Changing Your Hiring Process: What Works Today might not Tomorrow

By Ali On Wednesday, May 11, 2016 no Comments · In Leadership, Professional Development
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At Leadership, our first core value is Forge the Path, Enjoy the Journey. Lucky for me, as you’ll find out below, our second is Lead, Learn, Lead Again.

I started coordinating the hiring process here in May 2009, just shy of 10 months on the job. Since then, I’ve moved from coordinating to managing the process, bringing hundreds of talented artists, evaluators, athletes, social workers, musicians—even magicians—into our fold and on to our team.

We have never had a perfect hire. I don’t expect we ever will.

Like many organizations, we were searching for a hiring process that would allow us to effectively evaluate candidates, ensure we were meetings the candidates needs as well as our own, and efficiently use our staff’s (and company’s) valuable time.

For the sake of this article, I want to hone in on our hiring of Leadership Trainers, who make up the vast majority of our staff. At least once yearly (sometimes more—this school year, we’ve held five hirings), we onboard from 5 to 45 people to provide direct services in the schools we serve.

Original Process

Here was the breakdown of our hiring process when I first started. It had been in place for several years, and was gifted to me as such:

  • Resume Review
  • Phone Interview
  • Face-to-Face Interview
  • Audition
  • Orientation
  • Reference Checks

After a couple of years, when I was moving to manage the process more, I realized the breakdown needed to evolve. We were spending too much time—cost hours—on the process:

  • The Face-to-Face Interview, previously conducted with (ideally) one candidate and two Leadershippers, was proving to be a poor use of company time. We also realized we weren’t having a chance to see how candidates interacted with and engaged with others until the Orientation, which is a paid training (although still a part of the hiring process). In addition, candidates weren’t seeing how we define facilitation until the Orientation. This was much too late. Bringing in Teambuilding element solved both of these problems.
  • At the same time, we were finding that the Audition, which required a pool of staffers to watch the candidates facilitate and partake in a follow up deliberation that took just as much time as the observing, was also not an effective use of company time. I created a system for including everyone’s voice, complete with form, rubric, and grading, streamlining the deliberation process. I also sent the candidates some of our own exercises, complete with basic instructions for facilitation. Along with instructions, we sent them some sample videos of some of our stars facilitating these activities. Seeking clarity, we re-titled this step the Sample Lesson.
  • Finally, we weren’t getting the results we were looking for in the time-consuming Reference Checks.

First Revision of Process

So, we did an overhaul:

  • Resume Review
  • Phone Interview
  • Face-to-Face Interview
  • Group Interview with Teambuilding
  • Audition
  • Sample Lesson
  • Orientation
  • Reference Checks

Then, a couple more years later, things were feeling off again. The Resume Review and Phone Interview seemed to be working. But:

  • The Group Interview with Teambuilding (where we start the interview by putting the candidates into teams and facilitating an exercise that we do with kids to see how they do together) was taking up a lot of time. The candidates seemed to be getting more out of it than we were (Leadership does a mean teambuilding), and although they were leaving smiling with new friends, we were spending a lot of (wo)man-hours with very little pay off. After much deliberation, we found a question for the Group Interview to test their agility working with others, and cut the teambuilding.
  • With the Sample Lesson, we were getting closer, but now the candidates were being hand-fed instructions to show them how to do the facilitation, so candidates that were particularly adept at copying others watched the videos and did just that—which we found didn’t translate in helping us find strong facilitators—though we did find strong copy-cats (a skill in itself). We needed to go back and move forward at once. We went back to having the candidates bring their own exercise to the team, and renamed this step the Facilitation Demonstration to provide further clarity to the candidates on what we were hoping to see. We continued to use the system I created last time, but deliberation was cut to two people, who worked to decide on candidates based on the entire team’s notes and rankings.
  • We brought back a re-imagined Reference Check. It took a lot of research and team work, but after two years of witnessing fibbers come in through the cracks, proved necessary.

Second Revision of Process

With a couple minor tweaks, we found ourselves here:

  • Resume Review
  • Phone Interview
  • Group Interview with Teambuilding
  • Group Interview
  • Sample Lesson
  • Facilitation Demonstration
  • Orientation
  • Reference Checks

This system was mostly working. Until this years’ multiple hires, that is. This year was like no year I had experienced before, due to increases in city funding from the de Blasio administration. We hired 30 or so people in September, and by November we needed 10, which by December increased to 15. Then in January, we needed another 10. Then in April, we needed 5. Efficiency and adaptability became paramount. I started seeing where in the process we could cut—saving both company-time/cost-hours and candidate-time—a lucky win-win.

  • The Phone Interview became much more basic—something anyone on staff could do, crucial in a time where nearly half of our Programming team of experts were either working in schools or on maternity/paternity leave.
  • In a pinch in August, we tried doing the Group Interview and Facilitation Demonstration in one session, and it worked better than I could have imagined.
  • We kept the Orientation, but a shortened version in the school-year with bolster trainings,
  • And conducted Reference Checks on an as needed basis.

Final Revision of Process…For Now

This year, our hirings looked like this:

  • Resume Review
  • Phone Interview
  • Abridged Phone Interview
  • Group Interview
  • Facilitation Demonstration
  • Group Interview and Facilitation Demonstration
  • Orientation
  • Reference Checks
  • Reference Checks (as needed)

Going into my seventh summer hiring for Leadership, we’re keeping much of the same structure of this year’s hires, which freed me and the team up to conduct our ideal hire: a rolling one. Now, throughout the year, we are constantly going through steps of the hiring process. No matter the month, we could be Resume Reviewing or conducting the abridged Phone Interview. We are holding Group Interviews and Facilitation Demonstrations once weekly over the summer, as Resume Reviews and Phone Interviews continue to take place. With the national teacher shortage and our dedication to bringing on team members committed to excellence, this was another opportunity to meet our stakeholders where they are at: now, candidates aren’t out of the running if they happen to be away for the couple weeks that we have saved in the past for these steps. Throughout, Reference Checks are taking place.

Important Note: The focus of this piece is on the breakdown of our hiring by steps, but it is essential to note that at every single hire, we change the content of some part of the process—as big a total overhaul of the phone interview and in-person interview questions in one hire to a slight tweak of the wording in another. In our five hires this year, there’s been at least a tweak in each.

Times change. Needs change. Expectations change. We must change with it.

Questions? Comments? Best practices? Share them below.

 

 

"Is Your Hiring Process the Right Candidate for the Job?", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2016

 

Ali

About Ali

Ali Mercier, Marketing Content Manager at The Leadership Program, prides herself on her "move fast, break things" pace, eager to bring the world of Youth Development into the world of tomorrow. She insists that you find joy wherever you can in life, including (and sometimes especially) in your work. Ali earned her writing degree from the communications- and arts-focused Emerson College in Boston. Connect with her on Twitter @AliMercier.