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05 Sep

A peek behind the curtain of our hiring process – how we do it at Ideas2life

When people ask me what it is that we are doing at Ideas2life I always say we are building a great team.

 

Yes we have built AtYourService and Foody but the most important thing we are building is a team of great people, that is learning how to work together, how to learn, succeed, fail and evolve together.Making this happen is my personal #1 priority.

 

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we take our hiring process very seriously

 

Every time we open new positions; we have grown from 5 to 15 in the last 12 months so we do that often i’d say, we really put an effort into making the process as good and efficient as possible both for us and the candidates.

 

Opening positions though is only part of the effort – the truth is we are always trying to find great people.

 

How do we do that?

  • We cooperate with all Universities in Cyprus and do presentations/lectures and give projects to students (both Business and Computer Science)
  • We participate in the majority of Startup & Technology events in Cyprus and we try to talk in everyone beyond the superficial and really get what they are doing
  • We do Internships (to date we have probably done over 50 paid & unpaid internships)
  • We take any opportunity we can to work on simple projects with people we believe have the potential to become great (If you think you you fall into this category i`d be glad to receive your email)
  • We get ourselves out there. We do presentations, talks and we use our blog as a tool to be transparent about our company culture and process. You can say that this is a big part of the reason blogging regularly is one of my most important OKRs.

 

One thing that needs to be addressed at this point is what great  means. I have already used the word 3 times and I think I need to define it a little bit better.

 

When we say great people we mean hardworking, fast learning people with an enormous drive – no urge,  to create who are at the same time wise or humble enough to keep their ego in check and be team players.

 

When we find great people we infect them (as dakis shares here) with our culture, help them further develop their learning mindset, and then well… get out of their way and allow them to create and pull the team forward

 

The hiring process – Step 1

The first official step in the hiring process is opening up positions, publishing them online and receiving interest. This seems pretty straightforward but following a structured process is very important and helps us save tens of hours down the line.

 

To receive interest we sometimes collect applications only through workable and sometimes through email. If you haven’t tried workable I suggest you give it a go (it’s one of the most successful Greek startups) as it really helps you improve the process and save time.

 

Once the positions are opened, the interest is usually overwhelming – except for when hiring developers. For Business postingswe receive 100 or more CVs while for Developer positions interest is usually much smaller – at most 30.

 

Therefore going through the CV’s can be a daunting task and there is always the risk that you miss out on a great candidate who is interested in the position.

 

Online Questionnaire

To solve this challenge, in our last few hiring rounds we introduced a major step before inviting the top candidates for interviews.

 

We examine the CVs in a more lenient manner, and the successful candidates of round 1 (on average 60%) are invited to complete an online questionnaire that includes:

  • a few questions about their future plans aka first interview questions,
  • some “problem solving” questions related to our website, and
  • a more challenging task like writing a small blog post.

 

You can see a questionnaire we have used in the past here.

 

In our last hiring process, we used an online questionnaire to replace the first interview round and it was a major success.

 

Using the online questionnaire is simply better than a first round of interview because:

 

  • We filter out candidates who don’t really care about the position as they will not be bothered to complete the questionnaire.
  • We filter out candidates who are not good at effectively analyzing a situation and writing their thoughts down, which is a critical skill for our team
  • We ask more questions and get many more answers in less time

 

In addition, this process allows us to share glimpses of our culture and communicate that the working at our team is both awesome and very demanding. Specifically, we show that:

    • We try to use technology as much as possible
    • You gotta be able to write your thoughts down in a clear and concise manner
    • This position will be challenging for you

 

As an added bonus the candidates who put the effort to complete the questionnaire (which surprisingly is the majority)  are now starting to really want to join our team. We know that… well because people tell us just that, and also because we monitor the interaction with our site.

 

Fun fact. We often hide nuggets in our blogs, that is a small line a candidate can drop in an email to let us know that they read our blog.

 

Most of the emails we receive are after the candidate has completed the online questionnaire.

 

Think about it. It should be that people read our blog before sending us an email to express interest about the position, or at the very least before taking the time (it requires 20ish minutes) to complete our online questionnaire.

 

They have a decision at that point. Should I invest 20 minutes answering this questionnaire or is this job not for me?

 

But they seem to make that decision lightly as they go ahead and answer the questionnaire, and then they start reading more about our company.

 

Of course, setting up the questionnaire, reading the answers and making a fair assessment takes time. A loooot of time. But the #1 thing we build at Ideas2life is a team, so its time well spent.

