How To Pick The Right Candidate For The Job

Would you hire a slacker or a slow worker?

Imagine someone who leaves early and slacks a lot but tackles emergencies once they come up. And then the obedient worker arriving at 8 am who stays late in the evening but can’t help with #priority tickets, outages, or other forms of critical tasks.

I know a lot of new managers willing to bet on the gal who puts in long hours. While I’m definitely a proponent of hard work, solving important problems sure has to happen in a timely manner.

This is why I gave a few examples of why I’ve interviewed 20+ people for the job of a personal assistant. Logical thinking, sifting through data, finding results in a timely manner matters. When I’m in a cab and need a 10min research before calling a lead, I need this done ASAP, regardless of whether the PA is in a coffee shop or on their laptop day and night.

The same goes for engineers, managers, designers, marketers — everyone else on my team.

This is the reason we support flexible hours. We count on sticking to deadlines and tackling emergencies. As long as we’re on the right track, office presence is not as relevant.

But being able to react quickly and apply the right type of “life hack” for every case is an art. Agree?

pick the right candidate for the job


00:01:14 – Critical Situations Bring Out The People You Need
00:2:29 – It’s Easy To Find People Who Stay On The Slow Route
00:04:24 – Over-Communication Is Much Better
00:05:59 – Emergency Situations That Require Quick Action
00:06:53 – It’s A Two-Step Question
00:07:52 – Slacking Is Rarely A Problem


What would you do if you can pick between two candidates?

One of them is working extremely hard for 10 hours a day, like every single moment, but they’re really slow. They can’t deliver high quality within a short amount of time, they can’t react to emergencies, and whatnot.

The other one is around for say eight hours a day, or whatnot, and probably spends a couple hours a day just slacking, and browsing around, and chatting with colleagues, but they are fairly fast, and they can react whenever needed, and they can move a task and they can solve problems.

What I’m trying to allude to is that most people are aiming for the type of workers who are completely obedient to the process. These are people who completely respect the concept of working hours, and spend all their time in front of the screen doing nothing. But, for example, they are reading code, or documentation, or whatever it is. Or, just browsing and sending emails. And, actually ignore the people who maybe spending fewer hours, technically speaking, but can keep their mind, and their brain capacity on sync with everything that the business needs as an organization.

Critical Situations Bring Out The People You Need

Just to give you an example, we’re talking about different forms of businesses. Every single business needs to survive whenever there’s a critical situation. Critical situations happen, and that’s kind of the best time you can identify your managers. That’s the best time where you can find the people you need, and the roles that you really need for your business.

As a business professional myself, I always pick someone who maybe spending an hour, even two, over the course of the business day just doing whatever stuff they want to, but people who are reliable enough to solve a business problem within a short amount of time.

These are people who may be around after hours, people who may be able to take home and react upon a client emergency or something else that may happen across the business. That’s extremely important.

The reason I’m bringing this up is actually not my own team, even though we’ve had some interviews, and people who we’ve considered whether we can offer them a position of taskers, or simply ignore their application and just decline our offer because we don’t believe that they can tackle scenarios, or they’re not interested in investing extra time, or whatever it is.

It’s Easy To Find People Who Stay On The Slow Route

I’ve been looking for an assistant for a while, and while I’ve been on the hunt, I have one or two tasks that are fairly easy to figure out whether someone is a good candidate or not, and those tasks are related to quick thinking.

For example, I may ask them to compile a quick biographical profile of me, just tell them, “Spend 30 minutes looking around me and sum up all of the information that you can find.” Or, “Spend, again, one hour just browsing my core profile, and figure out what are the main topics I talk about,” or, “What are the five top topics that we can build video collections on top of, or create a new playlist of videos?” Or, something like that. Basic things that don’t require any skills or knowhow; basic skills that you can easily ask someone who’s smart enough, even though they don’t have specific skills in business development, or management, or whatnot, and just ask them to do something like that.

It’s a really easy way to find people who always stay the slow route. The reason I’m mentioning that is for all those scenarios that I’ve been using to interview assistants, for all of those scenarios, I have recorded videos within usually three to five minutes, and it usually takes them up to four hours to prepare something like that.

Just as an example, I have a podcast on WordPress, and I ask them, “Do you have experience with WordPress?” They say, “Of course, we’ve built some websites, they’ve installed thing, and whatnot.”

Most assistants have, because WordPress is used by professionals, and lots of amateurs and hobbyists, which is completely fine. I don’t mind it for the moment, but I say, “I need to discover like three or four topics for the next episode of my podcast. Based on what you know about me, you’ve already spent a day exploring me, and researching me, and whatnot, based on what you know about me, and based on the topic of my podcast, look up and try to find additional topic ideas for my podcast.”

