How we hire

We've put together a really great team at Red Guava (the company behind Cliniko). This is a post about how we've done that.

Joel Friedlaender·

Three Red Guava teammates working and hanging out at meet up.

Like every business, we want to hire the best employees. This poses a problem though, if every business wants to hire the best employees, we need to find a way to stand out and have them apply to us. Then, when we do get great applicants applying, we need to make sure we can evaluate them thoroughly and choose the best person for our company.

Attracting great candidates

So we have three key strategies to attract great candidates.

1Hire people from anywhere

The chance of the best person for the job being within 20km from our office is pretty slim. We’re not happy with getting the best person within that radius, we want the best person available.

A lot has been written on this topic lately so I won’t go into detail here. The team at HelpScout have quite a good post on this topic… Why remote teams are the future.

I think it’s the most important decision we made to get great people, it expanded the number of potential candidates exponentially.

2Advertise the jobs in the right places

We advertise where the best people will be looking. Keeping in mind they are probably not looking for a job, so if we can, we get to places they will be.

We also avoid posting to large advertising/classified sites (eg. Seek, Monster, etc.) as the signal to noise ratio is very low from them.

For support staff, we’ve advertised on:

For other roles, we’ve used:

We also advertise jobs on our own website/twitter before any other place. This lets us hear from people that specifically want to work with us. We give them first shot.

We want people that are good at what they do and motivated to improve themselves, not just people looking for work. By advertising in the right places, we get much better quality applications right away. It lets us reach the right people.

3Offer an amazing job

Six Red Guava teammates sitting together outside and talking.

Talented individuals can get a job easily. We know this, so we need to make sure we stand out for them to apply to us.

We of course offer a good salary, that’s the bare minimum we need to do to make a job enticing. There’s a lot more to it than that though. We offer many perks and great work conditions to make working at Red Guava desirable.

These are some of the perks we offer staff at Red Guava:

  • 30 hour work week, full time pay.
  • Flexible working hours
  • Flexible location (work from anywhere in the world)
  • Fresh organic fruit (either in the office, or delivered to your home)
  • Complete autonomy (no managers)
  • Great office (if you use it)
  • Unlimited annual leave

Notably most of these don’t cost us any money. We find that we can compete with funded companies in offering great jobs with great perks. We’re proudly bootstrapped and haven’t found it hold us back.

Light bulb

Bonus tip:

I think complete autonomy is the best perk we have.

The hiring process

Our hiring process is quite simple, and also quite organic. It differs for every role we hire and really for every person we talk to. This is a rough guide of how it usually goes.

1How to apply

On our job ads, the how to apply section is something like this:

Write Joel Friedlaender a nice email to apply for this job. Please don’t send a boring resume; we will print it out and burn it and you’ll feel bad about all the wasted paper. Being creative is always looked upon favourably.

We really just want people to send us an email, that let’s us get a feel for who they are.

We find resumes to be quite useless in finding out about someone. A list of qualifications or job history really tells us very little. I’d much rather hear in their own words why they want to work here, or why we should consider them.

This email generally doesn’t tell us if they are good, but it will show up if they are not. That’s an important distinction, this is just to weed out the unsuitable applications, of which there will be plenty (it’s a great job remember).

2Get rid of the unsuitable applications

After we’ve posted the ad(s). We’ll start getting a bunch of job applications. We don’t store them all up to deal with them at once, we go through them as they come in. Dealing with each immediately. If we do get a great candidate apply, we know they’ll get snatched up fast, so we can’t afford to mess around.

Typically in the emails we look for:

  • Good communication skills
  • A bit of personality or humour
  • Some effort made (as simple as showing you wrote this just for us)

Any indication that they would be good at the job is a bonus, but not required.

If an application isn’t what we are looking for, we immediately let them know they were unsuccessful.

For all remaining applicants we move them on to the next step. It can be hard to judge from this initial email, so we err on the side of caution - we’re not trying to hire the person that is the best at applying for jobs.

3Quick Skype video call

The next stage is a quick Skype video call. I use the term “call” instead of “interview”, because that’s how we treat it. We don’t have a list of questions to ask, we just like to have a chat and see how the conversation feels and see if we like the person.

3 Red Guava teammates working together at a meet up.

As humans, we can quickly gather a lot of information about people from the way they speak, their body language and facial expressions. At the end of the call we have a gut feel about the person.”

Things we might talk about during the call include:

  • Their recent work history.
  • If they have down time in this role, what things would interest them to get involved with.
  • How they found the job.
  • Answering any questions they have about us or the role.

We try to keep this conversation to 5 - 10 minutes, often it will go longer with the right person.

After this call, if they aren’t right, we’ll usually let them know within 24 hours. We wait a little after the call to digest the information and see how we’re feeling about it.

It is possible we’ll get someone else in our team to do another call like this with them if we aren’t sure. Often that is an indicator they aren’t right though, and that comes to light soon enough.

4Skills Test

We get the person to do some small piece of work so we can see what their skills are like. This can vary substantially depending on the type of role we’re filling. We try to keep the test quite small (eg. less than 1 hour of work). If it needs to be bigger than this, we’ll pay for their time.

For a developer, the test might be:

  • A small live coding task we do via screensharing.
  • A small task they can do in their own time.

For a support person, the test might be:

  • Answer a sample support ticket.
  • Write a how-to guide for our software.

For a designer, the test might be:

  • Redesign a small part of our software.
  • Critique our website and tell us what you would change.

We’ll vary the test based on the person and what we feel we need to find out about them.

Also the test will be in as “real” conditions as possible. For example, if their task is answering a support ticket, they can ask us any questions and we’ll be happy to help. That’s how it would work if they were working here.

This test is a very important part of the process, and often it trips up candidates that we thought were great. We get a lot of value out of this part of the process. I think the key is that we find a task that best imitates what they’d actually be doing in the job. As much as possible, we try to have it be something they’ll need our help with too, so we can see how we work together.

Part of the Cliniko team at a conference booth

Part of the Cliniko team at a conference booth

5Meet the team

If they get through all the stages so far, they’ll then meet the team. We share their contact details (skype/email) with our team and anyone from our team can get in touch for a chat with them. Often they’ll end up speaking to more than 50% of our team.

This is great from both sides. Our team gets to chat with them to make sure they’ll get along. Also the potential hire gets to meet our team and see that these are the people they’d be happy to work with.

We’re cognizant of the fact that hiring someone is a 2-way process. We’re picking them, but they are also picking us. In reality, it’s a bigger deal for them than it is for us. They’ll become one of our team members and an important one. But this will be their only job where they spend a significant portion of their life. We need to make sure they have enough information to make a good choice here.

Once they’ve met the team. We’ll chat as a group and see if anyone has any objections or concerns in hiring them. Typically by now we’ve already established they have the skills, so this is really a culture fit thing.

6Hire them

At this point, we’re excited, they’re excited so we just try to get it done as quickly as we can.

We try to keep the fuss to a minimum. We agree on salary, have them sign our minimal employment contracts and off we go.

We also give them access to our stuff as soon as they’ve signed the docs. Typically this means access to Slack (our internal chat room) so they can start getting friendly with the team if they wish to.

It works for us

We’ve managed to assemble a great team of talented people at Red Guava. We’re proud of our team and are happy with how this process has worked for us. Hopefully there’s something in here useful to others too!

Interested in finding out more? Watch the video of my Real Big Things presentation about how we work at Cliniko, or explore similar articles under the Cliniko news topic.

Author information

Joel Friedlaender is the founder of Cliniko. He writes about productivity, team-work, and how we do things differently. Follow him on Twitter at @jfriedlaender.

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