From job ad to job offer in 17 days - how to hire staff

On friday we sent out two formal job offers, one to a web developer and one to a graphic designer :-)

Without wishing to tempt fate I thought I’d share how we went about recruiting them and a few of the stats we saw along the way.

From advert to job offers in 17 days

We decided that we wouldn’t use any recruitment agencies in order to keep complete control over all aspects of the process. This also meant we could do it to our own timescales which were incredibly short.

Our experience of hiring Emily taught us that despite making it very very clear that we wanted people to spend time writing a decent covering letter we still received around 50 applications via email with a one line “please find my CV attached”. Obviously Emily passed the first test (summed up as “reading the application”) by writing a good and interesting covering letter.

Our preferred way of hiring follows the following steps. This is designed to make it as easy as possible for the right person to apply, whilst making it hard for anyone who would just be wasting our time (and their time for that matter).

10 Steps to recruiting

  1. Write a job specification
  2. Write a set of questions to help narrow down your applicants. Tie these questions into the type of person you want to hire. If you want a techy, write techy questions, if you want someone who will fit in well write questions that will help work out what the person is like. - We based our questions on this excellent article by Matt over at SEOmoz - Interviewing Web Developers - 20 Good Questions to Ask
  3. Create an online form for people to answer your questions. We used wufoo a fantastic site that removes all the hassle from creating forms such as these.
  4. Graphic Designer
  5. Web Developer
  6. Post the adverts on relevant sites that will bring you the type of person you are looking for. We were recruiting for a graphic designer so the University of the Arts - London is a perfect choice. We also posted the advert on Gumtree
  7. Sit back and watch the applications come flooding in. Actually that wasn’t quite the case - forcing people to think about the application and come up with answers to questions seemed to be doing the trick.
  8. Of the ~950 form views we received 48 applications (split fairly evenly across both jobs). So only around 1 in 20 of people who viewed the form actually submitted it.
  9. Personally I think this is a great result. It means that we have filtered out the people to lazy too fill in the form, and those that decided perhaps they weren’t quite up to the job. I’m sure it also filtered out some good people who for whatever reason didn’t fill in the form, but thats a price I’m willing to pay.
  10. With the applications safely tucked away in wufoo it is easy to read the answers and narrow it down to those who sound like they will fit into your company.
  11. Invite these people to interview. We emailed 7 people late on a Wednesday evening and first thing Thursday asking if they could make an interview that Friday. This wasn’t another test, we just wanted to move things quickly. To be honest I was quite shocked when all but one were available.
  12. Write out a list of interview questions. Include a couple that you have already asked them to answer as this helps ensure they are consistent.
  13. Run the interviews. Will and I have now run around 25 interviews and still don’t profess to be great at them. What we have found works well is for one person to be the question answerer (that’s me) and for one person to take notes. This worked a lot better than when we both tried to ask the questions and take notes, as you end up losing track and not really listening whilst your long hand catches up.
  14. Work out your favourite and offer them the job!
  15. Once you have official acceptance of the job, tell the other applicants that they were unsuccessful this time. We have said that we will contact those we have interviewed, but the wufoo form we created said we would only contact those people we wanted to interview.

Because of our situation we ended up doing steps 1 - 10 in 17 days. This would have been down to around 11 - 12 except one of the interviewees was on holiday!

Just one final thing to say is that the person we have offered the graphic design job to was stuck in a monster traffic jam travelling about 5 miles in 6 hours. We ended up rescheduling her 12:30 interview for 6:00 that evening (it was the only time we could do) and even so they only just made it. We are very glad they did.

So now its your turn, how can we make this process even better? What do you do differently? What works best for you? What are your experiences of Recruitment agencies (apart from being receiving more cold calls than from any other industry, except perhaps cleaners)?

Updated to fix a formatting issue with the list

Duncan Morris

Duncan Morris

Duncan founded Distilled with Will in 2005. He built the, now defunct website CMS from the ground-up, and consulted for some of the company’s first clients. Today Duncan leads the management team and helps to steer...   read more

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4 Comments

  1. Pretty interesting process, even if you look at it on the other side of the mirror :-)

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  2. Hi Christophe. Looking forward to having you on the team. Then you can write some posts on the blog as well as comments ;)

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  3. Duncan: don't know if you saw this post by Guy Kawasaki - he writes about his experience advertising on craigslist.

    I hope we get craigslist here soon to compete with gumtree...

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  4. Leonie

    I definitely think that making your own judgement when recruiting staff is important ultimately how is a recruiting agency supposed to know what you really want (only you know that) – hence the reason why they so often get potential candidates so wrong! Also I think the one person asking questions one person writing is a good method … as is the offering of a beer! – Well I did need it after all that driving ☺

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