When collaboration is mentioned in the context of hiring, it’s usually in reference to internal teams. Collaborative hiring — the process of involving different teams and team members in the hiring process — has become the norm in many industries, especially in tech. But while HR departments are catching on to the benefits of having coworkers collaborate on hiring, the actual candidate is generally left out of that picture.
And yet, hiring teams almost always want to know that a new team member will work well with existing staff — that they’re capable of (or, ideally, excited about) collaboration. If you do any sort of hiring, there’s a good chance that every interview you run includes a question like:
- Do you work well in teams?
- Would you consider yourself a team player?
- Do you prefer individual work or working in teams?
Too often, the candidate’s answer to one of the above questions is all the evidence we have on which to judge how collaborative they are.
At Unito, we take things a step further. While interviews can give you a sense of how a person might work with or fit within your team, we want to see it with our own eyes. To really get a feel for how candidates collaborate, we use a pilot project and bring them into the office.
How to test whether candidates are collaborative
Many organizations use technical tests as a means of testing a candidate’s skill set. They’re given a task or a test, and their performance proves (or disproves) what they’ve stated on their resume and interview. But focusing your hiring process on testing hard skills ignores many of the potential benefits of an actual pilot project, including an opportunity to see how they work with your team.
Unito’s pilot projects differ from what most other businesses do in a few key ways:
- It consists of a task or tasks whose completion has real benefits to the business — the project usually involves something that’s on the backburner for the team the candidate wants to join. With that in mind, the project is also remunerated (paid) whether or not the candidate is hired.
- As part of the project, candidates are encouraged to come to the office and to work alongside our team for a few days. This gives them the opportunity to interact with the team, both in a work context and during lunch or over a beer on Fridays.
- Candidates are also added to a Slack group with the (potential) team members and are encouraged to reach out with questions or to ask for help and feedback. They can also reach out to people outside of that specific team, in case they feel like wider consultation would benefit their project.
The pilot project is essentially the closest thing to joining a team a candidate can experience before they’re hired. And the information we pull from this experience is incredibly valuable from a hiring standpoint.
The benefits of candidate collaboration
Outside of proving a candidate’s skill set, the benefits of this pilot project are threefold:
First, we’re able to see whether or not our candidates reach out to existing staff at all, be it in person or on Slack. Usually, if a candidate doesn’t choose to contact any team members, it’s a pretty clear indication that they either prefer to work independently, they think they don’t need support to complete the project, or they’re not necessarily comfortable with the team. We always take into account that hiring can be uncomfortable for applicants and some people are just more shy than others, we still want hires who can overcome discomfort in order to do the job the right way. And if a candidate doesn’t reach out to the team and then presents a poorly-executed project, they’re probably not the right hire for us.
Next, the pilot provides an interesting look at how the candidate views the role they’re applying for. In seeing who they reach out to and for what aspects of the project, you can get a sense of who their typical collaborators tend to be (Do they tend to rely on teammates or are they eager to collaborate across teams and departments?). You can also sometimes tell how senior they think the role is (Do they ever reach out to junior staff, or only managers?). And you can get a broad sense of what they think the role of different departments in your organization are (For example, do they reach out to your customer success team or your marketing team for insight into how clients use your project?).
Finally, our team provides us with insights through their interactions with the candidate. Obviously, if an applicant is disrespectful or offensive in any interactions, that provides you with a clear no-go, but things aren’t always so overt. From the questions your team gets asked (Were the questions relevant? How was their communication? How did they react to the responses you provided?) to the interactions that aren’t project-related (Did they make an effort to get to know you at all? What were your initial impressions? Do you think they’d be a culture fit? Could you picture them on the team?), the information we get from our internal team is always considered in our eventual hiring decision. This is another testament to the benefits of collaborative hiring.
Making candidate collaboration work for you
Using a pilot project to make candidate collaboration part of our hiring process has really helped us ensure that our hires are the perfect team fit. We’re able to see how they interact and collaborate with their potential team members, and how important they deem collaboration to be in general.
Of course, this approach to hiring does extend the hiring process and can turn off certain applicants. If you don’t think the pilot project would make sense for your organization, here are a few easier, less time-intensive ways to test candidate collaboration:
- Give your candidates a test or question which can only be answered with more information from you. See if they reach out for that information or if they try to tackle the problem on their own.
- Tell the candidate about a challenge your team faces, and ask them how they would solve it. See if their response involves consulting other members of the team or other teams.
- Ask them to take a Myers-Briggs-style personality test. These tests aren’t necessarily accurate, but if you ask the candidate whether they feel the results really represent them and what they would disagree with, it makes for a pretty interesting conversation.
At the end of the day, you need to find ways to make candidate collaboration fit into your hiring process. Give it a chance, and you may be surprised at how your perception of applicants changes, and at how quickly and smoothly your eventual hires integrate into your team.
If you liked this post, check out Unito’s Master Guide to Hiring to see how we approach the entire recruitment process from start to finish.
We’re hiring! Check out the Unito careers page to see our open roles.