Finding Technical Talent: How to Start the Hiring Process

Hiring process 2017

The hiring process can be a daunting task for many agencies or freelancers looking to grow their businesses.  

It’s such a vital step to building the solid foundations of a successful business, yet so many struggle to find the right fit for their needs.

Recently, we sat down with Kim Fleming — former recruiter at Shopify— for a Shopify Partner Session webinar, where we discussed how to hire the best technical talent for your web design and development business.

We’ve dissected Kim’s actionable insights into a three-part blog series in the hopes of alleviating some of those hiring pain points, and providing you with an in-depth look at the entire hiring process, from start to finish. More specifically, we’ll look at the three major parts of hiring technical talent: starting the hiring process, reviewing and reaching out to candidates, and the interview process.

Today, we’ll cover three of the fundamental steps for starting your hiring process: determining if it’s time to grow, building hiring roadmaps, and running intake meetings.

Starting the hiring process 🚀

There are many reasons you’d want to add someone new to your team:

  • To maintain momentum on current client work — Does your current team have enough time or resources to tackle everything you want them to? Perhaps you’re looking for someone to take over your current duties, so you can focus on more strategic aspects of your business — like partnerships, supplier procurement, human resource management, etc.
  • To keep up with the influx of client work  Do you need to expand your business because of your team’s bandwidth? Maybe you’ve gained more recognition in your industry and you’ve started attracting new clients — which means more work. Now you need to hire someone to handle the increased project load to reduce overall turnaround times for your new, and existing, clients.
  • To attract different types of client work  Are there specialty skills that you’re looking for in terms of growth? There’s nothing wrong with diversifying your service offering to expand your business. In this case, you might consider hiring someone with new skills, outside of your team’s current skillset, to bring in new types of projects.

But, whether you’re a one-person shop, or a web design and development agency experiencing aggressive growth, it’s important to understand how your new hire fits into the overall structure — and development — of your business. Because what benefits your business today, may not have as much impact in the future.

Whether you’re a one-person shop, or a web design and development agency experiencing aggressive growth, it’s important to understand how your new hire fits into the overall structure — and development — of your business.

Imagine you’re an agency and you need to expand your team: should you hire another designer to keep up with all the small projects that are coming in? Or should you consider recruiting a project manager to keep all the projects and timelines organized, so that eventually, there is no crossover or overflow? Hiring someone to maintain current client work may be a bandaid solution for your business right now, but could take financial resources away from a different type of hire that could impact the overall growth of your business — like a project manager. 

Alternatively, what if you’re a freelancer looking for help with your current workload: do you outsource work to different freelancers? Or do you invest in a full-time counterpart that can work on projects, become completely immersed in your business, and help you take your business to the next level? 

Though the decision is ultimately up to you, one of the easiest ways to predict what type of hire may help your business now, and in the future, is to create a hiring roadmap — an invaluable tool for an effective hiring process.

You might also like: 9 Tips for Hiring a Web Design Subcontractor.

Building a hiring roadmap 🚗

Hiring process: Hiring roadmap
Building hiring roadmaps for your business can help you better understand when to start your hiring process.

Similarly to how you’d project overall financial growth and business objectives throughout the year, it’s important to systematically project your recruiting needs, as well.

This is where hiring roadmaps can create ongoing value for your business. When used correctly, a hiring roadmap will help you:

  • Understand your team’s current bandwidth and skillsets.
  • Identify specialty skills needed to build and ship particular projects.
  • Forecast growth opportunities for your business. 

If you’re new to creating these types of roadmaps, or want to become more structured in your current hiring initiatives, we’ll break the process down into five easy steps.

1. Find a project management tool that works for your business 

It’s important to have a process in place that allows you to see all of your projects and their requirements at a glance — to know who on your team is working on what, and how much progress has been made on various tasks and projects. 

Not only does this historical data allow you to better predict project timelines, create more accurate client estimates, and understand how your team works cohesively towards common goals, it also allows you to identify when you’ll need to consider hiring someone new for your team.

But to track this data, and ensure that you’re making the best decisions for your business, you’ll need to establish a central repository for your project information. If you don’t currently have a project management tool in place for your business, consider one of the following: 

  • Basecamp  This paid project management allows you to create teams, projects, and schedules — everything you need to start getting your business organized. Unlike similar software, there is no per-user fee.

