Have you ever read “Built to Last” by Jim Collins?
In this book, the author talks about how companies have survived over decades (and even hundreds of years) and why they haven’t failed.
Collins says that companies eventually fade away if they’re dependant on one single person or a small group of people.
For example, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams didn’t become charismatic visionary leaders with that kind of mistaken leadership mindset, right?
However, most so-called “leaders” often mislead companies by saying to employees “run over here and do this, run over there and do that.”
But Collin explains that shaping a culture that can thrive beyond one single leader is the secret to success. He calls it clock building.
This means that no matter if you’re a freelancer or consultant who wants to scale up their people-driven company, an entrepreneur creating their startup, or an established Saas platform, you must build a successful team that can generate truly great ideas over a long period of time.
And for this, you need to hire the right people for the right team roles.
Because the primary output of a successful company isn’t the implementation of a great idea per se, or the charismatic personality of one team member. The greatest creation is the company itself and what it stands for.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the 7 steps—from awareness to hiring the right team members—of a successful hiring journey.
I’ll show you how to track each stage of your hiring funnel continuously to fill your open roles with the right people quickly and demonstrate why your brand’s core values are critical pieces of the hiring process.
Now let’s review this ultimate guide!
Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly
If you’ve read any of AutoGrow’s past articles, then you know that a well-constructed sales funnel is the secret for generating leads and growing revenue for many businesses.
And it’s also key to the success of many companies.
A sales funnel is defined as a series of steps that lead a customer from awareness to a purchase decision. Each step of your prospects’ journey gives them reasons to stay interested and eventually become happy, paying customers.
But funnels are not only implemented for businesses to see a steady stream of revenue straight to their bank account. Funnels are used to hire great employees too.
So if you’re a freelancer or consultant who wants to scale up their people-driven company, an entrepreneur who’s starting their startup from scratch, or a Saas platform—then you’re in the right place.
If growing your business with the right team members is your goal, this article will be a helpful resource for you to achieve that.
But why would you even want to hire new people? Why not settle down with the team members you already have?
Well, based on our own experience at AutoGrow and a ton of trying, launching, failing, and finally succeeding, hiring slowly and firing quickly is the wisest takeaway we can share today.
Right now we’ve got 11 team members from around the world—US, The Philippines, Canada, Ukraine, and Latin America and we stopped struggling to hire the right team members thanks to this 7-step hiring guide.
This guide helps companies like yours attract, assess, and hire the best candidates available. Because the truth is, as your company grows, the work increases and so does your business’ needs. So eventually, you’ll have to start hiring more and more people to keep up with the work.
The efficiency of your hiring funnel and ability to convert candidates into loyal team members will depend on your ability to iterate on what’s working and what’s not. For instance, if you see no good candidates moving through your hiring funnel, stop for a second and review the steps in this guide.
Companies who track or monitor each step of their hiring process are the ones that fill open positions with the right people quickly.
So let’s start reviewing the first step to scale up your people-driven business and hire the right team members.
Step 1. Create Awareness and Promote Your Job Ad
In a sales funnel, your prospects are less likely to purchase something from your site if they know little to nothing about your business. The purchase happens after there’s some trust and reputation built.
And similar to a sales funnel, in a hiring funnel, people searching for job openings are looking to apply to well-known companies or ones with a good reputation.
That’s where creating awareness comes in.
This first step to finally hiring that great colleague that will make your work life easier is an opportunity to build brand recognition and trust within the applicants.
With a recognizable and admired brand, you can start attracting more and better candidates.
These shocking statistics by LinkedIn will show the real importance of brand awareness in the recruiting process…
- 72% of recruiting leaders worldwide agreed that employer brand has a significant impact on hiring.
- 55% of recruiting leaders worldwide have a proactive employer brand strategy.
- 75% of job seekers want to know an employer’s brand better before even applying for a job.
- And 52% of candidates explore a company’s site and social media accounts to learn more about them before applying.
Mind-blowing, right? Well, maybe these statistics won’t take your breath away but they’re certainly enough to make you think strategically when considering hiring someone new for your team.
When AutoGrow started growing as soon as we relaunched our Done-For-You sales funnel service, we started looking to hire the right team members and fill out all vacancies to keep up with our rapid growth.
We expected to receive a lot of applicants right away. But for some reason, no one applied to any of the job openings we had. Hiring people became a huge bottleneck for us.
