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Hiring Strategies: How Danny Iny Built the Mirasee Team

Long ago in days of yore, a young baker wanted more out of life than flour and dead fruit.

She consulted Craigslist, and noticed an ad looking to hire an Entrepreneur’s Assistant.

Could this be it? She wondered. Could this be an opportunity to use that third of a business degree, and sadly untapped creativity?

It turned out that it was! That was the first time I’d ever seen any mention of Danny Iny – and none at all yet of Mirasee. Little did I know then that two and a half years later I’d still be on his team, helping to create this Fireside Chat series.

Almost every business needs to go through the process of hiring at some point and it’s exciting because it means you’re growing. But, knowing exactly how and when to go about it – that can be a challenge.

So today’s topic is all about hiring strategies, and what it’s been like for us to grow from one to two to four, how to tell if you’re ready to expand your staff, as well as the best way to go about it.

Click on the link to listen to the podcast:

Hiring for Excellence: How Danny Iny Built the Mirasee Team

Distilled Wisdom

  • The more information you can gather about potential hires, the better.
  • Hire for qualities that you need in your business – not just for chemistry, or people you think you’d have fun hanging out with.
  • Hire in advance of your needs – getting a new person up to speed takes time, and the worst time to hire someone is when you need them desperately.
  • Give plenty of details in your advertisement – they need to know about you as much as you need to know about them.
  • Ask them to complete a short task before you interview them. This will weed out many imperfect candidates.
  • Asking them to complete a task that simulates some of the demands of the job can go a long way to giving you an insight into how well they’ll be able to do the job.
  • Using assessments to get a sense of personal strengths, skills and attitude can give you information about an applicant that is very hard to get otherwise.
  • Use your time talking with references to try and learn the things that “you don’t know you don’t know.” Remember that the reference will be likely to speak well of the candidates, so make sure to frame your questions openly – a yes or a no doesn’t really tell you want you want to know.

Resources Mentioned

What have your hiring (or being hired!) experiences been like? Was it similar to the process we’ve outline here? If not, what were the differences?

About Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is an alumnus of Mirasee and is passionate about online education, small business and making a difference in the world. You can find out what she's up to and how side-hustles will take over the world at PayingforLife.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganTwoCents.

13 comments

    1. Danny says:

      Hey Heidi, we don’t do it – interns are temporary, and only committed for the short-term. I believe in long-term commitment. 🙂

  1. Steve eMailSmith says:

    I had a prior attempt at this (starting building a team) and here is my experience (it flopped):
    * I tried to hire good to excellent people at the minimum possible wages, with the (honest) promise to raise their income based on performance.
    However, I ended up providing them with free training during the trial period, online to see them leave at the end.

    After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion I made 2 big mistakes – and I think I also found solutions:

    1) Starting at minimum wage, even for trial jobs, just makes it so much easier to find competitive job offers (which they would be still actively or residually looking for) to any prospective employee. Better offer at least 20% above minimum, if not even close to average, plus an installment bonus, once they get past the trial period.

    2) Being very through and perfectionist (that I am) scared away many potentially good candidates, as soon as I offered feedback on their trial job tasks. In the future, being less demanding at first and gradually increasing the quality demands might work much better, allowing my employees to get used to my style and accommodating with the job, at the same time.

    Hope this may help someone…

    Cheers,
    Steve ✉ Master eMailSmith ✉ Lorenzo
    Chief Editor # eMail Tips Daily Newsletter

  2. Stephen says:

    This is an interesting list here Megan. We’re in the process of bringing on new talent and some of the things mentioned here will definitely help us. I especially like the idea of having someone complete a task beforehand. Thanks for this!

  3. Andres says:

    To expand my team I’ve used an initial 3-step filtering process that’s a great resource and easy to tweak. Mostly because it allows us to distribute the requirements, description and posting as far and wide as we can, without worrying too much about volume which is filtered down…
    First step for the candidate is to email the CV in both languages and with the right e-mail subject line. That’s been a great filter. Second Step does similar to what you suggest, assigning tasks to the interested person – mostly mini-tasks which can be completed in 10-15 minutes (research, writing, linking), but they all have to be completed before submitting the form. The form takes 45-90 minutes to complete so it automatically weeds out those with little drive or who aren’t truly interested. This is critical because the biggest time waster for us has always been sifting through the initial batch of kinda-wanna-perhaps-only-if-I-get-mo-money applicants.

