Cramer Development's Hiring Practices

Oct 29, 2010 • Daniel Marino

Think Vitamin recently posted an interesting article documenting the process they went through to hire a new designer at Carsonified. The approach worked very well for them and I think it’s a really cool way to get some high-quality candidates to apply. As well as this worked for them, I’m not convinced that this approach would work for every company. Most development shops don’t have an international “rockstar” status that they can leverage like Carsonified did. For most, I think there are two main reasons why a different approach would be better:

  1. Many people will not swoon for your company like they did for Carsonified.
  2. The pseudo project offered up by Carsonified may not be the best test to indicate the applicant’s ability to deal with real-world client projects. More on this in a little bit.

Our Process

While we do believe that people swoon for us here at Cramer Dev, we’ve recently come up with our own process for hiring employees that is a bit more realistic for us. It’s roughly a five-step process that is designed to quickly sort through all incoming applicants, and separate those that we think would be an ideal fit for our company from those that would not.

  1. Applicants’ resumes and samples (websites for designers, code for developers) are given a “once-over” to check the quality of their work.
  2. If we like what we see, the next step is to do a 15 minute phone screen where we ask the applicant some position-related questions, and put their skills to the test on the spot.
  3. If they meet our expectations, they get a phone interview with the head honcho, Josh.
  4. If Josh likes the applicant, two things will happen in either order:

    • The applicant is given a group interview where it’s no holds barred.
    • The applicant is given a project as a contractor to see how they click with the rest of our team and with the type of work we do for our clients.
  5. If the project and group interview go well, and everyone is satisfied (including the applicant), an offer is officially presented.

Benefits to Trying Out New Talent

In the Think Vitamin article, Ryan talked about having the applicant redesign one of their web pages. While Ryan’s justification for this step of the process makes sense for them, it leaves out some important components of how work happens in most development environments. Very rarely do we work in a vacuum. We regularly interact with clients and coworkers. And most importantly, we must work within boundaries driven by actual (and sometimes ugly) business objectives. Sometimes the true talent of a designer is expressed in their ability to make lemonade out of lemons in the context of imperfect or challenging constraints.

This plays out in the form of presenting ideas and deliverables to clients and obtaining “sign off”. Testing candidates in this scenario will expose things you won’t learn by using a pseudo project.

Letting the candidate try an actual project for pay has more benefits for several reasons:

  1. You get to see how the applicant interacts/communicates with your other employees and possibly a client.
  2. You get to see how the applicant would handle the type of work that your company typically takes on, including dealing with non-ideal constraints.
  3. In most cases, the candidate will be paid for the work, regardless of whether an offer is extended. This also carries a side benefit in that the applicant is more likely to take the task seriously if he is treating it as an actual job.

Expecting More

At Cramer Dev we get to have a lot of fun, but we also expect a lot from our team members. We do more than just write code or draw pictures. The ability to communicate and to deal with every-day-issues are necessities. We need someone who is capable of working closely with our team and delivering solutions that actually get results for our clients. In order to make sure we preserve the quality of our work and work environment, we’ve chosen to develop the hiring process mentioned above. While it might not be the right process for every company, it has made hiring a lot smoother and faster for us.