We f**ked up recruiting – and this is how we are going to fix it

Like many growing companies, San Francisco Agency has had its own growing pains throughout the years. After a big strategy change in 2019, we decided to spin out all marketing activities to the Bay Area network and solely concentrate on executing comms and earned media strategies and operations for our clients.

This has been a hugely successful decision for our boutique agency. However, with changing strategic goals and team structures, we had neglected one of the key areas of our business: recruiting. We made all the typical mistakes that you can imagine. And more. 

  1. Not enough time resourced internally for recruiting. 
  2. In a constant hurry to hire someone as quickly as possible to work with a growing client base. 
  3. Not having a clear process and structure for our recruiting funnel. 
  4. Crippled by huge FOMO – if we close our recruiting portal, will we lose the best candidates if they didn’t apply during the open application period? 
  5. And the biggest mistake of all: not ensuring that everyone participating in the recruitment process was informed about what was happening and when. 

We seriously f**ked up. There are no excuses for it, nor a politically more correct way to describe what happened. We let the poop emoji hit the biggest fan there is. Now it’s time to clean up the mess. 

As we highlight our integrity and honesty, and openness to admit our mistakes in our Code of Conduct, we decided to come forth with the troubles we have had. And here is how we are going to fix them.

Open analysis of the current situation

We took a critical look at our current recruitment process and recognized the biggest pain points. This meant putting ourselves into the boots of someone who is looking for a new job and thinking about the process from their perspective. In our case, the biggest pain was the lack of clear structure and communication to the candidates that were not chosen to proceed. 

We spoke with the whole team, and especially with one of our newest colleagues, to find out what they thought about the process. We also researched and benchmarked the standards and legal requirements in modern recruitment processes.

Removing unnecessary steps

We also realized that some steps that we felt were good for us were probably stressful and unnecessary actions from the candidates’ point of view. For example, our CEO would give a call to candidates he saw potential in, thinking that we would sell our company to them. In reality, this was seen as an extra interview by the candidate, creating a feeling of a really heavy process with multiple interviews. 

 Fortunately, we also learned that we were doing a few things right. We came to understand that our current method of not asking for a CV (other than a LinkedIn URL) or grilling candidates with tons of questions in the early application stage is the way to go. Our application can be filled out within minutes and on a mobile device if needed.

Sharing the workload between the team 

Like in all companies, our CEO is also very, very, very busy. While managing multiple things, recruiting never got the attention it deserved. As our agency is growing, our CEO’s responsibilities are less focused on the actual operations and more on strategy. We realized that that is exactly why he isn’t even the one who should be deciding what role should be filled up next – it’s the operational team that knows exactly what kind of skills are needed in order for us to keep on delivering for our customers. 

We came up with rotating responsibilities in recruiting. After agreeing on the need and the budget with the CEO, the one whose client or team needs the most help would take on the responsibility of executing the recruitment campaign. That person would be overseeing the whole process to make sure that everything is going smoothly.

Of course, we didn’t completely remove our CEO from the process – we just made sure that he is only informed once we are ready to interview a few top candidates, opening his mental space to do other tasks in the meantime.

Creating an easy-to-understand process description and templates for a  multi-channel marketing campaign

In order for basically anyone on the team to be able to execute a recruitment campaign, we created a simple and visual process description that will help us remember the timeline and tasks that need to happen.

For modern recruitment to be successful and for us to find the best talent, we also needed to think about multi-channel marketing campaigns for every open position. Through workshops, we created a list of activities and channels and turned them into an easy-to-fill-out spreadsheet that anyone can copy when they start a new campaign and just fill it in with new copy and visuals. 

In order for every campaign to be strategically correct, we have a mix of reusable templates and visuals, as well as a lot of room to personalize the campaign based on who is running it and who is being recruited. This way, we can assure that our tone of voice stays the same, but the person applying has the chance to get to know their team and what we are like. 

So be prepared to see a lot of PR-savvy dogs and cats recruiting new colleagues.

And finally… publicly admitting that we f***ed up

Looking into a mirror and admitting that we have probably caused unnecessary stress and frustration to potential candidates felt like… well, we would rather be poking sticks straight into our eyeballs. But in order for us to truly grow and develop, we need to be honest with ourselves and with our candidates that we did, indeed, screw things up.

For this, we want to sincerely apologize to anyone who’s had a negative experience when applying to San Francisco Agency. We understand that what we have done was far from ideal.

If you are willing to forgive us, and still would want to work with us, we are opening multiple roles this spring. If any of them feel like a good fit, don’t hesitate to apply and contact us for more information.

We can’t promise an absolutely perfect experience. But we can promise that we are making a big effort to be better, and we will keep on learning and growing. 

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