Welcome back to our hiring series, Building Your eCommerce Team. We’ve already stressed the importance of building your eCommerce team, because your business can’t grow unless your team does. We’ve also explained three key ideas to understand before you start hiring: Framework, Mindset, & the Value of Preparation.
Today we’ll dive into the hiring materials and tools you’ll need before reviewing a single résumé. I’ll walk you through creating a standout job description and pass on some of my top hiring tips. I’ll also tell you how you can get a free hiring toolkit, with a sample job description, resource cheat sheet, a tracking spreadsheet, and more. So without further ado, here’s what you’ll need.
Your Hiring Materials
1. An Accurate, Thorough Job Description
Job descriptions get a bad rap. Google the phrase “hate job descriptions” and you’ll get over 2 million results. Writing them is a task that lives on the back burner, especially for small teams where everyone wears several hats. (This writer even compares it to a colonoscopy—yikes!)
That’s a shame, because a solid job description is a great resource for employees and employers. For recruiting I’d even call it vital. Of course you need to describe the position you’re filling, but a good job description does so much more:
1. Pulls double-duty as recruiting material & employee documentation
2. Communicates responsibilities & expectations
3. Tells you and your team what responsibilities they will—or won’t—be delegating
4. Can decrease risk for a wagonload of potential employment problems
How to Write a Job Description
Slaying this dragon is easier than it seems.
Step 1: Brainstorm with your key people
Include everyone who will work closely with your new hire. Set aside enough time to really dive in; one hour ain’t gonna cut it. Grab a whiteboard or one of those big Win, Lose, or Draw notepads and answer these questions.
1. What responsibilities will the position include?
2. What does the position require? Include:
• Technical skills
• Soft skills, like tact or attention to detail
• Experience or education level
• Physical requirements
• Travel requirements
3. What does your team need?
Example: If your team has many competitive, go-get-’em leaders, a collaboration-oriented team player could add some much-needed balance.
4. What skills or traits aren’t strictly necessary, but would be nice to have?
5. What does your company have to offer? Consider both hard compensation, like salary and insurance, and soft compensation, like flexible work hours or a focus on learning. See our last hiring post for more about hard vs. soft comp.
• Hard Comp: Establish your salary range for this position and decide if you’ll offer relocation assistance. You may need a separate, closed-door conversation with your financial director for that discussion.
Your hard comp package needs to be competitive. Make sure it stacks up to similar opportunities within your company’s industry, size range, and location. Use salary comparison resources like Payscale, Glassdoor, and BankRate, and check similar jobs on sites like Indeed.
• Soft Comp: Soft comp is subjective—Sales Director Bert’s deal-breakers may mean nothing to eComm Director Ernie. It may even include things you never intended as employee perks.
Example: Say you cultivated a policy of financial transparency for ethical or economic reasons. For a candidate who’s been through several surprise lay-offs (like one I recently interviewed), that policy could be a big deal.
The slippery nature of soft comp can make it tricky to identify. An easy solution: Ask your team what they value about your workplace.
Example: Gauge’s soft comp includes a focus on learning, heavy emphasis on organizational health, a dedication to work/life balance, and even a dog-friendly office.
Step 2: TC or Not TC? (ie, Should You Hire Telecommuters?)
Wordplay aside, this isn’t a question to answer lightly. Employing remote people has significant advantages, but we learned the hard way that it’s not always practical. Now we hire mostly local candidates, but we do open some positions for remote work.
Only you can determine what’s best for your situation. Grab your number cruncher and a senior employee or two—people you trust to be honest and direct, who embody your core vales and know your culture well. Together, hash out these questions.
1. How common are the skills you need? Hiring remote employees will widen your candidate pool, which is a major plus if you need niche skills. But you’ll also invest more time in screening and interviewing.
2. What’s the true financial cost for each remote team member? Include one-time expenses, like travel for in-person interviews, and ongoing costs, like monthly internet stipends or increased communication expenses. Weigh that against what you’ll gain, like reduced training time for someone with niche skills, and what you’ll save in office space.
3. Does it fit your culture? Do you let on-site employees take work-from-home days? Why or why not? Will a remote employee be able to integrate socially? Will you need to adjust policies, team habits, or communication tools? Is doing so practical?
4. What are the legal considerations? Consider differences in tax codes and state employment laws. Get advice from your payroll service, tax advisor, or employment attorney.
5. How will your hard comp stack up for remote candidates? A word from Captain Obvious: Location and cost of living affect compensation needs. How much flexibility can you afford in your ideal salary range?
Example: In Savannah, the median salary for an eCommerce Director with 3 years’ experience is $85K. In New York City, that jumps to $102K. However, that doesn’t mean the Savannah resident is underpaid—when you compare cost of living, $85K in Savannah is roughly equivalent to $161K in NYC. (Calculations via Payscale & BankRate)
Step 2: From Meeting Notes to Job Description
You’ve got your brainstorming notes in hand and you’ve settled the remote question. Writing the job description will be a piece of cake! Include a section for each of the below.
