When theSkimm’s founders, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, sent out their first daily newsletter to a small group of their friends and family on a Tuesday in 2012, they had no idea that the company would grow the way it did.
Flash forward nearly six years, and the startup that quickly became an essential daily news digest for millennial women (and men) has a subscriber base in excess of 6.5 million and a network of more than 30,000 “Skimm’bassadors,” a community of passionate members who regularly join social chats on Facebook and other channels and help test new products and marketing initiatives. Among the additional product lines is theSkimm app, and Skimm Studios, which produces “Sip ‘n Skimm” that pairs Zakin and Weisberg with major newsmakers like Paul Ryan and Justin Trudeau, a podcast, Skimm’d from the Couch, which features female leaders (which leaped to the No. 1 spot on iTunes within a few hours of launch), and Skimm Reads, which offers book recommendations to its growing audience.
All these developments have contributed to the staff doubling in size over the last year. The current headcount is 67, but theSkimm’s chief business officer, Brandon Berger, expects that to double again soon. Chief people officer
Nikki Kaufman says that each job they post gets a lot of attention from job seekers (although they can’t share exact numbers), and that’s keeping pace with their growth. For those hankering to work at the media startup, here’s what they told us about how to wow them.
Make Sure You Have The Exact Qualifications
Although Kaufman says specific roles are largely the driver of which way the application process goes, applying to theSkimm usually happens through submitting a resume or a lookbook for creatives. Then it’s a matter of doing the first filter, then a phone screen. Kaufman emphasizes at this point that it’s about finding out whether the candidate has the specific skills required to do the job. “If you are an android engineer, have you built Android applications before?” she says.
Prove That You Know How To “Get Scrappy”
Additionally, Kaufman says something that has to shine through a candidate’s entire interview process is for them to demonstrate “hustle, scrappiness, and doing more with less.” Candidates have varied backgrounds from startups to large companies, she points out, but because theSkimm is still a startup, they want to see that the applicant has done something successful with limited resources or a lack of funds.
“We will ask directly, ‘Walk me through a time where you had to get scrappy’,” she explains, adding that this line of questioning happens as early as the phone screen. During the in-person interview, Kaufman says they’ll ask how the candidate gets their hands dirty. “Something we mention a lot here is that no one is too senior or junior,” she notes. “Though you are hired for a job, you’ll inevitably help out in a lot of different ways.”
Understand The Brand In All Its Forms
Even more important is demonstrating that you’ve done the research. That includes reading the newsletter, downloading the app, watching the videos, and generally learning as much about the different channels as you can. “They don’t have to be our demographic,” says Berger, “but they need to appreciate the relationship between the brand and the audience.”
And that doesn’t mean just going in and talking about how the newsletter broke down Oscar coverage, or how a video explained Bitcoin. As Berger puts it, “It’s about how we communicate.” Employees have to represent theSkimm daily even after they leave the building, so it’s important to understand and appreciate its most valuable assets.
Be Authentic About Your Weaknesses
“What is your biggest weakness?” This question is polarizing among interviewers and hiring managers. Some swear by its ability to weed out unfit candidates, while others think there are better ways to get to make that assessment. Berger admits, “I do think you tend to get a lot of pageant answers,” but he says those candidates who understand who they are, are able to be authentic.
Some of the better ones he’s heard have been lack of organization, being reactionary versus thoughtful, and not being a great public speaker. Kaufman says impatience was a great answer. “I totally understand that we want to move quickly,” she says, especially for a startup.
Be Creative And Open To Group Work
Fear not if you are a recent grad or maybe gunning for your second job. Berger declares that theSkimm loves raw talent as long as they can show they are curious, willing to work hard, and flex in different ways. “We encourage people to give different points of view,” he explains, such as how an engineer might comment on a marketing or sales strategy. Likewise, it’s important to be open to working on teams, says Kaufman. To show that, they may point out how they were part of a sports team in college, or even explain a family experience. “Don’t feel intimidated,” she says. “It is up to us as managers and leaders to cultivate and encourage talent,” adds Berger.
Close The Loop
Kaufman and Berger agree that the follow-up email or handwritten thank-you note can go a long way to cementing the candidate’s qualifications. Kaufman stresses the importance of reiterating why you want to be a part of the brand.
A note of caution, though. In one case, Berger says, a candidate they all really liked sent a handwritten note only, and it got held up in the mail for three weeks. The time between was radio silence, and they went on to hire someone else. When the note finally arrived, Berger says, “It was so thoughtful” that it left them with an even better impression. The lesson here, Berger notes, is that it helps to send both snail mail and email.