Bryce and Jaspar Headstands

When Jaspar and I started hiring at TaskUs we hired with our instincts. An hour was the most we’d ever spend with a candidate, and we both felt we new whether someone was right or wrong for the company within 10 minutes of meeting them. At this point almost everyone we hired using this shotgun method is no longer at TaskUs. Humbled by our failure to recruit effectively we went looking for an answer – what were we doing wrong?

We found the answer working with Stephen Lynch, COO of Results.com. Stephen taught us the Top Grading method of hiring. It turns out that hiring the way we were hiring has been found to yield one successful longterm team member for every four hired. That means that three out of four people you hire normally aren’t going to be with your company in five years time. The cost of this to a fledgling organization cannot be overstated. People are EVERYTHING! Even B players will drag your organization down, infect your culture and hold you back from success. Topgrading claims to yield nine successful longterm team members for every 10 hired.

Whether that is true or not, who knows, but I can tell you from experience – it works!

Here’s how TaskUs hires all management positions in our U.S. office:

We start by defining the role. Why are we hiring this position? What do we expect the person who occupies the role to accomplish and by when? How will we measure their performance on an on going basis? The more objective you can make this the better. You want numbers, clear deliverables and concrete deadlines by which the person hired can assess their own performance. We develop a document that we call a Role Scorecard. Every position at TaskUs has a Role Scorecard. We put this infront of all applicants and we refer back to it in our quarterly performance reviews for all of your team members.

After we have developed the Role Scorecard we use the content of the Scorecard to develop a job ad. We post all of our jobs on Zip Recruiter an awesome platform that allows you to post to over 40 job boards (Craigslist, Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) and manage the applications that come in from those boards from one place. Zip Recruiter also has an awesome feature that allows you to ask qualifying questions. We ask five short answer questions to weed out applicants. Examples of questions we use are: What was your favorite book in the past year? What did it teach you? What is your favorite internet company? (Don’t say Facebook or Google) Describe a fun weekend? We review all of these resumes and responses. If someone doesn’t answer the questions we immediately remove them. Zip Recruiter allows you to rate all applicants out of five stars. We define exactly what we want to see from candidates and go through and rank them accordingly. Generally we have 200 to 300 total applicants. Out of that only about a dozen end up with four or five star ratings.

Next we set up 15 minute phone screens with each of these applicants. I try and schedule four back to back in a one hour period. This ensures that the phone screen never lasts more than 15 minutes. In the phone screen I’ll ask one question, “Tell me about your career and life as it applies to this position?” Almost always the applicants will talk to this for the full 15 minutes. This gives me a sense of two things: 1) Do they have the experience needed to do the job, and more importantly 2) Are they a cultural fit for our organization?

From these phone screen we generally whittle the pool down to three to six applicants. These applicants are sent a Career History Forum, which is a detailed review of everything they have accomplished in their career. It asks for examples of successes, failures, relationships with bosses, strengths, weaknesses. After reviewing these we choose a maximum of three applicants to have in for a face to face interview.

For the face to face interview we use a Top Grading interview assessment. The assessment has a list of forty different competencies that might be important for a position, things like ethics, management, intelligence, independence. We rank the top 10 competencies for this particular position. The forum has specific groups of questions we ask to address each of these 10 competencies. Now, this is where it gets really interesting. We ask the EXACT SAME questions of every applicant in a face to face interview. And, we always have two people from TaskUs sit in on the interview of an applicant. One person asks questions and the other person takes notes on the Top Grading interview assessment. These interviews last anywhere from two to four hours.

Finally, we ask permission to contact references from everyone of their last four jobs. If an applicant can’t give us references for at least three positions (assuming they have had that many jobs) we won’t hire them. We ask to speak to bosses, coworkers and subordinates. In these reference checks we ask pressing questions about the candidates strengths and weaknesses. It’s tough to get people to divulge, but we insist. Generally it works well to say, “I’m interested in how I can work most effectively with this person should we hire them.”

And, after all that we make a decision and hire someone.

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