March 30 2022 11:12 AM Ilma

Innovative recruitment: Breaking away from traditional hiring

“Please send us your CV and a cover letter.” Sound familiar? Most hiring processes follow this formula, but some are breaking the status quo—with great results.

Every company has its own unique team, culture and product, yet many seem to follow the same formulaic approach to hiring. The result is that many candidates will fire off the same application to 20+ different businesses, without necessarily taking the time to engage with each product and examine the company’s values (awkward). 

When it comes to remote hiring, the process is also fraught with faceless emails, lagging video calls, and hundreds of applications that all look the same.

Fortunately, some companies (including us!) are breaking away from the traditional hiring approach.

Our remote hiring story

MyZenTeam is a part of The Remote Company, a network of remote-first companies with employees all over the world. We used to follow traditional methods of recruitment… until the day when we had a revelation!

For a long time, we were hustling to get candidates applying for our companies. We would post our job ads everywhere. We wrote personal messages on Linkedin inviting people to join our team... and we still struggled to get attention. 

We thought we’d finally succeeded when we lined up ten interviews with developers. Ten developers to choose from! We broke the day into 45-minute slots and invited people to meet us at the office. 

After the first interview, we got the impression that the person wasn’t really into our products, but they were just looking for any kind of job. That 45-minute interview felt stretched. 

We decided to start the next interview with the question, “Have you tried using our product?”, so that we could get straight to the point. A developer’s job was to improve our product, so they should have had an idea of how it worked, right?

Wrong. 8 out of 10 candidates confessed that they hadn’t tried the product.

By the middle of the day, we felt as if we were all wasting our time. As soon as a candidate confessed that they hadn’t tried the product, we would say, “Thank you for your time. The interview is over. We are looking for people who care about what they’ll be working on.”

Most of the candidates were frustrated at this. One even shouted, “Don’t you care about my skills?”

Frankly no, we didn’t—not if they didn’t care about the job. 

That day, we didn’t hire anyone, and we had to accept that our hiring process was broken. We recognized that two distinguishing features were particularly important to us: motivation and enthusiasm to join our team. 

While we realized that we couldn’t embed passion for our team and products into our candidates, we could at least identify it before the interviews, and save everyone’s time.

And so, for the last six years, we haven’t accepted resumes.

  • Instead, we ask candidates to answer our questions, such as:

  • Why are you interested in joining our team?

Describe a project or product that you loved working on, and why

This new system was transformative to our hiring process for 3 reasons.

1. Hiring is marketing

People must be willing to spend some time answering your questions. It means an extra effort. Often, this leads them to dig deeper to learn more about the company and better understand whether it’s a right fit for them. I recommend linking to your values, articles about your company culture and maybe even a contact email for people to learn more. 

Even if you don’t hire a candidate, they’ll still get to know your company, and they might even recommend it to others. Use this opportunity wisely.

2. Talented people don’t always have CVs, but they love challenges

Today, candidates (not employers) are in the driver’s seat, making choices based on what’s best for them. Great candidates get tons of headhunting messages, and often they won’t waste time on a cover letter. 

So how can you explore beyond their work experience? Ask meaningful questions, and let candidates answer them on their terms. Asynchronous communication respects their time. Plus, you can show that you care about their personalities, passions and expectations. 

You don’t want to hire just a designer, you want to hire a person that is eager to join your team. Willingness to go the extra mile shows their motivation to join YOUR team.

3. Written answers save time

You might get lots of CVs from all over the world, but they won't say much. What does it mean that someone worked at Apple? Is it proof that they’re the right fit for your startup? You need to ask the right questions to know for sure. 

Why did you decide to apply for this position? This is the most popular question while hiring. You hear it from the recruiter, then from your future manager, and then from future team members that were included in the process. If it’s so important, then why not ask people to write their answers? This can give candidates more time to think. And all the managers can see the answer directly, shortening the decision process. If you don’t like the answers, you can skip the interviews. 

Think what questions are repeated in your hiring, what criteria you should value and what skills are needed to form an efficient team. Then form questions and ask them in the application form.

4. Writing shows how people think

We are a remote company working from 14 different time zones, and we use written and asynchronous communication on a daily basis. We do need to hire people that can and are willing to write. 

Moreover, writing shows how people think. They have time to think about what they want to say and how. Are they into details? Do they think about the structure of the text? Can you easily read the content? What kind of words do they use?

5. An interview is the best way to make the final decision

Should you skip interviews altogether? Certainly not. They show how people interact, how we feel around them, and whether we can imagine them in our team. It’s the best final step to selecting the right candidate.

But before interviewing candidates, we recommend starting your hiring process with written communication: ask important questions and then send a test assignment. If you know what criteria you’re evaluating, it will be easier to stay objective and less biased. Even if you’re hiring a person that needs presenting skills, like a video creator, you can still ask them to send over the prepared video.

There are tons of articles on how to minimize bias in interviews. But the truth is that humans are social creatures, and we tend to favor those who are like us. And that might be not the best solution for the team. No one needs a team with only visionaries or planners or doers. We need different personalities and skills to work efficiently—so remember to keep an open mind in each interview.

Our hiring process today

To manage our hiring, involve our team members and effectively communicate with candidates, we built our internal tool called MyZenTeam. Since then, we have used MyZenTeam to engage with 7000 candidates, hire 130 people, and get a 5/5 rating on Glassdoor. (Shameless plug: you can sign up here to meet our expert and improve your own hiring experience.)

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