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‘Test-First’ Process For Hiring In A Startup

Last year I wrote about a new hiring practice that we were then just starting to experiment with. Now is a good time to reflect on how things have progressed since.

In short, we like this concept more and more. We even gave it a name – the ’Test-First’ process, and have used it to hire 7 new team members this year. That’s quite a bunch, given our team size of 23.

During our last 3 campaigns for developer openings, around 1600 people took the tests, so this system definitely shows some momentum.

How does it work:

  • Resumes are irrelevant. There are many facts that are hard to verify, and it is easy to inflate your expertise or experiences. That is why we avoid reading resumes until the final steps of the hiring process (or sometimes skip them entirely).
  • Start out with a simple test. The first step for any candidate is to fill out an online test. This has worked for all our job openings (from office manager to support specialists, and of course developers). Each job opening has a specific test, with tailored questions.
  • Offer swag. Motivate people to spend 20-30 minutes of their time on the test by offering t-shirts for those who qualify over a certain threshold.
  • Follow up with the best. Set up the next steps in the hiring pipeline with those who had good test results.

More than half of the people doing these tests are doing it just out of curiosity (or to get the t-shirt), and do not consider actually working for Toggl. This is OK with us, as it still increases the mindshare about Toggl in the developer community, and most probably pays off in the long run.

We have experimented with test durations from 20 to 45 minutes. It seems that shorter tests are better, max 30 minutes. There is a combination of open-ended questions and multiple choice questions. The latter are good for automatically rating candidates.

What next? We’re still improving the process and experimenting with different types of tests. But one thing is certain, the new Jobs page works well for us, and the ‘Test-First’ concept is a very efficient way for finding talented, capable new candidates.

Toggl is heading more and more towards remote working, so now we’re combining this hiring practice with a global pool of candidates. More about that in the future, stay tuned!

October 3, 2014

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