    Filter 1: Use the exact subject line explained in the job posting. The system will only respond to the exact wording.

    Filter 2: The candidate gets an e-mail with instructions and a link to the form. The form has a series of questions and small tasks that together take 45-60 minutes to complete and add in the web form. Incomplete webforms are not processed.

    Filter 3: The candidate then gets a confirmation e-mail with a direct e-mail account and personal instructions for the next step.

    Believe it or not, filter #1 eliminates more than half the respondents. No attention to detail or the requirements.

    Filter #2 then eliminates more than 50%.

    Filter #3 has only a 10% drop.

    So, we’re usually left reviewing less than 20% of the initially interested candidates. The decisions are harder because there’s a good match by then, but we have a live interview with each and every candidate that makes it through the 3 filters. We then let them assign us a 10-minute homework task and give them a longer 3-5 hour assignment for thorough evaluation. It’s usually something involving their own initiative to work through a problem and presenting back to us. Previous assignments have included developing a marketing campaign for a social problem, interviewing a politician, and creating a customer training video.

    We meet a couple of days later to review, including other members of the team in the second interview. From there, it’s usually clear or down to only a few candidates.

    1. Megan says:

      Now there’s a system!

      We had a really similar experience – by the time a candidate gets through everything – we know they’re likely to be a good fit.

      What kind of task do you have applicants assign you? That sounds really interesting.

      1. Andres says:

        Hi Megan.

        It’s really open. I try to minimize our guidance for the task to better understand their own initiative and thoughts. The task THEY assign is a good indicator of what they think we’re getting out of our own process, their creativity, and any gaps in culture-fit.

        For example, I once got a task to summarize one of my own blog posts into a 30-second video. Hard to say if the candidate was testing my summary skills, understanding, or what. Another candidate asked me to write a poem describing our team a year from now. That showed me she was thinking about the right fit and to get a better handle on how I saw the team. I wound up willingly spending over an hour to complete the 10-minute homework task.

        1. Megan says:

          Very interesting. I’d never thought of asking an applicant to create a task – but I can see what you’re saying – it could be really revealing.

          Thanks for sharing!

  4. Alan Ayers says:

    Megan,
    I was thinking of pursuing extra help by hiring a administrative assistant as a consultant. In the US we would call it a IRS 1099 contractor position who would be paid by the hour. I would hire a contractor to start at 20 or 30 hours a week under a consulting contract. This sets up the individual with expectations for part-time work with flexibility and lowers my long-term commitment to an employee, payroll, payroll taxes, etc. The other important difference is no benefits are paid to the contractor. I am feeling the strong need for a team to work with and to be able to develop ideas together. Being a lone practitioner after years of working a large office seems less productive and lowers my output. Distractions of running the business such as bookkeeping, ordering supplies, etc. all divert my attention and my productivity suffers. An administrative assistant would be a terrific addition.

    What are your thoughts about the differences in the employment contract – employee or contractor? It would seem that the same screening process as you and Danny described to bring someone on board could be used in either case.

    Best, Alan

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Alan,

      First things first – we’re not lawyers, so take this advice for what it is – opinion and not counsel. Cool?

      The differences between employees and contractors varies by region (we assume!) and in Canada the criteria for a contractor are similar to what you mention – they have their own equipment, can work on other projects, control their own hours and environment – that kind of thing.

      As you mention, there can be fewer complications with contractors than employees in terms of regulation and benefits – but that really shouldn’t be your main consideration. When it comes to hiring – you’re bang-on, the process should be the same. – you want someone who can do the job you need done, and brings a lot of other qualities to the table.

      You can absolutely have a real team dynamic with contractors – technically, that’s what we Firepole Marketing Team members are. For us, it’s the format that makes the most sense, and gives us a good balance between structure and independence.

      For your own business – you’ll want to carefully consider those criteria – do you want more control over working hours or environment? Is it more important for you to have people be able to pursue other clients and set their own working schedule? And it’s a very good idea to carefully check all of the legal distinctions and criteria in your area.

      Good luck! Starting to work with a new person or people is challenging – but very rewarding!

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