New ways startup founders are interviewing (Part 2)

Pre interview questionnaire –- a 15-20 minute set of questions (via a google form or something similar) to help understand motivations, expectations and some important admin (notice period, salary expectation, preferences like working from home)

Pros: This avoids you realising after 5 minutes a candidate is not right for the role and then having to spend 30 minutes with them

Cons: I don’t think there are any. Some senior candidates may refuse to do it - that’s probably your first sign they are not a good fit.

Job Spec 2.0 – This is based on the book “Who: The A method for hiring” where you write the 5 outcomes the candidate should have achieved at the end of year one e.g For a Product Manager - Increase engagement on the B2C product by a % agreed at the beginning of each quarter  You also set out which skills or character traits are vital or nice to have’s e.g Product Manager - is UX experience vital for this role?

Pros: By focusing on outcomes rather than just finding someone who “feels right” it stops people being distracted by other factors than is the person in front of me an A player who can execute the outcomes we need. I think every startup should be using this method

Cons: This process involves more time input upfront by members of the team. Keeping on the Product Manager example - the CEO, Founders, CTO should all give input on the scorecard and keep referring to it during the interview process

Case Studies – asking candidates to create a case study as part of interviewing works especially well for marketing roles. We suggest not asking candidates to do it before the first call or interview as candidates are suspicious of doing too much work before they know all parties are serious about the opportunity.  Ask candidates to prepare a one- or two-page document which should take more than an hour but less than a day to complete.  We find the process helps candidates focus and prepare their thoughts before the interview and the quality of interviews are higher as you can discuss strategic approaches.

Pros:  A good test of candidates commitment and knowledge as well as spelling and grammar which is not normally tested.

Cons:  The case study is one part of the equation, but remember they’ve probably had outside help, so don't base your decision solely on the case study.

The Culture Test - one of our clients invites candidates to their Friday show and tell and drinks at 5pm on a Friday.  Having a few drinks in a social setting is a good thing to do but don’t turn this into a drinking test.

Pros: it’s a great way to show transparency and the candidate will see your team all in great form.

Cons: The importance of culture-fit varies depending on the role (I think some people would disagree) but as a startup gets past 50+ people founders have to accept more diversity in character types, especially in engineering roles.

The Alternative Venue – we are big fans of interviews held outside the office. Personally I like walking with a candidate – get some fresh air and I think you get more candid answers.  I know some LA startups go surfing with candidates but a coffee shop will also do just fine. My dad always interviewed candidates at restaurants and watched how they interacted with the waiters and how they chose their food.  Anyone who was indecisive or didn't look the waiter in the eye would be rejected.  This has been drummed into me so much that whenever I see a menu I pick the first thing I see which leads to frequent food envy.

The theme you may be picking up on nearly of these approaches is that they involve a great commitment of time. There is no shortcut. Mistakes are more likely when you hire quickly.  The process needs time put aside, careful management and schedule into make sure you get the best outcomes. In the long term, your investment will be returned manifold.

Some of our clients include:

Houzz, Global App Testing, Wercker, Stuart, Splittable, City Pantry

Alex van Klaveren

Kandidate, 73 Grafton Rd, Flat 3, London, NW5 4BB, United Kingdom