  • Asana  Acting as both an employee intranet and a project management tool, this paid solution allows you to communicate effectively within the software itself, and organize all of your projects into comprehensive lists.

  • Projectplace — This paid project management tool lets you easily sort personal and team projects using cards (similar to Trello), allowing you to keep a bird’s eye view on your business’ bandwidth and client pipeline. 

  • Google Sheet  If you’re just starting out, you may not have the resources to use a paid project management tool. Don’t worry — even keeping track of everything in a Google Sheet is a great place to start.

2. Understand the scope and timelines of your projects 

Now that you have a project management tool in place, it’s time to take a closer look at the projects your business has on the go.

When doing this, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long is this project supposed to take? How many hours were quoted to the client?
  • What is the scope of the project?
  • Has the timeline been extended? If yes, why?
  • Has the scope been expanded? If yes, why?
  • Are there enough people assigned to this project?
  • Are the right people assigned to this project?
  • Are there any important skills we’re missing?

Though it may take some time to thoroughly complete, your answers will provide precious insights into the way your team currently functions. You’ll have a better understanding of what’s currently working, what needs improvement, and you’ll be able to identify where new skills can be introduced to reduce turnaround times and ship better projects.

3. Take into consideration what could potentially come down your pipeline 

Has your business responded to RFPs? Provided quotes to potential clients? Or started conversations about internal projects that could improve workflows? You’ll want to add these potential projects to your project management tool to better predict when you’ll need to start your hiring process — and what you’ll be looking for in your new recruit.

4. Dissect your calendar year into quarters, plot your projects accordingly, and determine your hiring needs 

Take all of the above knowledge, add it to your project management tool, and separate your calendar into quarters — that way you can see where each project, and project milestone, falls throughout the year. Soon, you’ll start to identify patterns and trends that will allow you to accurately forecast your hiring needs.

Put into practice, here’s an example scenario of how routinely plotting your projects against your calendar will benefit your business:

You’ve mapped out all of your projects and begin to notice that Q3 has a lot of design-focused work (that your current team doesn’t have the bandwidth to complete). But, because you’ve done your due diligence and noticed this possible roadblock far in advance, you can consider hiring a new designer ahead of Q3 to ensure your team gets everything done.

Now, you’ll be able to more accurately predict when you should start your hiring process, and what type of role you’ll need to hire for.

5. Arrange quarterly check-ins 

Lastly, set up quarterly check-ins to look at the progress of your hiring roadmap and make headcount adjustments where needed.

You might also like: What Brings All the Devs to the Yard? How to Find the Best Technical Talent for Your Agency.

Determining the scope of a role 🎯

Hiring process: Determining scope of the role
Understanding what the role you're hiring for looks like will help you screen the right candidates throughout your hiring process.

Using the hiring roadmap process outlined above, you’ve determined your hiring needs for the year. Most importantly, you’ve decided that you’re actually going to fill these positions. Now it’s time to outline what these roles look like, and what impact they’ll have on your organization. 

To start, when it comes to increasing your business’ headcount, there are two types of roles:

  1. A role that’s already been filled — This means that the person you’re looking to hire will be doing the exact same job that someone else is already doing in your organization. An example of this would be a designer.

  2. A role that’s completely new to your organization  This position isn’t currently held by anyone in your business, and looks to employ new skills outside of what you’d typically hire for. If you’re a smaller agency, hiring a project manager might be something completely new for your organization.

To determine exactly what type of role you need to fill, it’s best to hold an intake meeting. You should schedule one with all the stakeholders on your team to:

  • Build out the job description (regardless of whether it’s a new or existing position).
  • Educate everyone on the purpose of the new hire, and how it will impact the business.
  • Get your team on the same page and start the recruitment process in an organized manner.

Intake meetings are multifunctional, and allow you to kickstart your hiring process the right way. There are many points you’ll need to review throughout the meeting, so you might want to book one-to-two hours with your team to hammer out all of the details.

You might also like: Major Gains and Growing Pains — How Bold Scaled Their Team Sustainably [Part II].