 

The Interview round

We use the interview round to focus on the really important stuff:

  • Potential
  • Skills
  • Fit with the team

To accomplish that we do longer interviews ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours that look a lot like mini assessment centers.

 

The activities of the interview vary significantly depending on the position but in an interview for a position on the Business side the candidate usually:

 

  • Writes a reply to a difficult email
  • Reads a script and after short training makes a cold sales call
  • Writes a blog entry or article
  • Is given a structured problem and is asked for his thought process
  • Is asked to create 3 facebook ads. Then the results of our current facebook ads are provided and the candidate is given time to create 3 new facebook ads based on learnings.
  • Do UI / UX Review of specific pages on our website
  • Make a hypothesis and find the data (with our help) from analytics to test or to design a test to verify that hypothesis

 

Each candidate performs only 3-4 of the above during the interview, depending on the specific position as well as on their specific strengths and weaknesses.

 

We usually try to have at least one activity in an area of strength for the candidate and one in the weakest area to see how not only how well the candidate does but above all how they react to the challenges.

 

Assessment of candidates

To fairly assess a candidate and avoid falling for the Halo effect we have a list of specific traits / characteristics we are looking for, and another list with traits we are looking to avoid and we use scores to assess each trait separately.

 

Otherwise we would be overly influenced by one or two positive/negative characteristics and ignore the rest. In the table that follows you can see one of our assessment sheets in a Business Hiring round along with some anonymized and randomized scores from one of our interview rounds.

 

We are looking for potential and fit, and hopefully our score categories reflect that. Positive and negative scores.

 

It has been shown time after time that the interview process is not a good predictor for candidate success – even at the best places like google.

However, based on my (obviously limited compared to any big company) experience, these assessments of traits are usually really accurate; teammates who have not seen the initial scores give very similar scores to candidates a month after they join our team

 

So you might not be able to assess who will rock the company, but you can assess the skills really well if you do a hands on interview as we do – which helps you make your choice, and of course know what you are getting.

 

Hiring the candidate and announcing the decision

To complete the assessment, we sum the scores of all candidates. Then we separate the top candidates that were good enough to deserve a proposal (usually between 1 and 5) and let them know that they are among the top X candidates and are being considered for the job.

 

At that point, I usually simply take a step back and let the thoughts sink in my head for a couple of days before making the final decision.

 

One of final decisions in the interview process is how and when to announce to the unsuccessful candidates that the position has been filled.

 

At Ideas 2 life we try to inform unsuccessful candidates at the end of each round that they have not been selected for the next round.

 

Initially I was not 100% sure about this but we have been getting so many “thank you for letting me know about your decision – we really appreciate it as no other company even bothers to reply” that I now know it’s the right thing to do.

 

Finally, a couple of days later we select our top candidate (usually the one with the highest score). From that moment on, the hiring process gives way to the onboarding process which will be the topic of my next blog as this one is already too long (it seems that these are the only types of blogs I know how to write)

 

After the successful candidate has started working (usually 2-3 days) I contact the other top candidates to thank them personally and I take the time to give them very specific feedback about their strengths and weaknesses.

 

The “Top candidates” pool is a very special pool of people that we treat as prospective future team members instead of unsuccessful candidates.

 

We follow up with them after a month or two and in general keep the communication channel open.

 

This has made a huge difference in the past. After completing a major interview round last year in March, in June we wanted to hire 3 new team members in May, that would work on a second shift schedule (16:00 – 00:00 with some weekends included).

 

The interest we received for that position was disappointing – like really really dissapointing. Then we asked our top candidates from the previous round and 2 out of the 3 were interested in these positions because of the relationship we had cultivated in the meantime.  They are now awesome members of our team :)

 

Summing it up

 

Building a great team requires a significant investment which is probably much higher than what you realize. However, it’s the best investment you can ever make as great teams win Championships and take over the world.

 

This blog is a peek behind the curtain of our hiring process, which is one of the most important things we do. Some of you may wonder why we write these blogs and share our secret sauce.

 

The answer is quite simple. We believe a lot in transparency. Most of our learnings come from other teams doing something similar (thank you Buffer), and hopefully we can inspire and help people to build great teams… and take over the world in their own way

 

At the same time it’s one of the best way to show what we do, and explain our plans to take over the world in an effort to attract like-minded people. So If you really like what you read about our team, and you think you fit our definition of great do send us an email introducing yourself :)

 

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