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The Perfect Way to Hire For Your Startup?

The Perfect Way to Hire For Your Startup?

You don’t ask for resumes and you skip the traditional job posting. One founder says this four-step process trumps everything else she’s tried.

Hiring the right talent is vital to the success of your business. But busy entrepreneurs don’t have time to waste sifting through dozens of resumes to evaluate candidates.

“But at the same time you can’t–or shouldn’t–outsource the entire process,” says J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of, a job search advice site, and CareerHMO, a career coaching membership site.

“I stopped asking for resumes a long time ago,” she says. “Years in the staffing industry taught me they weren’t useful when evaluating candidates. I also stopped creating ‘traditional’ job postings altogether since they only resulted in a tidal wave of applicants to wade through, the majority of whom were unqualified for the role.”

Here’s the approach she takes to streamline the process and still ensure she finds and hires great employees:

Step 1: Don’t post a job; post the problem the employee will solve.

Write out what problem this new hire is going to solve. Be rich in details. Explain what pain they will alleviate and how you see them accomplishing that as quickly as possible in the role.

Next, explain why your company exists. Again, be rich in details. What problem does your company solve? What pain does it alleviate for its customers?

Finally, tie in how the right candidate will support those efforts.

Step 2: Ask candidates to answer three key behavioral questions. 

Ask candidates to share as much as they can about the following:

  • What do you know about our business and industry?
  • How did you come to learn that what we do is important to our clients?
  • What is your favorite aspect of our business, and why?

Step 3: Ask for their LinkedIn profile, Twitter name, and any other online presence that supports their candidacy.

Make it very clear you do not want a resume or any other materials submitted beyond answering your three questions and providing social profile links.

Step 4: Provide an alias email address and have applications sent directly to you.

Set a deadline of 10 business days for applications to be submitted. Then share the posting via all your social channels and sit back and wait for the right applicants to come in.


Why does this approach work?

#1. Slackers won’t apply, since they see researching your company and writing out answers to your questions as too much work.

#2. Candidates who submit a standard cover letter and resume clearly did not read and follow directions. They can be eliminated without a second thought.

#3. The deadline motivates candidates to get their applications in, again, weeding out the lazy folks.

#4. Asking candidates to answer your three specific questions provides a sense of their writing and communication style and ability. You’ll also see how well they understand and connect with both your business and the role they hope to fill.

#5. Asking for Linkedin profiles and other social media presence gives candidates a chance to direct you to professional information they want you to see. If for some reason they don’t want you to see their online presence (maybe they have something to hide?) they won’t apply.

#6. The best responses show how the candidate can solve your problem and why he/she is the right person to solve that problem. That also makes for a far more relaxed and productive first interview; you’ll have more to talk about.

#7. Applicants are more committed to the interview and hiring process simply because they invested in the process during the application stage. (In part they’ll want to land the job simply because of the time they put in.) Better still, landing the job will feel like a big “win” and they’ll be more likely to try to exceed your expectations when they start.

Give it a try. You’ll increase the quality of the applications you receive while decreasing the quantity, letting you work smarter, not harder, on your hiring process.

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry.Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. Follow him @jeff_haden

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