The Recruitment Process: Part 1 – What we can learn from applications and interviews

Business Learnings

17th November 2020

Telescopic have just recently hired someone. The recruitment process, especially in small businesses, is never an easy one. Nevermind during a global pandemic!

To illustrate the effort it takes for a small company to do this, first, before we even consider posting the job, we need to evaluate the cost of the hire and weigh up investment vs risk of income to make sure we are making the right step.

This time round, I took a lot more from the process than I thought I would and I thought it would be interesting to share my insights with you. I have split them into two parts, starting with the steps you are probably more familiar with, both as a recruiter or as a jobseeker – the applications and interviews.

Opening the floodgates

You can sense the innocence in my original LinkedIn post.

In the first week, we had over 500 applications. Not long after, we had reached almost 4 figures and made the decision to take our ads down.

This has NEVER happened before.

You’ve probably already read somewhere on the internet that recruiters only spend seconds looking at a CV. I’ve always thought it was wildly overstated. Of course, I always looked at all CVs in detail. We had only received a manageable double digit number in the past.

Now I’m starting to see why. After the first batch, due to the sheer volume, I had to resort to click, check experience, dismiss or send email to qualify for the next step.

TOP TIPS! Potential candidates, I’m talking to you now! If you want to make sure your applications make an impact, I recommend the following:

  • There still seem to be a lot of candidates putting education over experience. Always put your work experience first.
  • Please don’t try to pass off coding bootcamp as practical experience. There seems to be one particular one that advises people to add it as ‘developer experience’. It’s not. 
  • Also, don’t start with sentences like, ‘I’m very passionate/reliable/teamplayer/good and excellent at everything.’ Maybe one sentence, that’s enough.

The interview

The steps of our typical hiring process include:

  1. A questionnaire with a practical task.
  2. If they are successful, invite them for an interview.
  3. If we still can’t decide, we may have a second round of interviews.
  4. Once we have a good idea which candidate/s we like, get references.

We invited about 50 candidates who met our minimum requirements to fill in the questionnaire. About 40 did so. 

For us, the recruiter, this means 15-20 minutes to read each reply, download the practical example, look at it, evaluate, check back on the CV/emails. If we are happy, we then send an invite for an interview.

In the end, we scheduled 9 candidates for an interview. 

We’re pretty busy. In our line of work, communication is key and if we don’t get stuff done, we lose clients or, at the very least, fall behind on things. 

Every single interview requires at least 30 minutes preparation and chat, then another 30 minutes evaluation and other admin afterwards. We had to limit interviews to 30 minutes each to make this viable. We need two people to do the interview so if you work it out that’s….

1.5 hours per interview x 9 candidates = 3 full days of interviews per member of staff

After the interviews, we had three great candidates and eventually narrowed it down to two. 

What happened next

But, as you probably know, this is never the end of the process. 

We know what it is like to be on the other side of the table. It’s nerve-wracking but also an experience you can learn a lot from. We care and of course we want to send each candidate personal responses with practical feedback. Because it’s just fair, right?

What happened at the end of a couple of interviews was another first (it must be something people are recommending now?). Two interviewees asked, at the end of the interview, if we could give them feedback about the interview that we just had. Sorry but that’s not going to happen. 

Firstly, we need time to digest things, and we’re not going to make a decision there and then. It’s important and fair to give each candidate thought and consideration and a lot of the time it’s not immediately clear why an interview or specific replies where ‘good’ or ‘bad’ so to speak.

Everything is a grey area, but if you made it to the interview stage, that’s the opportunity for you to shine.

job interview meme

It’s the ultimate speed dating – do we want to meet again? Giving feedback there and then can only lead to disappointment.

Which is why we think it is important to personally reply after the interview.

Dealing with feedback

And we did just that. Only this time, I got a disgruntled reply to one of our feedback emails. 

It actually stated that our process was ‘unfair’ and ‘unkind’. Some feedback was taken the wrong way and deemed ‘insulting’. 

That’s the problem with written communication that has not gone through vigorous checks and feedback loops to see if it could be misinterpreted in any way and it is worth bearing in mind. 

In my feedback, I had told the candidate that their story of ‘how they got into coding’ didn’t really convince us and maybe she ‘should change it’, meaning ‘change how you tell it’ rather than ‘what you tell’.

You want honest feedback? That’s it. I do understand that it might not be nice to hear but interviews are there to find a candidate that fulfils a role and fits in with the existing company culture and attitude. And others have done better.

I also mentioned that the successful candidate had ‘very relevant experience’ for the type of projects we were and going to be working on. That was again misinterpreted. This does not relate to the candidates’ experience but to our projects. 

As the candidate, you are in no position to judge what kind of experience is needed for certain projects that are in the company’s pipeline. Do we need someone with a keen eye for frontend? A certain attitude? Special experience in one particular language/framework/type of work? 

Taking on new team members is never going to be easy or straight-forward. It’s a big investment that takes time and careful planning and consideration. 

It’s often talked about how the process is a big learning curve for potential candidates, and it’s true, there is a lot that can be learnt and taken from it. But only if you are open to it.

However, it doesn’t stop there. This process was also a huge learning curve for me, a business owner. In Part 2, I’ll be talking about what the business and I took from it.

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