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I need a new employee, what should I do? How to build hiring processes in product teams without recruiters

Collaboration with Emex
June 2022

In a nutshell

Emex contacted us for help twice. For the first time, they came to improve the operational processes. However, they already had product issues. The guys realized that the product team members had a completely different culture. To frame the exact recruiting strategy for the company and understand what methods to apply, we offered a general check-up of the company’s health. Then Emex was not ready for such a complex approach, so the project did not take place.

Anastasia Minetto at the Emex team startsession in Dubai

Emex is an international marketplace of automotive products with pick-up points in 120 cities in the UAE and the CIS. The company delivers about 50,000 orders daily. Emex is part of the MXG group. Now there are about 600 employees.

After a while, Michael Levin, responsible for the product transformation, contacted us. He wanted to focus on the product team and believed that the right product managers would boost business growth. Meanwhile, he saw that processes of the product team, such as hiring, were outdated. Michael is experienced in dealing with large companies, so he already understood how things should work. So, Emex collaborated with us for the second time. Michael immediately showed the employee life cycle and explained how he wanted to build it. The transformation of the product team was to start with hiring process reconstruction and training of hiring managers. 

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Collaboration period: November 2021 — January 2022

Emex before the project

  • Despite the huge competition in the candidates' market, Emex had chaotic hiring processes that were not specified for tech recruiting.
  • Probably, the recruiters searched for new employees apart from the need. They were simply implementing the request of a hiring manager.
  • The whole funnel was constantly changed to fit the needs of this exact person. So, processes were not systematic.
  • Job descriptions were dry, boring, and did not reflect the essence of the position.
  • During the initial selection, candidates received narrow-profile questions. As a result, their competencies could stay unaccounted for.
  • The team lacked elaborate interview processes. They had no exact structure and sometimes looked like some interrogation.
  • The company had no EVP: hiring managers did not know what to say about Emex, how to highlight its advantages, and describe the position. 
  • Candidates were evaluated without criteria. They could be hired simply because they seemed to be fit. 
  • The feedback was systemless, didn't involve the hiring manager, or was not given at all.
  • Offers looked like corporate documents that didn't reflect positions’  peculiarities, beauty, and advantages. Meanwhile, they also didn't represent the challenges the company was facing.

Our first steps

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Results

  • Now the team can search and select people even without a recruiter. They hire more confidently, understand who is needed, and know where to look for the fit candidates.
  • Over half of the project team claimed that hiring had never been so time-consuming. However, they admit that the end sanctifies the means.
  • Now hiring managers describe the criteria in advance. They distinguish competencies and select questions that will test them correctly. The guys can prove their decisions.
  • Job descriptions, refusals, and offers used to be boring corporate documents, but now they look like sincere texts that reflect the company's specific positions. 
  • The team constantly receives positive feedback from candidates. Even the rejected ones admit that they like the company's communication.
  • The next project was devoted to the org chart design for the whole MXG group, including Emex.

The step-by-step work plan for Emex that we developed at the start of the project

Emex' request

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>

I came to Anastasia with specific cases to work out. Firstly, we hired people without clear criteria. We intuitively understood what kind of person we needed. Next, we intuitively determined whether the candidate fits the position professionally and culturally. 

Secondly, our search was pretty passive. We posted job descriptions on such platforms as HeadHunter and just waited for applications. Job descriptions were incomprehensible, heavy, and unattractive. Passivity, lack of values clarity, and the absence of exact goals narrowed the funnel and brought unimpressive results.

I've wanted to change it for a long time because I understood how hiring should work. I'm communicating with different teams in the Russian market, mainly with large companies. So, I can say that we haven't even tried to use lots of their ideas and approaches.  

