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Hiring tips: How We Hire A+ People For the Team


9 min read

When you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. A+ players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B-grade work.

Steve Jobs

I believe everyone tries to find the exceptionally talented guys in their teams. But where can we find them? How can we recognize these A+ players?

Tons of data expands on this topic on the Internet. But as for me all these books and articles are too general. I like the real people experience instead. I communicate a lot with my colleagues about the process of headhunting. As a Head of Client Engagement department in Dashdevs, every three months I hire at least two new teammates in my department. The description of the requirements for the position you can find here. In this article, I would like to share my experience, and I consider, it should be useful if you are improving the recruiting process in the department or a company.

Before we start, let me share with you my personal statistics:

  1. I reject 25% of candidates on the CV review process.
  2. I approve for the trial period 30% of the interviewers.
  3. 75% of my co-workers pass the trial.

We have established a very transparent recruitment process. By making it transparent from the beginning we are not only simplifying the process and reducing the time for recruiting the top talent. We also receive higher rates of retention as the process is always clear. At the stage of the formation of the recruitment process, we decided to divide it into five steps:

  1. Defining the position requirements. First of all, the complexity of the hiring process for my department explains the fact that the client engagement manager is not a standardized position. Every company has their own requirements for the candidate, and they can be critically opposite to something that I’m looking for. Hence the process of hiring starts with preparing a good job description and personal characteristics of the ideal applicant. Usually, we have a separate discussion with the recruiters about the current job position including not only formal records but informal data as well. Friendly and honest communication between departments is exactly the thing that a lot of companies miss. The recruiters must know and understand the real department management rules and the leading method to find the exact person who can fit in. Normally such type of discussion helps to gather a complex of standard requirements — competence, the possession of specific skills, and expertise. The mentioned steps help the recruitment department get a clear vision of their best candidate
  2. Selecting candidates that fit the requirements. Our recruiters use all available resources (LinkedIn, Social media, Employment websites, and so on.. ) to find the appropriate candidates. Then they communicate with the potential candidates and try to find out if this candidate ticks all the right boxes. At this point, we sift out a significant number of inappropriate people. In some cases, we request feedback from previous places of employment. It usually takes a few days for the first research results to appear, and I start receiving CVs for approvals or rejects.
  3. Reviewing CVs by a hiring department. During this step, when I receive a continuous flow of CVs, I check the previous working experience/general expertise/courses or certificates applicant obtained and decide about the invite for an interview. Some people don’t pay proper attention to their CVs. When reading it, the first impression is that the person has no experience at all, though this candidate can be really great. The opposite case is when I receive a CV that barely fits 5 pages. But during the interview, I understand that this person can’t perform results by him/herself. Everything has been done by other members of the company, all decisions were made by other leaders. So it is better to give a chance to the people. By the way, I like to review LinkedIn pages. I give an eye to all the digital activities of the person. This information helps me better understand the person or gives me some extra topics for the interview and hints at what should I pay my attention on.
  4. Interviewing with the selected candidates. Then the interview period starts. The average interview lasts 45 min. During this stage, I try to understand a candidate’s life priorities, analyzing behavior and the way of thinking. My personal psychology background allows me to hear and understand what a candidate is trying to say. Need to say, I prefer to be the only person at the interview from the company side (no HRs or recruiters at the meeting). I don’t need other people to be involved at this stage.
  5. Providing feedback. There can be 3 different results of the interview: make an offer, reject CV or moving to the second round of the job interview. The last example described here is really rare. But sometimes you understand that the candidate is very close to the goal and you are ready to give him a second try. In such cases, we definitely try to receive feedback from the previous workplace and colleagues.

