Recruiting is difficult. Not only does it take up your team’s valuable time and brainpower, but can also be really, really hard to find ‘the one’. That elusive person who will best fit the role, the team and the company culture.
As a small team that’s expanded pretty rapidly over the last two years, we’ve done (and are still doing) our fair share of recruiting, and have experienced both the highs and the lows that come with that.
In the hope of saving you some of those lows (and a whole whack of time), we’re sharing our process, complete with tips, hacks and some of the questions that have helped us find the best candidates without expending months and months of effort.
Stage 1: The First Application
A job seeker reads your job ad and clicks ‘apply’. What happens then? Whatever you do, don’t let them start sending their CVs yet.
You want to install systems that limit the number of applications you have to look at right from the start.
An online multi-step form (we use Google forms) is a good way to do this, as it allows you to filter the number of applications and organises all the important data in a neat table or spreadsheet, thereby saving you hours of review time.
Don’t be shy with the number and difficulty of questions either. As digital marketers we’re pre-programmed to make forms as frictionless as possible for our beloved user, but when it comes to recruitment, friction is your friend. If they’re not prepared to spend the time/effort on your application, do you really want them in your company?
Some of the questions we like to include in this form include:
- Questions that require yes or no answers
You can either give them a straight up quiz to ensure they really do know what they’re talking about, or you can ask a few of the questions they may have glossed over in the ‘requirements’ section.
- Do you have MORE than 3 years experience in this particular field?
- Can you code in SQL without supervision?
- Are you Google Adwords certified?
Not only do straight yes/no questions like these tend to rule out the chancers and tame the smooth talkers, but it also allows you to add a filter whereby only the candidates who answer certain questions correctly or get a certain score can continue with the application.
- Long form questions
If a candidate is not passionate enough about your company and the potential role to take a few minutes to answer these, they’re probably a non-starter.
We often ask questions to gauge enthusiasm, such as: ‘why are you perfect for the role? And’ is there anything else you’d like to tell us?’
Those who can only muster a sentence or two are not your prime candidates. Also: be ruthless about typos and spelling mistakes: they’re only going to get sloppier from here. Even techies and data junkies have MS word spell check.
Use this round of questions to seriously slash the numbers down.
Stage 2: Ask for a video submission
We’ve found that asking for a video application is a great way to get a good idea of the candidate before having to make contact with them.
It allows you to see how they communicate, read their body language, judge their energy and, most importantly, it gives them the chance to share a bit of their personality.
A recent study of 20,000 new hires found that of those who failed within the first year and a half, 89% failed as a result of being a poor cultural fit for the company and only 11% failed due to a lack of skill.
That’s why it’s really important to a good sense of the candidates’ personalities early on, and why it’s really important to ensure that their characters fit the company profile.
But don’t just ask, ask for proof. For example, learning and skills development forms a huge part of our own company culture.
Of course, everyone loves learning in theory, but do they walk the walk? We always ask them exactly what courses they’ve done in the last 12 months and how they’re currently upskilling themselves.
A final note on videos:
We once had a guy who had started out as a top candidate (great answers to first questions, outstanding CV, great experience) email us to ask how we wanted the video sent to us.
‘Any way you like’ we answered.
‘It’s a big file’ he said ‘ I don’t know how to send it, please tell me’
Needless to say, he was scratched from the list.
It’s not that he didn’t know how to file share (but, I mean, just Google it), it’s that he couldn’t think outside the box to solve his own problem. It’s small things like this that it’s good to find out before you have to spend the time meeting with them.
Stage 3: Skype interview
Yay. You’ve sifted through the prospective candidates and are left with only the nuggets of gold. Now you can schedule your first interview.
We prefer to do this on Skype, simply because it’s more convenient and you can quickly terminate the interview if you don’t like what you hear – something which saves you a lot of time and is very difficult to do when you meet them face to face.
Again, we prefer Skype video to a phone interview as the video component is more revealing.
In this interview we ask questions that test their preparation (how much do they know about your company that wasn’t in the job ad) as well as some more personal questions that showcase their character.
One of our favourite questions to ask is how they measure their own success. They shouldn’t have to think about this one. The best employees are goal-oriented and should already be setting personal goals for themselves in life and in work.
Also, don’t forget to ask them why they want to leave their current role, as well as what they want from your company/this position. Good candidates are picky; we like it when they grill us!