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>Michael felt that hiring was one of the key Emex' challenges. The company was going to grow and enter new markets. Consequently, it needed more talents and expertise. So we decided that hiring would be the first process to develop. If our strategy worked out, the company would get the right people who would boost the further improvements. Additionally, we agreed that this project would be a trial for Emex: we would start the changes with a small business function, and then, if everything worked out, we would move through the entire employee life cycle.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>

I considered the hiring project as a way to prove that Emex and TYPICAL shared the same views and could efficiently collaborate. In my head, hiring is the first stage of multi-stage team-building. Therefore, I needed to see whether our team followed this plan and whether the transformation was not premature. Via this project, I wanted to show our team possibilities and make them accessible. 

The first stage: research on hiring problems and their causes

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

Firstly, to understand what risks different strategies may cause, how to work with them, and what tools to introduce to the team, we needed to figure out whether Emex had any HR function. So, we needed to analyze the hiring function from scratch, including the funnel, candidates' database check, and job template evaluation. Another big task was to identify the limitations and capabilities of the company. It would help design an efficient EVP that would guide candidates toward opportunities. 

As a result, we made a project group of 8 people. All of them are responsible for product team hiring. Due to the peculiarities of the Emex' org chart, it engaged specialists of different levels from managers and heads to frontline employees. That was another limitation we faced. We had to train both СТО and middle products without any hiring experience. 

The research highlighted problems at all stages of hiring. Firstly, Emex did not have a clear recruitment funnel. A funnel is the whole sequence of steps that the candidate or the hiring manager goes through. There was no funnel, or it was adjusted to specific hiring managers. As a result, hiring lacked consistency. 

Secondly, there were no hiring validation strategies. If someone thought that a new person was needed, nobody asked why. As a rule, such questions are raised by a recruiter. Emex didn't have any. Therefore, the company had unpleasant situations. For instance, one manager hired five employees and fired them almost immediately. Next, there was no correction work. 

Positions appeared just because the team needed to implement some project/product/developer/designer functions. No one tried to figure anything out. Neither the recruiter nor the hiring manager understood what to tell the candidates during interviews because they couldn't define the functions of a potential employee. 

Job descriptions had no word about the company and the product. The whole hiring looked like this metaphor: "We need a table that should be purple and stand on legs". This "table" had no exact purpose, hjsition, or function. Everyone knew that something was wrong, but they didn't know what to do.

As a result, there were no evaluation criteria. The guys did not understand who they were looking for, had no scoring, and couldn't evaluate an employee by resumes, portfolios, or interviews. Consequently, interviews lacked structure. In most cases, Emex didn't provide candidates with feedback. If they gave any, it looked like "You are not relevant to us, bye". The guys didn't explain what this "not relevant" meant. Offers looked like boring official documents with such phrases as "the duty is to look at the computer" and "so-and-so many working hours a week". 

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>In my opinion, this attitude was shaped because there was no strong HRD that would introduce a people-oriented strategy to Emex. Taking care of people is as important as achieving business goals. These things are interrelated. Nobody broadcasted these values, so the team members took action only when asked. Probably, nobody thought about its purpose.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

At this stage, we already realized that the problem derived from the approaches of a recruiter who worked in the product team but lacked an understanding of technical recruitment. This person didn't understand how to write product job descriptions and where to publish them. The recruiter had no idea of Emex' real target audience and had no understanding of how to acquire it. As a result, hiring was old-fashioned. For example, during the very first interview, the recruiter checked the technical competencies of an applicant without being an expert themselves. 

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>The established hiring processes required an immediate person, ready to support it and upgrade. The one who would introduce and develop new approaches, see hidden problems, solve them, and adapt the funnel to the team's needs. Emex approaches didn't keep up with the hiring market development. So, the former recruiter would need much time to transform and reset their culture. For this, one needs to exit the workflow at least for a while. Therefore, we decided to take a break in further cooperation.</div>

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

As a result, we got another task. We aimed to hire a recruiter. Together with Michael, we made a job description. I helped to edit it and choose interview questions. Now I'm helping with some candidates on the spot

Extra finds made during the project

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

The research stage always brings additional insights. One of them was a chaotic org chart or its absence. For example, people didn't understand which products they were responsible for. They didn't know who belonged to their team and who worked with neighboring products. As a result, they couldn't determine whom the team needed. Even if people lacked resources and felt it, they didn't know how to fit the new team members into the org chart. For instance, one hiring manager needed a part-time tester. To start hiring, he had to ask other teams if they would request a tester for the rest of the time. 

