After two years as a 2-person startup, my business partner and I took the exciting leap of expanding our team. We knew we were ready for the transition, but adding new folks always induces a little anxiety. Will you be able to find someone with the right blend of skills, experience, personality, work ethic, values, interests, sense of humor, taste in TV…?

With such an important decision, how do you maximize your chances of getting it right?

There are many factors we considered in our process, but the three main goals centered around:

  1. Providing a clear picture of the purpose and direction of our business
  2. Envisioning how the person’s capabilities could amplify what we do
  3. Getting an honest view of how that person’s personality aligned with the culture we’re developing

Some of the nuances of these areas can only be absorbed over time. You have to experience a variety of situations, good and bad, before you can really understand someone as a whole.

But there’s another tool we used that provided extra insight into those big questions up front. It’s something that any company can create and use in the hiring process.

That secret weapon is sharing written documentation of your company’s vision and strategy.

 
Skeptical?

So, how does that help with vetting the 3 goals outlined above?

1. Paint a Clear Picture of Your Business

The first benefit of sharing your thinking in written form is that you can craft what’s on the page. It reduces concern around having to hit every single point verbally in the room. It also helps tie together the different ways team members tell the story of your company.

The document won’t be perfect, but it should be the most current and pure representation of your thinking.

This process doesn’t replace verbal discussion, but it reinforces and supports what was discussed. It allows a candidate to review everything they heard after the fact with a clear head.

It also instills confidence in candidates as it shows you’ve put real time and effort into your thinking. It sets a precedent for how your business operates and how seriously you take it.

2. See How Their Skills Apply to What You Do

Besides conveying the thinking around your business, this document also creates an “assignment” for a candidate to work on.

As a follow up to an interview, you can give candidates the document and ask them to come back with questions or thoughts about it.

Their ideas could be discussed in a follow up interview or just sent via email.

This exercise allows you to see their thinking and skills beyond the lens of their past work. Now you can start to see how that thinking applies directly to your business.

Here are some questions to consider on their responses:

  • Are they able to digest your company’s strategy and restate it in their own words?
  • Do they seem to agree with the overall thinking? Why or why not?
  • Did they identify any interesting issues?
  • Did they offer up any meaningful additions?
  • Did they not ask any questions at all?

While this type of analysis may not be required of the role they’re applying for, it’s still an excellent test of analytical skills and problem solving.

It’s also a great way to see if they’re truly interested and aligned with what you’re aiming to do. If they have more issues than additions, it may not be the right fit…unless you’re looking for someone to shake things up!

Either way, you’ll learn important lessons about what they bring to the table.

3. Create a Space For Honest Feedback

The last benefit is more psychological.

In an interview process, you have a natural imbalance of power. That power may be tilted in favor of the party offering the opportunity, or with an in-demand individual, the power can shift to the candidate.

In both cases though, there’s an incentive to put on our best behavior and get along with one another. Hopefully, that doesn’t come at the cost of sharing meaningful opinions or ideas. But when talking face to face, it’s hard not to hedge towards being friendly and agreeable.

By introducing this inanimate document into the mix, candidates have something to react to that isn’t you or a team member. It’s much easier to give honest, objective feedback about a written document than it is to a person expressing an idea — even if the message is essentially the same thing.

It’s also easier to ask questions and discuss specific points about the company’s direction. Rather than relying on someone to remember the message, tone, and delivery of what was said, they can ask questions specific to the document.

Finally, by sharing some of your most important thinking and asking for feedback on it, you start to build trust in the relationship. If someone feels valued and trusted, they’ll have more incentive to let their guard down and give insights into their true personality.

Creating Your Own Documentation

There are lots of valid methods and processes out there to document the thinking and direction of your company. We’re slightly biased towards our own process of Lean Strategy. We believe it helps you define a clear path forward and see how all the areas of your business fit together.

But the important thing is to document it somehow.

Having that documentation to help with an interview process is just the tip of the iceberg. If you can get that great thinking out of your head and down on paper it unlocks all sorts of other benefits for you and your company.

If you need some help getting started, you can download our free Purposeworksheet. And if you’re ready for something a bit more hands-on, send a note here, or contact us through our website and we can do a free consultation.

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