Over-Communication Is Much Better

I give them a profile, “This is the audience, this is the type of user, these are the types of topics that we don’t cover there.” I also give them a rough recap of how they can come up with ideas, like, “Google, ‘What are the problems that complex … large websites face?’, something like that. Or look up other WordPress podcasts, or podcasts on web development, or podcasts on other relevant topics, or look up other, again, topics concerning the type of audience that we have, or search on Quora. Just look up the WordPress topic or something else.”

I pretty much give them the entire framework of how they can figure out the information they need, and just come up with some topics. I also tell them, “Be fast, make sure that you communicate really proactively.

Over-communication is much better than under-communication, right? Just come up with some suggestions, with some ideas as soon as freaking possible. We can communicate, we can bounce some ideas back and forth, and that’s completely fine.”

Just this week I think there were about four people. None of them took less than four hours to come up with something that’s pretty much a basic search, opening two links, and just compiling some topics. Because if you open WordPress podcast, and if you Google that online, you’re going to find two lists, two lists goes on top, listing about 10 different WordPress doing a podcast.

When you open them, you see a list of the episodes, and you can basically just copy paste five titles, or even 10 if you want, from that specific list, that covers the requirements, and you’re good to go. It really takes three minutes. I have a video recording for that. So that’s just one example.

Emergency Situations That Require Quick Action

Of course, this is really not that mission-critical, but when you need most of the things, you really need them to happen within the corresponding timeframes, and normally when you assign the tasks to a specific professional on your team, you know what sort of pace they work with, right? You know that a given type of task takes them X amount of hours, and you do your project management process depending on those estimations, which again, is completely fine.

When shit hits the fan, or roughly speaking, when something happens, there’s an outage, downtime, and a typo in a campaign, there’s something else that happens. You need people to react quickly, identify the problem, find the shortcut to restore the problem as soon as possible, and then you can do all the due diligence that you want once the problem has been solved. Those types of emergency situations are the types of tasks that we try to assign to our people.

It’s A Two-Step Question

First off, during interviews, we ask them a lot of logical questions. Most are behavioral-driven, as you can imagine, for different sorts of situations that our clients would come up with.

So, we try to assess the thinking process of those individuals. How would they react in those cases? How would they pick different solutions? This measures two things. The first one is what’s their skillset and their experience, of course, like whether they’ve dealt with those problems already, or the second one is for the problems that they don’t know, how would they tackle those particular problems?

Are they going to look up on Stack Overflow, or Quora, or just Google somewhere else? Are they going to ask a colleague, or a manager, or whatnot? Would they indicate a problem to their managers in the meantime, so that it’s clear that there’s an actual business problem they have to deal with?

Those are different ways to assess candidates over an interview in order to see whether they have any experience, and how would they catch up with the necessary experience for the role.

Slacking Is Rarely A Problem

The second more important thing is how would they act in emergencies. When they have a task that they need to do within the next two hours, and this task is usually a 10-minute task, how long would it take?

Now, we know that if it’s a fairly unknown project or a weird problem, it won’t take them 10 minutes, it probably will take 20, 30, 45, up to an hour, but if people pretty much leave for the day without having the task completed, without having indicated that there’s a problem, we know for a fact that those people are hardly reliable.

So we need to train them, we need to indicate the problem to them, and also we need to let them know that for a leadership position, like a senior developer, project owner, technical lead, something like that, they won’t really be able to step up and take the next level if they won’t resolve that specific problem, and that’s extremely important.

So again, when hiring people, slacking is rarely a problem.

Slacking is a problem only if there’s a critical emergency, and people still refuse to step up and support the business needs in that particular time, but aside from that, if you have someone who spends all day and all night at the office, but can’t react to an emergency and causes a problems, for the most part, those people are more problematic that does that. Maybe come in late, and maybe leaving earlier, but whenever there is a problem, they can step up and make sure that everything is working.

People who can still commit to deadlines, and work upon kind of stressful situations, even if you have one of those once a month. Once a month is enough to lose a couple of clients if you have two outages at the same day for just some insane reason, like AWS has been down, and being able to communicate that to your clients.

That’s it in a nutshell. If you’re applying to a specific job, again, make sure that you are dependable, you’re reliable, you’re trustworthy, if you want to step up in the hierarchy. Otherwise, you’re just looking to occupy a specific seat at the office, and that’s not extremely helpful to most organizations.