May 24, 2024

You’re the Boss: Hiring Efficiently

Tech Support

To most small-business owners, the terms video clip and impact are more likely to suggest the latest Jackass-style stunt immortalized on YouTube than something important to their bottom lines. But a few new online services are trying to get companies to embrace video in ways that could have a big payoff for very little effort.

One company that’s been experimenting with one of the services is ClassOne Equipment, which sells refurbished ultrahigh-tech semiconductor manufacturing equipment. With smartphone sales going great guns even through the recession, large pockets of the semiconductor industry have been booming, helping ClassOne double its revenue last year. Over the same period, the company went from 15 employees to 34 employees, and it’s about to hire three more. But that growth hasn’t come without its costs, said Byron Exarcos, ClassOne’s founder and president. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest costs has been the amount of time Mr. Exarcos and his team have had to devote to hiring. “There’s plenty of talent out there, but there’s a big filtering process in trying to find the people who will fit into our culture,” he said.

Part of the problem is that ClassOne is in Decatur, Ga., just outside of Atlanta, while the semiconductor-savvy engineers and managers it needs are mostly in Silicon Valley, Texas and North Carolina. That means the company has to fly top candidates in — typically four for each position — with each candidate getting up to a full day’s worth of interviewing from Mr. Exarcos and others at the company. “We’ve got a fast-paced environment here, and we need to be sure the people we hire can multitask to the nth degree,” he said. “They’ve got to be the kind of person who’s quick to jump into other people’s projects to help out. We just can’t get a sense of that from a résumé or a phone call.”

In the past, that led to a routine of sifting through about 50 or so résumés for an open position, followed by a half-hour phone conversation between perhaps 10 of the second-round candidates and four ClassOne managers, all to figure out which candidates would get flown in. But last month ClassOne started asking all candidates who make it through the résumé screening to run through a sort of online questionnaire that requires a mix of video, oral and written responses. That questionnaire was put together by ClassOne through a service called ZuzuHire. “It replaces the phone interview and tells us a lot more about the candidates than a phone call could,” Mr. Exarcos said. “Now we not only find out what they sound like, we can see how they communicate, and how they can write.”

ZuzuHire charges from $20 to $200 a month, depending on how many positions you’re trying to fill through the service. (You can try it free for one position.) ClassOne would probably be able to make do with the $80-per-month level of service, a cost that the company doesn’t find hard to justify. Besides the significant savings in manager time from not having the round of phone calls, Mr. Exarcos said the better sense of chemistry that the ZuzuHire interviews provide have enabled the company to cut down its fly-in sessions to only two candidates — an even bigger savings in time and a halving of travel costs. But the real bottom-line impact is in ending up with a better hire, he added. “Getting a better sense of the candidate is more important than the time and money savings.”

Meanwhile, I get a lot of public relations pitches, but one stood out recently. It was an e-mail note with a link to a Web page and video clip that the sender had thrown together in a couple of minutes while sitting in a coffee shop. In the clip, the pitcher, Shane Mac, told me briefly in a breezy way why he thought readers would be interested in his new service, Hello There. What Hello There does, of course, is let you do what Mr. Mac did — pitch a prospect by quickly setting up a Web page and video clip aimed at a single recipient. Hey, the approach got my attention! Maybe it would work for someone you’re trying to turn into a prospect.

Mr. Mac has mostly developed the service to allow people to pitch prospective employers. (In that form, the service is available here.) But he recognized that it might have a role in sales, so he’s making it available in both forms. I could see how the personal video sales pitch might catch on. On the other hand, it might be that the first few you get seem charmingly novel, and the next 8,000 have you beefing up your spam filters. Apparently, there aren’t many companies using Hello There for sales just yet, so I can’t give you any good examples. But if any of you see your way to giving the personal video pitch a go, please post a comment telling us how it worked, or drop me a note. And I’d be eager to hear about your favorite high-tech hiring tools, too.

You can follow David H. Freedman on Twitter and on Facebook.

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