An update on the internship positions. I have officially filled the positions. I received a staggering 67 applications in total. Only eight received Skype interviews. I ended up hiring three (despite only two initial openings).
Overall, the quality of the applications was astounding. MBA’s, JD’s, masters degrees, entrepreneurs, Ivy League graduates, lots of people with some previous internet marketing experience, and even a few people who have been coaches in the industry. A few people created YouTube videos, and a few others sent in business ideas with their applications. One guy sent me a short story he had published and another sent me original rap lyrics about his personal development.
Needless to say, there were a lot of amazing applications and sorting through them was hard. Below is an overview of the criteria I looked for, from most important to least important.
Passion for the Vision and Brand: This was the most important to me. Internet marketing can be taught, but passion for what we’re doing here can’t. The scarcity in this hiring process was people who “get” the vision of this site and who are passionate and excited about executing that vision. It was clear that a lot of people applied mainly to get a cool trip and learn some useful marketing skills. That’s fine and understandable. Some people like the site and read the site a lot, but their main priority was to get out of their desk job or whatever. I specifically screened for people who saw this first and foremost as an opportunity to create something amazing that can contribute back to society and secondly as a personal opportunity for their own growth. Long-time readers and forum members had an edge in this category — sometimes a big edge.
Intelligence and Previous Success: Self-explanatory. Most applicants fit this criteria. A number of them were way over-qualified.
Confidence and Independence: I was a bit ruthless with this one, but I felt it was important. Any time I came across something like, “I wanted to read more in university, but I never had time because of classes and my girlfriend,” that application was trashed. No excuses allowed. If you want something, you do it. That’s the kind of person I’m looking for. Any overt negativity or critical attitude towards others also received a fairly quick veto.
Some people opened up and shared a lot of personal details. In some cases, this helped them a lot and in other cases it hurt them. It really came down to how comfortable they seemed sharing it and how resolved the issues seemed to be.
And guys who were clearly in the early stages of developing their social confidence were passed on as well. This was not a judgment on them personally, but if a guy still has trouble meeting and talking to new people in his hometown, then moving to Colombia where no one speaks their language and it’s a completely different culture will not be easy for them. I wanted people who could hit the ground running and be confident in a new environment. People with a lot of previous traveling experience also had an edge in this category.
Personality and Charisma: Simple. I asked myself, “How much do I think I’d enjoy hanging out with this guy?” After all, we are going to be living and working in close quarters for six months. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a guy who would blow my mind either. In fact, some of the applications were hardcore pick up guys who seemed to be selling the idea that we’d be partying and getting laid non-stop for six months. This was a turn off.
I mainly looked for normal, relaxed, cool guys who seemed like I could have fun with them, whether it was having dinner together, being stuck on a bus together or going to a club. I need to like the people I’m with and be able to have fun with them.
Technical Knowledge and Experience: Also self-explanatory. Previous internet marketing knowledge and experience was most important, but also programming experience, web and graphic design, etc., were considered.
In the interviews, I pushed applicants further on the long-term vision they had for the business and screened on how much that vision aligned with my own. Once I had narrowed it down from there, THEN I began looking at technical knowledge, innate strengths/weaknesses, and pieced together the team based on the guys who I thought would work best together and would work best with me, not necessarily on their individual qualifications. As part of this team building process, I ended up hiring three guys instead of two.
I see this first round of hiring as setting the foundation of my business for years to come. So I weighted the “soft qualifications” more highly than the hard qualifications.
A few random observations:
- Tons of musicians. Mostly guitarists, but some pianists as well. Interesting, as I’m a guitarist.
- Lots of guys into bodybuilding, personal training and MMA.
- A lot of French-speakers. And not just native, but a lot of guys who studied it on their own.
- Probably half a dozen University of Michigan students/alum. There must be something in the water in Ann Arbor.
- A lot of people from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. The US west coast was disproportionately represented by quite a bit.
Last year, when it became clear that I was going to need to hire serious help soon, I was pretty stressed about it. I didn’t know where to look. I didn’t know how to vet people. I’ve never hired anyone other than some freelancers here and there. I had no idea how to interview someone or what I should look for. Hell, I can probably count the number of job interviews I’ve been in on one hand.
I asked a friend of mine who works for a very successful professional blogger and writer for advice and he said, “Start with your readers.” It seemed a little crazy at first, but he was right. There’s a ridiculous amount of talent reading this blog each week, talent who already knows the brand and cares about the business. They’re going to be far better candidates than anyone I’d get on a generic job posting site. As far as I’m concerned, this was a rousing success.
Chances are I will need to hire more in the next few years. I know the first place I’ll be looking from now on.