Damon, head of engineering for a small startup, shook his head in frustration. “I’m never going to find the engineers I need,” he told himself. “The candidates with the technical skills don’t have the people skills. The candidates who have the people skills don’t have the technical skills. And the one person who did well on both just rubbed me the wrong way.” He sighed, then slumped in his chair.
Rose, head of marketing, heard Damon’s sigh and looked over. “What’s up, Damon? Besides a preposition,” she added hastily, forestalling the response she knew would be forthcoming otherwise.
“Umm, the ceiling?” Damon replied without his usual humor.
“Well, besides that,” Rose said, grimacing at Damon’s other standard response.
“I’ve interviewed so many candidates. And waded through sooooo many more resumes and applications. I’m losing faith I’ll ever find the right people.”
We each bring a unique frequency to the work we do
“I’ve overheard some of those interviews,” Rose said. “None of them have seemed a good match for us. How are you selecting them?”
“Well, all I have to go on are keywords, you know?” Damon replied. “Filtering for the technologies we use isn’t so useful. Mostly we use the same ones everyone else uses. So, every resume mentions them. The ones we use that aren’t so popular are so rare I’ve yet to see them pop up. And, none of that tells me how proficient they really are with the technologies. Anyway, we can teach them the tech. What I care more about is how skilled they are at solving problems. How creatively they approach challenges. Whether they’ll be open to the radical feedback environment we have.”
Rose nodded understanding. “So, what have you been doing?”
“I start by asking them to solve a problem we’ve encountered ourselves. They send us their solution and a summary of how they reached it. Each of my engineers spends a few hours each week reviewing these submissions. Any candidate who gets a pass from multiple engineers moves into the next phase. Here, we put them on a video call and ask them to critique the solution we went with ourselves. Any candidate who again gets a pass from multiple engineers would move into the next phase.”
“’Would move’?” Rose asked.
“’Would move,’” Damon confirmed. “We haven’t had anyone make it that far yet. Most people wash out on the first step. Either their solution has critical holes or their explanation of how they arrived at their solution is horrible. A few have made it to the second step. One flat-out refused to critique our solution. They couldn’t get a word out. We offered to let them mull it over for a day, and they still refused. Another was so caustic in their feedback that they practically corroded a hole through my engineers. A third was super avoidant and indirect. A fourth was great, except everything they said irritated me no end. I’ve learned to trust that signal.”
“It sounds like the energies each of these candidates brought was out of phase with what you’re searching for.”
“That’s a really good way to put it,” Damon agreed.
Find frequencies that complement and amplify yours
“If only I could have prescreened them with an oscilloscope or something. Or, even better, describe the waveform I’m looking for in our job postings,” Damon mused.
“You kind of can,” Rose said. “Reflect over all of the candidates you’ve had so far. What about them matches up with what you’re searching for? What about them runs counter to who you desire? What was off about that candidate who would have been perfect if they hadn’t rubbed you the wrong way? What would the perfect person look, sound, feel, smell, taste like?”
“Those last two sound like an HR violation,” Damon said with a grin.
Rose snorted. “Well, this whole process seems to have left a bad taste in your mouth,” she replied with a grin of her own. “So, what would define the candidate who doesn’t?”
“I get what you’re suggesting. Rather than define my ideal candidate via all the typical factors of technologies and skills and experience, describe how they interact energetically. How do I do that in a concrete fashion that gives enough details for people to know whether they might be a fit?”
“Describe what you want, then ask them to provide examples of how they match that.”
“All the typical situation-behavior-results questions we always ask in interviews,” Damon said, nodding. “But pulled up into the job posting, and focused a bit differently. That seems doable. At the very least, it will filter out anyone weirded out by that different approach.”
“And it will be a siren call for those searching for a different approach.”
Identify the frequencies that define your ideal team
“Thank you, Rose, for this discussion. I started out feeling our job search was hopeless. Now, I’m feeling hopeful,” Damon said.
“This company does things really differently from anywhere else I’ve been,” Rose said. “I have a hard time explaining that difference to my family and friends. I’m not surprised you’re struggling to find the people who desire that different environment.”
“I hadn’t even thought about describing that difference in my job descriptions,” Damon said. “Your idea to describe the attitudes I want and have the applicants describe how they implement and inhabit those attitudes is genius. I’ll start working on that with my team right away.”
“You’re welcome, Damon. I’m glad I was able to help. I’m curious to hear how this works for you. It seems like a shift we all might want to make.”
“I’ll let you and everyone else know how it goes!”