Dramatically simple trick to improve hiring at your startup.

One of the experiments we’re trying at IDEO’s collaborative problem solving platform, OI Engine.

 Investing time in finding the best talent for your startup is crucial. Yet if you’re an entrepreneur, time is your most precious commodity. So how do you maximise time spent searching for great people? Here’s a simple trick we’ve been using at OI Engine (collaborative problem solving platform from IDEO):

Ask for ten questions.

Screen your applicants based on their LinkedIn profile / cv (your preference but I prefer LinkedIn as I don’t want to be marketed to). Then with your shortlist, ask them to send you ten questions about the job.

What happens next is where the magic happens. When we tried this in our latest round of hires, most people didn’t bother to write ten questions and so never applied. Then about a half sent questions that you could have asked about any job, literally they could have been applying to the crocodile trainer job at Pattaya Crocodile Farm in Thailand.

The questions people ask, and the way they ask them tells you more than a one page cover letter, it doesn’t matter how pretty you make it.

Score the questions — if all questions the questions sound like the top ten things you’ve been grappling with in the last 6 months, get them in. If it’s less than 7/10, then ask for 5–10 more. Yes, ask for more questions. You’ll feel uncomfortable doing this, but believe me, if they can’t think of at least 5 more questions about the job, they just aren’t trying hard enough.

Everyone I spoke to in our recent hiring round said they loved the approach and had never seen it used. I asked one recent applicant if they understood why I’d taken this approach, and they said:

“If you hadn’t asked me to do that I wouldn’t have researched what you do as hard. It made me more interested in the job.”

What tactics have you found useful either applying for jobs or hiring for great people?