Improve Your Hiring Process During Rapid Growth
6 December, 2017
When I joined my new company, it was going through a rapid period of expansion. When I started there were just a dozen or so engineers in the software team, but we needed to hire a lot more. What's more, the old system of reaching out to friends to see who was available wasn't scalable, and we faced problems with consistency in our hiring process. We basically had just one job description for our engineers. This meant it wasn't clear to people who they were interviewing or why, as by this point work started getting fairly differentiated. Interviewers would get a calendar invite, they would go in cold and they would ask a set of questions that they would always ask. It wasn't nuanced for different teams, and there was a lack of context for the interviewers. The company also didn't write down feedback. Instead, everything was done in a huddle after the interviews; the panel would just get in a room and have a quick discussion. This meant there was no way to look back to assess what was going right and wrong, or to look back at people who applied a year or more ago, and see if they would be a good fit for a new position. There was a tracking system for resumes, but it wasn't consistently used. We also had trouble with creating a consistent and smooth experience for interviewees, and people would fall through the cracks in the interview scheduling process.
When a company gets to a certain size you need to introduce more process in order to be fair to candidates and in order to ensure you get candidates who understand the company and who will be a good fit. The first thing I did to add more process was ensuring our ATS (applicant tracking system) reflected where each candidate was in the process -- phone screens, background checks, onsites, etc. To get everyone on the same page for interviews, I started sending out an email to the interview panel the day before every interview. This email contained context about the person we were interviewing, the role they were applying for, and what we were looking for in an ideal candidate for that role. The email would then assign roles to each interview panel member, so that they could each focus on a specific skill set. This would also allow people to raise concerns if they were unsure about asking questions about a specific skill set, so that they could be more prepared for the interview; and it made sure we covered all the areas we wanted to cover. I also ensured that people wrote down their feedback and trained them in what good feedback looked like. Good feedback should include the questions you asked, the questions they answered, and what was good and bad about the answers. Once this was set up, I started to make sure that everyone could access each other's' feedback before we met up to discuss the candidates. This prevented us from going around the room rehashing everything and wasting everyone's time.
When a company is small, the whole team can meet and interview a candidate, but once a team gets to a certain size this is no longer possible. The changes I made were all really effective in improving our hiring process. I got direct feedback from my team that introducing the emails had been particularly effective, as it made interviews much more structured and effective. This meant both the interviewers and interviewees had a much better experience. Over time, we made further improvements to this process, but those first steps were the critical ones for taming a somewhat unruly process, and could be done quickly.
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