Hiring When Hiring is HARD

From 733 Applicants to 1 in 2 Weeks

A few weeks ago, Corey and I sat here in my office, and we announced that we were looking for an Administrative Assistant for our team. We had a slew of applicants in just the first two days, so many that we had to cut it off, but it was really an interesting experience. We had a few weeks, and last week we extended an offer, and she accepted. So we’re super excited. 

As I was thinking about this, and because we regularly advise about how to do hiring, and how to emulate the process throughout, I thought it might be fun to share how we got from 700 to 1, in a couple of weeks, without also going nuts, and with creating a good employment brand along the way. 

I also wanted to say that this is not to brag, this is not to shame. I’ve seen recent posts from other leaders saying, “We had all these applicants, and the problem that people have is not because of the environment, or hiring, or not because it’s a candidate market, but because of how your company is.” That’s not what this is. My hope is that by sharing these things, that everyone can get better and we can share what’s working, in the spirit of all of us just trying to do better and be better. So, this is what we did first, to create the job in a way that made sense for candidates.

– Christine Rogers, President & COO of Aspireship

Step 1: Create the Role 

This is tougher than it sounds. We’ve hired Administrative Assistants in other companies, but this was new to us here at Aspireship. And new here, means throwing out some of the “norms” we’ve seen in the past.

We asked ourselves some tough questions that made us a bit uncomfortable…

  • What are the assumptions baked into our thoughts around this position that we can challenge?
  • What are the characteristics that are MUST-haves?
  • What can we be flexible on?
  • What does the day to day consist of? 
  • What should the compensation for this role be?

A great example of where it was a bit challenging was around the possibility of this role being remote. I’d NEVER considered being open to remote candidates for a role that was so integral to our business, but as we discussed it, we all agreed that stretching our thinking could be interesting and would present a wide pool of creative individuals that could co-create something unique and amazing with us– despite not being in our office.

Step 2: Design the Hiring Process to EMULATE the role

We took the characteristics we’d be measuring for, and created a scorecard that each interviewer used. We then tested for the most critical traits early in the process. We wanted the candidates to FEEL what the job would be through the process.

Many of you will remember that in the intro video that Corey and I created, we called out “detail oriented” as a key characteristic.

Here’s an example of how we tested for that in the first step:

After each application was received, the auto-response was this short email:

Thank you for your interest in the Administrative Assistant role with Aspireship!

To be considered:

  • Answer the following questions (3 questions were below)
  • Send your responses to [email protected] with the subject of the email: Your Name [Administrative Assistant]

One of the questions they were asked referred to our core values. The core values are not a tab on the web site and take 1-2 more clicks to find. This helped us to measure for critical thinking, resourcefulness, and of course how they answered the question helped us understand their value alignment and writing capability. All things we were measuring for. 

If the directions were not followed exactly, they were screened out. This first step alone screened out over half the applicants.  

Step 3: Interviewing 

We decided that conducting three back to back interviews in an interview block would be the best candidate experience and deliver the best outcomes. Prior to beginning, we made sure that each interviewer was clear on the characteristics we were measuring for and how we were defining those traits. We used a shared scorecard with individual tabs with the exact questions each interviewer would be focusing on to be sure that we covered the critical topics. This also created a more streamlined process that ensured a more equitable experience as everyone was answering the same questions and being scored the same way.

Here’s how we segmented the interviews:

  • Interview with Christine. Main focus on WHO the candidate was, cultural alignment, and walking through the final project assignment to see how the candidate felt about the work. Deep dive on any questions.
  • Interview with Corey. This portion was very tactical. Talking through the work, measuring for competency on the tasks that will be daily, getting a better sense of what is known versus what needs to be learned.
  • Interview with Team Managers. The three managers dove into more behavioral questions and allowed for plenty of time for the candidates to ask a lot of questions. 

Once the final interview was complete, we all met. Based on the scorecards and feedback, we had a unanimous front runner, and a great second.

Step 4: Sell the Role

Now this is where you really need to shine. Gone are the days where we as hiring leaders just sit back and wait for thousands of people to beg to work with us. The market has shifted and it’s speaking loudly.

And here’s the secret: if you start “selling” when you post the role, you’re already TOO LATE.

People are watching your company, your company’s brand, who YOU are, how you show up on your blog, in comments, and what your team says about you when you’re not around. 

People want to do purposeful work. Meaningful work. With people they like and respect.

When you post the opportunity, make it simple. Clear.

  • What’s the work in REAL language–not some mumbo jumbo fancy lingo.
  • Be transparent about the pay, (YES—use actual numbers) the benefits, the company highlights, the perks. 
  • If you can, add a personal touch. For this role, this person will be working very closely with Corey and me so creating a video of us just being “us,” felt like a good way for people to get a sense of what they’ll be experiencing. Because if we’re not your cup of tea, this wouldn’t be very fun, would it? 
  • And when it comes to extending the offer, don’t play games. Make the verbal as soon as you know. Be open. Enthusiastic. Give your best offer out the gate. 

Then, celebrate this major win as a team!

Interested in hiring with us? Learn more about Aspireship For Teams.

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