23 October 2017
Every now and then, I receive a job application. Usually it’s someone who knows about Stonemaier Games and fancies the idea of working here. Sometimes it’s a generic, mass-emailed application. And twice I’ve received job request emails from the mothers of applicants.
The problem is, Stonemaier Games isn’t hiring. That is, we’re not actively seeking new employees–we’re doing just fine with Jamey (me) as the only full-time employee, Alan and Morten working a few hours a week, and I coordinate everything else through independent contractors. So I typically thank these applicants for their time and file away their e-mail.
Recently I realized that this method wasn’t good enough. It makes hiring an all-or-nothing ordeal: Either you are hiring, or your not. Why can’t there be a middle ground?
I’ve hired employees at previous jobs, so the context I had for the hiring process was this:
- You spend a lot of time somehow figuring out exactly what you think you need, then you spend more time precisely defining the position, then even more time promoting the position and actively searching for quality applicants.
- You review resumes, cover letters, and answers to specific questions. You make reference calls, and you host interviews. You often end up comparing candidates who seem slightly better than other candidates based on subjective, arbitrary metrics. And sometimes you end up tossing out all of the data in favor of your gut instinct.
- Eventually you make a hire, and unless it’s an internal hire, the first time you really know if someone is a good fit is after they’ve started the job. It’s like marrying someone after 3 dates.
No part of that process is appealing to me.
So I decided to try something different. I created a job application page on our website that talks a little about who we are and ways to get involved. Then I say this:
We’re currently not actively seeking full-time employees, part-time employees, or independent contractors, but we want to stay open to working with talented people. If you have a specific skill set that can improve Stonemaier Games, please fill out the form below. We’ll read your application right away, and we’ll be in touch if–and only if–we accept your offer.
That paragraph is followed by this form:
That’s it. It’s the entire application. The main question is completely open-ended. An artist could use it to share a link to their portfolio, or someone could write an entire essay. It’s the opposite of “all-or-nothing,” as it’s just as open to someone who wants to contribute a one-time fix or improvement as it is to someone looking for a career. And if I do hire someone for a short, specific job, I can learn about them firsthand, informing a future decision to expand them to a part-time or full-time employee.
I tried to be very intentional with the phrasing of the question, “How can you make Stonemaier Games better?” It puts the applicant in a different frame of mind than a normal application, as it’s not about me telling you what Stonemaier Games needs. It’s about you telling me what you’re really good at and why you think Stonemaier Games needs you.
Is it a perfect system? Nope. It’s brand-new, and I have no idea how effective it will be. But I think it has potential, and it’s much better than having no job application system at all. There are a lot of talented people out there, and if someone of them are interested in offering their talents for compensation to Stonemaier Games, I want to be open to that possibility.
I think the greatest shortcoming is that if I don’t even know what Stonemaier Games needs, how are you supposed to know?
What do you think about this system? If you’re a creator, what’s your approach to hiring and job applications? If you’ve ever applied for a job, what did you like or dislike about the process?