src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/02/michael-browning-akz0w36DpM4-unsplash.jpg” alt=”Lessons from Interviewing 350 Applicants in 6 Months”>
There are always ups and downs in hiring. I spent 120 hours working in a six-month period in 2021 asking 350 people the same seven questions to create our Buffer values screen. At the end of each conversation I would turn the conversation over and ask them the same questions. I will cover these in another post.
In the midst of all the calls, I gained much clarity about the process of hiring, what candidates are looking for, and also about myself.
These reflections, as well as some of our values questions, are available for you to consider. They are thought-provoking and can be used by many candidates.
Hire at Buffer
Over the eight years I have been with Buffer, the hiring process has changed a lot. We always begin interviews with a values screening. This is a constant and essential thing. (Psst: We also don’t seek “culture fit” anymore. Here’s why.
This is the general process:
- Review of applications: We are reviewing resumes and asking specific questions about the role.
- Screening for values: With Buffer’s values as a guide, we screen about 15-20 candidates per role via Zoom.
- Role interview or team interview: A hiring manager or coworkers interview candidates via Zoom.
- Optional Technical Screen: This is an exercise followed by an interview via Zoom for technical roles.
- Interview with an Executive: The final interview with a member Buffer’s Executive Team.
Sometimes, the order of these may change, or in certain roles, we find that we need to add a test at home. However, this is the process we use when hiring.
Inbound applications fuel our pipeline. Because we hire from a global talent pool we can receive anywhere between 600 and 800 applications for one spot on the team. This is a huge number of applicants and it’s an extremely flattering problem. After reviewing all applications, the values screen is a first step. It helps us to narrow down the pool of qualified candidates to those who are super aligned.
What is the value screen?
The values screen is a complex thing. It’s also the only interview in which you don’t have to give “wrong” answers. We use the questions as prompts to talk to candidates and to hear their views on our values. It’s more about the person behind it than about the right or ideal answer. One candidate described it as a “vibe test.”
Other interview standards may not consider certain characteristics to be “correct”. We also value those traits that might not otherwise be considered correct. Let me give you an example. We asked the question “How has your life turned out so far?” This was not a goal to get one answer. This question was used to assess resilience, optimism, and authenticity.
This question was no longer used because 2020 made it more personal and loaded. Now we ask “What motivates your life?”
Another secret is that I don’t seek answers that fit the mold. It’s fine if someone says “Continually learning or solving a problem.” It’s fine if someone answers, “My family and money”, as well. The truth is that the more honest and true-sounding the answer, the better.
Who gets past the values screen and makes it to the next level?
Although it may sound cliché, Buffer believes that this is a fact. We are looking for people who will be as happy here at Buffer with their skills and their work.
Sometimes, candidates may be extremely qualified but their answers make me think that they won’t be as successful in our work environment. This is a judgment call, and I may not be right every time. All interviews are subject to some degree of subjectivity. We typically have four to five rounds of interviews. To double-check against bias and inconsistency, we also include a variety of interviewers.
All of this is constantly changing
As I write this, Janet is our Talent Acquisition and Onboarding Manager. I am transitioning my role to be more focused on engagement and culture-building for the company. Janet, a long-time recruiter, has a unique perspective on our hiring process, pipeline management and applicant experience. I learned about HR and the hiring process while working at Buffer.
While some elements may change over time, I hope this gives you some insight into how Buffer hires and what they look for.
Do you have any questions about our hiring process or the values screening? Tweet us!
Did you miss our previous article…