The Strong Towns Hiring Process

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References and Resume

At this point, we ask our finalists for resumes and references. This is a big reveal as this is the first time we learn anything personal about the candidates. Up to this point, not only do we not know their names, we don’t know where they live, what kind of education or work history they have, or anything. It’s fascinating, and never disappointing.

Let’s Meet

We invite all of our finalists to interviews on Zoom. A couple of us do a traditional interview, which is recorded so everyone on the team here can watch it later. I won’t say our interviews are anything particularly unique, although we do our best to keep things low key and allow the person we’re chatting with to be themselves.

Make the Best Case for Each Applicant

After the interviews are done, I assign people on our team the task of reviewing all of the submissions for a specific candidate and then making the strongest case possible for that person. I ask them to be an advocate for the candidate they have been assigned, highlighting all of their positive traits and telling everyone else why this person is the right person for the job. 

We then have a big meeting where we go around the room and discuss each finalist. We start with their advocate, and then we all discuss and react. The goal here is to have the most thorough review process with multiple points of view weighing in on the decision.

Ultimately, I Make the Call

Depending on how things go during the review, I may or may not ask people to identify their own top candidate or even to rank them all on a pass/fail system. I make it clear, however, that the decision on who to hire is not a democratic one. As the person running the organization, I’m the one responsible for who we hire, especially if it doesn’t go well. I can’t outsource that responsibility to the team, and it would be unwise to do that, anyway.

At this point, however, I’m always pretty confident that the decision will be a good one. After all, we have a top candidate that we are pretty confident can do the job, will work well with the team, wants the job for the salary we have budgeted, and is ready to get started.

And I’m confident that it is not my own bias or superficial analysis that got us to this point but a thorough and thoughtful vetting designed to produce the best set of candidates possible.

There are few things more enjoyable in life than offering someone a job. That’s especially true when they’ve gone through this process. I’m sure that there are good people who don’t stand out in this system, but I have to believe the number is fewer than if we started with resumes, cover letters, and personal recommendations.

I’ve taken the time to share this because I want other people to copy our approach. There is a lot of amazing talent sidelined because they lack the resume or connections to stand out in a traditional process. Finding them is our Moneyball innovation. I would love all nonprofits and small businesses to benefit from it, so please copy this approach and modify it for your organization.

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