How We Hire
Alt Legal Team | November 15, 2018
The process of hiring a new employee can be daunting. We certainly haven’t perfected the process but we have put a good deal of thought into it! So, we compiled a helpful guide to walk you through our process.
Crafting the Job Description
Of course, the first step in our recruiting process is to create a job posting. Generally the hardest part of this process if figuring out exactly what we want in a candidate. We have found that while experience or education can be immensely helpful, it is certainly not the most important indicator of potential for success. I think this is particularly true in a business that is consistently trying to innovate.
We also want to make sure that we draft a post that isn’t overly narrowing. For example, I tend to appreciate some work experience that may not be as valued in more traditional legal jobs, like experience working in customer service. Those roles often teach patience and attentiveness in a way many other jobs do not. That being said, we are also a very niche company handling IP docketing software, so we try not to cast a broad enough net to catch people who are just generally interested in “tech” or “startups” because our work is just technical enough and the stakes are just high enough that those usually don’t make for great fits.
In addition, we want to entice individuals with certain character traits and habits. These qualities are harder to teach so we prioritize them as qualifications we would like the individual to already have. We tailor the posting to screen for compatibility with the person’s direct supervisor or the team they will be working most closely with. For example, in the process of hiring someone to work closely with myself, organization is a key quality. I live and die by lists. All of my coworkers have been forced to adopt Trello for task lists and receive all sorts of calendar invites from me on a regular basis. So, it is very important for anyone working closely with me to be just as Type A as I am so they can help me keep things organized, rather than being someone who I need to help organize. Another quality we look for in every candidate and highly value is the ability to know what you don’t know. Most people will do everything they can to avoid admitting they don’t know an answer. We strongly believe that a willingness to admit but also learn, is far more valuable than appearing to know everything.
Once the job listing is up, we always want to ensure we have set out a fair and efficient method of selecting candidates to move through the process. In every posting, we include a small set of rules. If someone doesn’t follow these rules, I generally do not continue reviewing their application. At this stage, we also take attention to detail very seriously. A word of advice to all applicants – Spend the time to make sure your resume is PERFECT, no typos, no inconsistent formatting, and no grammatical errors. Some people think it is extreme to eliminate someone from the process because of those errors but we believe that if you have to present yourself to another person, using one page, you should take care to make it the best it can be.
For the applicants that meet those criteria, we start with a screening call. The call is just a general call to get a feel for the person’s interest in the role. The main thing I look for in these calls is how comfortable they are speaking to me. I don’t judge them for being nervous on the call, but I pay attention to how comfortable they are discussing their experience, their interest in the role, and our company. I schedule these calls for 30-minute intervals and never take more than 10-15 with my questions. The most valuable part of the interview is hearing questions the applicant has for me and how they respond to the answers.
The next step is a written test. While the written test does require the individual to commit more time to the application process, we have found it can provide insight that is hard to gain through conversation. My favorite part of the written test we have developed is the teaching exercise. The applicant is tasked with using one page to explain a concept or teach us something. While it may sound interesting, it is difficult to do well. The topic they choose always provides an interesting insight into something they enjoy. We are also trying to see how they handle the fine line between explaining something in a clear and precise manner and being condescending or presumptuous about what the other person may or may not know (looking at you, mansplainers).
We review the written tests largely by objective standards- counting the number of errors they found in our editing exercise, checking how they performed a manual migration between spreadsheets, and reviewing how many errors they were able to find that we didn’t intentionally include. The teaching test I described above helps us get a more general sense of writing style and is often a helpful distinguishing factor between candidates who are equally successful on the other portions. The candidates who rank the highest are then invited for an in-person or virtual interview with our team. Because we are a small collaborative team, we want to make sure that everyone is compatible with the person. We also try to give every member of our team a point of focus for their interview. For example, my interviews are generally aimed at exploring how organized they are and how they manage up. Bachelor franchise knowledge is an added bonus.
Making the Final Decision
Based on all of the information collected, each member of our team then ranks the candidates. While every member’s opinion is important, the individual working most closely with the new hire will have the ultimate say in the decision. Making the final decision is, perhaps obviously, the hardest part of the process for us. We really value the work that each candidate puts into our process, especially when it involves 3 stages and multiple interviews. It may sound corny but it’s true. When we make the final choice, we are looking at qualifications but also willingness to get down and dirty, potential longevity, and compatibility with the team.
I have interviewed for many jobs at this point and now have interviewed a good number of candidates as well. While I have always known that the selection of a new hire is influenced by a variety of factors, I have come to appreciate the fact that many of them are beyond the applicant’s control. For example, the way a particular question was answered could be ideal for one person hiring and immediately turn off another. So if you’re searching for a job, take comfort in the fact that not getting the job doesn’t always mean you are not a great candidate, but rather you’re not the perfect fit for that specific role, working with that specific team, at that specific time. In other words, it’s not you, it’s them, unless it isn’t.