Holding an intake meeting 📝

Hiring process: Holding an intake meeting
Holding intake meetings will help keep everyone aligned, and organized, throughout your hiring process.

The main purpose of an intake meeting is to build out a job description to move the pointer on your hiring process. Use the following 10 considerations to help curate a description that will attract the best, most qualified talent for your business:

1. Create your elevator pitch

Similarly to how you’d create an elevator pitch when marketing yourself or your business, you’ll want to create one for the position you’re looking to fill — a few sentences that describe what the role is, and why someone should be looking to apply to it.  

Think about your elevator pitch this way: how are you going to bring this opportunity to other people, and convince them to want to solve the problems your organization is currently working on? What would be the first few things that you would touch on that would sell this person an opportunity to work with you and your business?

Remember: your elevator pitch should be brief — quick enough to pitch to a potential candidate over coffee. Though difficult at first, as you iterate on your hiring process, you’ll find this step gets much easier.

2. Establish your team structure

Adding someone new to your organization will likely change the structure of your existing team — whether it’s growing an existing branch of your business, or as complicated as completely reorganizing your team structure to accommodate for a more senior position.

From a candidate perspective, someone might be interested in understanding how they’ll fit into your organization, as well. After all, the majority of job hunters are looking for a position to grow in, and how you pitch your team’s structure will give them a good indication of whether your business has the opportunity to grow now, or in the future.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this the first time you’re hiring for this position?
  • Do you have a small team in place?
  • Will the new hire be leading a new team?
  • Who will they be reporting to?
  • Where do you see this position in one, three, and five years? 

All of your answers will provide insight into how your team is currently structured, and any adjustments that may be needed with the addition of someone new to your team. It’s always good to keep a pulse on how your team is organized — that way you can continue to be agile with new changes (both internally with new hires, and external, with new clients).

3. Define your challenges

This part may seem short, but it definitely requires a lot of planning.

Ask your stakeholders to outline your team’s biggest challenges, and how a new hire would help to solve them. This can be done by referring to your hiring roadmap, and establishing what your business’ short term and long term goals are.

By better understanding your team’s current pain points, you’ll be able to find candidates who are passionate, or experienced, in alleviating them — this is especially important if you’re a smaller team looking for someone to help exponentially grow your business.

4. Curate your requirements

Based on your hiring roadmap, you’ll have identified specific skills that are integral to shipping projects currently, and potentially, in your pipeline. Write them down, they’ll be the foundation of your new job description and act as your basic job requirements.

You’ll also want to create a list of your can’t-live-without skills — skills that your new hire will need in order to be successful in the role. If you want, you can even take this process a step further by listing out nice-to-have skills: those that aren’t completely necessary to the job position, but are likely to make top candidates shine (as opposed to candidates who can just get through the basic job requirements).

Be as specific as you can — though someone may not possess all the skills listed in your job description, the more boxes they can check, the better.

5. Look at past candidate skills

In the new age of recruiting, you’ve probably heard a lot about “fit” and company culture. And though skills are important, it’s equally important that a candidate’s personality is cohesive, and even complimentary, to your existing team. An easy way to do this is by identifying common values and goals between your existing business, and your potential new hire. 

If you have a particular company culture, or if there are values that your team or your organization share — start thinking about them and find ways to incorporate them into your job description. This way, you’ll be able to identify specific attitudes and behaviors that work really well in your existing team, that you can use to qualify potential candidates.

6. Calculate compensation

Throughout your hiring process, compensation is a topic that will come up frequently. From a candidate perspective, benefits and compensation can be what influences someone to take an offered position, or politely decline it. Everyone has a number, and with salary averages available through many public-facing websites like Glassdoor, it’s easy for a candidate to calculate their worth before they even apply for your hiring process.

So, for example, if you're to hire a junior developer or a junior designer — make sure that the compensation range you build out is in line with what's competitive for the geographic region, role, and responsibilities outlined in your job description.

There are many sources that can provide you with compensation ranges, depending on the role in question. You can consult your local government, go to your government’s website, or use Glassdoor, which is pretty reflective of what the going salary is for the position in question. According to our webinar host Kim, users can post their salary, and responsibilities, for the public to see — and though some may be inflated, most numbers are inline with what most technology organizations pay their employees.

