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Archive for October, 2009

Improve your Company’s Interview and Applicant Selection Process

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s an understatement to say our team spends a lot of our time thinking about hiring and recruiting. Over the last decade we’ve gained experience by heading recruiting companies and corporate recruiting departments, which eventually lead us to start a company that builds recruiting software. Team building has always been an integral piece of our experience.

When we started our first company an important piece of advice we got was to develop a detailed selection process. This process involved creating a framework to evaluate our applicants efficiently and rapidly to keep up in an extremely competitive market. We even enlisted the help of an industrial psychologist to streamline our interview process, which still works today.

One thing we’ve noticed is that most of our customers are also in very difficult environments for finding good people. Engineers, IT guys, sales stars, marketing masters and various other talent is hard to come by. In addition, the recovering economy makes this pool of top talent even smaller than usual.

So how do you make your hiring process more efficient? First, get your hands on some simple and amazingly efficient applicant tracking software.

Second, start interviewing smarter. It is clear that finding the top talent is becoming harder and harder, so you need to adapt. Instead of only looking to increase your hiring throughput, try to build on the skill-sets of current employees to increase their value. Think of it like a baseball team’s farm system, structured to build talent over the long run. A well run interview process won’t only prevent bad hires, but it will also prepare for a long tail recruiting efficiency.

We practice creating simulations of real-world situations during our interviews to reduce the risk of bad hires and also to allow us to measure a candidate’s ability to adapt. Overall, there are three key characteristics and metrics that that we often refer to during interviews:

Start with Ability

Obviously, if the potential candidate does not possess the ability to do the job at hand, none of their other qualities matter. It doesn’t matter if this person can fit into the corporate culture or the long term picture if they aren’t able to complete the task at hand. There is no point in wasting your time, as well as the candidates’, if they can’t pass the test of basic requirements for the job. That is why we always start with a measure of the candidate’s ability, which most often is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Move onto Talent

Talent is most often gauged through posing problem solving situations to the candidate and seeing how they react. This will tell us how this person’s skill set can be optimized for our company’s long term objectives, like scaling a product or expanding to new vertical arenas.

Finish with Character (last but not least)

If a candidate is extremely skilled, has all the abilities to complete the job, and fits into a company’s long term objectives, they would seem like a shoe-in. However, if their character doesn’t jive with your management practices and work culture, they shouldn’t be a sure hire. Character is symbiotic with employee retention: employees that don’t fit in, probably won’t last.

Some ways to measure character are interview questions that test a person’s behavioral and psychological disposition. The person’s responses can be measured not only with the content of their answer, but also on their delivery (body language, inflection, etc.)

Even if you have the best tools in the recruiting business, your interview process needs to be polished to make good hires. This ‘balance’ between an efficient process and wise assessment requires training, feedback and strategy on all fronts.

Top 5 Ways to Organize your Small Business

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

blackboardRunning a small business or start up can be a daunting task because most of the primary day to day responsibilities often fall on the shoulders of one or two owners.  There are a multitude of tasks to keep track of, including accounting, hiring, marketing, financial forecasts and deadlines for clients.   Sometimes, it can be overwhelming for one person to juggle so many different tasks simultaneously.

I’d like to take a moment to go over several simple tools and methods to help small business owners keep track of and prioritize the various tasks involved in operations.

1.   Use a Whiteboard

Whether it’s a whiteboard, blackboard, bulletin board, or a simple notepad, try to keep a weekly log of primary tasks up front and center.  While there are a plethora of online programs and tools for organizing daily/weekly tasks, it helps to back it all up with a basic pen and paper list.    It is integral to have this weekly ‘grail’ to refer to when you hit a wall – try placing it in the center of your office for everyone to see.  Utilize different colors or check boxes to re-enforce accomplishments or the completion of a task.

2.  Use Google Documents

While Microsoft Word is still the standard in word processing, Google Documents has several advantages that make it the perfect online tool for inter & extra-office collaboration.   Need to brainstorm a list of potential clients for your wedding cake business?  Simply hop on Google Docs, create a new sheet, and share it with as many collaborators as you like.  The whole team can then log onto the document and make edits ‘live,’ to avoid the hassle of huge email chains or lengthy phone conversations.  Also be sure to try out Google Spreadsheets, a MS Excel alternative that allows you for seamless organization and collaboration.

3.  Use Recruiting Software

If you are a small business is the process of finding the best talent available, the task can become process intensive and  fairly complex.  Keeping track of multiple candidates, reviewing resumes and tracking progress can drastically slow your company’s forward movement.

One way to combat this small business brain freeze it to utilize a recruiting software package to track applicants, manage resumes, and provide a collaboration tool for your hiring managers.  Many modern day recruiting software solutions live completely online, making it incredibly simple to access and utilize with the click of a mouse.

4.  Prioritize with Flexibility

Sometimes, when it’s just you and 500 different tasks, there will be a tendency to jump from one task to another before completion. This can be good and bad.  It’s good to be flexible and not bang your head against any one task  if you aren’t making any progress.   Sometimes it helps to step back, breathe, and come back to something with a new outlook.   However, if your mind wanders too far and too often, nothing will end up done.  Try to find the balance between priority and flexibility that allows you to find a natural rhythm in completing weekly tasks.

5. Early Calls

If part of your business involves contacting potential clients, cold calling, emailing or collaborating with various individuals, I would suggest using the first half of the week for this.  People have the natural tendency to be more receptive during the first half of the week.  After Wednesday many potential business contacts begin to fade into their weekend shelters.  Getting a hold of these people on Monday or Tuesday will make the second half of your week far more productive.