Getting Hired Goes Beyond a Piece of Paper

Resumes: I can’t think of a single person who enjoys writing them. I struggle to even say the word. Necessary? Perhaps. A true reflection of who you are as an individual? Not hardly. Resumes have become a part of the ‘routine’ but I think more and more companies are starting to hire based on the individual, looking at an overall ‘culture fit’, rather than their on-paper track-record.

Some of you may have seen this Inc. Magazine article by 37Signals Co-Founder Jason Fried earlier this month in which he discusses the hiring process of his company – if you haven’t already read it – go read it – then come back here. It’s well worth your time.

Jason and the Chicago-based 37Signals team have an interesting hiring approach that has led to incredibly low turnover. There are many, many valid points made throughout the article – here are few that I VERY much agree with and took away…

Don’t invent positions for the sake of inventing them

Maybe you’ve been faced with this yourself. You meet someone you REALLY connect with, you may not exactly have an open position, but you want to bring the person on board and ‘find something for them to do’. This might work out great, but it also might lead to difficulties for both you AND your new employee.

This point REALLY hit home for me…I’ve been in this situation first hand – when I moved to Chicago, I was brought on as an ‘Internet Marketing Developer’ with a small business – and very quickly, it became obvious they were not ready to have someone in that role full-time, because there simply wasn’t a need and they didn’t ever really buy in to what online marketing could add to their marketing.

It wasn’t long before I was doing random tasks completely unrelated to my job title to fill time. Jason says,

“…hiring people when you don’t have real work for them is insulting to them and hurtful to you. Great people want to work on things that matter. Inevitably, a great person working on imaginary work will turn into an unsatisfied person. Then he’ll leave.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself – he’ll either leave, or get the boot – in short…there isn’t much to be had when you bring someone on and don’t have work for them to do, and at the end of the day it’s extremely inefficient for YOUR business to bring someone who contributes very little simply because the need wasn’t there.

Hire based on needs, not wants. Might be easier said than done, but point well taken.

Resumes rarely tell you who a person really is

Like I said above. I hate resumes – resumes and the entire interview process is one of the things I do NOT miss from the ‘nine to five’ world. I understand the need to know (very well) who you’d potentially be working with, but think the tired old ‘What is your greatest accomplishment‘ board-room interview approach is just that…tired, and old.

“…Once we begin vetting candidates, we also behave a little differently. For one thing, we ignore resumés. In my experience, they’re full of exaggerations, half-truths, embellishments — and even outright lies. They’re made of action verbs that don’t really mean anything. Even when people aren’t intentionally trying to trick you, they often stretch the truth. And what does “five years’ experience” mean, anyway? Resumes reduce people to bullet points, and most people look pretty good as bullet points.”

I see the value in putting together a solid cover letter (something I’m admittedly not so great at myself) – as Jason goes on to say this is one of the most important things they look at when considering who to hire. But, I think it goes far beyond a single piece of paper, which leads into the next point…

Be Innovative (without being annoying) in your approach

A resume and a cover-letter will only get you so far. The job market is tough out there – so it’s all the more important these days to stand out. Jason references one of his designers, Jason Zimdars – a current designer with 37Signals, who went the extra step and developed a site specifically to show his skills and interest in working with the company.

Going above and beyond is something we talk about all the time – and while the line between showing interest and being obnoxious is a difficult one to toe, the pool of incredible talent out there is growing – and so having an innovative or unique angle is all-the-more critical. Are you thinking outside the box? If you’re not…someone else is.

The perfect fit doesn’t have to be in your neighborhood

I am a big BIG believer in this point. Jason says:

“…we never let geography get in the way. We hire the best we can no matter where they are. We’re based in Chicago, but we have programmers in Idaho and California, system administrators in North Carolina and downstate Illinois, designers in Oklahoma and Colorado, a writer in New York City, and others in Europe. This obviously wouldn’t work for customer-facing folks, but for most everyone else, it does. The best are everywhere. It’s up to you to find them.”

I recently chatted with my good friend Courtney about this – and truly believe that the ‘right’ fit for your company doesn’t have to live in the same city. Obviously, this doesn’t apply for all industries and all professions – but someone on the other side of the world might be EXACTLY who you need to add to your team.

More companies are catching on to this trend, and I think you’d be silly not to at this point. Amazing people are everywhere – if you’re closing the door to ‘outside of the neighborhood’ potential, you could be missing out on some outstanding opportunities to grow your business.

How do you seek out new employees for your business? What kind of hiring process do you see as the most effective? What interview horror stories can you share? What do you think about the overall approach at 37Signals?