As Co-Founder and COO of a digital product agency, I often get asked what I perceive is the most important part of owning or leading a company. “Where do you spend most of your time and attention” is usually how this question is presented. To be honest, I think there are several good answers to this question. As an owner, ensuring that all functions of your business are thriving is important. Operations, sales, marketing, financial management, culture, etc. are all aspects of business that require time and attention. But, if you had to press me on what I think the most important role of a business owner is, I would say recruiting and hiring intentionally.
Some of you may be thinking...really? Recruiting and hiring? Yes! This function may not be the first one that comes out of a leader’s mouth when asked what they do...but I’m positive most would say that it’s the most important role they have. Building a strong culture and producing great products and services requires attracting and hiring the best people for your team. People are the hands, feet, minds, and hearts behind any good or service you create or experience. Technology and automation have no doubt changed the landscape of how we work. Increases in efficiency alone are enough to celebrate the achievements we’ve seen in technology in all sectors. But technology is a tool, and the quality of that tool is only as good as the people that create it.
At Crema, we build digital products for innovative companies. These companies are industry leaders and disruptive startups that will be using the products we make to serve millions of customers. The impact these products have is incredibly valuable, and at times may be immeasurable. If we are to serve our clients with excellence, then hiring the right people to build the best products is one of the highest stewardships I have. It’s one of the highest stewardships any leader has.
I once heard someone say, “All great ideas, at some point, degenerate to work.” I love this quote because it supports the notion that ideas are only as good as the level of intention and execution put into them. All leaders want excellent culture made up of people that enjoy working together. This is a given. Anyone in a full-time position probably spends 45 to 50 hours, if not more, with the people they work with. Doesn’t it make sense to hire people that you enjoy working with? Of course it does! However, this desire cannot stay at the “idea level” if you truly want it to come to fruition.
This is where the work comes in. Hiring effectively is an intentional and strategic process that requires a lot of time and effort. The hiring process we designed probably took upwards of 6 years to create, refine, and utilize effectively. There were a lot of bumps along the way, but it was worth every minute. This process serves as a very important gatekeeper to our culture. It still gets tweaked every once in a while, but for the most part it hasn’t changed in 4 years. Below is a brief, step-by-step process of how we recruit and hire at Crema.
1. Always be recruiting: It is true...you may not always be hiring, but you should always be recruiting. Our leadership team frequently has coffee and lunch meetings with individuals we feel could be potential team members down the road. You should too!
2. Use a hiring system: Sending out emails, follow-ups, offer letters, and creating templates outside of a recruiting platform is incredibly time-consuming and not efficient. When we were smaller (around 10 employees) it was possible, but not since we've grown and nearly quadrupled in size. For the last 4 years, we’ve been using Workable. Workable is a recruiting and hiring management platform that automates most of our recruitment funnel. It’s where we upload and post all job openings, create our applications, correspond with applicants, send predefined emails based on templates, and select job posting platforms to advertise the opening. Needless to say, we couldn’t screen nearly as many applicants if we didn’t use a platform like Workable.
3. Create a funnel that works for you and stick to it. Our funnel is not unique. However, it’s one that allows us to ask the right questions in order to get the answers we need to determine if the person fits the role, our culture, and company values. Our process looks like the following.
- Application and resume review by the hiring manager.
- If they are selected out of the pool of applicants, an initial phone screen is conducted by the hiring manager. During this phone call, we ask different questions than were on the application in order to learn more about them in actual conversation. It also allows the hiring manager to gain more clarity on the applicants knowledge, skills and overall personality.
- If the applicant performs well on the phone screen, they are asked to come in for a 2-tier interview. This part of the process lasts about 2 hours and consists of 1) an interview with George (Founder and CEO) and myself; and 2) a team interview. The first interview focuses on the applicant’s soft skills, team dynamics, and overall fit with our company values. The second interview focuses more on the skills required of the position, in addition to team dynamics. It’s incredibly valuable for our team to be able to meet and speak with the candidate that they may end up working with on a daily basis. Additionally, the candidate is able to ask our team honest questions about the position and what it is like to work at Crema.
4. Solicit feedback from each member of your team on an individual basis. There is nothing wrong with group feedback. However, we found you don’t always get the unvarnished and unbiased version. Members of the team may have differing opinions, but if “groupthink” sets in, opinions may not be voiced and heard. Because of this, we've decided to solicit feedback on an individual basis. This gives our interview team a safe place to voice all positive and negative feedback without being influenced by other members. I’m very thankful for this decision and believe it gives us the absolute best feedback.
As you move forward thinking about your hiring process, let this quote from Jim Collins be your guide, “First who, then what.” We started using this brilliant saying many years ago, as we determined it was more important to find the person that aligned with Crema missionally and from a values perspective rather than from a skills-based perspective. Don’t misunderstand me; the person needs to be qualified for the position. However, I would rather train a new employee in their craft than on their cultural fit. Missteps from a technical perspective are easy to correct and encourage. Missteps from a values perspective can easily lead to a toxic culture, which is something you can’t allow. The strength of your company culture and the performance of your team depends on it.