cost. Each candidate should only require one screening call, which should at least cover:
- Confirmation that the candidate applied
- An overview of the company and the role
- Validation of the critical elements of the CV
- Validation that the salary range is acceptable to the candidate
- An understanding of the candidate’s expectations of their next employer
- Confirmation of the candidate’s legal ability to work in the required location
- An understanding of the candidate’s reasoning for shifting jobs
- Clarification of the candidate’s starting window, including any required leave notice for their current employer
- Questions from the candidate
- An explanation of the hiring steps that will follow
3) Conduct a technical interview with a task
At this stage you are quantifiably assessing the candidate’s ability to fulfil the role. Aim to leave the interview with a clear knowledge of whether this person should be given an offer, pending the results of non-technical interviews. Ask questions designed to clarify whether the candidate has the required skills and experience. If questions are not sufficient to achieve this, ask the candidate to perform a short task before the interview that provides an opportunity to showcase their skills in a practical environment, and allow shy or introverted individuals to shine in a way that an interview alone might make difficult. Tasks outside the interview should take no longer than 2 hours; tasks longer than this should be paid, to signal respect for the candidate’s time. Conduct the interview with a member of the team he or she might be joining.
4) Conduct a values based interview
“Cultural fit” interviews are often a thinly disguised opportunity to implement bias in hiring. If you’re using broad, subjective standards to answer the question of “Is this person a good fit for our culture,” you will inevitably hire people that look like you, speak like you, and have similar backgrounds to you. A values-based interview should explicitly seek to understand whether a candidate shares the values of the company, and provide evidence that demonstrates this. For the candidate, this should equally be an opportunity to understand whether the company shares their values.
For each value, try to understand: how the candidate interprets that value, how they have practically demonstrated it in the past, and how they want to exercise it in the company (should they be hired). Asking detailed questions about past experiences is critical here, as candidates asked only about hypothetical situations will often present a combination of what they think you want to hear, and what they think they would do under ideal conditions. Conduct this interview with someone in the business who will not directly manage or work alongside this hire, to further reduce bias. And no matter how junior the role, remember that hires may be, or may someday become, managers, so uncovering attitudes towards coaching and mentoring are critical in every values-based interview.
5) Determine success using evidence, and consistent standards
Create a scoring spectrum which is fit for both the role and the organisation. This ensures a fair process for all applicants and a fair decision no matter who runs the process. For each interview and task, determine the dimensions that must be evaluated (e.g. content knowledge, or leadership). It should span the basic ability to fulfil the role through to the ability to exceed and lead others in the position.
For each dimension, establish a scale from 1-5, with a short, clear, evidence-based description for each rating, ensuring that the scale includes a full spectrum of possibilities (e.g. from “cannot demonstrate or provide evidence of this skill” to “is a recognised thought leader on topics related to this skill”). When evaluating candidates against each dimension, it is important that the rating process be discussed with at least one other person who was present, and that there be at least one evidence point that corresponds with the evidence-based description for that rating.
6) Run a quick, well-planned, and transparent process
Before beginning the hiring process, be clear about the time window in which the job will be advertised, and be transparent about this to candidates if possible. At each stage of the process, inform candidates about where they are in the process, and how long they should expect to wait before the next decision is taken. This will: give candidates emotional comfort and confidence that the company is a well-run ship; reduce the chance that a candidate will take a job with a different company due to confusion about timelines; and force the company to make a choice amongst the available candidates, rather than holding an endless open call for CVs.
At all stages of any hiring process mindfulness is key. Adequately prepare for the process. Have a basic understanding of who is sitting in front of you during interviews, and ensure an appropriate interview environment. Be aware of signs of stress, and give candidates time to breathe if necessary.
Ultimately, hiring is a two way street for companies and new hires. A well-designed hiring process should excite interviewers and candidates alike. As your company grows and your culture evolves, it is important to regularly collect feedback from candidates to understand what worked well and what didn’t, so that your process continuously improves.
P.S. If you’re reading this and looking for your next role, we are hiring. So if you’ve got relevant skills, please drop us an application, and you can experience the process we’ve designed and let us know what you think.