In this episode, learn how to leverage your existing employees to build an incredible interview team with consistent feedback processes, interview rubrics, and hiring projects! This video is part of our free, online 6-video crash course on “How to Hire At Your Startup” available on our YouTube channel.
How To Hire: Running Your Interview Process (Part 5)with Sasha and Jake
About the Episode
Subscribe and listen at
Hi everybody. Thanks so much for joining us here at Venture Scaler. I’m Sasha and I’m Jake. And today we’re talking about designing projects to fit into your candidate evaluation or your hiring process and how to use a team in the interview process to evaluate candidates.
Right? So we’re going to skip ahead a little bit and just assume that you’re running your interviews. So there’s a lot of really amazing resources on how to run great interviews, different questions to ask. And we have a lot of those resources too, but we want to really hit on after you go through the screening interview process, a few other pieces of the interview that we think is really important to make sure that you’re getting to the right final candidate. So let’s break this down. We’re going to talk about the project or the exercise, and then reviewing each candidate as a team. So let’s dive into the exercise. Okay.
Let’s do it. So not all businesses choose to use an exercise or a project or a demo with the candidates to see how their skills manifest in real life. I personally love to do it across all roles. I know Jake does too, and we can give you some examples of what that looks like, but the main reason we do that, I’m like, I love doing it because there are candidates that are amazing at interviewing. They can talk your socks off. You’re like, whoa, let’s get it. It’s amazing. And I need them on my team. And then if you have them do some sort of skills-based assessment, regardless of the role, you can get some insight into what the caliber of work would look like. Um, and I’ve been in interviews where I’ve had my top two or three candidates and they all get projects. I’m like, wow, these are hot, garbage, like never hiring any of these people for real. And then you have this underdog, you’re like, ah, fourth, fifth runner up. I don’t know. We’ll see they do the project and they blow you away. And that’s one of my biases. And I know that I’m, that I’m aware of. And I work on is if someone’s great at talking and they’re fun to talk to. It’s like, Oh, they must be good at their job. And that’s not always the case, which is why we use projects.
Yeah. I think the only thing to add here is that sometimes it’s hard to qualify if someone’s really skilled in a certain area just by talking about it. So like even little things like their ability to write emails or, you know, copy and things like that. You can’t, it’s hard to tease that out in a verbal conversation or over video, right? So having that exercise is the ability to dig into that area in a way that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
That’s great. So let’s run through we’ll, high-level touch on the types of projects you can do. I’ll start with some business roles. I know we have some ops and some more technical roles as well. Like if you’re hiring a support rep, um, this isn’t a role where they’re with customers all day, every day. And so they need to be able to respond quickly and effectively with sometimes some technical responses and otherwise just very friendly. And so we send them a list of potential candidate questions that they’ll be getting in through our ticketing system and ask them to write responses. So since this is an early-stage junior-level hire, it’s not a super robust project, probably takes them 30 minutes, but it gives us insight into how they write if they form full sentences, which like sometimes not the case. And if they can go on our website and pull resources in and are resourceful and answering these questions, uh, that’s probably the shortest project I’ve ever given for roles like a salesperson or a recruiter we’ll do a mock demo or a mock interview. Well, we’ll ask them to either create a deck and give a sales demo or for recruiting. I’ve asked them to write a job description for a role, and then interview me against the job description, based on my mock profile, and then evaluate if I would be a good fit for the role.
That’s great. I’ve literally been in some like in-person exercises where like, w we’ll do it. It won’t be like a take-home, but we’ll like pretend to get on the phone. And I’m a customer, like talk to me just to see how they do, because part of the job where they were going to be on the phones. Yeah, yeah.
No, I think that’s great. What about some of the technical ones? I know you have some great examples of those.
Yeah. So some of the ones that we had, so I know like coming from, from Uber, we had, I had to do two exercises when I got hired there. So one was a quantitative exercise. Uh, it was an analytics test. So it was just, you got to a CSV file dump of two weeks worth of trip data. And you had to manipulate that data and to get answers to questions that they had through like 24 different questions that you had in the timed test, just to see, can you do that type of work? Right. It was like, it was a screener test that came before a lot of the like other team interviews, uh, to make sure that they weren’t going to end up wasting their time on someone who wasn’t analytical because they needed that in the role. Uh, the other exercise I had to do when I came on was, uh, put together a launch plan for a new city.
So what would I do to get new drivers, new riders? And how would I think about the airport and launching that? So just put a presentation together. And the really cool part was that once I did get hired, three months later, I was launching that city. So it was like literally using that plan. And obviously, they had their own plan in place, but to help launch that market. And it was a good way for them to understand how I would think about it and can I actually put together a strong plan because they needed me to come in and do that job.
Yeah. And sometimes these can take a long time and, um, I’ve paid candidates for these projects if it’s going to be a robust analysis. Um, if it’s something quick, that’s part of almost like part of an interview, um, or prep for an interview. I won’t, but if it’s these, like some of these can take like 10 hours to do well. So we’ll offer to pay candidates for their time.
That’s a great point. I actually went through an interview process where they paid me to come in, to come into work for seriously, for three days. That’s awesome. And I worked with the team and pulled data and got insights and put together a presentation for the leadership team by the end of it. And I got paid three full days of work at a certain hourly rate to do that. So yeah, a lot of different ways to put these together, but maybe
I’ll start interviewing places and get paid.
So I think the big takeaway though, is that you want to create something that helps represent the work that they will actually be doing to see can he or she do the job. What’s the quality of work.
