Hiring at UpBuild: Making the First Try Count

According to Zenefits, the cost of hiring the wrong person can be anywhere from $6,000 – $15,000. Other sources peg it at a whopping $240,000. Not only is their salary a sunk cost, but you have to include the time spent by other team members hiring and training that person and their replacement. You also have to consider intangible costs like lower morale and overworked team members. It’s important to get hiring right the first time, and with that comes an intensive hiring process. Let me take you through ours.

1. Drafting the Job Description

After we decide it’s time to hire a new team member, we look to draft the most comprehensive job description that we can. We’ve all been in the candidates’ shoes, and it’s incredibly frustrating to come upon a job description that’s vague and not indicative of what the job actually entails. We make it a point to include the following:

    • Summary of UpBuild
      • Why we exist, the company’s mission, and our history
    • Summary and goals for this role
      • Why we’re hiring for this right now, and the role’s overarching goals
    • Tasks and responsibilities
      • This gets more specific to give the candidate an accurate picture of what they’d be doing on a daily basis
    • Summary of the ideal candidate
      • This focuses more on cultural fit than a particular skill set. We’re looking for people who want to work from home and are ready for the associated challenges. People who are constantly learning and shamelessly idealistic.
    • Required and preferred experience
      • This differs based on the position. If it’s an entry-level position like our Technical Marketing Specialist, demonstrated experience is minimal. We’re just looking for candidates with an appetite for learning, and a basic understanding of how the web works! More senior positions like our Senior Marketing Strategist have concrete requirements like several years of demonstrated experience, and proficiency across several tools and platforms. It’s important to delineate differences between positions clearly so that candidates know which role they’re qualified for.
    • Summary of our benefits and how we operate
      • We include a comprehensive list of our current benefits along with a summary of how UpBuild operates (office hours, voting on leads, etc.) A critical piece here is the salary range. We’re transparent about the salary ranges for every role, and we don’t negotiate  outside of them because we feel that they’re fair and commensurate with the experience required.

By putting this much time and effort into the job description up front, we attract candidates who are a close fit right from the start and save time narrowing down potential hires during interviews.

2. Reviewing Resumes & Cover Letters

I’ll be honest – resumes and cover letters can be a distraction as much as they can be an indicator of a good candidate. We don’t get lost in the minutiae and reject a candidate at this stage just because they don’t check off everything on our wishlist. Instead, we focus on the following:

      • Demonstrated experience & education
        • Do they have proof of experience and/or education requirements for the role?
      • Transferable skills
        • Do they have skills or experience that might not be exactly what we outlined in our job description, but would be easily transferable? For example, if we’re hiring for a mid-level SEO role, we’d consider someone with a background that’s heavier in development because that demonstrates an aptitude for a lot of the technical work that we do.
      • Job history
        • Life happens, and sometimes a great candidate will have a gap in their job history; however, it’s a red flag if their tenure at each company was less than a year.
      • Attention to detail
        • Most of our roles are client-facing, and those that aren’t (yet) have many tasks that can directly affect a client’s rankings. If the application material has a noticeable amount of misspellings or formatting issues, we have to pass.
      • Written communication skills
        • We’re a fully distributed company, so it’s imperative that candidates are able to communicate clearly, concisely, and without many errors. Additionally, we put a lot of thought, effort, and emotion into our hiring process (and culture in general), and we want candidates to convey that they want to work for UpBuild.
      • Culture fit
        • This is better sussed out during interviews, but we look for any red flags in their material that seem to clash with our values. If we notice something minor and the candidate seems like a great fit otherwise, we’ll move them along to the phone screen and get clarification.

3. Phone Screen

I typically conduct these for the team with the following structure:

      • Introduce myself, explain my role at UpBuild, and make them feel comfortable. Interviews are so much more informative and enjoyable for everyone involved when candidates feel less nervous.
      • Ask them general questions about why they applied, what they know about UpBuild and the open role, and when they can start. I want to make sure their availability lines up with our timeline before other team members spend time interviewing. I also want to know that they’ve adequately researched the company, because this shows drive and that they value my time.
      • Review the company, role responsibilities, salary, and benefits. Even though this is clear from the job description, I again want to make sure they’re on board with everything before other team members take time to interview them.
      • Answer any questions they have.
      • Go over next steps. Since we have a lengthy interview process, I also let them know the rough timelines associated with each step, and when they can expect to hear back from me.

At this point, if I’m feeling confident in my opinion, I’ll either move the candidate to the next stage or politely let them know we’re not moving forward. If there’s any uncertainty, I’ll get some second opinions from the team. Either way, we communicate with each and every candidate from this point forward whether or not they are moving along in our process. It’s unfair to leave people hanging after an interview.

4. Manager Interview

Candidates that move on from the phone screen have a lengthier phone call with the person who will be their direct manager – usually that’s Ruth, our Director of Strategy.

This is a more in-depth interview with similar goals: evaluate the candidate’s fit regarding skill set and culture. How will the candidate likely handle our feedback-driven learning process? Do they have an interest and/or aptitude for our specific technical marketing focus? Do they have experience working remotely, and if so, how did they handle it? Do UpBuild’s company culture and shared cultural values resonate with them? If their potential manager feels like this is someone that would be valuable on their team, it’s time for an interview with Mike (our CEO).

5. CEO Interview

Mike is famous (around these parts, at least!) for his chat-based interviews, which are usually conducted over Slack or Skype. I’ll let youread more about the reasoning behind them here, but in short, it’s to level the playing field and keep conscious & unconscious bias out of the equation. It gives the candidates an opportunity to showcase their written communication skills and experience the environment they’d be working in daily.

After this round, we regroup as a leadership team and decide on 2-4 candidates that will move to our final step: group interviews with our team members.

6. Group Interview

To be fair, this isn’t as much of an “interview” as it is an informal chat. Just like we want our team members to vote on each potential client, we also want them to have a say in who they’ll be working with on a daily basis. There are 2-3 group video calls that are 15 minutes long with different sets of team members, where candidates might be asked about their experience, why they want to work at UpBuild, or what they did for fun that weekend.

7. Making the Hire

We then collect feedback from our team and make a holistic decision based on the information gathered throughout this entire process. We track all of our notes in an applicant tracking system so that time doesn’t cloud our memory and we can make informed decisions.

For candidates who made it this far but aren’t hired, it’s important that we communicate our decision with empathy. They’ve invested a ton of their personal time into this process, and we want them to know how much we appreciate it. For the candidates that are now new team members, it’s time to jump into UpBuild’s onboarding program! But that’s a post for another day.

Interested in joining our team? Keep up with our current openings or send your cover letter and resume here for future consideration.

Written by
With over seven years of operational experience, Ryan is responsible for optimizing agency operations so that the team is fully supported and UpBuild continues to be the best place for technical marketers to do their best work.

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