INNsights
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INNsights

A group of 10 people in an office smiling at the camera.
The staff at Outlier Media. Photo by Nick Hagen

Outlier’s hiring hotline models care for job candidates

Job hunting is hard. Uprooting your life to move across the country for a start-up? That can be downright scary.

That’s why, when Outlier Media began hiring business roles at an entirely new level thanks to their largest-ever investment from the American Journalism Project, Executive Director Candice Fortman decided to give potential applicants the chance to talk to her before they ever applied.

The hiring hotline allowed applicants to learn about both the hiring process and about the organization, Fortman said. She posted a Calendly link for a 20-minute phone call in the job description. She spoke with about 7 potential applicants for two positions, including a person who was eventually hired.

In the process, Fortman said, she gathered insights she used to update the job description and held rich, rewarding conversations with people interested in helping Outlier grow.

“We’ve been talking a lot about care as a practice in journalism,” Fortman said. “For me, this is also a practice of care. Before a person even comes into the organization, I want them to know they are coming to a place that is thinking of them as a whole person.”

Getting it right (and finding the time)

The only question Fortman asked on the hotline calls was whether the potential candidates wanted an overview of Outlier. Otherwise, the callers led the open-ended conversation. Fortman let them know the conversation would not impact the interview process.

When she posted about the hotline on Twitter, some responded that it seemed like a big lift to spend so much time taking questions.

“For me, hiring is so valuable and getting the right fit of people in Outlier is so valuable that that could never possibly be a waste of my time,” she said.

It would be far worse, she said, to struggle getting applicants or have to reopen the hiring process.

Even when the hotline calls don’t lead to a job offer, they are still an investment in the future.

“This is also about building relationships with people,” Fortman said. “And though they might not be the right candidate for your organization, this is a small ecosystem and you never know where people might come back up and be helpful to your organization in a whole other way.”

Start your own hotline

Fortman offered these tips for newsrooms interested in starting their own hiring hotlines:

  • For these calls to be helpful, candidates need to connect with someone who has a deep understanding of the job responsibilities and the organization’s goals.
  • Her Calendly invite was set for phone calls, not video, to allow Fortman to more easily connect with candidates.
  • Know how transparent you can be about topics such as your budget.
  • Provide times that are convenient so you’re not rushed, and be aware that candidates may be calling from different time zones. Fortman also suggested setting a cutoff for the number of hotline calls and creating an FAQ for the role based on candidate questions.

Moving forward, Fortman expects the hiring hotline to be adopted by the entire Outlier organization.

“Above everything, the measure for success for me in our entire process has to be the care for human beings,” she said. “And so if people felt cared for in any way and felt this was a thoughtful process, that’s success for me.”

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