There were cases when no one understood what the new employee was responsible for. For example, the guys hired an analyst in one team, and then this person received tasks from other departments. These tasks were out of their area of responsibility, and the analyst got them just because they were regarded as a "non-playing hand". As a result, people left before the end of the probation period. 

The second significant insight was the absence of knowledge base and exchange in the company. New employees had to ask the old-timers about the legacy accumulated for 25 years. This approach is completely non-scalable. A person could be sent from Roman to Dmitry, from Dmitry to Alex, and Alex would eventually say that the question would be out of his area. And even if it would be his area, Alex wouldn't be able to retell all the information the mature company accumulated. We worked on these problems during the next project. 

Stage two: EVP and funnel development 

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

The two main tools we integrated into the Emex product team are the EVP and a detailed document titled "I need a new employee. What should I do?". 

To make hiring clear even to the completely inexperienced ones, we designed a step-by-step instruction. Now hiring managers know what to do at each stage. For example, step 0 is to prove that they can engage in hiring and have enough time for this. Step 1 is to get convinced that they can open a job position now. Unfortunately, this stage is usually skipped by everyone. Step 2 is to make sure that the candidate profile is realistic. 

This document adapts to the company's goals, specifics, and risks of the business (identified during the research stage), the department, and its problems. Emex got some special steps. The first is to make sure that the hired person will not work with a small product if current employees are able to support it and develop. The second is to check whether hiring is provoked by some relevant urgent tasks, not by free money.

Additionally, we made some special documents on the fork assessment, test task strategies, and position-related job ad placement. Also, we shaped a guide on how to task a job recruiter with a job request if this person doesn't understand the candidate's profile. It explains to them the details and describes where to find fit people. Also, it includes the instruction on how to control a recruiter in the first stages. 

Meanwhile, this guide also has manuals on job descriptions, offers, and interviews. Each guide has a set of templates adapted for product managers and engineers. All these documents reflect Emex' EVP: we explain how to broadcast values and on what to focus on. 

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>Thanks to the EVP, we realized that we have something to offer and something to be proud of. All the developed documents enabled us to reach and synchronize a common understanding. Now the team has a super structured knowledge base that is very helpful at various hiring stages.</div>

Stage three: workshops and implementation of new processes

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

If we prescribe new processes in theory, we teach how to use them in practice. Therefore, the next stage was a month of workshops, where we were teaching the guys to apply new tools and knowledge. We conducted three 1.5–2 hours-long workshops. 

As a rule, our workshops include a small block of a theory, an explanation of practical aspects, and exercises. After that, the team have 2-3 days to do their homework, which we discuss with everyone individually. We point out strengths, and weaknesses, suggest improvements and send guys to correct them. 

We select different forms of independent work: from tests to simulations where they role-play job interviews. The workshops had two main goals. The first was to show that efficient hiring is time-consuming. The second was to prove that processes should never be stable. Contrary to this, they must be constantly analyzed and upgraded. The instruction is to rethink the job description if it doesn't work, change the funnel, and adapt interviews.

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div> Workshops were pretty intensive. I don't mean their number, but the complexity of the process itself. We were rethinking approaches and changing our mindset. The whole team had a laser-like focus. However, TYPICAL helped us, involved, and guided us during the whole process. So, it turned out to be cool.

