Hiring for a Virtual Company

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a virtual company is that we are not limited by geography or location. Literally, we can hire anyone in the United States or the world.  However, we limit our searches to primarily the United States since all of our other employees except myself and Augusto reside in the United States.   Good to at least be in the same time zone.

That is the positive but hunting through all of the resumes is a very time consuming and tedious task.  Since the economic melt down, there are a lot more people to look through.  We have used Career Builder, Hot Jobs and Monster and for our needs Monster has consistently delivered the best candidates.  We first go to Monster and then only if Monster does not deliver then we will go to the second tier of agencies.  Monster has some decent search capabilities, but the process of looking through the resumes take hours and hours.  It is a totally mind numbing, bleary eyes, repetitive task, but the drudge is worth it.

Once I have a list of qualified candidates, then I begin the interview process.  The interview process tells me a lot of the candidate immediately.  I schedule the interviews via email.  How quickly do they respond?  Are they comfortable using email as a method of communication?  Are they articulate?  And so on.

Finally, I move to the phone interview.  I always allocate a lot of time for a phone interview.  I have had interviews that last close to 3 hours.  The goal is to truly get to know the person during that interview process.  Sometimes there are follow up interviews, but often times, there is only the one interview that will define whether the person gets the job.  I start the interview by explaining the very unique nature of working at PC Pitstop.
During the first phase, I try to figure out whether they are capable at working at a virtual company.  I do this first before we talk about the company itself or even their qualifications.  I have had perhaps 25% of the interviews end because the prospect does not feel working at a virtual company.

Working at a virtual company is not for everyone.  In my view, there are two types of people that fail in a virtual company, and I outline both types in the interview process.  The first type is a typical Type A personality that needs the office structure to be effective.  It is critical for this person to see how others are doing, what is making them succeed/fail, and what the underlying gossip and vibe of the company.  Heck, some people make a living just knowing what others are thinking on specific issues.  These people are not bad people, but they ultimately fail in the virtual company environment.

The other type of personality is a person with few outside interests.  They can be introverted or shy and usually quite capable.  The interview usually turns to personal issues such as hobbies, families and so on.  Here I try to assess whether they have enough balance in their life to work for a virtual company.  One problem with a virtual company is that you are technically always at work.  Your computer is always near, particularly if they don’t have a lot of activities that take them out of their homes regularly.  The risk is one of burn out.  Perhaps because of an insane desire to succeed, I have had employees logging over 100 hours a week.  Once I learn about this, I always tell them to stop but often times it is too late and they are burned out.  Once an employee is burned out, they feel like they are unappreciated, undercompensated and they are just tired.  Worse yet, there is nothing that I can do to unburn them.  The trick is to make sure it never happens, and I only seek people that have good balance in their lives.

After this portion, I talk for quite some time about PC Pitstop and the benefits and challenges of being a PC Pitstop employee.  There are many, many benefits to working at PC Pitstop, so much so, that I will place them in a separate post on this web site.  Suffice it to say, that at least 30 minutes are spend on our health plan, pay structure, benefits etc.

Then last part is about that person’s qualifications and how they fit into our company.  To be honest, at this point, the qualifications are not that important.  It is more important whether I get a sense that they can do the job right now.  How they would approach a particular problem and what obstacles they think they might encounter.  Even after that, be it known, the interview process is inherently flawed.  You can never know after an interview with any degree of certainty whether any given employee will perform well or fall flat on their face.  I always keep that in mind.  Part of hiring people is firing people as well.  If it is a bad fit, usually people know almost immediately.  This goes for physical companies as well as virtual companies.  The shortest period of time that someone has worked at PC Pitstop is 1 weeks and I gave them one month of severance.  Here’s good luck to you!
After that point, I hang up, and if they get the job, I call them up the next day and offer them a job.  By that time, there is also an offer letter that details much of what was discussed in the prior telephone conversation.  The big news of course is that we hire sight unseen.  In my view, having someone get in a plane for a face to face interview would burn a lot of time, energy and money and not advance the interview process one iota.

So that’s it.  We hire on a national basis and have an incredible group of talented people working for the common goal of making PC Pitstop into a great company.

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