A lot of work goes into hiring and it’s not easy. Taking a cue from “speed dating,” in which several potential “matches” review one another over the course of one evening, “speed hiring” lets you minimize the effort it takes to determine if there is a fit by actually working with your best prospects before you hire them.
Since 2009, our company Gravity Switch has relied exclusively on speed hiring to find new employees. This process allows us to save time on the pre-hire activities that don’t really make a difference in the long run. It also helps keep our expenses down (it’s costly to keep an employee who’s not the “right fit”).
Here’s how it works:
1. Define the position
The better you understand (and can articulate) who you need to join your team, the better results you will get when you search for them. Sounds obvious, but it’s worth reminding yourself of this when it’s time to write your next job description.
Create a compelling job description with clear directions on how to apply. We’ve found it best to keep job descriptions as broad as possible, while still honestly conveying what the position entails. This helps you attract a lot of smart people with lower risk of missing a potential “great fit” who might not have applied if you were too narrow with your description.
2. Publicize the position
A great job description is worthless if you don’t post it where your ideal candidates are going to be looking. Based on your location and type of business, you’ll have to experiment with the options available (e.g. local paper, popular jobs websites, announcing it to your contact list, etc.). We have had the best success with Craigslist and so now that’s the only online site we use.
3. Review applicants for the elimination pass
Before you start your first round of processing applicants, you need to decide your baseline criteria and figure out how you will review them. We’ve adopted the practice of only reviewing cover letters in the first pass because we believe you can tell more about someone by the way they write in narrative than you can with resume bullet points. We quickly sort them by "yes", "no", and "maybe," and reject anyone who doesn't follow directions (e.g. if they don’t include salary expectations—which we also always ask for—or if they skipped the cover letter).
4. Take a closer look at the “yes” and “maybe” pile
After your initial assessment, review again and dig into the resumes too (if you haven’t already). Here, you’re examining candidates in more detail to further prune your A-list.
5. Interview, “speed date” style
This is where the speed dating part really comes in. Set up lots of 15 minute interviews with your top candidates. As a point of reference, we usually get about 80-120 applicants and meet with 20-35 people in the course of two to three days. It’s important to be wholly committed to interviewing during the timeframe you set so you don’t lose momentum, and so the details of what makes someone great (or not great) for your company stay fresher in your mind.
To set expectations, tell candidates that the first round of interviews will be “speed-date” style. The truth is you don’t need more than 15 minutes to get a feel for someone. But it’s plenty of time for you to easily rule out more than half the people because a number of things become clear: They are not a good fit for your team, they seem better suited for a different position than the one you have open, or they don’t have the level of experience that you thought you saw, and so on.
6. Interview again, but better
In the spirit of speed dating, take a non-traditional approach to your second interviews too. Get candidates involved in “a real work assignment” so you can see what they’ve got and whether you were on the right track when you thought they’d be a fit.
For Gravity Switch, that “real work assignment” varies based on the position as well as our project load. It can be a short-term paid gig in some cases. Or, in the case of an open design position we had, we invited our top candidates to participate in a half-day power design session. Another time, we had candidates join us for a brainstorming and problem-solving session. You can improvise based on your own needs.
You’re not looking for the candidates to get every answer right or come up with the best design. But you do want to see how they interact with your team and the value of what they contribute.
7. Make a “trial” offer
Now you know who you want. You’re excited to have found them and the feeling is mutual. At offer time, it’s easy to get swept away in that excitement. But it’s important to stay grounded and remember to be up front about expectations.
You’ll want to give them every chance to succeed by telling them what you’re expecting of them in order for it to work out. Many companies call the first two to three months of a new-hire’s tenure a “trial period” since it’s a chance for you and your candidate to figure out if it’s a longer term fit.
With speed-dating, you stop talking about what it would be like and experience a date, of sorts. With speed-hiring, you stop analyzing data to try to forecast what it might be like. Instead, you get to work with them sooner and see for yourself what it is like.
OPEN Cardmember Jason Mark is an educator, business owner, and author. As one of the first dozen professors of website design in the country, his lectures and workshops dynamically cater to all user levels. His company, Gravity Switch, works with higher education and innovative businesses and is the top agile web development firm in New England. Follow him on Twitter, @jasonmark.
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