<div class='p-container'>I participated in the project as well as the rest of the team. I believe in the "be the change you want" concept. So, I wanted to show the team that the changes are really important. I shared the difficulties and learned task scheduling for a recruiter at each workshop. I believe that when someone in the company initiates a process, this person is the first to show results.</div>

Stage four: support

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>

At the end of each project, we have a support phase that lasts a month. During this period, we held weekly hour-long meetings. Here guys asked questions, described current problems in hiring, and revealed how they applied their knowledge to solve them. 

Also, we constantly chatted with Emex. At this stage, some of the documents have been a bit upgraded. We added a few new guides, slightly transformed the EVP, and adopted some processes for the team. The guys were very active. We turned out to be their internal recruiters or experts whom they could ask for advice. For instance, they could say something like this: "I want to hire 10 people. What do you think?" 

Additionally, sometimes we reviewed hiring actions of particular 2-3 people. We asked them to describe how they had conducted interviews, refused, or made an offer. Next, we gave feedback. 

Results

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>

For me, the main result is the transformation of the Emex culture. The project was dedicated to hiring processes, but it affected different components, such as goal setting, role awareness, and values. As a result, our approaches to finding people, feedback, and reasoning changed too. Now the guys have a completely different attitude to job positions. If they search for a new employee, they do it consciously. Their culture and attitudes changed.

The second valuable result is structured thinking shaped with the help of guides and checklists. The more we use them, the more we learn to work without them, and the more step-by-step-like our thinking is. By doing this rotely, we are sure to reach accurate and efficient hiring and, as a result, get a more efficient team. Structured thinking and cultural transformation are the basis of new projects to come. Now I want to use this approach in other work aspects. It seems like I have no choice but in a good way. 

Surely, I can speak about the results in a more conventional way. We closed positions. Candidates like our attitude and feedback. The team understands why they hire someone. But for me, all these things are secondary because I still strive to make more fundamental changes in the thinking and behavior of our people. With this project, I wanted to show the team: "See how you can think, and if you like this approach, be sure to use it."

<div class='p-container'><div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Anastasia Minetto, TYPICAL</div>The guys saw many things from a different point of view. They constantly shared their discoveries. One of them told me that he had written a refusal according to our guide. The candidate replied that it had been the best refusal in their life. Next, one guy wrote down all the interview questions and realized that he should have conducted a deeper technology check. In a word, the guys realized that the more attention they pay to hiring, the better the results are.</div>

Working with TYPICAL

<div class='h3 color-green font-25'>Michael Levin, Emex</div>

For me, TYPICAL is not an external team. Contrary to this, they are the team that enables me to achieve some exact goals. People are used to such concepts as a "customer" and a "performer", so they may not understand what I mean. However, I regard the guys as partners. TYPICAL are the people I don't want to let down. Instead, I want to develop them. This is 100% mutual. 

Meanwhile, they are always ready to ask us the right questions. Whatever business you plunge into, you don't know the right answers for it. You can just ask correct and relevant questions, and the client will find the answer himself. The guys are very good at picking them up. Their questions enable us to get what we need, set a certain pace, build a structure, realize the problem, and find a solution. 

Summary

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other collaborations

TYPICAL taem: 1

Anastasia Minetto, Chief Consultant

Emex team:

Michael Levin, Chief Transformation Officer

Talked to everyone and wrote this text:

Ksenia Zhebrovskaya, creator in TYPICAL

  • Developed EVP and taught the team how to represent their value proposition via different channels from job descriptions to interviews.
  • Made a guide for hiring managers. It consists of 10 documents and explains the whole hiring process gradually. Now they know the ropes of hiring, and understand its structure and correlation of steps. Meanwhile, they are ready to analyze the funnel and adjust processes. 
  • Conducted 3 workshops that helped to turn the learned theory into practice. Additionally, hiring managers implemented home tasks and discussed their results with us.
  • Evaluated recruiter's competencies and understood that this person should be transferred to another department or fired.
  • Helped to build the recruiter's candidate profile and write a job description. Now we are helping Emex to find the fit talent.