And on the flip side, ensuring that when the candidate is going through this project, they get an accurate reflection of what the role will actually be doing. So they could do this. And I’m like, Oh, this is hot, garbage. I want no part of doing this 40 hours a week or, wow. This is amazing. Sign me up. Can’t wait to do more.
Yeah. Last little point before we move on to the next section, uh, the other things that I look for in exercises, uh, they’re a little bit more outside of the exercise itself. Sometimes I look for the quality of work and for turnaround time. So if you’re going to look for those things, make sure you add that into the instructions and say that like, I’m grading this on quality and on turnaround time and like all these other things, but I can, sometimes I’ve been able to gauge the excitement a candidate has for the role because they’re just like working on it. Like immediately after we get off the phone, as soon as I send it, they’re sending it right away. Um, I’ve also had really promising candidates that just blew it off and didn’t send it until like a few days later. And it just, I don’t know, I just put up like a really big red flag and made me second guess my thoughts about those candidates. So a couple of other things to look at and things that you can use the exercise for.
I love that. Um, and it’s one more data point for the interviewing team to use, to evaluate this candidate kind of segues nicely into the team evaluations. And I’m always hesitant with team interviews to use team feedback unless everyone is trained up because it is so easy to like, I love them. They’re so fun to talk to. Or they like this thing that I like, or they’ve worked somewhere I’ve worked get, I think they’d be a great culture fit, like hate that. Um, and sometimes it’s hard to like take feedback seriously. So interviewing training is so key and having this, uh, and inviting other team members to be part of the process. And then this team review period is also huge. So why don’t you dive into what that looks like before and during yeah?
The, so the team review, so w I’ve run this process last couple of jobs I’ve been in where we bring together everyone who has interviewed the candidate. So after like you’re dead, maybe down to your top three, top five, wherever you’re getting to, but you bring the team together to review that candidate. Uh, the big thing here is that you want to be able to, you want to try as best you can to remove bias and try to get around like away from groupthink. Right? So the whole idea around, I don’t know if like, if a peer comes in and they say, I did not like that candidate, they were
I came in thinking they were my number one. I really liked that person. Now. I don’t want to look bad, especially if like this person’s higher than
Me. Right? Like, I don’t
Want to come in now. I need to defend myself coming into it
Or you’re questioning your decision-making.
I still, I think that’s like, it’s really important. So the idea is to come in blind and get everyone’s opinion all at once. So what we do, one is you have your own written
Ahead of time, right after you complete your interview. Yup.
Ideally, you get that into your ATS system so that eventually everyone’s able to see it, but that, you know, no one, uh, no one is seeing this ahead of time, but you have it logged, um, is, have that written feedback down. I try to bring my written notes or my printed-out notes into that review session with everyone who’s interviewed the candidate. So I have my notes and I can back up what I’m going to say. Right. And then when we get into that review session, I always like to start with a thumbs up, thumbs down, just Roman style. Everyone starts heads down, thumbs up, everyone starts neutral. And then you only can pick thumbs up or thumbs down, no sideways. Right. Get that out of here. So we just go one, two, three, and then everyone puts either a thumbs up or a thumbs down based on how they if they’d hire or not.
Right. And that coming in. And that’s the first thing you do before you even start talking about any feedback or the candidate at all. It removes that bias and gets it, bypasses the group. Think at least in the beginning. So now you can see, Oh, there were three yeses and one, no, let’s start with that. No. Yeah. I want to hear why you think this would not be a good fit. And maybe that person got something that the rest of the interviewers didn’t get, they got like a story or an anecdote or a big red flag and something maybe that might’ve skipped by like, Oh, you know what, now that you say that you’re right.
They did do that.
So just kind of like making you, you know, gut-check ahead of time, like, this is what my feedback is. And then you can come in with that written feedback. And if you’re asked like, okay, you were the person that said no, why? Yeah. Well, now I’m going to like to go through my feedback and give those actual reasons why. So that’s how I think about and try to how I try to structure those, those review meetings and
Choose someone to run that meeting. Typically the hiring manager or it can be your people person. And if someone says something like, Oh, they just didn’t feel like a culture fit or like, they’d be good in this role, push back. And don’t be afraid to say why or why not? Or give me an example from the interview that made you think that way and question why they’re saying the things they are. Um, because like I said earlier, I think it’s so easy to be like, ah, I disliked them or I made a snap judgment, or I hate the place that they worked or I’ve heard negative things about their culture. I’m sure they’re bad too. And really dig in and there could be validity in these snap judgments. We make judgments for a reason, but we should be really cautious before making these blanket assumptions about people.
Yep. Totally agree. The culture fit as a reason why not to hire is sometimes it’s just used as a crutch. So I try to dig in with my team as to like, what was the thing that was said, like, what answer, what value did they go against? You know, trying to get down to the root of why not? Yeah. So I think super
Important. Yeah. And if you’re kind of a mixed bag, but the hiring manager or the people person really feel strongly about moving forward, I’ve sometimes spun up another interview with someone senior on the team or just again, with the hiring manager or I go really hard on reference checks and I’m digging in for these specific areas where someone’s thrown up a flag and try to find if anyone that’s worked with this person before will flag anything similar and just try to get more data points because you don’t want to throw someone out because a couple of people got bad vibes or didn’t like them. Um, but you want to be thoughtful and be thorough in your
Yeah. Or like, you know, they were nervous in their first interview, but like warmed up and got more comfortable later on. So yeah,
We gonna have different interviewing styles and someone’s really rude and hostile. Not that they should or would be, but it could just be different. Yeah. So take all those things into consideration. As you’re reviewing, try to do something skills-based like a demo or a project, and hopefully, you can find great candidates for your roles.
Awesome. Well, thank you all for joining and watching again