Life at Desana

Interviewing at Desana: how our hiring process works

July 11, 2023

No matter how many times you’ve heard it, it still shocks: the fact that time and time again studies have shown that candidates with “white sounding” names are much more likely to be called for an interview.

We’ve worked hard at Desana to try to create a fair hiring process that tests candidates on their skills and abilities, rather than relying on more subjective criteria that can open us up to bias.

It’s an ongoing process and we’re always trying to improve our systems. For the sake of transparency though, we thought it would be helpful to understand how things work behind the scenes.

Although it may vary based on the role, this is the typical hiring process at Desana.

CV or Resume screening

For popular roles we can get hundreds of applicants. That’s why we conduct an initial filter by screening CVs for relevant experience so we can get a more manageable number of applicants. We make sure that we filter based on the specific skills required for the role.

However, we are aware that there are well-documented issues with relying too heavily on CVs so for the rest of the process we focus on what the candidate delivers in interviews, tasks and questionnaires.

Application form

The next step in the process is for candidates to complete a questionnaire. This should take them around 15 minutes to complete so hopefully is not too time consuming for any job seekers. The questionnaire aims to tease out whether they can actually do the job, at least at that initial level, and questions are focussed around short tasks that utilise the same skills as are required on the job. For many candidates, this also gives them a more practical way to understand what the role will entail.

All of the answers are pulled through into a spreadsheet where any identifying information is anonymised to help avoid bias based on characteristics like gender or ethnicity. The answers are then scored by 2-3 scorers, which normally includes the head of the department and a member of the People team. We always use more than one scorer as it means we can get a more accurate number - for example, someone might be having a bad day and score harshly. To prevent scorers being influenced by each other, they are able to score without seeing each others’ scores.

We invite the highest scoring candidates to an interview.

First stage interview

As a remote company, all of our interviews take place via video call. We give candidates the opportunity to choose the time that best suits their schedule by inviting them to book via Calendly. The scored questions are all pre-determined to ensure that everyone has the same experience. Our first stage interviews only involve a few questions, with a mixture of questions to get to know the candidate and more role-specific questions.

There is always more than one interviewer on the call to ensure that we get a more accurate impression of the candidate. We try to keep these interviewers consistent across all the first stage interviews for that role.

Throughout the interview, we take it in turn to take notes to reduce the influence of the peak-end rule where you remember the most memorable moment and the last thing a candidate said. As soon as the interview has ended, we jump on another call to discuss. To prevent groupthink from prevailing, we all score each of the answers and write up our impressions before anyone gives an opinion. Like with the questionnaire, scorers can’t see each other’s scores. Once everyone is ready, we reveal the scores and discuss our impressions.

We invite the highest scoring candidates to a second stage interview.

Second stage interview

In advance of the second stage interview, we ask candidates to complete a take home task that they then talk through on the interview. Typically we ask them not to spend more than two hours on the task so we can get an accurate idea of how they would work in a time sensitive situation - and also because we are aware that people have lives to live outside of applying for roles with us!

The take home task gives us a really helpful insight into whether someone can do the job. It’s always based on situations that might be relevant to the role but - so that we aren’t at risk of stealing anyone’s hard work - we always come up with a different scenario to what the real life role would involve. In the past we’ve had tasks like recruiting for a cruise ship or coming up with a PR campaign around wearable technology for hedgehogs.

The scoring works the same as in the first stage interview. We normally put forward the single highest scoring candidate to the last stage but in some instances where we’ve had two equally high scoring candidates we might put forward both candidates.

Coffee with the founders

This last stage of the process sounds the scariest but is actually the most relaxed. It’s a casual coffee with one or more of the founders and is an opportunity for candidates to understand the business and whether it would be a good fit for them, as much as it is for us to understand if they are a good fit for the business.

If they are unsuccessful, we make sure that they receive feedback about what went well and did not go as well. We know that people put a lot of effort into applications and it’s only right to respect that by giving them feedback.

If that goes well, we make them an offer based on our salary calculator. Hopefully they accept and another Desanian joins the team!