7. Forecast candidate impact

Have your stakeholders determine what level of impact they’d like a new hire to have at your business — this will determine what type of projects, ideas, and initiatives you’re looking to see a candidate have in their previous work experience. Are you looking for someone who has lead a lot of projects, and has the potential to lead many more with your organization? Or maybe you’re looking for someone who has quality assurance experience, who can make sure everything your business ships is continually exceeding client standards.

Candidates who demonstrate a specific level of impact at their previous place of employment are likely to continue this pattern of behavior into their next opportunity — and you can incorporate ways to measure a candidate’s potential impact into your job description, so you’ll have a good idea of what they have to offer before you even interview them. 

A simple way to do this is to add a question to the bottom of the job description. If, for example, you're putting up a job posting for a general software developer role — you’re likely going to get a lot of applicants. You’ll want to help yourself out during the screening process by adding a custom question to the bottom of your job description, one that gives applicants a little taste of what they could be working on if you were to hire them, and allows your team to measure the potential impact the applicant might have in your organization.

This can be as basic as “give us an example of certain lines of code that you've developed” or “show us a little bit of your design portfolio as attached to your resume or CV” — anything that requires applicants to take an extra step. You'd be surprised as to how many people just submit a resume without reading the full job description. 

8. Turn to other companies in your industry

Determine if there are other companies in your industry who are hiring, or have filled, roles similar to the one you’re looking to start a hiring process for — what type of skills are they looking for? Who is actively filling these roles? What do the postings and the employees have in common?

Use this intel to better understand if your job description is inline with the industry standard, and what you can do to make your role more attractive to potential applicants and candidates.

9. Decide on a process

Consult your stakeholders to determine who is doing reach outs, what are interview styles you’ll be using, and give yourself deadlines — it takes approximately eight weeks from when you post your job description to hire a good candidate, so you’ll want to continuously hit preset milestones in your hiring process.

10. Determine where you’ll advertise your position

Depending on what type of positioning you’ll be hiring for, you might opt to advertise your job description on a variety of platforms. To start, you should put yourself in your candidates’ shoes and determine where they like to hangout.

Are they going to conferences? Are they part of a professional organization, like Ladies Learning Code? Are they contributing to different forums, or part of other communities? Culminate all of your ideas into a list in advance of your job posting going live, so you’ll be able to accurately track where applicants are coming from.

Here are a few advertising ideas to get you started: 

  • AngelList — Instead of posting your job description on Monster, Indeed, etc. Why not use a platform that promotes the startup community? Use AngelList to find a candidate that is passionate about your business — and is actively looking to solve your pain points.

  • Ladies Learning Code — Looking for someone who is actively involved in their community? Post your job description to the Ladies Learning Code job board and see what types of candidates you find!

  • Conference websites — Are the types of candidates you’re looking for attending conferences to get the leg-up on thought leadership? Browse conference websites for forums and job boards, and post your job description accordingly. Are the types of candidates you’re looking for attending conferences to get the leg-up on thought leadership? Browse conference websites for forums and job boards, and post your job description accordingly.

  • General Assembly — A lot of people are looking to level-up their skills in the hopes of starting a new career, or finding a more senior position at a different company. General Assembly has an active job board — leverage it to find relevant candidates for your position.

  • Start-up incubators — Identify which start-up incubators appeal most to your candidate demographic, then do some research to see which ones have an active forum community, or job board. Post your job description wherever you think might make the most sense.

  • Social media — Which social media you use will depend on your audience, however, one important tactic to keep in mind is to always use relevant hashtags. By making your content speak to more people, you’ll find more candidates for your job posting.

You might also like: How to Hire Employees: The Essential List of Resources for Agency Owners.

Taking the next steps in the hiring process

Your hiring roadmap and intake meeting are just the foundations of your hiring process. It may take a couple of tries, and a lot of patience, but once you’ve perfected these recruiting fundamentals, your team will be in a great position to find the best technical talent for your web design and development business.

And, once you’ve completed your intake meeting, you can finally post your job description. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves. 😉

If you liked this introduction to hiring technical talent, stay tuned next week for Part 2, where we’ll cover sourcing candidates and reachout techniques.

Does your hiring process include hiring roadmaps and intake meetings? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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