Phase 4: The Face-To-Face Interview (& Test)
You should be down to your top 2 or three candidates by now. For our final stage we like to let them meet the team, see the office, sit through a final interview and do a test.
Generally, we like to do it in that order, as meeting the team and an informal office tour helps people to relax and open up a bit.
For the interview itself, make sure to have the person / team they’ll be working most closely with present. If they are filling a role you already have, be sure to have that person present (as no one knows the role better than them).
We also find it’s best to mix the personal and professional questions (i.e. don’t ask in sections) as the changing between the two prevents answers becoming too rehearsed.
When they’re answering their questions, look out for enthusiasm, passion, drive and even a bit of competitiveness. Skills are easy to teach – passion is not.
Finally, once the interview is complete (and the team have taken a quick vote), we ask candidates to complete a timed test of some sort (depending on the role they’re applying for). It’s timed because this shows us how quickly they work, how they work under pressure and, of course, the finished product gives us an excellent idea of their level of skill.
Phase 5: The Outsider Opinion
We have a professional business coach who works with CleverClicks. She works with the business strategists on the direction and future of our company, and she also has coaching sessions with each individual employee to help them get the most out of their job, find their ideal work-life balance and strategize their ultimate career trajectory.
Because she knows our business and our employees so well, we like to hand our candidates over to her for a final opinion. The interview is conducted on Skype.
This important step provides us with professional opinion from someone who isn’t a member of the CleverClicks team, but still knows the business and the staff inside-out.
She assesses how she thinks the candidate will fit in with the company culture, the team and the role. She has a fantastic understanding of which personality types work best in each position and in the team, as well as a good idea of how the candidate will be able to serve the company, and how well CleverClicks will fit into their own plans and career goals.
Once we’ve consolidated all the information and got her opinion, we usually have a great idea of who will be the perfect fit.
As a bonus, here are a few of the questions we ask candidates, as well as what to look out for:
- What do you want to be doing in 3 years time?
Probe for detail here. Does the role they’re applying for fit into this plan? Does your company have room for them to grow the way they want? As a company you invest a lot in employees, so longevity of the relationship should be a major factor.
- Pitch [name of your company] to me as if I were an interested client.
This gives you an idea of their communication skills, shows how well they know your company, and reveals what they think your company’s strengths are.
- Tell me about your perfect day at work. A day when you got home and were like: ‘man, I love what I do’. What would you have done and what would have happened?
How well would the role they’re applying for fulfil this? Remember, you’re hiring for longevity. No candidate is going to stick around if they’re bored or unhappy (and staff turnover is a profitability killer).
- What would people who dislike you say about you?
This is a spin on the old ‘what are your weaknesses’ question, but people tend to be able to answer it better when answering it on behalf of someone else. Also, it gives you an idea of how honest they’re prepared to be with you.
- Tell us about a time you were under pressure at work. How did you handle it?
This shows you what they consider to be ‘under pressure’ – a very subjective concept. It also gives you an idea of their coping mechanisms and how they approach problems.
- What learning / personal growth have you undertaken in the last 12 months?
It could be ballroom dancing and conversational Danish for all we care, but we’ve found that the best employees have curious minds.
- What work and life achievement are you most proud of?
The answer to this will tell you a lot about their values and achievements and gives them a chance to show off a bit.
- Tell me about your family.
This question is surprisingly revealing. It often gives you a great sense of what formed their character, who their earliest role models were and what they had to overcome to become the person they are today.
- What makes you truly happy?
There’s no better question for determining what the person’s values are and what matters most to them in both personal and professional life.
- Please critique our website.
This is a sneaky one, but you’ve got the creme de la creme of the candidates here – why not pick their brains and have them suggest ways you can improve? Free advice never gets old.
Obviously, it also showcases their digital marketing knowledge and this question tends to apply across the board – whether it’s a designer, programmer, copywriter, SEO expert or even a project manager.
Mostly, though, it’s really interesting seeing how they deliver criticism. For most people this is a social minefield and it’s interesting to see how they navigate it.
Remember, recruiting will always be a very personal and fluid process, but we hope that this has given you a few new ideas. This system has worked best for us so far (and has landed us our current team, who – we’ve got to admit – are pretty frikken awesome).
It’s a work in progress and always will be, but we hope that by sharing we’ve helped you avoid some of the mistakes we made in the beginning.
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