But as soon as our Project Manager posted the ad for the job, candidates started submitting applications.
In this case, for AutoGrow to build people’s awareness, we had to post the ads. And it worked. People saw the ads and reached out.
The only thing is knowing where to post your ads.
For instance, you can include a call-to-action in marketing emails or newsletters to announce that you’re hiring. We at AutoGrow currently have “We’re Hiring” in our navigation and footer. The Law of Visibility here helps us attract more applicants. And also, we actually got ranked higher in Google search for SEO purposes.
You should also consider adding a career page to your website. You’ll condense the most relevant information about your company and the job openings here.
This way, if people come across your blog when Googling something, they’d see that you’re hiring.
You should also take steps to build your brand’s credibility. For instance, you can communicate powerful messaging and engaging visuals by…
- Adding social proof: Show proof of your employer’s reputation. Add testimonials in the form of quotes or videos to showcase your company’s work culture. This will help the candidates learn more about your brand from different perspectives. Here are some testimonial videos examples from AutoGrow’s former employees…
- Showcasing your company’s benefits: If a potential applicant gets the value proposition of working at your company, they’re more likely to apply to your company over competitors, even if the salary isn’t as high.
Add a culture video if possible.
This will be a good place to feature employees describing their jobs, their experience working for your company, and what they appreciate about you and your company.
Creating a career page will make it easier for job seekers to learn about you without having to look very far. They’ll learn about your company’s values, mission, vision, and work environment from this career page.
This actually happened to one of our current team members. He was searching for job posts, came across AutoGrow’s blog, saw that we were hiring, and applied for one of the job positions.
So your possible future hires are out there looking forward to knowing more about your company and how cool you guys are. Help job seekers who have never heard of your company to learn about your brand.
And build awareness to start bringing in the qualified candidates you’re looking for.
Step 2. Nurture Candidates’ Interest
In this step of the process, job seekers are aware of your brand. They already know you’re a good company. They’re qualified because they’ve taken the time to learn about your business. But they need to know more to actually apply to your job openings.
And here’s exactly when you’ll nurture candidates’ interest.
They’re ready to learn more about your company as an employer and see why your company is such a great place to work.
So send potential applicants information on your company that’s relevant to their interests. These candidates already know your brand from the trust you built in the awareness stage, so they’re almost ready to apply to work for your company. They just need a little extra push.
As a matter of fact, a study by LinkedIn states that the #1 obstacle job seekers experience when searching for a job is not knowing what it’s like to work at an organization. This makes them skeptical about taking that step and finally submitting their application.
So to avoid that, you (the recruiter) need to provide potential applicants with all the necessary information they need to finally press that button that says “Apply For This Job.” You must address those candidates’ concerns and speak to their pain points to increase their interest in your company.
Tell them what your company is all about, its mission, vision, benefits, and why would it be so great to work for you.
For instance, send out a targeted messaging, especially for your passive candidates. They need more of a push to start seeing your brand as a future employer.
Adding a video to your funnel where the founder of the company talks to the audience is a great action you can take. This will increase your potential candidates’ interest and will make them learn more about you and your brand.
They’ll get a sense of the personality and culture of the company. And they’ll have an idea of what the workflow would be like on a daily basis if they are hired.
Plus, connecting a brand with a real human face is a powerful way to boost conversions.
People simply need to be sold on working for any company.
I remember when I started working as a copy producer and writer for A&E Latin America. It was my first week of work when my boss said to me and the team, “I don’t like A&E, I don’t even watch this cable tv channel.”
Well, that was definitely a turn-off for me because I was just starting to work for that company. Employees need to hear the opposite of what my former boss said. They need to be sold on the idea of how great the company is.
For instance, at AutoGrow the experience is very different. We’re reminded everyday of the company’s mission—to accelerate creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit. And when someone is interviewed and/or hired, we always make sure they get a real sense of the environment and how pleasant the experience of working at AutoGrow is like.
However, it’s a good persuasion marketing tactic to engage candidates with an ad or a promotional email.
And just so you know, targeted marketing encourages valuable potential applicants to consider your company as an employer, not just as a brand.
Step 3. Follow Up with Candidates Who Apply to Your Job Openings
This step refers to when candidates fill out the form to finally apply for your job opening.
You’re going to get a lot of traffic in this step because candidates will be checking your website (constantly probably) looking to be hired (and paid obviously).