The Interview

This stage is really the most important and the most interesting. I love it. Now you are communicating with the person alive. During the interview, I try to visualize the candidate as if he is already in my team and check if this collaboration is the right fit for our teamwork. I have built my own plan for the interview based on my experience. The interview consists of 3 blocks:

  1. The practical task is to define a candidate’s way of thinking. During this block, I describe a real case from the company expertise and ask the candidate to gather the requirements for this product. The structure and the order of questions can demonstrate the candidate’s competencies and his way of thinking. I would like to hear from the person questions about a product, business, resources, and future plans. During the conversation, I can ask a candidate to explain the purpose of these questions and would like to follow his/her line of thinking. My expectations are to hear a conscious explanation of the reasons. The worst case is when the candidate is not asking questions but tells that he/she will arrange the meeting with designers, devs, and tech leads. This is one of the noticeable markers that the person is going to shed all the responsibility.
  2. Describe a critical situation and ask to provide a way of solving it. Commonly I try to bring up for consideration a situation between developers and a client to see how the candidate acts in the critical situation. Whether he/she defends the company/devs interests or will look for the compromise.. Using this situation I want to check the ownership attitude to the problem. I appreciate if the person asks additional questions about the situation and tries to take a decision based not only on the first input.
  3. Ask to describe difficulties in solving problems he/she faced in his working experience. The choice of the way to behave in a situation provided may tell you about the experience more than any CV. I may ask some question about the background and some key players in the situation. We discuss how the candidate picks up the line of behavior towards one direction or another. The most important for me is the candidate’s estimation of the situation and the results.

On the interviews, I have an individual approach for each candidate and prepare different examples for the previously discussed blocks depending on the experience of the candidate. I never discuss the mobile application development with a person who had working experience only with web/desktop applications. I’m struggling to find the star for my department and not to victimize the candidate. After each part of the interview, I provide the candidate with my options on the answers and show what was missed. It is better to discuss everything while thoughts are still fresh.

After discussing the position characteristics, I describe how things stand in my department. I’m talking about my team’s life as it is. I don’t want to bring hopes up by enticing with a beautiful picture. I provide the candidate with my feedback in 90% of cases right at the interview (in the rest 10% I give it a day after). I want to establish reliable communication without any middlemen. Usually, my decision is made based on the candidate’s way of thinking and ambition to create the best hi-tech product. I’ll never hire the person who tries to deceive me during our communication, who wants to be in the shadows and take zero responsibility. These behavioral markers are crucial anti-requirements for me.

As I’ve mentioned before I can hire, reject or invite to the second round of the interview. Before the next interview, I take a more precise look at the project this person has been managing. I try to do a quick market overview if the domain is new to me. An additional thing is feedback about this person. This task is usually done by our wonderful recruitment department. The second interview passes a lot quicker. We are working with some imaginary project from the domain zone. A typical task is to create a new product for this market. We are discussing competitors, trends, and the future of our imaginary project based on this information. During this interview, our communication is more open because we already know each other.

In any case, after making an offer, I give one week for the candidate to make a decision. During the interview, a person may experience stress and may accept the proposal at once. Therefore some time is needed to think everything over. Some people are taking this chance to think over their own powers and needs. It is OK for me if some of the candidates understand that the offered position doesn’t suit them. Better to stay friends with such people and they may recommend the vacancy to their working network.

Moreover, I’m not afraid to hire people without experience in some domain zones. I’m looking for an aspiration to self-development without external motivation. Using the best practices such as people are growing in leaps and bounds. I just prepare such a person that they need to work twice harder at the beginning and spend much more time for the education and skill up.

During the trial period (up to 3 months), the person is doing all the same activity as the rest of the team with the ongoing projects and have a chance to feel out the real working life (with ups and downs). This is the most precious experience.

The process of recruitment takes a lot of time and puts pressure on the department leader. We are not just hiring people. We are taking responsibility for the decision we make and the candidate we take to the team. My department is like a machine with gears, that produces the best results in working as one system. Moreover, it is essential for me to hire people who improve the overall productivity and the quality of processes. I have regular procedures and regulations in the department. Project management, communication with clients, skill up systems are set up. We are always on our way to continuous improvements. Therefore each new gear must reach the goal or will be thrown away since our pace is high.

I’ve started my article with the words of the great Steve Jobs from The Lost Interview. He was always looking for the A+ people because he wanted to have the best results. Some leaders don’t want to hire candidates more experienced than they are at the moment. They don’t understand that this leads to the downgrade of the team and reduces the results. Try to find unique and powerful people who are ready to be part of your team. When you are leading the team (especially department) you need to remember that the speed of the system is defined by the speed of the weakest member. That’s why don’t hire scrubs in your team and don’t be afraid to fire them.

Hope my experience may help you to build the strongest and the most productive team for your company.

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