Hiring is Hard but Its Magic Moments Make it Easy

JP Michel

This past month marked our first major external hire for SparkPath. We thought we’d share our process, some lessons learned and the unexpected magical moments that happened along the way. It went a little something like this:

  1. We considered and defined the attributes of an ideal candidate;
  2. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the many applicants and their passion for our mission;
  3. We were even more surprised by how difficult eliminating qualified candidates was;
  4. We eventually hired a candidate fit for the role.

The first step in our hiring process was to reflect on what was needed for success in the role of Sales and Customer Service Representative. This helped our team identify the competencies we were looking for in an ideal candidate. Next, we considered the experiences, knowledge and attributes. Based on that profile, we wrote a job description which we shared on our website, Indeed.ca, and within our network. I asked some trusted acquaintances for suggestions and others to share the job posting on LinkedIn. 

Magic moment: I was pleasantly surprised how many people were willing to help. Many people voluntarily shared the post on their social media. Thank you to all those who shared! We met new people because of you and we are grateful.

According to Indeed, 730 candidates viewed the job posting. In total, 156 applied. I estimate only about half were actually interested. The other half might have clicked ‘Apply’ only out of curiosity, without thinking much about the job or the company.  At this stage, our goal was to find people who are ‘infected’, to borrow a term from Guy Kawasaki. To do so, I sent a message to all qualified candidates to ask them why they wanted to work for SparkPath. This question helped to filter the most interested candidates to the next stage: the group interview. Overall, I was impressed about how much talent was interested in SparkPath’s mission. It was encouraging.

Magic moment: The most exciting part of this process were the personalized messages people added to their applications. Many candidates sent messages explaining that they wished they had access to a service like this one when they were younger.

After selecting candidates, we held two group interviews with the top 20 candidates via Zoom calls. The goal of these was to share SparkPath’s mission, our vision for the future, and the nature of the role. I knew the rest of the assessment process was going to be labor intensive, so I wanted people to be fully aware of what they were applying for.  If they were going to proceed to the next stage, I wanted them to be all-in. Magic moment: During the interview, we shared key messages like 'The Pay is low, the ROI is high'.  We also shared our mission, some of our values and why we do what we do. It was great to share SparkPath, warts and all, with the candidates. We also gave participants an opportunity to showcase their skills. We asked them to make a 30 second pitch one the three following topics:

  •       What is SparkPath?
  •       What is the Challenge mindset?
  •       What are the Challenge Cards? 

During the pitches, you could quickly tell which candidates were prepared and which weren’t. It was a great opportunity for the most interested and organized candidates to shine. By the end, the group interview helped us select our final eight candidates.

The next step for the candidates was a work sample. A work sample is a set of exercises or simulations used to simulate one aspect of the job so that candidates can demonstrate their skills. I created exercises that were aligned with the competencies that we were looking for.


The work sample consisted of three emails that featured different problems to solve. One of them was a sales inquiry, another was a customer service issue to solve, and last one was a project that the candidates would have to lead. Each email or problem to solve created an opportunity for candidates to showcase their skills. The candidates' work was evaluated based on a scoring grid, and the scores were based on how well the required behaviors were demonstrated during the exercises. 

This work sample led me to select three final candidates for interviews. Before following up, I personally called all the candidates who weren’t selected. Most of them told me that they appreciated this gesture, as they weren’t used to hearing directly from hiring managers if they weren’t selected. My goal during this call was to inform them of my decision and to thank them for having applied. I also asked them to stay in touch, given that we will hire again in the future.

Magic moment: I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to say ‘not now’ to potential candidates. I’m convinced that a large number of our finalists could have contributed to SparkPath’s success.

The next stage for the three finalists was a behavioral-based interview. Before the interviews, I also asked the candidates to complete a psychometric assessment.  The goal of this assessment was to find out more about their preferences so that we had specific questions and issues to tackle during the interview.  For example, if the candidate demonstrated a potential strength in project management, I made a point to explore that with them. Similarly, if they scored a potential opportunity for development in relationship building, I made a point to dig deeper in that topic in our conversation.

The interviews were informative. I finally got a chance to make a 1-on-1 connection with the finalists and I learned more about their work history and plans for the future. One specific candidate stood out and I was able to offer them a job. The choice was difficult to make, but I’m thrilled with the person who has decided to join the team. They have a start date for October 7th, and we can’t wait to announce their arrival. 

In the end, I was blown away at how many bright people are ready to contribute to SparkPath right away.  Given our size and current revenue, I could only hire one new staff member. I’m thrilled to know that we have a pool of candidates we can go back to when we hire again in the future.

Magic moment: During the interviews, several candidates told me how much they had enjoyed the hiring experience so far. This surprised me, since I thought I was putting them through something quite time-intensive and challenging.  However, they shared that they enjoyed being challenged, the transparency of the process and how they were treated throughout.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who has shared talented candidates with us. We appreciate your support.

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