In Part I of this real-life story of how I hired my dream marketer this fall (link below), I detailed how we set up a quiz to easily sort candidates by attributes.
The Quiz helped me quickly sort more than 100 applicants down to just 5. The funny thing was, despite their similarities (they all liked admin, spreadsheeting, being a do-it-yourself person, and search marketing) they all had completely different backgrounds.
Each also had different strengths and weaknesses as a candidate. I found myself rather desperately wishing I could create a sort of Frankenstein of a marketer, with the best bits of each melded together into one person. But then, Frankenstein was a monster.
It was time to get help from my team….
The team interview process
I've noticed that the biggest mistake most companies make when they have multiple execs interview a candidate is that the execs seem to be operating in independent vacuums. Each interviewer sitting across the desk from you uses the same questions… "So, why do you want to leave your current position?"
The candidate begins to wonder, "Do these people ever talk to each other? Why are they wasting time with nearly identical interviews?"
Sometimes this may be clever cunning on the part of the interviewer -- will the candidate crack the 47th time they're asked a question? But most of the time it's just stupid.
To avoid this, I made a list of key questions and discussion points for each member of my team. One person was in charge of discussing what it's like to work in a highly entrepreneurial company, another to discuss particular marketing tasks and skills, a third to feel out a personality match, etc.
Although conversations flowed as naturally as possible, I also told everyone they *must* ask certain set questions of every single candidate, so we could compare apples to apples later on. This would hopefully stop us from being swayed by personality alone.
Plus, very important: I reminded everyone about HR law. "Don't ask about kids, pregnancy, religion, sexual preferences, race, etc.," I said. Kids are the hardest rule because it's an easy ice breaker to discuss family before the "tough" questions start. But it's critical. If a candidate brings up kids, you can let them say whatever they want, but even then don't ask questions. Better silent than sorry.
I conducted the top-line interviews by phone, allowing 45 minutes per call. Then I asked the three candidates who passed my interview checklist to contact two more MarketingSherpa team members for interviews. Critical: I also told the candidates what sort of general questions they should ask those particular team members. "She'll be great at telling you what it's really like to work here, and be sure to ask him any questions about our tech backend…"
That way both sides of each conversation knew what was expected.
What if your top candidate says, "I'm pregnant."
It was thrilling to call our top candidate, Carol Meinhart, and offer her the job. She said she'd like to think it over, and would give me an answer the next morning. I didn't sleep that night. And neither, it turns out, did she.
"This is my dream job," Carol told me on the phone the next day. "But I have to turn it down. I'm 6 months pregnant."
Our job was definitely absolutely fulltime, and after much heartache, Carol had decided she couldn't do it justice with the demands on her personal schedule for the next year. If I'd offered her the job in 2005, maybe. But the timing was off.
I was convinced Carol was the right person for us, and that finding another match so dead-on right would be really difficult. It was time to be flexible and take a leap -- "Would you consider working part-time?" I asked.
"But you need a full-time dedicated person to handle this job," Carol argued.
"I need your brains and attitude and experience," I told her. "Let's split the job into pieces, give you the part you love to do and that you are uniquely qualified for, and then hire a marketing manager to back you up. The two salaries together would equal what I'd spend on you full-time anyway."
Yes, there would be extra costs -- computers, HR, admin, supervision, etc. But perhaps we'd be a stronger company over the long term with two marketers ready to back each other up in emergencies and share knowledge.
Carol agreed to a super-flexible schedule, and I agreed to hire an extra marketer as soon as possible. (In fact, her name is Sissi Haner and she starts February 2nd!)
Do part-timers get more done?
That night I still couldn't sleep. So I pattered down to my home office and surfed the Net for a while looking for articles on part-time workers.
The most inspirational was by Moreover Technologies' Founder Nick Denton who's been through the dot-com 100-hour working week craze and out the other side. In "The 80% Company" (link below) he argued that part-timers often get more done than full-time staff because part-timers work more intensively. Instead of hanging out by the water cooler, they pack every task possible into their limited time.
While this may not be true for every part-timer, it certainly proved to be the case with Carol. She gets more done in less time than practically anyone I've ever worked with.
And, there was an added benefit to hiring a pregnant person -- the office baby pool was definitely fun. Everyone posted their birth time guesses to a special section we set up on our intranet. I definitely think it brought the team closer together. I just wish I'd won.
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