How to get hired. This is how I narrow down applicants.

We just filled our Go Getter position here at Gravity Switch. We had almost 150 applicants, over 30 interviews and had 8 people come into the office for a day trial.

So how do we get those numbers down?

Cover letters and résumés – Getting from 150 to 30

The following things make it very easy for me to discard applicants:

  • Typos – More than 3 typos in cover letter and resumé is an automatic disqualification. Someone other than me finds these. I’m the king of making typos (as you probably know if you read this blog). If you say you’re a detail oriented person and *I* spot a typo you’re probably disqualified regardless of how many more you have.
  • Treating me like a therapist – Look, I love the people who work at Gravity Switch and I want to help them all, but this isn’t a charity. I don’t care if your current work environment sucks ass. I don’t care if you *really want* to work somewhere that respects employees and lets you show your creativity.
  • Vagueness – “I enjoy organizing” vs. “At the last place I worked, my boss went on vacation for a week and when she came back I had gone in and filed all of the paperwork scattered across her desk. You can call her as a reference if you want.”
  • Bullshit – Luckily less and less people are telling me they’re great at social media, but for a while there every second person who applied said they were great at Social Media, but NOT ONE could tell me a story about something they did in Social Media which could demonstrate that it generated money for the business or organization they did it for.

The following things will save a mediocre cover letter:

  • Funny – If you make me laugh you’ll probably get in. But this is tricky because not many people actually do this. Most people who try this come off as arrogant… which isn’t a good thing at all. There’s a line and if you can’t spot it, don’t walk it.
  • Stalk me – I’ve hired a couple of people simply because they stalked me. Twitter. LinkedIn. Email. Whatever. The email to apply to this position was “IWillFollowUp@GravitySwitch.com”. Don’t wait 3 weeks. If you bug me enough I’ll give you 15 minutes of my time if I can even if I really don’t think you’re a fit… who knows what the future holds.
  • Numbers – Every business owner is a sucker for numbers. Did your sales numbers set a store record? Do you even know what value your contribution had to your last job?

Interviews – Getting from 30 to 8

The following things make it very easy for me to discard applicants:

  • Victim – Don’t bother with stories about how your last boss (or even worse ALL of your last bosses, and teachers, and maybe your parents) wouldn’t let you shine. Bullshit, we’re in the real world now.
  • Saying “we” a lot – I’m hiring you, not the last team you were part of. Use the word “I”. Arrogance is bad, but necessary in a job interview.
  • Asking what we do – Do your damn homework.
  • Awkward – If it’s a client facing position one of the reasons we’re meeting with you face to face is to see how you handle awkward situations. Do you talk to the other applicants? Do you introduce yourself? Are you flustered by hard questions?

The following things get you past the interview:

  • Chutzpah – I told someone they weren’t a match in the interview and explained why and they told me they thought I was wrong and I should try them out. I did and I hired them. Doesn’t always work.
  • Going above and beyond – A couple of finalists got me to take paper. I don’t do paper so that was a little surprising to me that two people tricked me into it. But it was value-added paper.
  • Honesty – I want to hire people who will be here for 8+ years. But don’t lie when I’m asking you what your long term plans are. If you plan on opening your own business in a few years… well I might be able to help. Or I might hire you and keep you so happy that you’d rather skip opening your own business. Or maybe I’ll train you up and let you run Gravity Switch so I can take more time off. Heck, anything’s possible.

In person – Getting from 8 to 3

In its simplest form, this is all about delivering. And chemistry. And chutzpah again.

Once someone spends a day or two in the office it’s pretty clear to us and to the applicants if they’re rocking it or not. We did have one person this time who was either a precious little butterfly who spent their whole life being told they were great even when they weren’t, or they thought they could lie to us about what they were great at… but everyone else who we tried were in agreement with us in terms of if this position was a “match”.

More thoughts on hiring.

