Outlier is more than just a company; it’s a collection of people who are working together against impossible odds. The people we add to our team are the most important decisions we make as every one of us shapes the business’s future.
In line with our company values, our process’s goal is to reduce the amount of bias in our hiring and increase our team’s diversity. Traditionally underrepresented groups (Women, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Multiracial, LGBTQ+, People with Disabilities and Veterans) currently make up 54% of the Outlier U.S. employee base. We use an adapted version of the Rooney rule when hiring. Where we interview people of color and every gender for each open role. This includes writing inclusive job descriptions, creating blind resume screenings, having predefined criteria compensation and leveling measures, and most importantly, awareness of everybody involved in the hiring of the (implicit) biases that we may have, including hiring and recruiting trainings for employees.
Our hiring process is designed around the idea that a work simulation is the only test predictive of future success in any given job. The goal of the process is to put the candidate in the position of doing the job they would have, which tells us how they would do it and shows them what it would be like to work at Outlier. This allows candidates a view into what it would be like to work at Outlier, like a day in the life scenario to how we approach problems and shows us how they do their best work, instead of simply searching for candidates that work in the same way as our existing team.
The following is a blueprint for hiring at Outlier. Some positions require different processes than others, but this is the general framework we follow for all positions.
Step 0. Before We Start
It’s tempting to write a job description, post it to job boards and get started reviewing candidates! Unfortunately, that leads to long searches, inconsistent decisions and can introduce implicit bias. No matter how much experience or how many resumes you’ve reviewed, you cannot effectively run a search without preparation.
Before even posting the job opening, you need to prepare all of the following:
- Job description for the position
- Screening questions you plan to ask in Step 1
- The written exercise that will be used in Step 2
- Channels by which you will source candidates
- A well-defined rubric for each role to establish a bar
Before even reviewing the first resume, keep in mind that we need to be as responsive as possible to candidates. The brand we build with candidates is formed through our communications, honesty and how quickly we respond to them. If you don’t have the time to be hyper-responsive to candidates, then you need to seek help in the process.
Step 1. Screening
After a candidate is identified, you need to screen them to ensure there is a high likelihood they will be able to complete the rest of the process. Failure to screen well risks wasting a lot of the time for the candidate and your team later. Screening typically involves reviewing their resume and, if warranted, a discussion by phone. During the screening process, it’s important to remember that we have a strong commitment to diversity and we have to get the first steps right.
The best screening questions are not brain teasers or detailed technical minutiae; the best questions reveal how the candidate solves problems and approaches challenges. If you ask a question that has a single correct answer, you aren’t giving a candidate the ability to show you how they can add to your team, you are just testing knowledge they are likely to Google on the job anyway.
Step 2. Written Challenges
Candidates should be provided with a written challenge that describes a problem they would likely face in the position and given ample time to provide a written solution. Not all people work best in front of a whiteboard, so this is a chance for the candidate to show us what they can do in a low pressure, free form environment.
The best challenges are problems you and your team have faced in the recent past since you will already be familiar with the problem.
Step 3. On-Site
When a candidate visits the office (or spends an extended time with you on video), the visit should be a work simulation and center on their solution to the written exercise. This includes a mix of group sessions and individual working sessions, mimicking meetings and pair work on projects. It is likely that the content of the on-site will extend the written challenge in new ways, which is a normal part of working on a team where one idea becomes bigger through discussion. It is also important that, during group sessions, the team members talk to each other as much as the candidate to show how the team dynamic works and to avoid putting the candidate in front of an “inquiry board”.
During the on-site, you should avoid brainteasers, asking the candidates to stand at a whiteboard, and anything else you would not do to a new employee. Also, as soon as possible after your on-site interview, do try to capture your notes down in written form, assessing the candidate against the predefined criteria (to help reduce bias).
Step 4. Candidate Review
All members of the interviewing team for a candidate should meet as soon as possible after the on-site to review the candidate. For everybody attending, you should review your notes from your interview, consider thoughtfully any unfair biases that you might have (either for or against the candidate).
The person making the hiring decision will lead the discussion and first ask everyone to share the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate in a round robin fashion. After any necessary discussion ensues, the decision-maker will ask everyone to provide a recommendation on whether to hire the candidate in the same round-robin order used for feedback.
The hiring decision process is not a democracy; the hiring leader is the only one who will make the final decision. However, the input of the committee is the most important input into that decision-making process and, as such, should be considered above all else.
We don’t negotiate offers at Outlier since it’s proven to exacerbate pay inequalities and promote structural discrimination. Why would you influence someone’s compensation based on their negotiation skills if negotiation is not part of their core job function? Instead, we make our best and final offer first.
Hiring is the most difficult thing that companies do, and it is even more difficult to do it well. The process we follow, as outlined here, is time-intensive and requires a significant commitment. However, the resulting team is proven to be more diverse, more resilient and more successful than other methods of hiring.
Interested in joining the Outlier team? View our current open roles here.