Forget Resumes And Hire By Audition To Find The Best Employees

Resumes and interviews really can’t compare to sitting down and working with someone. So why do we still use them to hire?

Forget Resumes And Hire By Audition To Find The Best Employees
[Image: Flickr user Angelina Lealuez]

There’s no silver bullet for hiring the right people. Like the employees you’re hoping to find, your hiring process should be tailored to your company’s needs. It’s not an easy thing to do–even Google got it wrong. But a recent talk from WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg suggests that most of the trappings of our traditional hiring process are worthless for judging a good hire.


Instead, Mullenweg suggests hiring by audition. For his company, Mullenweg gives potentials trial work for their desired position for a flat rate–$25 an hour, to be done whenever the applicant has time. It’s time consuming and slow, but to Mullenweg, it’s worth it.

“There’s nothing like being in the trenches with someone, working with them day by day. It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews, or reference checks. At the end of the trial, everyone involved has a great sense of whether they want to work together going forward. And, yes, that means everyone — it’s a mutual tryout. Some people decide we’re not the right fit for them.”

Other tech leaders agree. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who shares Mullenweg’s views on hiring:

“Simulating what it’s like to work together is the best way to determine whether somebody has the raw talent to not just do the job but to grow into something bigger. It’s not about doing 15 interviews with 15 different people.”

Jeff Neilsen of Santeon Group, an IT services company, believes it’s the only way to hire programmers.

“I am reminded of a little segment from Tom DeMarco’s book, Peopleware, where he talks about this fictional story of trying to hire a juggler to work for your company. This juggler comes in and they ask him about his background, and his references, and what is his theory of juggling, but they never actually asked to guy to juggle. Well, we do the same thing when hiring programmers.”]

Worth highlighting in Mullenweg’s approach is the fact that he compensates his job candidates for the work that’s done. The audition model is one that can unfairly exploit job seekers, and the onus is on them to make sure they aren’t being taken advantage of. Being up front and fair will encourage them to be the same with you, and potentially make for a better evaluation of their skills. Remember that you’re being evaluated too.

Even if you don’t have the time or resources to audition every candidate, you aren’t out of options: Our sister site Inc has a four-step process that lets you get pretty close. To quote Mullenweg once more:

“Nothing has the impact of putting the right people around the table. The aphorism is true: You can’t manage your way out of a bad team.”