Cliff Oxford, 35, founder and CEO of Support Technologies Inc., an Atlanta-based company that provides help-desk services to corporations.
What’s your problem?
“We’re a fast-growing company, so we’re always looking for talented people to join us — fast. How can I make sure that there are no surprises once candidates come on board?”
Tell me about it
“We need people who can hit the ground running. The standard hiring process — a resume, interviews, some references — may tell you about history and hypotheticals, but it says little about how a candidate can add value to your company today. You end up taking a leap of faith. We can’t afford to do that anymore.”
What’s your solution?
“We created a day-long audition. Internally, we call it the ‘Support Technologies Experience.’ It has a simple premise: Show us what you can do and how you can connect with our culture.
“Once we get serious about a candidate, we invite that person to spend a day with the whole company — working with us as we do our jobs. The two main things we’re looking for: Is he willing to speak out, to challenge the status quo? Would he fit in?
“A typical audition runs like this: For most of the morning, a candidate might work with our help-desk professionals — our front line — as they field calls. This is not the most glamorous work, but it’s who we are. The last thing we want is to hire someone who’s indifferent to service.
“Later this person might work with a marketing or sales executive — maybe going over marketing strategy or brainstorming about some marketing collateral. Most of all, we’re looking for opinions, criticisms, and concrete solutions to problems. Finally, the person might sit in on a senior-management meeting. There can be a lot of passion in those meetings. We encourage conflict. We ask, Does this candidate jump into the fray?
“At the end of the audition, we do an informal survey about reactions to the candidate. We come to a consensus fast. We’ve hired some great people who have made a big difference, and we’ve managed to avoid some potential disasters.”
Cathy Olofson (email@example.com) is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit Support Technologies Inc. on the Web (www.sti-help.com) or contact Cliff Oxford by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).