I. Header – Include the position title and whether the position is:
• Full-time or part-time
• Salaried, hourly, or contract
• Remote or on-site
• Exempt or nonexempt
II. Intro – It’s usually easiest to write this last. It should be a few paragraphs describing:
• The position’s main focuses and overall goals
• Your company’s vision and purpose
• The advantages of working for you
That last point is crucial. The vast majority of job listings only focus on what the candidate offers the company. Prove your collaborative, two-way fit mindset by describing what you offer them too.
III. Key Responsibilities – A bulleted list of job responsibilities. Sort your brainstorming list into a few logical categories. Then combine and edit items when you can.
Example: Say you’re hiring a Customer Service Rep. While brainstorming your team listed:
• Answer customer emails about ordering problems
• Respond to questions on Facebook
• Man the chat helpline
Edit to: “Resolve customer concerns via email, chat, and social media.”
IV. Team Structure – Describe who they’ll report to, who will report to them, and who they’ll work closely with.
V. Requirements – Another bulleted list, with experience, education, & skill requirements. Again, sort, edit, and combine.
• Include what the position needs and what your team needs.
• List any nice-to-haves under a separate subheading. We use “Major Bonuses.”
• Reword your physical and travel requirements into ADA-compliant language. List them under their own heading.
» Top Tips: Physical Requirements & Reasonable Accommodations
Listing physical requirements protects employers, employees, and candidates. Federal laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees and applicants. Defining “reasonable” always starts with the job’s written requirements.
Clearly listing what’s needed will set the foundation for later compliance. It also helps job seekers determine whether a position is right for them.
Example: A visually impaired developer may be able to write code with assistive tools. But if providing feedback on layout design is an essential part of a Front-End Development job, it may not be appropriate for that person.
The need for reasonable accommodations is more common than you might think. We’ve made several accommodations among our team of 20. In each situation, the accommodation benefited both Gauge and the team member.
VI. Benefits – Say it with me: Bulleted list. Sort, edit, and combine. List hard comp first, and then list the most power-packed, universally appealing soft comp you offer.
Step 3: Polish & Publish that Puppy!
Enlist your team’s word nerd or a grammar-inclined friend to proofread and polish your draft. Then publish it. Dragon slain! Reward yourself with a latte or a walk in the sunshine.
» Top Tips: Job Descriptions
1. It takes time for candidates to find your listing and apply, so finishing your job description should always be the first step. Use the waiting period to request referrals, find niche resources, etc.
2. Write in plain English. Skip the résumé-speak and business jargon, but keep important industry keywords.
Example: You don’t want a Customer Service Rep to “Utilize available communication resources to implement customer resolutions;” you want them to “Resolve customer concerns via email, chat, and social media.”
3. In fact, go a step further and write all recruiting materials, from job descriptions to email templates, in your brand’s social media voice. Replacing those ensures, leverages, and move the needles with simple language, humor, or pop culture references will showcase your company’s personality and make your post stand out.
Example: “A Get S&!# Done attitude” and “Excellent cat-herding skills” are real requirements for our Project Managers. Candidates definitely notice this; we get positive feedback on our job posts all the time.
4. Post to free job boards first, and then keep an eye on applicant quality for a few weeks. If needed, invest in a premium post.
2. Social Media Posts
Create attention-grabbing social media posts advertising your opportunity. All the regular social media rules apply here: Get creative with photos or videos for maximum shareability. Keep it short, but link to the full job description and explain how to apply. Invite others to share your posts and engage when people comment or respond. You can even consider offering referral incentives.
Example: Offer a coupon code for sharing the post or referring someone who scores an interview, or a gift card for referring the person you hire.
3. Referral Requests
Some really compelling data proves the power of job referrals. The exact numbers vary by source, but one thing is clear: A whole passel o’ people find their next job through networking.
Your network is your most valuable recruiting asset.
How to Request Referrals
1. Make a list of people to contact. Include sources like your agency, partners, current employees, and former employees.
2. Create a short email template for each type of source. (I love the simplicity of Gmail’s Canned Responses.) Personalize your template for each recipient. Don’t get fancy with layout or graphics; this should look like the personal email it is.
3. Link to the job description and invite them to share your social media posts.
4. Always offer to return the favor down the road. Then make sure you follow through when asked!
» Top Tips: A Stern Word of Warning
There’s a big difference between requesting referrals and poaching. Poaching is an incredibly bad idea. Follow these tips to make sure you don’t send the wrong message:
• Reach out to the most senior person you know within the organization.
• Don’t push. Declining a request can be awkward, so in this case, “No response is a ‘no’ response.”
• Phrase your email carefully to make your intentions clear.
Example: “Is there anyone you’ve interviewed in the past who wasn’t the right fit for your needs, but may be a good match for ours? Can you recommend any resources we should check out during our search?”
Your Hiring Toolkit
1. A Recruiting Platform or Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
A Recruiting Platform or Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is part Basecamp, part CRM: It aggregates candidate info, keeps communication accessible, and organizes the hiring process. It’s the most important tool in your hiring toolkit.
A solid ATS is the best way to avoid strangling your hiring in a bottleneck of miscommunication.
