We did a real job audition, and it worked

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What do job auditions mean to us?

Aside from our own experiences as hiring managers and job candidates, there were two things that inspired us to start Vervoe. The first was the movie industry that uses auditions to cast actors. Résumés don’t mean much. Instead, actors are asked to audition for the part. They have to literally “play the role” for a short period of time. The second was companies like Automattic that were brining job candidates in to work with them for a few days instead of interviewing them. Real work, paid of course, to see how candidates perform and interact with their future teammates. Problem is it’s not scalable.

The idea behind Vervoe was to do that – job auditions – and use technology to deliver auditions at scale. With the help of machine learning we can evaluate hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of candidates in parallel, and automatically rank them based on their performance. It’s a more efficient way of using auditions.

Now let’s say the efficiency isn’t required. Let’s say there are only a handful of candidates, or maybe only one. Restaurants do it all the time. They bring a chef in to do a shift or two and that typically tells them everything they need to know. With or without technology, we love the concept of auditions. It’s the single best way to predict how someone will actually perform. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise because it helps prospective employers see them perform a slice of the job, literally.

What does a real job audition look like?

Recently we were in a situation where we had to make a hiring decision of our own. We were down to the final candidate, but a few things were different this time. First, this was a newly-created role. Second, several others had tried to solve the problem this role was tasked with solving, and none had succeeded. Third, the economic climate resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic was difficult and we wanted to be extra careful.

So we decided to ask our preferred candidate to spend a week with us. Old school, no technology, no efficiency. First, we agreed the terms upfront – one week, fully paid, measurable goals, then a decision. Then we created a brief that was based on a real problem we were trying to solve. It was related to the role, but not necessarily a primary component of the role. However, it was something that would give us plenty of insight into the candidate’s way of thinking. After that we did light speed onboarding that included access to all our systems and data and time with key members of our team. We want to ensure the candidate was set up for success.

During the week we provided support and access, but we weren’t overly prescriptive. The goals were clear and we wanted to see how things played out. There was an element of risk because everyone was working from home – thanks, Coronavirus – but that didn’t end up being an issue at all. Communication flowed through discussions, Slack messages, shared documents and regular status updates.

The output was a Friday night presentation of a business case. It covered the problem, a recommended solution, economics and a pathway for execution.

Turns out job auditions work

First, we were very impressed with the output. It was very high quality, and it was delivered in a short amount of time without the benefit of full immersion in our product and market. That suggested to us that the candidate was able to grasp complex issues very quickly. Furthermore, it was evidence that the candidate was able to elicit information the team and accumulate the requisite level of knowledge in an area that was previously unfamiliar. The output was valuable on its own, but the way it was produced was more important to us.

Second, the feedback from the team was very positive. That was equally important. The team had a chance to interact with the candidate in a relaxed, but realistic, setting. Substantive conversations took place and impressions were formed.

Finally, we listened to the candidate. We wanted to hear their impression of us. After all, we were being evaluated too.

The final result was a job offer, which was accepted, followed by an immediate start.

The foundational pillar on which Vervoe was built – the job audition – was a refreshingly effective experience. Our product development is all about getting as close as we can to that experience, but online and at scale. But sometimes it’s not all about efficiency. In this case efficiency wasn’t an issue. We weren’t afraid to create a process that was a bit slower but had 100% integrity. And it worked out great.

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