If you're just tuning in, I'm in the middle of a multi-part post series to walk you through every step of using a talent-based hiring process. If you'd like rewind and read from the beginning, start here. The big idea is that we’re being intentional about identifying what we care about most in our new-hire and building a system to select for exactly those things. What I'm outlining here is the actual process I use to recruit rockstars for my own teams and for Process Mentors' clients.
In the last post, I told you everything I know about writing a great application that will attract the right kind of team member while simultaneously giving you the information you need to make an informed decision about who gets to move forward in the process. It's a step that really does matter.
In this post, things are going to get real nerdy as we build a system to evaluate your applicants and then put that plan into action. And, spoiler alert, there are robots.
Let the fun begin!
How to Evaluate Your Applicants Without Getting Tricked
Since we last met, you have crafted a beautiful application. It quickly filters out deal-breakers for your position, forces them to show their true personality, asks them to tell you some of their talents, and even has them responding to some real-life scenarios they might encounter in their role.
I know I kind of glazed over the whole "where to post" part, but honestly the answer to that riddle is highly dependent upon the type of role you're hiring for, your location, the technical or educational requirements of the job, and a number of other things. Maybe we'll revisit that subject in another post, but for now, I'm going to trust that you'll experiment with some different places to share your job posting and see what happens. Remember…it'll never be perfect. The only pointer I'll give for now is never underestimate the power of sharing posts with your social network - especially with those who you already know are A-players. A-players hang out with other A-players. It's science.
As I mentioned, in this post we're going to build a system you can use to evaluate all of the applicants who come rolling in after you post your position. I've found that it can be very exhilarating when the first few applications start trickling in, but that excitement can quickly turn to overwhelm if you don't have a plan for how to triage the situation in a way that yields clear front-runners and easily eliminates the rest.
This post will give you such a plan.
Step 1: Create Your Applicant Scorecard
Ok, remember allllll the way back in Part I when we defined our core values and key talents for this role? Now it's time to take those core values and key talents and turn them into a scorecard that will make evaluating your applicants a no-brainer. But to get to that place of no-brainer bliss, you do have to do a bit of thinking. Sorry.
I recommend that you build this scorecard in a spreadsheet-style application like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. I use Smartsheet, of course, because I can have all of my applications automatically show up in my scorecard and immediately filter out those who don't meet minimum requirements. But don't stress if you don't have Smartsheet. You can totally do this with a plain old spreadsheet. I've even made a template for you to use as a jumping-off point.
Step 2: Add Your Core Values and Key Talents
To start, you'll list each of your core values (shown highlighted in orange) and your key talents for the role in separate columns. I like to highlight the two categories in different colors because it helps to highlight when a candidate is a great fit, talent-wise but not a good fit for the company culture or vice-versa. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I chose three core values and three key talents for this example, just to keep things simple, but you might have up to six for each. I've included columns for more in the template I provided. Be sure to give them clear and descriptive names so you’ll remember what they mean later.
Step 3: Add Descriptions for each of your Core Values and Key Talents
Here’s where you need to put some real effort in...you need to brainstorm things that would be true about someone with each of these core values and key talents. You could even list things that would NOT be true about someone with that particular core value or key talent. For example, “Would not look the other way if he/she felt something was wrong.” I definitely recommend enlisting your team to help you with this to give additional insights.
Here’s what I came up with for descriptions for the sample core values and key talents:
Some of my descriptions may be totally different than what you would’ve put down for that particular core value or key talent. And that’s the point. Your version of “connector” might be about being an extrovert and always wanting to be with others, while mine is more about making meaningful connections. That distinction matters because you’ve chosen your talents to be aligned to this role and you’re about to measure people against those standards. You need to spend time to clearly identify what you’re looking for so you can then notice it (or not) when it shows up on the application, and then later during the interview process. Additionally, if you have multiple people who will be helping with screening applicants, it ensures that everyone is on the same page with what a given core value or key talent actually means.
