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Micro-multinational: How to hire good people when you dont even have an office

Micromultinational recruiting

How to attract the right people?

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:

“Hey talented person, how about you quit your job and come work for us? Yeah, that’s right, quit the job that keeps the lights on at home and your kids in Nikes. Oh and did I mention we don’t have an actual office and I live in Sydney? No, not the Sydney in Canada, that one in Australia. Yeah, the one with the big bridge and plagued by drop-bears”

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:

Non effective job title

What happens with an ineffective title

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:

Effective Job Title

Stand out from the crowd.

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:

“Responsible for the needs-analysis, development and deployment of inter-related activities servicing the overall operating environment.”

And from the marketing and brand management world:

“Must be able to interface with external and internal stakeholders in a fast paced environment.”

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:

“I own a software business. It is growing really fast, but heck, it is one crowded, unforgiving marketplace out there. It keeps me awake at night and when I’m restless at 3am in the morning I like to put on my customer-facing hat and take a peep at what our competitors are doing … “

“OMG. If I read another blog post filled with baseless marketing statements … or register to download a case study that I already know is going to tell me how truly amazing they are… or see another blog post entitled ‘Top 10 Social Media Secrets You Can’t Afford to Ignore’ I swear I’m going to collapse with the worlds’ first confirmed case of terminal boredom.”

It shouldn’t be like this.

“Our product helps business owners and managers build better businesses. And in turn better businesses help their employees, customers, suppliers and community be better also. But we are not telling these stories.”

“So, the main jist of this job is someone to help make the story of software more human. Give it a heart, give it a brain and give it a reason why.”

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”.

Actual feedback

Actual feedback from job listing.

 

Money

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.

 

Benefits

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.
World's Best Boss

Image from NBC’s The Office

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:

If you’ve been struggling in your own consulting business or IT contractor, then working with us means no more “un-billable” hours spent on marketing or collecting money. Get paid for all your billable time, without sacrificing all the freedom that comes for working for yourself.

This is also a great opportunity if you have a young family and need to work around school pickups, dentist appointments and last minute emergencies (as all our currrent support team can attest too!).

 

Managing Applicants

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:

To apply you need to put some a little, tiny bit of effort in. I want to know …

  1. You have a profile, so include links to Twitter, Google Plus and Linkedin profiles.
  2. That you can write, so include links to your three best pieces of writing that are clearly attributed to yourself.
  3. Three links to examples of content anywhere that you would have been proud to have produced yourself and that you feel are similar to what we are trying to do here.
  4. The three worse spelling or grammatical errors I have most likely made in this job advert.

Everyone that takes the time to address these three requests will always get a personal response. Anyone who just blindly sends a CV will most likely just not hear back. Killer.

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.

Summary:

  • Get creative with Job Details for breakthrough. Use unexpected or surprising words, but make sure you explain the headline within the body of the job description.
  • Don’t use inflated job descriptions to describe the role. Keep it simple. Keep it task-focused and explain how those tasks relate to the outcome this role needs to deliver. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd by being personable and telling the story behind the role.
  • Offer above industry rates to attract qualified candidates and fast-rising stars. Don’t be afraid to state a dollar figure in the advert.
  • Promote the benefits that make working for your micro-multinational more desirable than an equivalent role at a big-name company.
  • Set a simple task along with how-to-apply to quickly identify people that are truly interested in the role.
  • Take advantage of tools like ZipRecruiter to efficiently manage and screen applicants.

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.

  • Sandeep Jaiswal

    Thanks! I can now attribute my business “Micro-Multinational” because it ideally matches the features & functions, you’ve mentioned in this article.

    None other than a person who had himself tried/faced it could be so real and precise as you were in this article. A great line just popped-in my mind that is pretty relevant to this topic but I’m uncertain it has author 😉

    “Learn from the leader, not his teacher!”.

  • Hey Sandeep – thank you for recognising that we’re really focussed on producing “real” content here. And not the usual fluffy “Top 10 Ways to…” type content that never really says anything or helps anyone!

  • Kieran Doyle

    Dan, Don’t stop writing. You may have an under appreciated talent. Bombarded with crap as we are, your words ring with truth and the disheartening experience of some business process reveals sincerity.

    • Thanks for noticing Kieran … I wish I could do more, but it just takes up so much time. And I really don’t want to go down the “8 tips secret tips that will make you a millionaire overnight” bitesized BS business “advice” that the internet is drowning in!

  • Pingback: Using Job Descriptions to Attract Better Candidates()

  • Brilliant Dan. I shared this with our team. We are in hiring mode in a highly competitive field and needed a boost. Unicorns welcome.

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