For instance, an applicant’s motivation is completely different than customers. For example, your site’s prospects aren’t willing to immediately give away their contact information. However, they’d be willing to do it if you offer them something in exchange.
On the other hand, candidates interested in working for your company are willing to give away their contact information with the end goal of becoming an employee.
And you want to treat potential hires the same way you treat a prospect in a sales funnel—you send them from one page to another, you send them emails to nurture the relationship, and if you’ve done it all correctly, they’ll realize they want to work with you. So as soon as a candidate submits an application, follow up with them.
Take AutoGrow for example. Even though we don’t need to hire someone for a specific position at the moment, we’re constantly interviewing people and following up with them. This way, if we need to hire someone in the near future, we already have a list of possible candidates.
Sure, some of them could be hired by another company. But maybe some of them won’t be and this could save us time of starting a hiring process from scratch.
Step 4. Ask Candidates to Complete a Skill Test
Once you see application forms being filled out, it’s time to send applicants a skill test. This is where they’ll show you how worthy they are of being hired by your company (or not).
A skill test is nothing but a work sample. We at AutoGrow actually refer to it as skill test because work sample implies we’re taking value.
They’re the same thing in practice but the labeling is different. One can be perceived as taking value and the other one not.
Referring to work samples as skill tests avoids typical reactions in applicants like “what? I’m not doing free work for this company that hasn’t even hired me.”
We ask applicants to complete a skill test that takes 2-3 hours. And that’s pretty fair because you want applicants to take enough time to sit down and prove to you if they’re good.
And asking candidates to complete a skill test is actually a great filter in the hiring process. In the skill tests you can see applicants’ performances. You’ll also have a better picture of how well they completed any given task(s) and you can evaluate their level of responsibility and seriousness. You won’t only be evaluating skills but efficiency and responsibility.
- Did they submit the skill test on time?
- Did they submit it at all?
- Did they complete the task in the given deadline?
- How strong was their performance?
After evaluating those points, you’ll be able to weed out the bad candidates.
Sometimes people may ask you at some point about the compensation and your answer should be “you’d be hired if your skill test is great (not good).” Simple.
Step 5. Pre-Interview Candidates in a Short Call
After reviewing candidates’ skill tests, filter out the ones that aren’t a fit. And for the ones who seem to be a match, take them to the next step.
Go through a standard set of questions in a 15-minute pre-interview call.
Evaluate their responsibility level and responsiveness when you ask them if they can be interviewed that same day.
You’ll see how a lot of people will give you any number of excuses and reasons why they can’t make it to the interview on that same day. And you’ll also see candidates showing more interest and agreeing to be interviewed on that same day. At the end, they’re usually the ones most interested in being hired.
So in this pre-interview that can be led by your Project Manager or any other team member with trustworthy judgement, you can see if candidates show up on time or not (or at all).
This step is particularly important because even though you may be looking to hire a freelancer or someone part time, you’re still looking for someone who’s available and shows up on time for meetings or any job-related matter.
We’ve actually seen a pattern in designers and web developers every time we schedule a pre-interview with them. They simply don’t show up and give zero reasons for it.
So disqualify anyone who doesn’t show up or who shows up late.
Recently at AutoGrow, we hired someone for the Project Manager position. But in his first day of work he didn’t show up. No messages, no calls. He simply vanished.
Then, after he finally got back to us, his excuse was he was traveling.
We immediately removed him from the team because if on your first day of work you can’t even message someone from the team letting them know you’ll be unavailable for some reason, you aren’t a fit.
One good idea to help filter candidates is to have a scoring system. That’s actually what we do at AutoGrow. We score different aspects of the interview and the skill test and then we do a final evaluation based on each person’s score.
Then, we go over their pre-interview and skill test score and we make the decision whether to proceed or not to the next step.
Step 6. Interview the Best Candidates
If your Project Manager pre-interviews a candidate and has positive feedback, congratulations! You’re one step closer to hiring the right person. But don’t worry if they’re not a fit at this point. You can always go back to the beginning of the process and start from scratch.
Now it’s time for one of the most important steps: interviewing the best candidates you have so far. This interview can be led by someone with a higher title. Maybe the person’s direct supervisor, CEO, or founder of the company.
This interview is for you to ask and find out everything you’re looking for in the candidate.
