Hello and thanks for checking out our blog. The blog will primarily focus on organization alignment strategies we find. We’ll also have some general HR and company updates.

As a company building organization alignment software, it’s important that we practice what we preach and focus on our own organizational alignment. As anyone in HR knows, the first challenge organizations have is getting the best people involved.

Since Align Us, Inc. is a startup, and financial and recruiting resources are scarce, we decided that our best option was to put all of our energy into a single recruiting effort and attempt to build our team by hiring all the top candidates. As a proven source of quality graduates, we selected NIU’s Job Fair. The first post describes how we used alignment strategies during our hiring process to hire the top four out of forty applicants that we met at the fair. Spoiler alert: all four accepted!

Alignment starts with a clear, simple, objective that everyone can understand. So, for hiring, this meant spelling out the plan up front so that the top candidates knew what each step was, and by what they will be judged, in a format that can be quickly handed to them at the fair. The theme we settled on was “get on board” which evolved into an airline concept where we handed our a “boarding pass”.

On the boarding pass we indicated in large type how many people we were hiring and, most importantly, the goal: “on campus interviews in two weeks”. Sharing that the end goal was an interview on campus in two weeks showed that we were serious and got the candidates engaged. After exchanging the resume and boarding pass, we annotated the resume with a grade (A – F). We collected forty resumes which made the math easy… we set our goal to hire the top 10%.

We now had to set up a screening process that was fair for the applicants, easy for us to manage and sufficiently separated applicants. We selected a fairly typical process that we could administer in two weeks as we both wanted to adhere to the “early bird gets the worm” theory and lock up the best applicants before the competition. We also wanted to form our team as fast as possible so we could start to get to know everyone.

  1. A form was sent for the applicants to fill out.
  2. A 30 minute phone interview was held.
  3. A 90 minute live coding skill test was administered.
  4. Offers were made.

The top 50% of candidates from the job fair were invited to fill out the form. The form was a simple Google Forms document that had eight questions – a number we chose keep it short but still allow us to differentiate the applicants. Some questions were coding skill exercises with defined correct answers while others were more narrative and required reading for key concepts and were scored on a 1-5 scale.

The top 50% of candidates from the form were moved on and invited to the phone interview while the others were notified via email that they had not been selected. The phone interview was done on a speakerphone so both of us (Abe and Rico) could listen in. We scored each response independently and then summed the scores giving us some real differentiation between the applicants.

Again, we moved the top 50% of candidates from the phone interview on (and notified the others) and prepped them for an on-campus interview. NIU’s career center graciously gave us and room in the student center and I drove through an ice storm to get to DeKalb, IL – home of the NIU Huskies. The interview started with some warm up technical questions and then quickly moved to a new idea I decided to try: watch the candidate work through a technical training program. The technical platform we are writing www.align.us on is called Node.Js and there is a great follow-along tutorial in the form of a terminal program called LearnYouNode. It was selected because it was self contained (no internet needed) and because the UI was strictly text based which I thought would not favor any OS over another. Before we began, I told the candidate that the only thing I couldn’t do is give them the answer but that they should use me as a resource. This allowed me to watch them learn, as this is a critical function of any software developer, and allowed them to interact with me in a way that is similar to a real life job function: they are working through something that I need to explain to them, I’m sitting right next to them and they have to ask me questions to go quickly.

The experience of using LearnYouNode as a test made the final scoring simple: everyone got a point for each level they passed. If the candidate’s time was up before the completed their last exercise I gave them a partial point.

The top four candidates were called and presented with a verbal offer, which upon accepting, was emailed to them.

Looking back on the process I would highly recommend it. In summary, using organizational alignment techniques was also valid for the hiring process:

  1. Come up with a creative theme to engage everyone
  2. Define an easy-to-understand goal
  3. Over-communicate the steps needed to complete the goal
  4. Build trust early by executing on the plan and showing progress
  5. Celebrate a job well done with everyone

While additional steps may be added for other projects, with hiring, the additional steps would not have provided further separation of the candidates and were kept to a minimum.

Now with the hiring behind us, we’re looking to create the same level of engagement for our on-boarding process. Stay tuned!