The Startup That Never Meets The People It Hires

Startups are known for doing things differently, so why should hiring be the exception? Well, at one tech startup it isn’t. Automattic (the company behind WordPress) hires people without ever meeting them — or even speaking on the phone.

While that might sound crazy, Dave Martin (the Automattic manager who revealed the company’s unusual hiring process in a blog post) argues a 100% retention rate (at the time of writing) shows that it works.

This is what the company does instead of the traditional, face-to-face-interview-focused hiring process:

1. Pre-screening

So far, so ordinary. What makes Automattic different is that Matt Mullenweg (the company’s founder and CEO) personally screens every applicant — spending 20–30% of his time on this.

This takes the idea of a founder-led company to a whole new level and certainly makes sure that successful applicants will be a good fit for the company. It also allows the hiring managers to be confident about moving forward with candidates they like, as they already have the boss’ approval.

2. Resume Review

Hiring managers review the CVs sent to them by Matt Mullenweg and then respond to every applicant — letting them know whether they have made it to the next stage or not.

3. Interview

The lucky ones are invited to add the hiring manager on Skype. Rather than the more usual Skype call, Automattic sticks to a text-based chat for their interviews. They also don’t schedule a time but instead allow applicants to respond as and when they have time.

Thanks to this, time zones don’t present the headache they often are in the job interview process. It also means that managers can be simultaneously interviewing several candidates.

4. Trial

If the interview goes well, the next step is a trial project. Importantly, this is paid — regardless of whether the candidate is ultimately successful or not. As with the interview, this is not expected to take place in a set timeframe — making things easier for candidates applying while still employed elsewhere.

Martin also writes that the trial projects are “actual work that we need done. In that sense, we’re also getting additional stuff done in the process.”

5. Final Interview

The last step in the process is to have a Skype chat with Matt Mullenweg. This is also the point where any final questions, such as compensation, will be covered. Success at this stage will lead to an offer letter.

It’s counter-intuitive to hire someone without ever meeting them, but it seems to work for Automattic — so why not for other companies? In addition to that obvious oddity, there are some other key things to pick out from this process.

Responsiveness

Everyone who applies to the company will receive a response. Not only is this good manners but it leaves a door open for unsuccessful applicants. Martin explicitly mentions that quite a few people have been later hired by Automattic after being initially unsuccessful.

Paid Trials

The way the trials are structured means that it’s more like freelance work than a trial. It also offers important flexibility for people job-hunting while still employed.

Flexibility

It’s not just the trials that offer flexibility but the whole process. While certainly convenient for the hiring managers, it also shows understanding of the job seeker’s situation. It also fits with the company culture as a whole — most of its employees are remote.

What do you think about this way of doing things? Would it work for you?


Originally published at blog.startupcvs.com on January 14, 2016.

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