How to Prepare for Hiring and Recruitment

February 25, 2020

Elrick Ryan

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Photo by Nick Morrison from Unsplash

Hiring and recruitment is a challenge. There are things that you need to do in order to be prepared before you start. It turned out to be more involved than I initially expected, but it is not until you do something that you are able to fully understand it, learn and get better.

Hopefully, my tips and learnings will help fast track anyone that is going through the hiring and recruiting process. Let’s jump right in.

Figure Out Why You Are Hiring

The first thing to do is to analyze what the needs of the company and the team are. Look at the current makeup of the company and team. Note the strengths and weaknesses. Then think about where you want to go and the types of projects you want to do. Once you have those written down, you are moving in the right direction.

With this in mind, you can develop a profile of the candidate that you need to hire. Write down things like what skills they need, what tools or languages should they know, what experience, etc. This information will be helpful in the next step.

Write a Job Description

When writing your job description, you want to be honest, open, and genuine. A job description is your opportunity to make a good impression on candidates and highlight the culture, tone, and values of the company. Remember, you are presenting both the job and the company. A good job description will impact which candidates apply to your job so spend some time and make it great.

You can organize your job description in any number of ways, but here are some things you should include when writing yours.

  • Short description of the company
  • What you do/offer
  • What makes your company different from everyone else
  • Company values
  • Something thought-provoking
  • Why are you hiring
  • Why is this an interesting and great opportunity
  • What impact will the person have in the is position
  • What responsibilities will the person have in this position
  • What are the required skills and experience needed
  • Benefits
  • Perks

Remember to be honest and realistic with yourself and the potential candidates. Speak primarily about what the person needs to have in order to be successful in the position. By the end of the job description, someone should be able to answer do I qualify, do I want to work here, do our values match, do I like the culture, what kind of impact will I have, and does it sound like a good opportunity.

Picture with text that says this must be the place
Photo by Tim Mossholder

Use an Applicant Tracking System

Setting up an applicant tracking system will allow you to keep track of the stage that an applicant is at within your overall process. I first started using Airtable, which worked great on a small scale. But I quickly outgrew that solution as the number of applicants increased, and I ended up using Workable. You can choose any applicant system you like, but here are a few features that were very useful.

  • The system allows you to add customize stages, statuses, and tags as applicants go through through the process. Each applicant tracking system treats these things differently, but overall you just want to know where someone is, their status, and how long have they had been there. Some examples would be, applied, DNQ, Send DNQ letter, DNQ Letter Sent, phone screen, Send Thank you, Thank you Sent, interview, hire.
  • Applications and submitted documents from an applicant go right into the system.
  • Ability to add any external documents, and links per each applicant.
  • Integration with email, calendar, and scheduling tool.
  • Able to add comments and assessments.

The applicant tracking system keeps you updated with what is happening with an applicant and allows you to stay on top of communication as well.

Setup a Scheduling Tool

It’s challenging enough to have several asynchronous dialogues with applicants. Going back and forth in email and scheduling times for things such as phone screens, interviews, follow-ups are almost impossible and time-consuming. How do I know? I made this exact mistake.

I made a flow chart to identify where I could optimize. In the best-case scenario, it would take three emails. One, sending available times. Two, a response with a selection of a time slot. And three, an email to confirm the time. In addition, to adding the confirmation to my calendar. However, a high percentage would take more than three emails, trying to shuffle time slots and for multiple applicants.

At that point, I realized there were too many steps associated with scheduling availability. What we were trying to do with the emails is to find a match that works for both parties. If I allowed the applicant to pick without the need for follow up emails, we could reduce this to one email. This is what a scheduling tool allows you to do.

In the scheduling tool, you need to set up and block-out your available times beforehand. Then, send a link to all candidates and they will choose the best time that works for them from that list. You will then be alerted as to who picked what time. Also, if your scheduling tool supports it, each accepted time will be automatically added to your calendar. And the list will be automatically updated to show the remaining times to all the applicants.

I used Calendly but I am sure there are more out there.

Up to this point, we know why we are hiring, who we are looking for, we have a job description, an applicant tracking system, and a scheduling tool. We are almost ready to post the job but we have a few more things to make sure we have in place first.

Compile Rubrics

Before you start talking with candidates and reviewing any information they submitted you need to compile some rubrics and a list of baseline questions that you are going to use during your screening, reviews, and interviews, etc. for each position you intend on posting.

A rubric is a set of criteria that you are going to use when you evaluating candidates. Here is an example:

  • Does the person have the years of experience we are looking for?[yes][no]
  • Do they have work examples, portfolio, etc. [yes][no]
  • Do the candidates’ work examples show proficiency in Javascript, Ruby, Node, Typography, Composition, User-centric Design, etc. [yes][no]
  • Do the candidate responses show a clear understanding

Rubrics will enable you to keep detailed information about each applicant. Hopefully, they will eliminate any bias and introduce some transparency. They will allow any person involved in the process to use the same criteria. It enables open and consistent communication during and after the process when speaking about a candidate.

Get Your Interview Questions in Order

This is a tricky topic and lengthy, but I will try to distill it down to the essentials. When you get to point when you are speaking with candidates you will have a mix of static and dynamic questions comprised of behavioral, general, and technical questions. Static questions come from baseline, general, and the notes you gather while reviewing things like resumes and portfolios. Dynamic questions happen on the fly during the conversation.

What is very important is your questions need to be scoped around the applicant’s function and ability to do the job. And they should not be discriminatory in any way. You may have the best intentions at heart but could ask questions in a very ill-advised way. In addition, there are questions that are completely illegal to ask so make sure you don’t ask those.

