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Hiring in the Internet Age
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By Darryl Ohrt

We just completed a new hire at our firm, and we haven't even met the new employee yet.

There's a lot of press out there about the dangers of the internet as it relates to employees. "What if your employer finds your MySpace page?" But what about the employer side? As it turns out, using new internet tools for hiring employees can be amazingly productive. We just completed a new hire at our firm - and we haven't even met the candidate in person. We'll shake hands for the first time on his first day. Here's how the internet helped us find the perfect fit in a new employee:

The potential employee pool is now international. As a small business owner, it's a great feeling to get a resume from Iran. We're instantly international. By placing an ad online, you'll increased your potential market a thousand fold. In the old days, the local classifieds were your only tool. Maybe you'd spring for a more expensive ad in a bigger paper, like the New York Times. With ads online, you're reaching a worldwide audience in one fell swoop.

Results are immediate. In the old days, resumes (on paper) would begin to roll into the mailbox about five days after the first ad hit. Today, resumes begin hitting the inbox seconds after the ad is published. This has cut the timeline for screening potential candidates dramatically. For a recent position at our firm, we received hundreds of resumes from across the globe. And only two of them came in the mail.

Interviews. Not just for the boardroom anymore. Our first interview with Rob, our newest hire, didn't take place in my office. Or our boardroom. Or even our building. He was sitting at home in front of his computer, and I in front of my laptop. We used the popular iChat feature now standard on the new Mac products. Our first interview was done through a video chat window. When he became a finalist for the position, we interviewed Rob again, this time with a larger group of people on our side. But again with an iChat camera. Rob interviewed twice at our firm, and never left his house. I've even heard of firms using Second Life in the same way - but you lose the non-verbal part of the interview, which of course, is extremely important to the process.

Learn more. We hear of the horror stories of an employer finding pictures from a drunken frat party, on sensational news reports everyday. But photo collections can also be a fantastic way to learn more about a potential employee, or for the employee to learn about the company. It turns out that both Rob and our firm have Flickr photo sets. So before Rob ever sent his resume, he had a pretty good idea of what life was like as a member of our team. Because he's shared some of the high moments, through our photo collection. He's even seen our offices. At the same time, when we wanted to get to know Rob better, he shared his Flickr photo set. You learn a lot about a person (or a company) when looking through their photos.

Certainly, this isn't something that every employee would be comfortable with - but in our business, we work closely together. We know our co-workers better than some of our family members. Rob picked up on this, and was eager to share his photos. This was probably a key factor in his hiring decision - as it took away potential doubts about the unknown. "What if he's an axe murderer, that eats little children?" We're pretty sure that's not the case, after getting a picture of Rob's personal life. (Pretty sure, anyway.)

Save the details for email. When it was time to make an offer, we laid out all of the details in an email. No potential mis-understandings. Everything in black and white. Both parties knew exactly what was on the table. Email is awesome for detailing the nitty gritty specifications of money, benefits, and company policies. We made our offer to Rob via email. We didn't play phone tag for two days, but instead laid everything on the table, so that he could respond on his own schedule. (Turns out, he accepted the same day.)

So we're about to meet Rob for the first time in person. And yet, I feel like we already know him. Welcome to hiring in the internet age. Isn't it wonderful?

Darryl Ohrt is the founder of VIA and the chief contributor to BrandFlakesForBreakfast.com.

Darryl Ohrt is the founder of Plaid.
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