| Sep 3, 2021

Iterating Toward Hiring Excellence

Continuous iteration allows changes to be implemented and whole processes to be adjusted, which can be as large as a complete overhaul or as small as rewriting job descriptions.
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Iterative processes allow companies to evaluate their work and look for opportunities to improve. At Domino Data Lab, we embody a growth mindset and strive to revise our workflows to find new ways to solve problems.

When it comes to hiring, many employers will use the same play every step of the way — from scheduling meetings with candidates to conducting interviews. However, while using the same methods might be enough to get the job done, you will likely have a harder time understanding how to improve or fine-tune results without gathering feedback.

As Domino’s Chief People Officer, I oversee hiring and supporting talent. Values are embedded in every level of our organization, and one of our top principles is Iterate to Excellence

When applied to our hiring process, this means centering each step on our candidates and having a dialogue with each other about what’s working and what’s not. This prevents stagnation and allows everyone on a team to stay in sync.

Values to Guide Hiring

Domino is a company founded on values as the guiding principles that inform our decisions. Some principles Domino embraces include:

  • Transparency
  • Seeking Truth, Speaking Truth
  • Customer Devotion (or in this case candidate devotion)
  • Winning Together

These values aren’t just for show — they need to be reflected throughout the entire hiring process. How you treat candidates is an insight into what working at your company looks like. If your company is a great place to work that truly appreciates its employees, that should be evident through every step of the hiring process. You can’t wait until someone is hired to introduce them to your company’s values since attracting the right candidates means ensuring their values align with yours.

The most obvious step in making a great first impression is making sure candidates feel like their time and effort are valued. Avoid rescheduling appointments at the last minute. Instead, be transparent with the reasons for any rescheduling by clearly explaining the reasons they’re necessary. Start interviews on time and with your full attention present. In our work, we think rigorously, so we want to demonstrate our culture by also assessing rigorously using a structured process. We use clear rubrics and ensure everyone on the team is aligned with their expectations.

Be honest and upfront about what the role looks like and what is expected. As you’re seeking truthful responses from candidates, make sure you’re also speaking the truth when explaining the position. Remain mindful that things a candidate may find deceptive are more often found in what they weren’t told rather than in what they were. Ensure there are no hidden surprises later in the process.

It’s essential to be devoted to each candidate by making sure everyone who walks through the door has a “white glove” experience whether they get the job or not. By displaying devotion to each candidate, you’re letting them know they already matter before they’re even hired.

As a natural result of being transparent, truthful, and devoted to every candidate, each applicant inherently feels the intent of our winning together concept. If we hire a candidate who embodies not only the requirements of the position but also appreciates and reflects our company’s values throughout the hiring process, not only do they win by getting the job, but we also win by strengthening our team with their presence. Winning together means everyone feels valued and every success is a shared victory.

Center the Candidate Experience

Ensuring an excellent candidate experience is a team effort, and it requires iterations and ongoing feedback from everyone. Some must-haves for a great recruitment experience include:

  • Making enough time to answer questions
  • Responding promptly to inquiries
  • Mapping the candidate journey and gathering feedback
  • Following through with actions
  • Using clear processes
  • Listening to candidates

At Domino, we align our team by providing extensive interview training. We invest a great deal in building long-term relationships with candidates because we want to support people for success from the start. Even if we don’t have an immediate position to offer them, we may have one in the future.

As part of our interview process, we make every effort to build relationships with applicants not only in the event that we hire them for a current position, but also in looking toward potential positions in the future. If every applicant feels valued and appreciated, it gives new hires a great introduction to the company and leaves a positive impression upon candidates to whom we may make an offer in the future.

For example, I once interviewed someone who said she collected antique gumball machines. When we were ready to send an offer, we wanted to go the extra mile for her. I bought a gumball machine, filled it with candy stamped with our company logo, and sent it to her as a gift. Whether or not she joined, I knew it was something she was passionate about and would appreciate.


Debriefing the Debrief

After finishing interviews with each candidate, we hold a debrief session to give everyone a chance to reflect on the applicant profile and process. We call this debriefing the debrief, which helps us iterate toward excellence in our hiring process. If we notice we’re passing over too many people, we consider whether or not we’re asking the right questions and looking at suitable profiles. If a candidate has yellow flags, we brainstorm ways to support them once they are onboarded.

At the end of the debrief, we save five minutes to “debrief the debrief.” This process involves asking a couple of questions about the interview experience as a whole:

  • Are we assessing the right things?
  • Are we calibrated in our expectations?
  • Does everyone have an opportunity to “speak their truth” or are we falling into groupthink?
  • Are we living our values in decisions and discussions?

This step allows everyone to take a look at what they could have done better. Debriefing the debrief is where iteration happens and where we get key takeaways, which can be as large as needing to overhaul the whole process or as small as rewriting job descriptions.

Working Alongside Leadership

Continuous iteration allows changes to be implemented and the whole process to be adjusted so everyone can stay aligned and focused on building a championship team. Debriefing the debrief part of our iterative process and is something we developed at Domino in partnership with our leadership executives. Having support at the leadership level ensures it will be ingrained in Domino’s culture and implemented throughout the organization, supporting all teams during the hiring process.

Hiring managers don’t always have all the right answers. They need to gain feedback from those working on the frontlines with them. Constantly iterating toward excellence in the process is essential and provides a chance to reflect on the journey and determine how best to reach the destination.

Without examining each step of the process as part of normal operations, things can quickly become stagnant or stop working altogether. Inspecting every component of each interview allows us to find parts that can be improved, elements that can be upgraded, and to identify pain points before they become sources of failure.

Iterative adjustments are the key to improving any design and every process. Some changes may not work as intended while unexpected results can often lead to breakthrough enhancements. The point is that actively working toward continuous improvement through constant iteration is the best path to success in every endeavor.

Michelle Arieta
Executive Author

Chief People Officer, Domino Data Lab

Michelle is a strategic HR business partner who approaches organizational issues with a systematic approach to support performance within an organization. view profile


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