Using Trello for Candidate Tracking

As we started the new year, we have changed the way we do recruiting at PayPal. We create an always active pipeline based on a few key profiles. We have also started aligning our engineering practices around these profiles (web application, mobile, and services engineering). They don't fit everything of course. But by having profiles we can get really good at talking to great talent and finding the right matches for them and us.

Our Trello board for web application engineering hiring

This model is similar to what we did at Netflix. Every Monday morning we would have a 9am meeting and every hiring manager (when I joined there weren't a lot of us) would talk about what was working or not working. Basically a stand-up meeting. It was awesome because it put the focus on talent the first meeting of the week. And the end result was everyone got better at every aspect of bringing in great talent.

We are doing something similar at PayPal with Monday 10am meetings for hiring for my profile (Web application engineers - client & nodejs).

When we started we needed a way to track candidates for those of us hiring. Of course our talent team has a secure talent tracking system, but that is not really very user friendly for day to day real time interactions with talented people.

The first attempt was to just track it in a Google spreadsheet. It looked something like this (shown with legend explaining how the sheet was set up to match our process).

The original google doc spreadsheet used for tracking

The problem was it was hard to see the candidate workflow as they are just represented as columns in the sheet. And getting people to update the right column was a nightmare. Then there was the problem of how to notify someone when they needed to take an action. We ended up resorting to email distribution lists. Yuck! Too much email anyway. That just doesn't scale.

There had to be a simpler way.

Since I had played with Trello before I started searching for others who might have used it as a candidate tracking system. Along the way I found Ryan Carson's article on How to hire a lot of talented people, very quickly. In that article he used Trello for tracking candidates. That is when I started experimenting with Trello.

We have now been using Trello for just a little over a week and I feel like we have mostly worked the bugs out of the way we use it. I have made a public copy of the tracking board in case you want to check it out or copy it.

What I really like about using Trello is you can visually see the pipeline. You can assign people on the team to candidates, subscribe to candidates, or send notifications to each other about an action that needs to be taken with the talented people we find. It is really simple to move candidates through the pipeline and keep your information centered around the candidate. Plus there are a ton of shortcuts that make it quick and accessible.

One weakness though is in reporting. We are experimenting with some third party tools like Ducksboard and it has helped somewhat, but is not the full solution. What we really wish Trello had was custom data fields for cards. If we could have specific fields that would allow us to pull reports on those fields. Another solution would be to have more tags. Being able to tag cards beyond the six provided would allow us to report on other dimensions. I have thought of some Chrome extensions I could write, but this breaks down since it requires everyone to use Chrome and have the extension installed. In addition, it means that on mobile you would not have that functionality.

At the end of the day we want it to be a human experience. It is not about herding people through a process, but finding tools that help us manage our time and spend more of it with the people we discover. I think Trello is really helping us do that.

In my next article I will talk about Understanding Notifications in Trello. I was pretty frustrated about that part of Trello until I just spent a couple hours playing with just that one aspect. I think this will finally get us totally out of email with regard to ensuring we are working the best way possible with people interested in exploring new positions.

BTW, I am hiring! Look for web application engineers. I am looking for engineers who love creating great experiences for customers and understand what it means to partner with product and design to accomplish this. Ideally we like finding the "unicorns" that are really good with writing beautiful HTML/CSS in a clean, semantic, responsive, accessible way who also love JavaScript on the client and with NodeJS. But if you are awesome on either end of the spectrum we are very, very interested in you as well.

As always ping me @billwscott on twitter, gmail, linkedin or pretty much any other social network.