6 Practical Steps to Help You Hire Amazing People in Less Time

If you want to grow your business, you won’t need good people to do it. You’ll need great people.

It’s certainly been a theme in our podcast conversations. David Salyers at Chick-fil-A pointed it out, saying: “So many things can be imitated, but a culture is one of the hardest things to create. That’s what makes it such a competitive advantage.”

Our friends at Canlis stake a 65-year fine dining reputation on each hire, looking for “people who have an inner comfort in their own skin who understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.”

So, we know that having the right people on our teams is critical to success. But how do we get the right people on our teams?

So, we know that having the right people on our teams is critical to success. But how do we get the right people on our teams?

As the COO of StoryBrand, I lead our hiring process. And it’s exciting. But it can also be scary. As a company, we’re taking responsibility for a new person’s livelihood and increasing our own overhead. And it’s risky for candidates, too. They’re in a tender place of transition, full of questions about their future, their career, and their livelihood.

So over the years, we’ve developed a helpful process that helps us find stand-out candidates whose skills and creativity help StoryBrand grow. And in turn, we strive to serve them so they grow as well.

Here’s an overview of how our interview process works. If you’re adding new members to your team, I hope it can give you a starting framework to simplify and improve your hiring process.

Before I get into it, here are three reasons why we’ve designed it the way we have.

It saves time. Without a good process, the time you spend vetting candidates can seem to spiral out of control, pulling you away from other key parts of your job. This process is fast. I can typically narrow down an applicant pool of dozens to three or four solid candidates within 3-4 hours.

It protects people’s hearts. When you’re applying for a job, it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. You’re worried about supporting yourself and your family, and you’re hyper-aware of people evaluating your every move. We try to care for people through the process by protecting their emotions and treating them the way we’d want to be treated.

It ensures a great fit for employer and employee alike. We don’t ever want to “use” our employees in order to build StoryBrand. In fact, our company only succeeds and grows as a whole if our individual staffers are all succeeding and growing, too. So at every point, this process is designed to help you find the people who’ll just not fill a role, but thrive in it.

Step #1: Fill out an online application

First, all candidates answer 15-20 questions in an online application. There’s some basic information on there, as well as questions we tailor to the specific job opening. For example, for our latest customer service opening, we asked candidates to tell us about a time when they had to navigate conflict.

Whatever the role, this question about core values always appears:

Choose two statements listed below and write about how you’ve exemplified these values in your own life.

CORE VALUES: At StoryBrand, we believe excellence is the price of admission. We compete against our best efforts. We swim out past the breakers. We act with integrity in order to protect the brand. We help the team, even if it’s not “in our job description.” We are always learning and expanding our contribution. We forfeit our right to make excuses. We assume the best in others.

This question does a couple of things. First, it gives us insight into the candidate’s character. Second, it lets us be upfront about our values, providing a backdrop and keeping us accountable to them throughout the application process.

Step #2: Answer questions on video

There’s a twist to the online application, and it’s the most important piece. For two questions, we ask candidates to give us their response on video.

One of the questions (which we got from our friends at Canlis) is this:

How will working at StoryBrand help you become the person you’re trying to become?

This question matters deeply to us. We only want to make hires that are a mutually good fit. Yes, we want our employees’ talents to help StoryBrand grow. But we also want StoryBrand to help them grow toward whatever’s next.

Videos help me to evaluate applications quickly and easily. You can tell more about someone in 30 seconds of video than you can in the rest of the application. It’s a huge time-saver for me, so we can fill openings more quickly.

Yes, we want our employees’ talents to help StoryBrand grow. But we also want StoryBrand to help them grow toward whatever’s next.

The added bonus is that it allows me to ensure our applicants have technical skills. Can they record, upload, and post a video? Can they pay attention to details and follow the process?

With Dominique, the latest member of the StoryBrand team, I knew within 30 seconds of her application video that she’d be a finalist. She applied for the customer service position, and I knew her confidence, excellent communication, and upbeat attitude was a perfect fit for this role.

