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An insider’s View of the Hiring Process at Slingshot SEO (Part One)

by Jay Love

One of the key areas I’ve been focusing on during my first few months here at Slingshot SEO has been human resources.HR always has been near and dear to my heart and soul because the single most important asset of any organization is its people. There is not even a close second to human capital in my opinion!

Ensuring that we have the best, brightest and most spirited team involves a systematic and well-thought out hiring process. Just like any successful coach at the college or pro level often depends on recruiting or the draft, a successful manager must have a strategy that begins with finding future superstars and avoiding the “drag” effect of turnover to the team.

Welcome to the Team Folder

Our hiring process is based upon proven principles, a refined system and the combined brain power of multiple managers. Feel free to flagrantly copy these steps for your organization. Perhaps we would all start seeing resumes with 6- to 10-year employment runs rather than the typical every-other-year job changes which are so prevalent on the hundreds of resumes we see each month at Slingshot SEO.

I hope you find the Slingshot SEO hiring process enlightening and perhaps useful in some manner for your organization. Even if you only derive a golden nugget or two, I will consider this blog post a success!

Step One: Reaching Out with a Wide Net

We first began our hiring process by utilizing every relationship, online job board, social media and other source possible to entice a large pool of candidates. Relationships among our current employees, vendors, customers and friends were explored. Here at Slingshot SEO, we have been fortunate to receive immense media attention —both locally and nationally. To say the least, being in on large amounts of mindshare aids in our recruiting.

Step Two: Automating the Responses

We asked for and received all types of responses electronically via our web site. This allows us to automate the process, which is vital for a busy HR team and our hiring managers. The networking referred to above is usually quite successful. Several of our recent hiring searches were based upon an applicant pool of nearly 100 candidates!

In fact, this step is so important to the process I have asked our HR Coordinator Tracy Morgan to explore our use of social media in a future blog post . . .

Step Three: The Email Questions

All applicants which meet the basic criteria are sent an email asking them to respond within 24 hours to an attached list of 10 to 12 thought-provoking questions. We feel it is vital to first see applicants at work with this ever so important communication skill of writing. It also serves to illustrate how they approach such a task and meet deadlines. (Yes, nearly one-fourth of all responses come in past the deadline. I cannot even fathom doing that in a job search, but it does occur.) By making the questions thought-provoking and open ended, we truly see insight into each candidate’s thought process and writing skills. The responses usually range from a few words to 2 to 3 paragraphs each. If we find that a particular question or two is not yielding responses that differentiate, then we revise and update.

As these email question responses come in, our hiring managers rate them via a single-page rating tool. The scores can range from 0 to 100. Because of our large candidate pool, it usually takes a score of 75 or higher to move to the next step. Our goal is to keep at least 10 qualified candidates going to step four.

Step Four: Structured Phone Interviews

Our first interactive contact with the top applicants begins here. Our next step is a 20- to 30-minute phone interview based upon questions specifically created for each position. It is important to note here that all of your managers need to create and ruthlessly revise and update telephone interview questions for every role! Only by asking the same questions to multiple candidates can you begin to differentiate among them based upon valid reasons. First and foremost on the list of qualifying reasons is valid and verifiable experience in knowing and applying the skills required to be successful in the new role!

We know the ability to communicate effectively over the phone is another key asset. This step allows us to verify the candidate’s skills as well as provide the candidate the opportunity to ask a question or two. The candidate’s questions highlight their research and understanding of the requirements of the position plus quickly demonstrate their verbal skills. We try to have at least 2 to 3 managers with some connection to the position conduct the phone interviews so we can acquire multiple single-page rating sheets again. A member of our HR team schedules all of the calls as well as compiles the results.

Step Five: First Meeting of the Minds

Now we start putting all of the pieces together.  Unlike this video, we are using multiple heads to make this critical midway point come to life and set the stage for the balance of our process.

Our HR team discusses the full results of the first four steps with the hiring managers involved. This group can be just two people or as many as four or five for certain key roles. The goal is to determine our semi-finalists. In our process, only the semi-finalists are interviewed in person. In fact, if any of the candidates become one of the 2 to 4 finalists, he or she will have two chances to communicate in a face-to-face manner.

The key content for those face-to face sessions will be explored in my next blog post. I truly think you will find the questions asked during these interviews insightful. In addition, the final step is quite a surprise for the finalists. I bet it will be for those of you reading this. How’s that for a lead in to the next episode?

Jay Love

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