So although this step can take some time, I recommend slowing down and doing this part thoroughly. Think about people on your team or in your life who exemplify these traits. What would they write on an application that might tip you off? Write those descriptions down messily and imperfectly. Remember, all of these tools will continue to evolve as your process evolves.
Step 4: Make a Scoring Formula
During the applicant evaluation phase, we’re going to try to make things as objective as possible. Which may seem impossible, given the fact that we’re evaluating based on such “human” traits, but trust me...it’s doable.
I create an “Overall Score” column and place a formula that averages the score for that candidate, based on the scores listed in all of the core values and key talents columns. Here’s what that looks like: (Don’t worry...the formula is set up for you on the template, if formulas aren’t your thing!)
The idea here is that as you score “Sally Sue” against your pre-defined criteria, it’s going to automatically calculate how close of a fit she is to your position. Later, this will allow us to quickly filter out the cream-of-the-crop. (But more on that later.)
Step 5: Eliminate Deal-Breakers
Equipped with your super-clear, super-detailed, talent-based applicant scorecard, you’re almost ready to start scoring, but first, there’s one layer of filtering you need to apply.
If your application software didn’t automatically filter out people who didn’t meet the minimum requirements for the position (AKA the “deal-breakers”), you’ll want to make sure the very first thing you’re doing is to check for those as you’re sifting through candidates. Since you made all of those questions Yes/No responses, it should be pretty quick to do, but it will save you a lot of time scoring people who will be a waste of time in the end.
There are two other types of “deal-breakers” I’ve encountered with applicants that you can also filter out:
First, the “applicant with an attitude” feels the need to use your application as an opportunity to criticize or berate you, your company, your application, or the hiring process. I don’t fully understand why one would do this, but I eliminate them on the spot.
Second, the “one sentence responder” does just that...responds with one sentence for each question. Some may value that kind of brevity, but I find it very difficult to score them based on so little information. So I eliminate these guys too.
Step 6: Start Scoring
Now it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for...it’s time to score. The mantra here is “Be a Robot.” What I mean by this is, you’ve done the hard work to make the core values and key talents you’re looking for as objective as possible. Now it’s time to rely on that system and do everything in your soul to ignore your “gut feelings.” At this phase, it’s SO easy to get sucked into being impressed with people who are just good at the game of job applications, so it’s essential that you stay robotic.
The question I use to score each of the core values and key talents is a simple one:
Do they show evidence of this quality?
That’s it. No feelings. No emotions. No “I like them” or “I don’t.” Simply, “Do they show evidence of this quality?”
If they do, they get a “1” in that column for that core value. If they don’t, they get a 0. That’s absolutely it.
You go down the line of applicants and you score each and every one against each core value and talent and give them a score. The formula you set up will give you an overall score and when you’re all done, you’ll have a sense of who your top applicants are.
And before you start yelling at me, YES…
I realize these are humans and we’re being kind of cold about the whole thing. But you’re a human too, and that’s the trouble with hiring in the first place!
I KNOW THIS IS NOT PERFECT SCIENCE! We’re still being objective and using imperfect descriptions to score candidates based on limited information. Here’s what might help you feel better…
The values and talents that people most strongly possess tend to come out in their writing and interactions, whether they want them to or not. If you give them a chance, they will cue you in. Also, no one is expected to tick all the boxes at this point! This is only the very beginning of the process. You’ll have ample opportunities in later steps to see if they display other core values and key talents. But if someone is coming out guns-a-blazin’ with evidence of 5 out of 6 of your core values and key talents (and meeting your minimum requirements) just from the application, chances are that’s a person you might like to meet in an interview.
All this process does is focus your attention on the things you said were important in the first place. Remember, we’re trying to hire someone who will LOVE their job and LOVE your company and want to stick around for a very long time. Let’s look for those core values and key talents in them, shall we?