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Where content meets technology

Aug 29, 2012

Preliminary Results from the One-Field Job Application Experiment

A few weeks ago I experimented with an unconventional approach to recruiting a technical web project manager. A lot of people were intrigued by the idea and I promised to write about my findings. The experiment is still going on but I am happy to report the intermediate results.

As a pure recruiting tool, results were mixed. Out of around 300 people who visited the form, I got around 40 successful submissions. Of those, there were 3 serious and qualified candidates. The rest were a mixture of developers (who didn't have enough project management experience), people who just wanted to solve the puzzle, and some people who were overqualified for the role. Sifting through the non-serious candidates was pretty easy. Many of these URLs were generic sites like Google or they had query strings letting me know that they were just curious about the puzzle. Personal websites and LinkedIn profiles were easy to spot and I enjoyed browsing those. I don't know how this stacks up against traditional recruiting methods but it was certainly less work on my end. I didn't have to read through boring résumés.

I didn't promote the form a whole lot. I posted about it here on my blog and I shared the post on Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. I might have gotten a larger sample size if I actively drove traffic to the form like, for example, if I posted a brief job description plus a link to the form on a job site. Some SEO work and Ad Words may have helped too.

As a screening tool, the form was excellent. Much better than expected. I asked all of the candidates that came through our traditional process to submit the form before talking to me. A lot of people totally didn't get it and I saved myself loads of time not having to read their résumés or interview them. The ones that did make it through thought it was pretty cool and I think it increased their interest in the role.

The biggest surprise was the professional networking element. I made several great connections with some of the non-serious candidates. In addition to meeting kindred spirits, I got to discuss interesting topics like roles and methodologies in web development and what it takes to manage an effective website. It was professionally refreshing to meet these people. I even met a Lionbridge co-worker from Poland and learned about some of the cool work that they are doing. He is a smart guy. I am glad I know him now.

In all, I think the experiment was a huge success. It didn't magically turn up the ideal candidate on its own but that expectation was probably unrealistic. Going in, I knew that this approach would only evaluate a couple dimensions (technical skills and web affinity) of a very complex and dynamic role. The "One Field Job App" didn't look at communication or organizational skills at all. But before launching this tool, technical screening was very time-intensive. In addition to saving time, I am particularly happy with the unexpected benefits of meeting new professionals and talking with old colleagues about this challenging problem. I will definitely use this approach to recruiting again.

Oh, and one more thing… I have still not received a successful submission from anyone using Internet Explorer.