A short guide about how we bring and integrate the right people into our team.
We're a small team of skilled digital makers who are proud of their craft and happy to share the knowledge along the way. Starting with last year (2016) we developed an internal strategy for recruiting, selecting and onboarding new people. In this guide, we walk you through the entire journey, and hopefully, you will have something to learn by coming at the end of it. We're happy to let you know that we're highly inspired by the great people on Basecamp and Human Made. Thanks for being awesome!
The Hiring Journey
Before kicking-off, we'd like to share some quick notes about why we decided to invest time, energy, and money in this playground. Our approach regarding teams, in general, is quite straightforward: we always enjoy to stay small (we still do), and focus on what we do best: creating solid solutions for digital problems by developing an outstanding portfolio of WordPress themes.
With other words, we didn't have a focus on active hiring since we thought we could make everything happen in just ten people (more or less). However, things changed, we grew, our goals are quite high, so the need for drawing a process showed up. We felt like we need more than a charming living room to meet people and drink perfect flat whites. Instead, we were urged to find new talent and bring it on board.
This is how it all started. And since most brilliant ideas are based on several drafts, we made no exception. We began with some intense sessions of research, then we've put some thoughts on the paper, debated a lot, and came to a certain scheme. Recently, some folks walked through the process, and the insights we gathered along the way helped us iterate. We shaped our hiring approach several times, and we're sure that there are more episodes to come, but we're grateful to have a solid strategy and flow regarding how we hire and integrate new people.
The Hiring Team
The entire process is a consequence of a continuous collective effort. Even though Oana's in charge with how things work out in the end, almost the whole crew is involved during the journey. For instance, if we're interviewing a frontend Răzvan will automatically join the battle as much as Alin, Radu and Robert will engage if some customer support agents knock our door.
On top of that, George and Vlad, Co-founders of Pixelgrade, will always have a final chat with the new guy or gal. The same happens with Laura, our strategic partner concerning testing behaviors and attitudes. She's our business coach and therapist for most than a year and her insights are valuable in the hiring process.
The Hiring Path
We never thought that our process would include three or six or whatever phases. Instead, we focused on need, as we often do with our creative work. We developed each step to solve a particular problem, not because HR specialists suggest they're mandatory. Next, we present you each of the stages we follow today, but that doesn't mean that things can't change. In fact, we're sure they will, which is okay. As long as they bring results and resonate with out core values things are great.
Phase #0 — Be selective
Regarding the recruitment strategy we stick to one single mantra: be selective. The unofficial one is: don't talk bullshit and don't oversell.
We mainly focus on recommendations from local people we trust and admire. Besides that, we initiate smart talks on LinkedIn, no matter if people already have a job or not. However, what we never do is pitching employees from business owners we worked with in a way or another. We think it's disrespectful and that's just not who we are at the end of the day.
Even on LinkedIn, we ask from the start if people are happy the current job. If the answer is affirmative, we never try to convince them to change it. We value their decision since they know best what fits them concerning professional evolution.
Our selective approach comes down to saying NO more often and focus on the bigger pic. In the end, we're a bunch of people with certain standards and high ambitions, so we want to have the best kids in town next to us.
Phase #1 — Coffee or Interview?
Not every meeting is an interview, and we can't drink coffee with every candidate. This being said, we always set the expectations from scratch. If we're confident that the one who's going to visit our crib has big chances we start with a consistent set of particular questions. If there's just a curiosity to know each other professionally than we could have a flat white and talk about our careers.
We always work upfront for the niche interviews, and almost nothing pops-up without context. We follow the process, and we have a specific goal of that meeting. For example, if we interview a candidate for a customer support position we often ask questions like these:
- What makes you a good fit for a customer support position?
- Please describe your approach to customer support as a business discipline.
- How would you improve the customer support experience?
- What do you enjoy most about working in this field?
- How do you handle the days when you face a lot of difficult customers?
Besides gathering ideas about his knowledge on customer support in general, we always keep an open eye on non-tangible things, such as the attitude, the vibe, the behaviors. These weight hard when we take a decision regarding if we continue the process or we should stop right there.
Phase #2 — Show me your skills
No matter the profile we are searching for, there's always room for running a test. Even though we're part of an industry where there's a hidden agreement that ''we're too good for that'', we like facts more than words. The test we're offering is tailored to particular needs, and it has two primary goals: one is to check his know-how and skills, the other one is tightened to his personality and character.
It is okay to make mistakes and not to get a full A grade, what it counts more is the attitude along the journey: how you react, what do you say, how you present your arguments etc.
The test is made by the most knowledgeable person in the room on that topic. We always ping-pong ideas and provide feedback, but it's that person's call to provide a relevant test and follow-up the results both with the candidate and with the team as well.
Phase #3 — Interview time
This interview is more like an informal chat around particular topics. The main idea behind the scene is to see how a professional dialogue could run between the ones who will work one to each other day by day. In the end, they are the people who need to get along and achieve great stuff together.
Any debate about a common topic (from the professional area) will help us have a better understanding of how the candidate is used to present his thoughts, receive feedback, fight for his ideas and so on. It's yet another chance to analyze behaviors and connect the dots.
Phase #4 — Personality matters
As Vlad would say: we're looking after T-Shaped people. This means we have a strong focus to bring home people who have a core expertise, but they're also competent in touching areas. For example, we'd love to meet people who love craft the design and paying a lot of attention to the details, but who are those open-minded and interested in marketing and communication. This set of skills is what makes them multi-disciplinary, an asset that we highly value.
In this sense, Laura, our business coach and therapist helps us tremendously. She runs a personality test (yes, sounds cheesy, but is quite serious, and the results are impressive), but also a debriefing interview. No matter if we continue or not the process, that personal has the huge chance to find some underlining truths about himself.
As for us, her insights are crucial. There's no right or wrong, bad or good regarding results. It's just an opportunity to find out about some red and green flags. They help us understand why some people react in some ways and what made them have a certain attitude.
Phase #5 — Final call
The final lap of the hiring journey is a short meeting with the George and Vlad, the Co-founders of Pixelgrade. The focus of this chat is to share short stories about our history as well as the business's status. We're transparent, and we're not afraid to let people know when things are going slightly bad or we're conquering the world.
Another goal of this final gathering is to talk about money. We know that most people are not comfortable about sharing their thoughts on this one, but we don't think there's something taboo about it. So we moderate a safe conversation about financial expectations, growth opportunities, our six-months agreement and so on.
After we have a deal, we're ready to share some stunning swag and enjoy a cold beer. Welcome, mate!