I made my first “proper” hire at Ultimately Better last month. Well, proper in the sense that I wasn’t just offering a salaried position to a long-standing freelancer; proper in the sense that I had to write a job spec, advertise, interview and make Big Important Decisions.

I find the whole process of hiring someone to be quite scary to be honest. That feeling of being responsible for someone’s income and therefore livelihood, living situation, etc. The feeling of wanting to be a good boss, in touch but not too micro-manage-y, laid back but not a pushover. The feeling of wanting what’s best for my business but not at the expense of losing myself and my identity within the brand.

Writing the job spec was fairly easy. UB basically live, eat and breathe WordPress at this point so we (Matt and I) just mentioned some of the bits and bobs that we handle day to day. We added some soft skills, some of the more generic admin / maintenance type work we cover and bob’s your uncle. Advertising and interviewing – that was a whole different ball game!

I took the executive decision to rely on LinkedIn to promote the job ad’ this time as it seemed like the most logical place to push it. I posted using their free job ad’ system, and had my first applications within seconds. Sounds great in theory, but having posted the ad’ I realised it wasn’t doing a very good job of highlighting certain important factors, i.e. that it was a salaried role and the applicant needed to be UK based. Further, despite me specifying that it was UK only, LinkedIn was allowing matches from any country and then just marking them as “not a good match”, which meant I had to weed through a lot to find a handful of relevant people.

We very quickly hit the 50 applicant limit – no surprise given the open apps from everywhere – although I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even realised the limit was “a thing” when I posted. LinkedIn locked my advert, demanding payment to re-open it. I couldn’t edit the advert to make the important points more obvious or do anything beyond reaching out to the existing set of applicants, and the whole interface/experience felt clunky and unintuitive so I gave up on LinkedIn and settled to interview the small batch of genuine folk that had made it through.

I think we were quite lucky in that the contact and interviewing process was fairly smooth. We had some good candidates and stuck to a relaxed interviewing style. We were keen to avoid “whiteboard coding” type scenarios and intensive knowledge testing: coding skills can be learned by virtually anyone, but a good vibe and personality match less so! We actually ended up in the lucky situation (choosing to look at it positively) where we had a few solid matches and had to make some really difficult decisions about who to hire.

What surprised me most about the process was how much I learned, both in expanding my horizons and opening my eyes to what I wanted to get out of hiring, and about the hiring process in general.

For starters, I was originally hoping to hire a mid-weight+ developer to lessen the load on me, but as we started interviewing candidates I realised that taking on a junior and mentoring/training someone who would otherwise be overlooked, or not given opportunities because of lack of experience, was really important to me on a personal level. This meant that we ended up turning down some really solid developers that would have definitely been an asset to the business.

I underestimated how few people would actually read the job advert. I don’t know whether this is The Autism, being a woman, or just who I am as a person but… every job I’ve ever applied to and every project I’ve ever pitched for I have read every word of the brief/advert, twice at a minimum. I want to understand the role, the job, the project, whatever so that I can explain how I suit it and why I would deliver value. Clearly not everyone does this (and it was very obvious who did and who didn’t!) It’s not a case of mismatched experience or expectations; I made it clear in the job advert that I wanted to hear from people even if they didn’t “measure up”. It definitely felt like laziness, not lacking.

People don’t seem to like job application forms! We provided multiple methods of applying for the job – via linkedin, via a form, via email – to make it as accessible as possible. Hundreds of people saw the full job advert, there were a good 15 applicants outside of the linkedin ad, and nobody used the form. Even after adapting it to make it all one page (to get rid of the “mystery” element of an unexpected number of fields across 3 pages), it was still unused and unloved. As someone who prefers to rigidity of a form over the uncertainty of an open email, this surprised me. However, I’m still glad I gave it as an opportunity and would do so again.

Still, we did it. We hired a junior developer. And although it’s only been a short time so far, is definitely something I would be interested in doing again. I guess that’s another thing ticked off my 40 before forty list too.