We are hiring! Presenting our improved hiring process

May 19, 2017
Ken Grønnbeck
Platform Engineer

Unacast is hiring! And for this round of hiring we have adjusted the interview process, based on input from previous hires. In addition to sharing this process with you as a prospective employee, we want to contribute back to the community by sharing how we look at the hiring process. We will in a later blog post share what we learned from running this hiring process.

Check out our open positions here

The Process

Last time we wrote about recruitment we introduced the concept of “A Night at the castle”. Since then we have overhauled the hiring process. We threw away “A night at the castle” because it was too time consuming for both you, as the prospective employee, and us vs the benefit. When redesigned the hiring process we wanted to achieve the following three goals:

  • Increase the likelihood of hiring the right people
  • Reduce confirmation-biases and hiring based on gut-feeling
  • Reduce the time spent of the prospective employee

We believe in measurable facts and redesigned the hiring process based on scientific research. We have been inspired by a paper from personnel psychology about the impact of different assessment tests. Leaning on that research we use work sample tests and structured interviews to assess our candidates. Performing well on either of them has a high correlation with work performance. Work Sample Tests has a 54% correlation with work performance, while structured interviews has a correlation of 51%. Naturally, we added these two techniques to the hiring process. Meaning that everyone that interviews with Unacast should perform a Work Sample Test, and every interview should be prepared and structured before the interview.

‍Figure 1. Illustration of the hiring process at Unacast. The validity percentages represent the correlation between performance on a test and job performance

The hiring process at Unacast starts when we receive an application/cv from a prospective employee, and consists, more or less, of the following discrete steps:

  1. 1st interview role fit
  2. Work Sample
  3. Role-related knowledge interview
  4. Personal interview
  5. Leadership interview (with Founder)
  6. Reference Check
  7. Offer & Offer call
  8. Signature and Onboarding

It’s a lot of steps, and the process is optimised to making sure we hire the right people for the role - in the minimal amount of time. It also gives you as a prospective employee to figure out if this is the right place for you or not. We believe that hiring works best with wisdom of crowds, just like Laszlo Bock and Google. That means we want multiple people from Unacast to influence the hiring decision. That means it will usually be a new Uncast employee for each step in the process. It also means you will get to meet different Unacast team member in each interview. Remember that you are interviewing us as much as we are interviewing you. Use the interviews to your advantage and get to know us better.

Ideally, you should have a offer in your hands within two to three weeks after the first interview, depending on the position. And you should not have to spend more than 8-12 hours of your time on the process. We don’t like to rush the process but we are flexible and if you need the process to last longer we can do so. Two weeks is usually as fast as we’re able and willing to go.

1st interview role fit

The first interview is to assess common interests and should last between 20 to 30 minutes. The 1st interview can be carried out over the phone or in one of our offices. In this interview we are looking to see if our interests matches. In other words, if we can provide you with the work and opportunities you’re looking for, and if your skills and contribution can help us move forward. We will be honest with the types of roles we have available and looking for, so we expect you to be honest with what you want as well. With that said, we don’t necessarily know skills and roles we need at Unacast. That means if you have value proposition for us, we’re always willing to listen to what you can contribute with at Unacast.

Work Sample

In this step, we send you a crafted work sample test designated to the role you are applying for. We expect you to use four to six hours solving the task. And you usually get between one to two weeks to solve the task. If you want to use more than six hours on the task you are more than welcome to. But we’ll ask you have much time you’ll put into this to give you a fair assessment. Unless something else is specified, you are free to use all the resources available to you to solve the task at hand.

We believe work samples are a great way of assessing how people will perform once they have joined our team. It’s an arena where you are able to show what you can do and how you work. We believe that work sample tests are better performance indicator than whiteboard sessions. We believe whiteboard sessions are mostly about testing memorised insights and anything worth memorising is worth looking up.

The drawbacks of work sample tests is that they are hard to create and doesn’t show how you collaborate with others. We lean on the next structured interviews to try to assess your collaboration skills.

Role-related knowledge interview

The role-related knowledge interview should last between 30 and 60 minutes, it is designed to assess your knowledge about the role. In this interview we are interested to learn how you think and to assess role-related experience and knowledge.

For software engineers we typically split this interview into two parts. First, we’ll discuss your approach and solution of the work sample test. This will mostly be a conversation about how the system works, what approaches you did try, and why you ended up with the one you turned in. And we’ll be assessing your solution as well as how well you communicate your solution to others.

The second part we will ask you two types of questions, 1) factual, that usually has one correct answer and 2) behavioral/situational that doesn’t necessary have one right answer. All those questions will of course be related to your role and how you work.

Personal interview

The personal interview, which last about an hour, the interviewer will have a different background than yourself. Up until now it is common that the interviewers has been the ones you will be working closely with. So to reduce confirmation biases and the risk of “hiring ourselves” we invite interviewers from a different discipline to meet you, and to bring a fresh perspective into the hiring decision. For engineers we typically lean on account managers carry out the personal interviews.

In this interview we try to assess if you are a good personal fit for this company. A good personal fit can be that you align with our values like that you are able get things done on your own, but also if you can contribute with a different point of view or perspective. Going deeper into this is outside the scope of this post, so we’ll do another post describing what we are looking for in more detail later.

Leadership interview (with Founder)

The last interview will be with one of the Founders of Unacast. Usually Kjartan if you apply for the Oslo offices and Thomas if you want to work in New York. We believe that meeting and getting to know the founders is key to get an unfiltered version of what we’re trying to achieve at Unacast. And as long as possible it is good for the founders to meet all prospective employees.

Reference Check

After the last interview we do reference checks. For this we ask you to provide a set of people (usually three) where at least one of them is or was your nearest leader. Reference checks can be a bit uncomfortable but it provides great insight into your past performance. If you have been candid through the whole process you should have nothing to worry about.

Offer & Offer call

If nothing alarming is brought to light in the reference checks, you will get a call and a written offer. After receiving an offer we will schedule an offer call, and talk through the terms.

Signature and Onboarding

After signing the contract, the Uncast employee onboarding starts immediately. We believe that the onboarding process is key to make sure that you get to know the company and our values. The onboarding process is also open (and scored) so that you can all at all times see what is about to happen, and if your nearest leader are on top of things. If all steps are taken you will reach a score of 100% one month after joining the company - and off we go!

What do you think?

So now over to you. What do you think about the process? I’m happy to answer any questions. Feel free to comment at the end of this post or contact me on Twitter @gronnbeck.