Hiring good people is tough even at the best of times. Hiring good people when you don’t have an office and live on the opposite side of the world is darn near impossible.
Think about what you’re asking someone to do:
Most people don’t like risk at the best of times. Throw in a spluttering economy and people will steer well clear from risk; especially when that risk potentially impacts on providing for family.
So how does a Micro-Multinational attract great talent and then get that person comfortable enough to take what amounts to a huge leap of faith?
NOTE: Before you read any further, this article is about Micro-Multinationals, that is a growing business that has global operations (it’s not about outsourcing to Asia for $2/hr)
Writing an Effective Job Title
The best place to find good people is through friends and family. But it is easy to quickly exhaust that network and the further afar you’re looking, the less effective it becomes.
So really, you have to advertise. And all of a sudden you’re competing with locally entrenched businesses with bigger brands, bigger budgets and with not only bigger offices, but actual offices.
This leaves you with no choice but to sell people on your story. Like really sell. Luckily, because you are small fry you can afford to take the risks the big guys can’t to get the attention you need to stand out.
For example, we recently advertised for a technical writer. Check out the adds we were competing with:
Spot the similarities? I know technical writers have a reputation for being a little dull, but having to choose one of 117 positions with identical job titles is going make anyone dull.
So to stand out among the competition, all we did was get creative with the headline:
We then used copy to describe the role and explain away the Unicorn reference as the rare bread of animal who can not only write technically but do so in a way that is actually interesting. After all, our customers are people and most people don’t look forward to reading a technical manual so let’s at least make it enjoyable. And the same philosophy applies to our job hunter; make the role (and your company) appear different and unique by describing it in a way that is actually interesting to read.
And yeah, I’m the first to admit it is a pretty lame headline. But being lame got us retweets from people who had read the advert. If they’ve read the advert then they are going to be in the industry we’re targeting which means a strong likelihood their followers are also. Free exposure!
The unicorn ad worked for us the first time so we have followed it up with this one on ziprecruiter.com.
Real People are attracted to Real Job Descriptions
Once you have your headline locked away, keep on theme by writing the job description so that it is actually meaningful to a person. By this I mean stay well clear of industry jargon and writing that reads like a course syllabus.
Here is a horrible example from the CRM Software world:
And from the marketing and brand management world:
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight…. both descriptions could just as easily describe the role of a Madam in a mining town brothel. Read those phrases again! 🙂
What always works is to simply write down the actual tasks that person will be doing. Tell them what they are going to be doing day-to-day to achieve the outcomes your business needs to succeed. Make it tangible, make it real.
Don’t forget you’re still competing here against the well known, big named companies with swanky downtown offices. This is your chance to again do something different and tell the story of why this position is so important to you. Be a person, tell it like it is and take the risks the big-named companies can’t or won’t.
In a recent job advert for a journalist and content manager, I started the advert by telling the story behind this role and exactly what we’re wanting to achieve with the role:
Again, it is probably a bit lame and we risk alienating some people. But at the same time we’re using that description to talk to the kind of candidate who shares a similar perspective on the current state of what constitutes “content marketing”.
Good talent doesn’t come cheap and don’t expect that just because you’re hiring a remote worker you can get away with paying less. I make it a rule of matching or exceeding the local rates for every position we advertise.
Why? Working with good people is more important to me than saving $10k per year on a position. The value that a good person returns to the business will always be a multitude more than the amount you’ll save by skimping on wages. I’ll always delay on filling a role until I know the additional cashflow is in the budget to hire above local baseline rate.
We also clearly include the salary in the headline of the job post. It seems 90% of job adverts make no mention of the actual dollars the position pays (possibly a cultural issue in some countries). We’ve found that by making the salary known up front, we not only attract people at the right skill level, but also candidates who my be a little bit junior for the role, but are the type of people who have excelled in their current position and are driven to make the next big step in their career.
This is where the Micro Multinational can really get clever and out-perform the actual Multinationals. Sure, offering your remote team Massage Mondays would not only cost a small fortune it would come across as kind of creepy. And really what is the point of making a big deal of Dressdown Fridays when some of your off site team probably already works half the day dressed in their Pajamas still.
What you want to do is leverage all the issues that take the shine off working from a main office. This is your competitive advantage, this is how you win. What I always do is write about the things that drive people insane going to an office every day, for example:
- The hour long commute each day stuck in traffic or sardined into public transport
- Awkward water-cooler small talk and gossip with Jenny from accounts (you know the Jenny, every office has atleast one)
- Locked away in cubicle hell with your manager looking over your shoulder, drinking from the The World’s Best Boss coffee cup
- Not being able to take 20 minutes out each afternoon to collect the kids from school without it being a whole big thing.
With WORK[etc], we’ve found that people who have run their own small consulting, technology or web development business make ideal remote technical support people. For one, they have a good analytical mind and love solving problems. Secondly they are excellent at relating to people because in running your own business you have to be good at this. And finally, they already know how to manage their own time, handle priorities and work without supervision.
But how do we attract someone that is running their business to come and work with us?
Again, we focus on selling the unique benefits of being a geographically dispersed business. Here is a snippet from a recent advert that shows the approach we use:
Lastly if you’ve done all this well then you’re going to get hundreds of applicants. Our record was 228 applicants for a support position we ran in 2011. Not using a system to manage this means you’re going to waste hours on admin and risk missing that absolute star applicants. Needles and haystacks.
A very simple method we us is to include a few extra instructions for how to apply for the role. So as well as the usual request for a CV, ask for something out of the ordinary such as a link to their Twitter or Linkedin profiles or a simple questions. Here is a recent “how to apply” that we used for a writing position:
It will literally take the candidate ten minutes to put this information together. Even so, less than 50% of applicants actually follow instructions. Instead they blindly send in a CV with no notes or anything to suggest they actually know what job they are applying for. For me, this is an immediate delete. If you can’t follow simple instructions and give me the information that is going to help me hire you, then seriously I have to wonder what it is going to be like working with you.
Even if you can quickly discard 50% of applications, you don’t want to be managing this process through your inbox; seeing 228 unread emails in your Jobs filter in Gmail is downright dispiriting.
I rely heavily on a web app called ZipRecruiter to manage all our campaigns. This platform makes it insanely easy to quickly scan an application, give it a rating with one click and move on to the next application. I then create a shortlist from filtering out the five-star replies and from there review each 5-star applicant in detail. I can then invite those candidates for an initial chat and include other members of the team as needed. The amount of time I’ve saved using ZipRecruiter and the confidence from knowing I’ve properly screened all candidates, far outweighs the cost.
Really this is just 50% of finding good people. The next 50% is all about identifiying culture fit and quickly understanding if candidates have the skills required to grow as your business grows. This is a whole other post that I’ll get around to writing sometime.
We’ve spent the money and wasted the hours on trial and error to arrive at some key strategies to hire good people without all the tangible bling that a local company relies on. Hopefully you can put these ideas to use in your own business and hire the people that are ultimately going to take your business to the next level.
If you have some insight into other strategies that have worked for you, or even if you’ve tried some of the ideas above and they’ve failed, let’s talk about them in the comments below. Also, we have some good PR opportunities coming up that we want to get our customers involved in.