21 Comments

Mark Madison

Although, at my age, I will probably never have occasion to apply for another job ever (I know, who knows what the future will bring) I really enjoyed this piece a lot. Of all the people I know, you learn more from your experience than most and probably repeat the fewest mistakes. And hopefully, you got your dream employee and that person got their dream job.
I won’t hassle you about spelling. If you enjoy someone’s conversation you can overlook certain things; and I enjoy yours. Hemingway couldn’t spell for sour apples. Spellchecker, perhaps? Or perhaps the new office person.
But I swear to God, if you say “less and less people” again or anything like that I am personally going to come down to Northampton and spray paint the word fewer where you can see it every day. Sorry. Former English Teacher. Old. Cranky about certain things.
Thanks for the post.

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Scott

Okay. I’ll bite. I’ve searched Google and Urban Dictionary to no avail. What do you mean by “finalists got me to take paper?”

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jasonnmark

Scott, often people try to shove paper copies of the digital materials that they send my way in my hands when we meet and I always say “no”, but once in a while someone brings a leave-behind that I *really* want to read. If they get me to take the paper and read it and I enjoy it, I try them out… but it’s rare when that happens.

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Kevin

“Look, (missing *I*) love the people who work at Gravity Switch”
“I’ve hired a couple of people simply because the*y* stalked me.”

Makes your comment about how you’re the king of typos feel silly and rather…arrogant?

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jasonnmark

Thanks for the feedback. Not sure what you mean by feeling silly and arrogant, but please let me know if you see others…

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Jeff

I think Kevin took your “King of Typos” title to mean that you’re awesome at finding (and by implication avoiding) typos. It took a re-read of that portion to understand that you’re awful, and therefore if YOU find typos in their writings, certainly there are more present to be discovered. At least, I believe that’s what you were saying. 🙂

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jesse

Arrogant? He admitted to it, and he’s the guy making decisions. Who gets a good first impression from a candidate with 3+ typos on a resume? Either they don’t know any better, or aren’t concerned with putting the effort. Either way, I would expect more from someone I’m going to pay to help me. (just sayin’…I don’t mean to come across as hostile, just making a counterpoint)

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Parrot242

King of typos? LOL
“I’ve hired a couple of people simply because the stalked me”.
You know what you said about bullshit and keeping it honest etc? Well, you’ve lost me.

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jasonnmark

Sorry to have lost you. It’s a constant learning process. Hopefully the fixed typos will help.

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GP

What is with people and their lack of reading comprehension (which apparently should make your future lists)? Clearly Jason is self-deprecating; acknowledging his own tendency to commit typos and pointing out that as the King of (committing) Typos (himself), any typos he finds are obviously enough to disqualify the applicant.

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ironyx

I’m going to pretty safely assume that your company consists mostly of straight white males. The amount of arrogance and misogyny in your writing would only serve to scare away diverse candidates. Tell me if I’m wrong.

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jasonnmark

Compared to other companies in our region we tend to have more women and more LGBT team members and about the same amount of ethnic diversity (i.e. hardly any because we’re in a small town). Like everything those numbers ebb and flow. We tend to get pretty diverse backgrounds within those groups though, both in terms of education and experience. We definitely get to meet a lot of cool people, including people that most of the managers I talk to say would never have made it through their traditional “screening” process to even get a shot. We’re pretty proud of our ability to find some great people who wouldn’t traditionally be welcome in a firm like ours. Sorry to hear we’re not a match for you, but that’s good to know up front too, right?

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ConnieOI

Wow, I was surprised by the comment ‘ironyx’ about misogyny — I’m a woman working IT and I’m hyper-sensitive about feminist issues. But I didn’t get a sense of that at all from your writing. So maybe ‘ironyx’ is just looking for an argument?

Anyway, thanks for the article.

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Matt

May I suggest that you correct the typo in your bullet about typos? “Resumé” is not a word. I believe you mean “résumé.” In the last section, you use the incorrect form of “it’s.” In the first sentence, you are saying, “In it is simplest form…” Thus, in that case, use “its.” (In the final paragraph, the use is correct.) Also, when using “i.e.” (as in your response above), it must be followed by a comma, i.e., this example. Although your final sentence should use the word “whom” instead of “who,” in informal writing it can sound a bit pedantic. Otherwise, I like many of your ideas and the scrolling design you use on your page is brilliant! Thanks.

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jasonnmark

Thanks Matt.. I think I got them all (except for the “whom” which just sounds odd even if correct… 🙂 )

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