Chris Winn   About

Build Your Hiring Framework

Illustration by Bronwyn Gruet at Creative Market

As a manager, hiring is your most impactful activity. It has higher leverage than anything else, because great people can surprise you with wonderful contributions that move a team and a company forward. Companies are about people and the relationships between those people; it follows that bringing someone special to the team is a deeply rewarding and fulfilling experience.

But without a philosophy as well as a repeatable process to execute, hiring can feel frustrating. The results can feel random — no rhyme or reason to the hits and misses.

This post is for the hiring manager at a smaller organization that does not have a recruiting resource. It’s a glimpse into my personal process for establishing a hiring framework. I call it a framework because it’s both that high-level philosophy as well as the more tactical components to execute.

Assess Your Values

Start by knowing and understanding your company’s core values, which may necessitate a larger conversation with your leadership team. No candidate should ever get through the door without being a fit for your company’s values. Those values empower you to think strategically about hiring; they are your north star above the influx of information you receive about a particular candidate.

Create a Model

Take time to think through the traits of the best and worst hires. Perform this exercise through the lens of your company’s core values rather than raw skills; that will help you view your team from a high-level, strategic perspective.

For us, the best generally look something like this:

It’s important to be humble as a hiring manager. Spend time reflecting on the traits of people who didn’t work out and the mistakes you’ve made. Being humble is always your secret weapon for self-improvement.

You might bucket them into some themes:

Create a model for your ideal candidate. You might add on requirements for a certain role, but particularly for a small organization, there should be common threads through all roles.

Know What You Need

Your job every day as a leader is to look out for the best interests of the company and your team (in that order). But if there’s one selfish act I encourage, it’s to be comfortable knowing what you need as a manager from your new hire. Think about how you work. What excites you? Do you like debate? Do you crave collaboration? Are you an expert who can foster a mentorship culture, or do you need self-starters? What pushes your buttons and drives you crazy?

You have to hire people you’re excited to work with every day. If you don’t love managing someone, you’ll find you’re not a very good manager for them.

Work on Your Pitch

You represent your company, so it’s incumbent upon every hiring manager to make an impassioned pitch for why yours is the right opportunity to take. Your pitch should be accurate and honest, and also reveal to the candidate how excited you are to be on the team. Like any pitch, yours should be concise and hit on the themes that most vividly convey the best qualities of your company. Remember that they have options, too, and you want to stand out in their minds.

Define the Role

Know exactly why you’re hiring someone. Define in detail their responsibilities and what their day-to-day might look like. Know who they’ll be working with and how those interactions might influence the results. Paint a vivid picture of the expectations and expect them to be excited about the opportunity. Speak directly about what they’re signing up for.

Take time to understand their goals, too, and be comfortable speaking openly if you have concerns about how their goals align with what you know the opportunity to be.

Align Your Skills Assessment

Make sure your skills assessment closely aligns with the real-world. I threw away our existing code challenge because it didn’t test for the things that I value as a manager of an engineering team. In fact, I’ve never seen a project here at Creative Market that reminded me of the code challenge I took when I joined as a developer four years ago.

What I value is collaboration, a humble approach to improvement, and an eagerness for quality and speed — so our code challenge happens in real-time over Slack and video. Candidates receive the scope ahead of time and they’re encouraged to ask questions and collaborate.

Don’t be afraid to ask something of the candidate. They should be willing to give you their time in exchange for consideration. But also save the assessment for a late stage of your process; since you are asking for their time, you have an obligation to be serious about hiring them.

Don’t Skimp on Tools

Interviewing takes a lot of time, so make sure you have good tools to do the job. You’ll need to coordinate phone interviews, keep track of your best candidates, and have a place to store notes. Don’t underestimate what it means to have so many people to talk to; you can simply forget about someone who really excited you because they fade into the back pages of your inbox. Find ways to spend your time on the most valuable candidates, and move quickly past the ones that are not good matches.

At Creative Market, we use a purpose-built applicant tracking system and, once properly configured, it’s dramatically improved our speed, diligence, and accountability.

Hiring is similar to a sales process. You should have a momentum to your hiring that pushes someone forward through a series of steps. Every day, think in terms of making the next decision available to you: pass or advance, and then at some point pass or hire. Always Be Hiring.

Craft a Relationship

You may not realize this, but if you end up hiring a candidate, you actually started your manager relationship during the first phone call. Once you settle in on someone, talk to them a lot. Call them, grab coffee, jump on video, go for a walk — whatever feels right in terms of time investment. The excitement should be mutual and shouldn’t fade as you work through the process.

Remember to take plenty of notes, too. If you do hire a candidate, you’ll amass plenty of useful information to guide you as their manager going forward.

Go through a diligence process to create your personal hiring framework. Your goal as a hiring manager should be to feel comfortable and confident about how you hire. But don’t forget, it’s on the candidate to be a great hire too. Your responsibility is to make sure they have a clear vision and set of goals, the right environment and tools to achieve those goals, and direct, honest feedback along the way.

Written on May 10, 2017