Step #3: Have a brief phone call

Candidates with excellent applications and videos then move forward to a 15-minute phone conversation with me.

This is a helpful way to get a sense of a candidate’s conversational style and presence. How do they engage in a back-and-forth scenario? How do they think on their feet and respond in the moment? I use this opportunity to clarify answers in their online applications and ask questions that show how candidates solve problems on the fly.

With a phone call, you can often see the conversational skills you’re looking for without an office visit. This is important to me because I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up too high. I’ve been a job candidate, too, and it’s easy to get emotionally attached to a potential job once you step foot into an office.

Along those lines, I’m also careful about using the word “you” in reference to the role. In other words:

Don’t say: “You would be monitoring this inbox for support requests.”
Do say: “The person in this role monitors this inbox for support requests.”

It’s all about respecting the person’s expectations at every step of the process.

Step #4: Have an in-person conversation

It seems like we’ve done a lot, but at this point, I’ve only invested about 3 hours of my time. In that time, I’m usually able to narrow the initial pool of applicants down to two or three solid candidates.

Now, each candidate comes in for an in-person interview at the StoryBrand office. This interview is small. It’s usually just me and one other employee — typically whoever the person in this role would be working closely with. It’s important to make sure there’s a personal affinity and chemistry between people who collaborate.

Before StoryBrand, I worked at Apple. And the philosophy there was to hire people first. Skillset comes second. So I’m looking for those unteachable social skills, body language cues, and overall demeanor and comportment. We’d rather have a great person with a developable skill set than an all-star performer who has a hard time getting along with others.

Hire people first. Skillset comes second.

That said, it’s a disservice to both our company and to our new employees if they don’t have the technical abilities to perform the job. So we do simple spot-checks for competency at this point.

For example, we were recently hiring someone to help equip our StoryBrand Guides with additional resources and training.

We gave her a time-bound test and asked her to brainstorm 50 topics she might present to guides.

For our customer service hires, we’ve given them a sample email, a few details for context, and asked them to write a response.

One important point: I don’t give a tour of the office at this stage. Nor do I introduce the candidate to the whole team. Out of respect for candidates’ hearts, I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations and create a situation where people feel overly invested.

Step #5: Final interview with CEO

At this point, I’ve thoroughly vetted the candidate. Now, it’s time for a gut check with our CEO, Donald Miller. He’s protective of our culture and wants to make sure that everyone who joins the team helps to edify and enrich it.

These conversations are fairly brief, but it’s important to see how the candidates react under the pressure of meeting with the CEO. Occasionally, Don spots a pitfall I missed, or the pressure of the situation reveals characteristics in candidates that make them a poor fit for the role.

Step #6: Wrapping it all up

Finally, I get to make a VERY fun phone call and present a formal offer to our candidate. We offer new employees 90-day trial periods so they can make sure the job is going to help them grow, and we can make sure they’re a good fit to help StoryBrand grow, too.

For everybody else who applied, I take the time to let them know we’ve gone in a different direction. I try to do this as soon as I know they won’t be moving on to the next round.

For example, I once interviewed someone on a Friday afternoon. I knew afterward that the person wouldn’t be a good fit for the role. So instead of letting her stew about it all weekend and tell friends and family, I gave her a call back right away to let her know.

This is just another way of respecting each candidate’s emotions throughout the process. And for candidates who didn’t get the job but who took the time to come to the office at any point, I always give them the courtesy of a phone call rather than letting them know over email.

Of course, no matter how dialed in your interview process is, every hire is an inherent risk. It takes time and experience to see what works for your culture. You will probably make a hire that’s not a good fit at some point along the way, and that’s OK. The important thing is to keep evolving and learning as you go.

I hope this look into our process sparks ideas for your own. How do you find the right employees? Leave me a comment and tell me what works for you.

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