It’s been almost two years since I started this little-shop-that-could and it has been a rewarding and challenging journey. In looking for awesome people to join our team, we’ve met all types of incredibly smart folks and have continued to refine the process of determining whether they are the right fit for our growing group and the path that we’re on.
Generally speaking, interviewing is an odd thing. People give snapshots of each other wherein we try to ask and say the right things to someone to make a judgment call about whether the company is the right fit for the employee and vice versa. I think the way that many people approach it, especially in creatively technical environments, falls short of allowing us to truly understand each other. So, as with many things, our approach is a little different. I take great care in trying to elicit a complete picture of a person and their skills when considering them for our crew. To echo how Google feels about it, interviewing is the most important thing for us to do to grow this company.
All that said, I think it’s important to give people visibility into how we do it and why. After all, our applicants’ time is valuable so let’s not waste any if we don’t sound like a good fit.
First, Why I Started iPullRank
After working at a number of marketing and advertising agencies, I realized that I loved the work that I did and many of the clients I did it for, just not where I did it. There are a lot of cultural and operational things about agencies that, frankly, don’t make sense to me and I felt like I could do a better job on my own. I also felt like agencies don’t look to take care of their people, and there’s no reason for that. So I took the plunge and, as soon as I could get some great people, I did.
As someone who is just as creative as they are technical, I naturally have a ton of interests and a variety of highly specialized skills (cue Liam Neeson). The siloed structure of most large corporations, and of course multi-national agencies, is stifling and frustrating to someone like me. There’s too much “that’s not your job, why do you have an opinion on this?” I’m simply not about that life.
I wanted to build a company that someone like me would be proud to work for. A company that supports ownership, autonomy and continued learning. A company where the culture is never “well, that’s not my job,” rather it’s always “how do you think we can work together to make this better?” A company that goes the extra mile to keep its people happy, because I know that when someone like me is happy with where they work, they will do whatever it takes to help us take it to new heights.
Another reason is that I wanted to build a team that can execute on any type of big idea no matter who it comes from. Surrounding yourself with a team of creative and intelligent folks is always going to lead to ideas that your clients won’t want to do, but that is no reason for those ideas to go unrealized. Rather, that team should be strong and willing enough to execute on that idea from end to end. Whether it’s building websites or rocket ships, I want to be surrounded by people that want to live awesome lives and do dope shit.
If I have to give you something as ordinary as a mission statement, then here it is: Our mission is to be a better performance marketing agency that does work we can be PROUD of.
So, if you’re thinking of joining us, let me give you a rundown of how that process works.
If You’re Interested, You’ll Let Us Know
There’s no one way to join us. Of course, we’re always open to hearing from people in creative ways that we wouldn’t have thought of, but we’re also just happy to hear from awesome people period.
The split of the people whom we have hired that applied to us through job boards, were referred to us by people either internally or externally, people I met through networking or people that I already knew from other jobs and throughout the industry is pretty even. For instance, I met some of our team members from my teaching at the Startup Institute while other team members have come from Indeed or LinkedIn.
However, if you come through one of those portals, there are some specific questions that we ask as part of the application. Rest assured that if you’re answers look like the following, you won’t hear from us.
We’re not looking for spray-and-pray applicants. We’re looking for people that are truly passionate about what they do and would never consider presenting themselves in such a careless manner.
We’ll have a Discussion
As you might imagine, the first thing that will happen is someone from our team will talk to you. If you were referred to us by someone that we trust or, if you and I met through some networking avenue, then you’ll likely speak with me directly. If you’ve submitted through a job portal, then you’ll likely speak to our recruiter, Jason Jones. Jason records the calls and puts together notes for the hiring manager and/or myself to review when we’ve got a free moment.
Whatever the situation, we’ll have a pretty standard discussion about your experience, what you’re passionate about and what motivated you to want to consider joining our team. Naturally, you’ll be able to ask your own questions about us to decide if we’re a good fit for you.
Based on the outcome of our talk, we’ll decide whether if it makes sense to move to the project phase.
What Do You Mean Project?!
That’s right. Every applicant is given a project that is reflective of the work they’d do in their prospective position here at iPullRank. The project generally has nothing to do with a client of ours because we are not here to get free work from you to then sell to our clients. We’ll typically pick a competitor of one of our clients for your project or, if you come from specialized vertical, we may pick a site in the vertical that you know in order to make the project as low effort for you as possible.
The project is a very divisive subject that quickly ends the conversation with a lot of applicants and that is absolutely fine with me.
In fact, during screener calls, it’s interesting to listen to people try not to react to the idea that they will be asked to do work in order to get a job. Many of those people say something to the effect of “ok, that sounds great!” and then we get a withdrawal email shortly thereafter. Again, this is fine with me.
Then there are those who tell us a whole lot about how well they’d fit into our culture in their response to the idea of doing a project. Here’s an excerpt from one of my all-time favorites, presented without comment:
For the avoidance of doubt, the completion of a project as part of an interview process is commonplace in many great organizations and it is my goal and expectation for iPullRank to be a great organization. I’d like to think, thus far, we have laid the foundation with a fantastic client base and through doing effective work. We’re looking for people that can help us continue along that path.
We do things a little different from other organizations of our kind. As a result, the standard that we’ve set from the outset is that we want to see what you are capable of when presented with an iPullRank-specific problem. I personally don’t care as much about what you’ve done, or if you have an MBA, but I do care about what you can and will do when we put a problem in front of you. The project helps us determine that.
That said, we’ve gotten a little more lenient about the project in recent weeks. We typically only allow original work that fits our specifications. Now, we’re open to work that people have previously done as long as it fits the specifications of that role’s project.
You Will Meet All of Us
Once you’ve completed the project, the hiring manager will review it and, if we’re blown away by your work, we’ll bring you in to meet the entire team. This is likely to change as we grow, but at 13-22 people (depending on when you read this), culture is an incredibly delicate and we are a completely collaborative, so we have everyone weigh in on our hiring decisions.
While I’m certainly not interested in building a cult of personality, the reality is that we’re all stuck in one big room, so it’s important that we maintain a strong chemistry amongst the group.
During the in-person interview, you’ll present your project to the entire team. Depending on the context of the position, you may be asked to role play and treat us as though we are the client. We’ll ask you specific questions about your approach and how you thought through what you did and whatever else pops into mind based on your work.
After that, we’ll “break character” so to speak and then the Q&A becomes more about you, your goals and motivations. Then we turn it over to you to ask any questions you want to know about us and what it’s like to work here.
We do it this way to give us all the opportunity to interact and determine fit on both sides.
Many applicants are nervous about the prospect of meeting so many people, but everyone appreciates the opportunity to really get to meet their potential coworkers in advance.
From There We Make Our Decision
While many organizations have applicants come visit on multiple occasions, we try to get a complete picture as fast as possible. We focus on the steps above to get a sense of your experience, your skills, your personality and how you’ll interact with the group. From there everyone on our team weighs in and we make a hiring decision. Effectively, we hire by committee and everyone has a voice, but I always make the final decision.
We’re Not for Everybody
After reading this, you might realize that our process is not for you and that is absolutely fine. We all spend most of our lives at work, so we should hold out for the company that matches what we want the the most. I couldn’t find one, so I made one, and I only want the best for it and the people that are employed here.
If we are for you, and you’re ready to make yourself PROUD, then I do want to take this time to let you know that we are hiring and we can’t wait to meet you!