Ask them personal and/or professional things. If you ask them for their story, you can learn more about who they are and the journey that brought them to the interview. Whatever you consider helpful to determine if they’re a fit or not, just ask it.
Here are some suggestions taken from our own interview process.
- Why did they leave their past job?
- What are their most recent job experiences?
- What do they like doing in their free time?
- What do they don’t like doing?
- Are they long-term employees or do they jump from one job to another?
Ask anything that gives you a better sense of who the person is, what they want, and what are their expectations from your company. And also see if they have questions for you. This will help you see if they had some preparation for the interview.
Matt likes to ask job applicants what he calls “the Elon Musk question”. Musk says…
“Smart, competent people who can do the work you want them to do, will be able to tell you the time when they had a difficult problem related to the work you’d hire them for and how they solved it.”
If when you interview candidates don’t know basic things about your company like the name and what you do, stop the interview and NEXT.
Also, something to consider is the outfit they wear during the interview. Don’t expect them to wear a suit, but someone wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, or being interviewed with a person sleeping on the coach behind them WON’T be a good fit.
We actually made a BIG mistake recently.
We interviewed someone for the designer position. She seemed nice but knew nothing about AutoGrow. Our error was to hire her.
In her first week of work she simply disappeared. She never messaged anyone in the team. She simply vanished.
And we could have totally avoided this because she didn’t demonstrate the seriousness we were looking for in the interview.
Step 7. Hire On a Trial Basis
Finally, hire the applicant on a trial basis.
Tell them you’ll be looking closely at their work for 2 months. Pay attention to how they interact with other team members, how proactive they are, how diligent and efficient they are, how they collaborate, and if they reach out to meet the high-quality standards of the company.
In this part of the funnel, the person is hired on a trial basis. This means you’ll be training them to see if they end up fitting or if you should let them go. You’ll be paying them, sure. But if their performance is not how it should be, fire fast.
“The greatest wisdom there is as far as building a great team and a great company is to hire slow and fire fast.” That was Matt’s biggest takeaway from October that we have all learned from.
Another error we made this past month was to not let our former Project Manager go sooner. His performance was not good and we knew it as soon as he started working with us.
Sometimes it’s better to not spend too much time training someone who makes so many mistakes. Especially if they tell you that they’re doing their best. It’s better to let go of someone who’s not a good fit.
This former employee seemed to be more focused on him than on the company and clients’ interests.
We really liked him but in terms of work, it needed to be done right despite how great his personality was.
So during the trial period, put especial attention to your recently hired team members. Give them a warning if they’re not meeting your expectations.
If the team member you hired on a trial basis makes a considerable mistake 1 or 2 times, assume first it was the system or training process’ fault. But the third time—assume it’s the person’s fault.
Hold the person accountable, give them a final warning, and/or see if things can be worked out. At AutoGrow, we actually don’t have a warning system but we’ll be experimenting with applying it soon to see the results.
Communication is key to improving the employee-employer relationship. But be willing to reject, don’t settle.
Ideally, if you’re considering firing someone, you should have a backup. But if you don’t have anyone else, fire the person fast. From our own experience, it’s worse to be stuck with a bad candidate than having that spot vacant.
Hiring the right team members to scale up your people-driven business is like moving your site’s visitors through your sales funnel from awareness to buying decision.
Companies who clearly define and monitor each stage of their hiring funnel continuously fill open roles with the right people quickly.
By following this 7-step guide, you can also move potential job applicants through your hiring funnel. From awareness to finally hiring them on a trial basis.
Step 1. Create awareness and promote your job ad
Step 2. Nurture candidates’ interest
Step 3. Follow up with candidates who apply to your job openings
Step 4. Ask candidates to complete a skill test
Step 5. Pre-interview candidates in a short call
Step 6. Interview the best candidates
Step 7. Hire on a trial basis
Building your brand’s reputation as a credible employer and great place to work is a key factor for small to mid-sized businesses like yours.
So no matter if you’re a freelancer or consultant who wants to scale up their people-driven company, if you’re an entrepreneur who’s starting from scratch their startup, or a Saas platform—by following this guide, you’ll nurture the relationship with job seekers until they become part of your team.
Now tell me something, how many team roles are you looking to fill? Have you ever followed a detailed hiring guide for your business? What are your bottlenecks in your hiring process?
Let me know in the comments below.
Keep funnelin’, stay focused,