Published: July 07 2012

I worked on non-technical hiring over this past week.

Some Lessons Learned

  • There are a lot of people on craigslist. We got over 160 applicants for our post.
  • Some are pretty darn good 40 or so were potentially interesting, and I ended up with about 5 candidates I was very happy with at the end of the process.
  • Applications should be hard Our application form included several paragraph answers, forcing candidates to think and allowing me to evaluate their writing style. This proved very helpful.
  • Templates are your friend That means 120 rejections. For technical hires, I do my absolute best to give feedback, especially for younger candidates, on what to work on. With this volume of candidates, include many just spray-and-praying their resume, I had to go with a template for most hires.
  • Duplicate test assignments for potentially worthwhile candidates, I came up with a realistic task that would take about an hour and asked them to send me their results before considering an interview. I learned a ton from seeing more than 20 people complete the same assignment, including what I was looking for in an ideal candidate. Things like how well they communicate with me, whether they ask questions (and whether these are the right questions or just things they could have googled), whether they are comfortable making assumptions and moving forward if I am unavailable, etc.
  • Education is a far stronger signal for non-technical hires With technical resumes, I may glance over where they got their undergrad but focus much more on experience and publicly available code. For non-technical hires, places they’ve worked/things they’ve done before aren’t nearly as indicative of quality (at least to me) as for technical roles. The highest signals of quality (quality measured by ‘I am interested in hiring this candidate’) ended up being things like caliber of undergraduate education and the candidate’s ability to answer the initial questions well. Being used to the “it doesn’t matter where you went to school, what we care about is what you’ve done” school of thought for technical hiring, this surprised me.

Things I'd change next time around

  • Send almost all of the candidates through the challenge first. I met with a lot of candidates in person before sending them the challenge; in retrospect, in a buyer’s market, this should have been reversed.
  • Filter for ‘having read the requirements’ by including a sentence like “Please ensure to include the capital of Denmark somewhere in your application.” This would have filtered a ton of spray-and-prayers.