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Over the past year, I've reviewed more than 1,000 résumés and presided over 100 interviews. While those numbers aren't staggering by any stretch of the imagination, the experience has given me ample opportunity to refine our hiring process and get even more creative with it.
Like most startups, your first hire is the scariest because you lack a process. But as your team grows, an interview format is developed. In earlier days, we tended to interview practically everyone who applied, but as interest in working at our company grew and our requirements evolved, a new recruiting and interviewing format was required.
We perceive each interview, whether it be a one-on-one, group or chief executive officer interview, as a chance for the candidate to get to know us, as much as the other way around. A leader needs to share what makes his or her company different and how their approach to doing business fosters an environment where employees actually want to come to work every day. By conducting interviews in the workplace, companies have a great opportunity to showcase their corporate culture.
Usually, time is on our side, but for a recent round of hiring, quickly finding and interviewing great candidates was of the essence. Necessity being the mother of invention, we held "speed interviews" as a fun, yet effective way to quickly meet a lot of candidates who were interested in joining our team.
Having publicized the event on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as personally reaching out to candidates we knew we wanted to meet, we had several dozen people preregister for the event.
On the big day, candidates streamed into the office. Some explored, while others went through a series of four interviews, each lasting five minutes. At the end of each stage, a bell was rung and candidates were prompted to wrap-up their thoughts, shake hands and move on to the next interview station.
Each station had a theme, which allowed the interviewer to ask the same questions of each candidate. This format also precluded interviewers from asking overlapping questions. Each interviewer came prepared with four or five questions under four general stages:
– Tell me about your job search up until now. How has it been going, and what have your experiences been like?
– Tell me what criteria you're using in selecting your next company or position. What's really important to you?
2. Climbing the ladder
– What has been your most creative achievement at work?
– From a relationship standpoint with your boss, what's the key factor in keeping you from reaching the next rung on the ladder?
– How would you describe "professional behaviour" in the workplace?
– Tell me about your last performance appraisal. In what area were you most disappointed?
4. Wrap up
– Have you had a chance to meet some of the other candidates? Who would you say is the strongest candidate here?
– If you had to choose among three factors – the company; the position you're applying for; or the people you'd be working with – which would you say plays the most significant role in your decision to accept our offer? Why is that?
Amazingly, the most difficult question came during the segment with my wife and co-founder, Stephanie, who asked "In hindsight, how could you have improved your performance in your last position?" It seemed that everyone struggled to admit an area that they could have improved upon out of fear that they'd be admitting failure or lack of on-the-job performance.
After candidates finished their interviews, they had the opportunity to enjoy some light refreshments and get a guided tour of the office. This was our time to show each candidate the work stations, the kitchen, the recording studio and talk about our daily team meeting, The Huddle. By giving them a taste of life at Voices.com, we found that candidates were much more engaged throughout the entire hiring process.
Having met with 15 candidates, our minds still fresh with first impressions, we quickly debriefed and identified those candidates who were most promising. It was decided that several people would move on to more extensive second interviews where we could dig deeper.
Within 48 hours of the event, we had a new account manager.
Our experience suggests that speed interviews are a practical, innovative approach to hiring that any startup at any stage can implement.
David Ciccarelli (@davidciccarelli), a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, is chief executive officer of Voices.com, a Web-based business that allows companies to search for, audition and hire professional voice actors. He is also the author of Voice Acting for Dummies.