Like any fast-growing tech startup looking to recruit smart and motivated team members, we at Formstack have gone through our share of unique interview questions and processes. In an effort to assess whether candidates had the skill sets we desired, we added questions, sample projects, and problem-solving challenges. Eventually, it got to the point that one set of interviews for a single candidate would take nearly half a day to complete.
In the sense of the old “A camel is a horse designed by a committee” proverb, our interview process had turned into a camel — and not a cute one, either. This camel creation drove us to do some serious self-reflection as a business, and we ended up completely revamping our hiring process. As a result, we’ve been able to successfully grow our workforce by more than 100 percent over the last year. Here’s how we did it:
A 5-Week Recruitment Cycle
According to data from Yello’s “Recruitment Operations Statistics and Trends: A 2020 Benchmark Report,” 20 percent of recruiters say it takes more than two months to hire a mid-level employee. As one might expect, most in-demand applicants don’t want to wait more than 60 days to start a new job.
We’ve designed our hiring process to take no more than five weeks by implementing a clearly defined timeline of events. Weeks 1-3 involve the development of a Predictive Index job assessment and an initial screening interview, which we use to identify 7-10 candidates who will move forward in the process.
Weeks 3-5 consist of a practical exercise and completion of the Predictive Index assessment by the candidates. This phase culminates in a final interview with 2-3 candidates. The candidates meet the team members with whom they would work, as well as a “culture champion” employee who assesses culture fit on behalf of Formstack. Finally, the candidate has a brief wrap-up conversation with the the hiring manager, talent manager, and an executive. Previously, these were three separate interviews that could take half a day for each candidate. By combining these components in a single sitting, we’ve greatly maximized our efficiency.
This defined, five-week process ensures all members of the hiring team are on the same page and no one person causes a delay. This process also ensures we are respectful of our applicants’ time. New hires form a positive impression of Formstack from the day they send in an application, and even those we don’t hire walk away with pleasant feelings. That’s a good thing for us: Just because they weren’t the right fit for this opening does not mean they won’t be a fit for another position in the future.
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No More Marshmallows
Assigning test projects to evaluate a candidate’s relevant skills is nothing new. The only way to know for sure that a developer can actually code or a content writer can actually write is to see them in action. Many companies incorporate such a practice into the hiring process, and we’re no different.
However, we previously added what we felt was a differentiator by asking candidates to build towers using spaghetti and marshmallows. This project was completed during the final in-person interview and was meant to measure culture fit. Is the candidate a problem-solver? Does the candidate express frustration or other concerning behaviors when things don’t work as planned? We thought this tower—building exercise would help us answer these and other critical questions about candidates.
To a point, the exercise did fulfill those evaluation criteria. However, we found that while we were evaluating the applicant, they were evaluating us as well. Candidates rightfully wondered whether we were taking the process seriously, whether we knew what we were looking for in a candidate, and whether the company’s culture was equally quirky.
We have since done away with the tower-building exercise in favor of alternative culture-fit measurements. Now, we look at more clearly relevant criteria: Does the applicant volunteer outside of work? How has the applicant resolved work-related conflicts in the past? These questions, and others, are equally strong barometers of culture fit — and they don’t set off red flags for candidates.
By tweaking our hiring process in these ways, we have seen significant increases in our hiring capacity. We’re currently outpacing industry standards for getting candidates in the door, and we had a historic year of hiring in 2019. By creating a defined recruitment process that is not solely reliant on the hiring manager (or any one person, for that matter), we have ensured many hands are making light work and every hand is being helpful.
Miranda Nicholson is the vice president of human resources at Formstack.
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Miranda Nicholson is the VP of human resources at Formstack, a remote company offering a workplace productivity platform. She has a decade of experience managing corporate HR activities and currently leads the acquisition, onboarding, and retention of current and to-be Formstack employees.