Experiments and Lessons in Recruiting

Building a successful company starts with recruiting amazing people.  In my opinion the most important decision a company makes is who they bring onto the team.  We’re getting started at Bunker on this journey, and in the process of making our first handful of hires.  Every hire in an organization is key - whether it’s #1 or #1,000, but the first handful are different.  Those initial employees become an extension and strong influence to the core DNA started by the founders.

One of the values at Bunker is transparency - this applies to how we operate internally, and also externally with customers and stakeholders.  Many of the things that we do being a startup fall into the category of experiments and lessons.  In the spirit of transparency, we thought we'd share an early one with you. 


When we started sourcing and ultimately posted those first few job descriptions, we initially followed a traditional process -- 1) post job/source; 2) review resume; 3) initial phone/intro call; and 4) numerous group/individual behavioral and competency interviews.  

This worked ok, but despite many discussions and interviews - we didn’t feel like we were getting to know candidates as well as we wanted, and conversely we felt we could do a better job of helping candidates get to know Bunker.  We decided to experiment a bit.  

We introduced a writing exercise for candidates.  Not just any writing exercise, but scenario-based questions -- in short essay form.  The questions were extreme scenarios, but not all that extreme considering we’re an early stage startup.  The unpredictable happens here every day, it’s just as important that we find teammates ready for the unpredictable as it is that they understand it will happen.  Here is one of the 5 actual questions we asked candidates to respond in writing to when interviewing for our insurance team:

Say that you become CEO of your own insurance agency tomorrow, focusing on SMB insurance.  Assume on day one you'll have zero direct carrier appointments, no other employees, and you'll get 10 submissions via email per day starting on day 1...with that daily number increasing each week by 25%.  You also have an initial $250k to invest into the business.  What would you do - both near term (day 1), and intermediate term to manage the situation?


The output from this wildly exceeded all of our expectations, literally a wealth of detailed information on how a candidate would think and work through a complex situation.  In certain cases we had candidates closely ranked based on interviews, but after reading the responses it completely shifted - no longer close.  It also allowed us to review candidates more objectively, and share/review their answers internally efficiently.  Lastly - and admittedly this was entirely unintentional, we also noticed dramatic differences in how effectively they write.  Everything from grammar, to writing style, to being articulate & concise.  Ironically, something that wasn’t intended became the biggest benefit of doing this.  

The ability to write effectively is critical.  Ten and certainly twenty years ago most communication was verbal - either phone or F2F.  That’s obviously shifted dramatically today, and for many roles it’s almost a 180 shift.  We all spend more of our days communicating by writing - whether you’re a CEO or a sales person.  This isn’t likely to change anytime soon.  It’s a critical skill, yet with many traditional recruiting processes you don’t get a clear lens into how a person writes.  At most you usually bounce short emails with candidates and maybe they send a cover letter.  How many times have you hired someone who interviewed well, but later on the job you discover they don’t write as effectively as they speak?


It’s early innings for us and we’ll keep experimenting, but it’s clear we’ll continue to use this to augment our core recruiting process.  We’re even testing the notion of making it the first step after we feel someone’s resume matches the skill-set we’re looking for.  We know this may not be a fit for some candidates, but in our mind that may be OK - responding to those questions would be one test of early conviction and interest.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic.  Maybe there is even an idea or two in here that could be helpful to your business, whether you’re a startup like us, or a large and established company.  

And last but not least, we’re continuing to grow the team in the coming months.  If you think this insurtech movement is as cool as we do, and want to join a fun team that is changing the industry, check us out at buildbunker.com or drop us a line atcareers@buildbunker.com.  Good news, you’ll even have a head start on one of the questions we ask in the interview process :).

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A version of this post was first published by Chad Nitschke on LinkedIn.  See the original here