Here are some examples of illegal questions you cannot ask:

  • Do you have a disability?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you a citizen?
  • Have you been arrested before?
  • How much money do you make now?

However, if you reframe and ask the question in a manner that is based on the applicant’s ability to do the job, and job requirements that is ok. This, as I mentioned, is trying to eliminate any discriminatory practices.

  • “This job requires or involves you to do [XYZ], do you think you will be able to perform [XYZ] effectively?”
  • “Are you legally able to work in the United States. Do you now, or will you in the future, require sponsorship for employment visa status (e.g., H-1B visa status, etc.) to work legally for our Company in the United States?”
  • “All applicants have to submit their information for a background clearance check and pass that before we can grant employment, are you able to do that?”
  • “Is there a particular pay range you are hoping to be within for this position?”

Consult with your human resource director as they should be very aware of this and should be able to train you if needed. I took both the Human Resources and Business classes that covered this topic in detail. But since I am not an active HR professional, I made sure to consult with two Human Resource Directors from two big companies before proceeding to be aware of any changes.

The gist of it is don’t’ ask illegal questions, frame your questions around the applicant and job function and don’t carry bias into these situations.

Organize and Document Your Overall Process

We have mentioned things like the hiring process, stages, rubrics, and questions. This is where you document these in order for you to be organized and the candidates to know the process. You can create whatever process you think will result in your finding the best candidate. Just make sure to document and follow it for every candidate in the cycle of that job posting.

Here is an example of a high-level overall process.

  • Applied
  • Initial Screening/Review of the applicant’s submitted documents
  • Phone screen
  • First-round interview
  • Onsite interview — Technical, Collaboration
  • Take-home project or pairing session
  • Collect, assess all evaluations from the interview, onsite, take home, etc
  • Check background and references
  • Hire

These are the high-level points in the process. Between each point, you have scheduling, evaluations, and sending out emails. This is also where your applicant tracking system is important because you will set up all the intermediary stages and status in there. For example, after someone applies, you screen/review and then what happens? Do they move on or not? Can you send the email now or do you need to do it later? Any number of conditional branching can happen in your process but have them in your system and document them.

One thing to note is that your process, rubrics, and questions should be fundamentally the same for every candidate. If you deviate from any of these in the process make sure to document exactly why. For example, if you normally give test A, and then decide you don’t have to, make sure to document exactly why you made that decision. Your documentation and supporting evidence need to be rock solid. If not, you can end up in a world of trouble. My humble opinion would be to give test A to everyone.

At this point, you should be prepared and ready to post your job.

Post Your Job

Where you post your job really depends on the position you are trying to fill. You have several options when you are listing your jobs and there are no hard fast rules as to which one is going to yield the best candidates. The goal is to get your job posting out and in front of a diverse set of people.

Here are some examples of options and places you post your job.

  • General job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, or CareerBuilder.
  • Alumni board from a specific program.
  • Specialized Job board like Dribbble, EpicCo, or Remoteok.
  • The framework or library you use might also have a job board on their site. ie. React, Vue, Ember, Node, Ruby, Elixir, etc.
  • Tweet it on Twitter.
  • Slack groups catering to the job posting.
  • Mention it in a podcast.
  • Get recommendations from your network. The people that you know and trust.
  • Use an agency like g2i.
  • Post it on your website.

Using a combination of these resources will have applications coming in for your job posting.

Photo by @kevnbhagat

Be Actively Recruiting

Posting your job does not necessarily mean that people are going to apply. I learned that hard lesson when I posted a job and for weeks, even months, and no one had applied. This had me questioning a number of things, including the job description, the company’s website, and the posting location. I realized that getting awesome people to apply to your job is a combination of all that and then some. Recruitment is not just posting a job, or sending out cold emails and DM’s on LinkedIn. You have to be doing passive and active recruitment.

For a company trying to recruit great people they need to:

  • Network — talk with people that you would want to work with before you want to work with them and build a relationship.
  • Be active and give back in the community — do workshops, sponsors programs and conferences.
  • Have a great culture — you need to show, that you are serious about fostering and keeping a diverse, open, and collaborative environment.
  • Make a good first impression. Your website, copy, culture videos, emails, recruitment packages, etc. need to speak positively to people.
  • Present your best work — If you are doing interesting work you need to show it and speak about it.

Hopefully, these methods will help you attract those great people into your company.

Talking With People

Once you have done the prep work it will make speaking with people and the process much smoother. Here are a few more things to remember when you at this stage.

Give yourself time before and be prepared

You need to have time before you speak with someone to prepare. Make sure you have read, re-read, reviewed, and re-reviewed all the information the candidate has submitted and it’s fresh in your mind. Do not wait until you are actually speaking with someone to read or review their application. This is highly ineffective and it shows a lack of professionalism. We expect candidates to be prepared, prompt and professional. You as a hiring manager and a representative of the company should do the same.

Have all your prep work open and ready

Don’t wait until the call to start looking for the questions you need to ask or the rubrics you want to use. Have those open and ready before the call.

Give yourself time after

It best to compile your thoughts immediately after speaking with someone. So, whatever notes, questions, rubric you have to be sure to address them right away because waiting until two days later will not work. You can use anything, your applicant tracking system or just a simple file. But be sure it’s easily retrievable.

A Few More Things

Before I close out, I want to mention a few more things to keep in mind.

  • Be respectful of the candidates’ time.
  • Do not be in a rush to hire but keep a good pace.
  • If you do not find the right fit, start the hiring process over.
  • If you are certain you found the right person, don’t wait too long to send an offer.

Best of Luck

This is an ongoing learning process. But hopefully, this post pointed you in the right direction. If you only remember one thing from this post, remember to be prepared, honest, and open.

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Elrick Ryan