How we hire at Prominic.NET

How we hire at Prominic.NET

Let’s face it – hiring people is expensive.  Direct financial cost is one component, but I’m talking more about the toll it takes in regards to time and stress.

Prominic doesn’t employ hundreds of people, but we’re constantly evaluating resumes and leads on talent.  We often don’t even have specific positions we’re hiring for; rather we’ll hire someone who:

  • we think can add value to our company
  • we think fits in with our culture
  • we think we like

There’s a lot of “thinking” and not enough “knowing”, so how do we deal with this?

Find a recruiter to act as a filter

We don’t utilize a typical headhunter where you pay a percentage of salary.  We pay our recruiter hourly, which gives us more flexibility to direct the tasks we need done.  Place an ad on these job websites and those newspapers, register for and manage various college recruiting boards, handle pre-screening interviews, set up relevant appointments with us, etc.  This saves my business partner Justin and I from an incredible amount of distraction and work that is necessary – but not strategic – for our business.  We’ve slowly and stubbornly learned to let go of some things and outsource tasks that can be done by someone else.  This also helps ensure we’re not wasting our time on someone who’s clearly not a fit for our company

Conduct your first interview via Skype

Once a candidate has passed our initial filter, we perform our first interview via Skype.  We find this effective for 3 reasons:

  1. Body language and visual context are important; much of this is lost in a voice-only call
  2. This saves both parties a tremendous amount of time
  3. It makes any following in-person interviews much less intimidating (for both parties!)

It may not be feasible to conduct a video interview in every situation or in every industry.  You don’t have to use Skype specifically, but the point is to connect in a meaningful way that best utilizes both your and the candidate’s time.  This is also a great way to break the ice in an otherwise stressful situation.

Personality profile and skills test

 

I’d rather learn at this stage that someone can’t sit down and work uninterrupted for 3 hours than after I hire them

It’s hard to get to know someone from a resume, and, even in an interview, everyone has their guard up.  Prospects weigh how much or how little to share; employers dance around the questions they want answers to but aren’t allowed to ask – all in the timeframe of 15 or 30 or 60 minutes. It’s almost like a bad dating show. At Prominic.NET, we try to broaden the window we have into a person and as much as possible figure out if they’re a fit for our culture.  One of the ways we do this is through a tool called HireSelect, from Criteria Corp.  HireSelect has a collection of pre-employment tests that help provide insight into a person’s aptitude, personality, and skills.  These tests measure things like:

  • Attention to Detail
  • Communication Skills
  • Concentration and Focus
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Extroversion and Introversion
  • Grammar
  • Honesty
  • Leadership
  • Logic
  • Math Skills
  • Motivation
  • Problem Solving
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Spelling
  • Teamwork
  • Work Ethic

Criteria Corp also helps recommend tests for various positions.  We find ourselves frequently hiring for customer service and sales, and they pre-select a battery of tests for us. In isolation, I’m not sure how useful these test would be.  However, when we decided to move forward with HireSelect, we first had all our existing employees take the tests, myself included!  What this did was allow us to correlate what the tests results said to what we knew to be true about various people.  Now, if we see similar results for candidates, and it matches their story and our judgment of character and skills, we have a little more confidence should we decide to move forward with them.  It’s not perfect; just another piece to the puzzle.

One of the more interesting and unexpected benefits of HireSelect results from the fact the battery of tests typically take somewhere around 3 hours to complete.  We’ve had a number of candidates look at this and says “thanks, but no thanks”.  This is great for us because I’d rather learn at this stage that someone can’t sit down and work uninterrupted for 3 hours than after I hire them!

Homework

 

You ultimately have to own what you’re working on, and these tests give us a small glimpse into your ability to handle that.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re not done yet!  Next, we give people a custom test that we’ve designed to gauge people’s ability to work independently, figure out our industry, solve complex problems, manage their time, and know their own individual limits.  The kicker – this is probably another 8 to 12 hours of work.  Like with the HireSelect tests, if you’re not willing to put in the time required to complete this, then we’re probably not a good fit for each other.  I’m not going to publish a list of our specific questions, but they involve reviewing various websites for understanding, discerning who some of the more influential people in our industry are and what they do, some sales and marketing questions (even if you’re an engineer), some programming questions (even if you’re in sales or marketing), and other tasks.

We have a fairly small team, so you’re not going to get to go off to 6 weeks of training after we hire you and you’re not going to have your hands held at Prominic.  You ultimately have to own what you’re working on, and these tests give us a small glimpse into your ability to handle that.

Shut up and listen

 

The in-person interview is where you learn about the critical extra 10% of “stuff” that would never make it on a resume

If you make it past our filter and we enjoyed our Skype interview and there are promising results from the HireSelect test and you’ve rocked the homework we gave you…then we’ll sit down with you in person.  Honestly, if you’ve made it to this point, there’s probably a pretty decent chance we already want to hire you.  However, the in-person interview is where you learn about the critical extra 10% of “stuff” that would never make it on a resume.

One of the best skills we’ve learned is to shut up and listen, and this was really driven home when we hired Chelsea a few years ago.  Justin and I were interviewing her, and we had longtime coworker Doug Robinson sit in on the process.  Justin and I asked some routine boring questions, and as I recall the interview was going as well as any other average interview.  We then asked about her hobbies, which is where we lost control.

She proceeded to describe how she was the leader of her World of Warcraft (WoW, an online game) guild, coordinating the precise movements of 25 people around the world at once, deciding on and enforcing fair rules, and managing all kinds of virtual materials and currency.  Doug jumped in and he and Chelsea went back and forth on this for probably 10 minutes. Justin and I sat there with our mouths half open throwing confused glances back and forth to each other, silent, and mostly not knowing what the heck was going on.  Doug and Chelsea could have been speaking Latin for all we knew.

I can’t do the encounter justice in writing (mostly because I still only half understand what she was talking about), but the point is most people aren’t going to put their gaming experience on a resume.  There are all sorts of experiences and skills and traits that you can measure on a test, but which start to paint a more complete picture of who a person is.  Did we hire Chelsea because she was a WoW guild leader?  Of course not.  But did we hire her because she was technically competent, exhibited leadership skills and independent thinking, confident and honest enough to bring up gaming in an interview, and we were impressed with her as a person?  Of course, we did.

In conclusion

Some of this may seem excessive, but it’s really really important to all of us here at Prominic to be as thorough and accurate and correct in our hiring choices as possible.  It’s incredibly disruptive to bring a new person on board, both for our team and for the new employee.  It’s also incredibly risky, both from a legal perspective and more importantly a personal perspective.  The gravity of employing someone is not lost on us and not something we take lightly.  People depend on us for their livelihoods and we depend on them to drive our business.  This mutual dance feels both constantly tenuous and yet solid; I think it works because we trust our team and our team trusts us.  Our hiring process isn’t anywhere close to perfect and only portions may be relevant to your business.  All I know is we have the best team we’ve ever had and we have relatively little employee turnover.

About the Author

Jon Schultz
Jon Schultz is the President and co-founder of Prominic.NET

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