Your recruiting software should:
• Post your job description to free job boards
• Let you purchase premium ads
• Aggregate your candidates
• Streamline communication
• Include scheduling, interview, and evaluation tools
• Collect candidate data and provide reporting functions
» Top Tips: We <3 Workable
There are lots of options out there, but we love Workable. This is NOT an ad or sponsored post; we just really appreciate the quality of their product and customer service. It’s transformed our recruiting.
One of our favorite features is the ability to set up an application questionnaire. We ask questions like, “Describe how you’ve grown your personal or professional skills in the past 6 months,” and “What are three phone apps you can’t live without?” The responses uncover insights we just can’t get from a résumé or cover letter. That extra info really helps when screening. It’s also a great way to track word-of-mouth referrals or remote candidate locations.
Another excellent reason to use Workable: You can “pause” your account between hiring projects by downgrading to a free plan. You won’t lose your candidate information, email templates, or anything else while the account is paused. When you’re ready to hire again, simply reactivate a paid plan and set up your new job.
Plans start at $50 a month with no commitment. It’s a small investment for such an excellent resource (and a whole lot cheaper than a staffing firm). If you want to give Workable a whirl with a free trial, use our referral link to tell ’em Gauge sent ya!
2. Local or Niche Resources + Tracking Method
Your recruiting software will post to many major job boards, but it can’t connect to every resource out there. Look for specialized resources too, like:
• Local job boards
• Local employment programs or small business resources
• Facebook or Meetup groups for your area or industry
• Associations, job boards, or online communities for your position or industry
• Nearby colleges, boot camps, or certification programs
For online communities or Meetup groups, ask an organizer or moderator if you can share the opportunity. Track job boards in a bookmarks folder or spreadsheet so you can reuse them in the future (and remove your posts when you hire).
3. Scheduling Tools
Scheduling can easily be the most frustrating part of interviewing—it’s part science, part art. While the email seesaw is unavoidable, there are several ways to streamline scheduling. Many recruiters use tools like Calendly and some are even turning to AI options.
At Gauge we involve many team members in hiring. Between conference rooms, GoToMeeting seats, interviewers, and candidates, I coordinate up to 12 (!) schedules per interview. With 30-50 solid candidates per position and up to 4 interviews per candidate, I’ve become a master of calendar Tetris.
We’re die-hard G Suite users, so for us, the most practical option is dedicating a Google calendar to interviews. Our conference rooms and GoToMeeting seats are easily reserved as calendar resources. Liberal use of tools like Find A Time, Appointment Slots, Duplicate Events, and GoToMeeting’s Chrome plugin helps me keep everything on pace.
» Top Tips: Scheduling
• Ultimately, the best scheduling system is the one that works for you. Nailing yours down will take some experimentation.
• Quick follow-up is key. Assign one person to candidate communication and give them plenty of bandwidth to do it well.
• Level up to GCal Guru status with extensions, add-ons, plug-ins, and little-known features.
• Plan ahead. Reserve tentative time slots a few weeks in advance, or dedicate a regular chunk of time to interviewing—like every Tuesday and Thursday morning. This will help minimize scheduling delays.
• Do reserve blocks of time, but don’t schedule interviews back to back. A time buffer lets interviewers finish up notes, prep for the next interview, and take those all-important “bio breaks.”
4. Email Templates
Your recruiting software should let you easily create and use templates for candidate communication. We use Workable templates for interview requests, scheduling confirmations, rejection emails, and more. Email tools like Gmail’s Canned Responses will make non-candidate emails, like requests for referrals or checking candidate references, much faster.
5. Video Interview Tool
While nothing replaces face-to-face interaction, we rely pretty heavily on video for client and team communication. This plays out in our hiring too. We conduct most early interviews with GoToMeeting, and then bring candidates to the office for later stages. Aside from increased scheduling flexibility, conducting video interviews lets us see how well the candidate communicates in one of our most-used mediums.
» Top Tips: Our Recommendations
1. GoToMeeting – This is our (pardon the pun) go-to. It’s a paid service; plans start at $20 a month. We love it for two reasons:
• Ease of use. Candidates can call in for a phone interview or download software for video. They don’t need an account and GTM offers free mobile apps.
• Recording features. We record interviews so we can refer back to them later. (If you record interviews, just make sure you tell the candidate you’re recording.) Team members who weren’t available for the interview can still listen and weigh in. Re-listening to recordings can also help you choose between neck-and-neck finalists.
2. Google Hangouts – Hangouts doesn’t offer recording, and candidates will need a Google account. Still, this is a solid free option.
Wrapping It Up
So now you’re prepped and equipped. Our next Building Your eCommerce Team post will cover the interview process. In the meantime, we’re offering a free hiring toolkit! It includes:
- Opening a Position Checklist
- Sample Meeting Agendas
- Sample Job Description
- Recruiting Resource Tracking Spreadsheet
- Hiring Resource Links Cheat Sheet
- And more!
To get yours, simply shoot me an email. (Don’t worry, we won’t sell your info or give it away.)