Streamlining Your Hiring Process to Find the Right Candidate

Last Updated on May 29, 2021 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Every now and again, we take on new workers for our companies, and we want to be sure we did it right and hired the best person. 

As such, there are processes in place to do hiring the right way. Alex Zerbach, today’s guest on the Process Breakdown Podcast, discusses the hiring process with Dr. Jeremy Weisz, the right way to go about it, and the steps involved. He also covers performance reviews, when and how to do them, data, and documentation of processes for constant improvement.

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Show Notes

0:05 – Intro

0:26 – Dr. Jeremy Weisz shares the best solution that makes documenting standard operating procedures drop-dead easy, highlighting a 14-day free trial. No credit card required.

1:44 – Dr. Weisz introduces today’s guest, Alex Zerbach, COO and head of operations at Carrot, a lead-generation solution for the real estate market.

1:56 – Mr. Zerbach expatiates more on what Carrot does and the kind of customers he works with.

2:58 – Mr. Zerbach explains how they got the domain name, “Carrot.”

4:46 – Mr. Zerbach talks about the painting on He says it’s a tribute to Michael, the former owner of the domain, and he shares how people can see it.

5:18 – Mr. Zerbach talks about the hiring process and walks us through the steps taken, and the “who method.”

9:23 – Mr. Zerbach lets us know what sticks out to him about the “who method” of the hiring process.

11:20 – The guest explains his onboarding process and how it’s improved over the years.

12:26 – The guest elaborates on the performance reviews.

14:43 – Mr. Zerbach talks about the software the company makes use of.

17:32 – The guest lists more software the company makes use of.

18:07 – The guest tells us about the time the hiring process didn’t go right.

21:02 – The guest expatiates on the “people team.”

23:26 – Mr. Zerbach gives examples of cultural activities that’s worked really well especially during the pandemic.

25:36 – Outro

Guest Profile

Alex Zerbach is the COO at Carrot, a company that helps real estate investors and agents generate leads online. 

He finds fun in searching for opportunities to improve how businesses function. He acquired his bachelor’s in marketing at the Oregon Institute of Technology. He’s also a digital marketer, strategic planner, email marketer, among other achievements.

Transcript of the interview

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company. Getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, your host to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company. Getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job, past guests include, check out other episodes. I always tell people Alex, check out other episodes. They’ve been great. We have some great guests, cling today’s guest, which I’ll introduce in a second. David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of the E-Myth and many more.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. If you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and it’s the 10th time you spent explaining it, there is a better way, there is a solution. SweetProcess is actually a software that makes it drop dead, easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. And Alex today is going to talk about new staff and hiring and all that. We’ll get into that. But when I was talking to one of the founders, Owen, not only do universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies use them, but actually first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. So you can use SweetProcess to document all of the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious times. You can focus on growing your team. They have a free 14-day trial, no credit cards required, You can check it out. It’s sweet, like candy S-W-E-E-T

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Today, I have Alex Zerbach. Thanks for agreeing to today, Alex is a chief operating officer, head of operations at Carrot. And can you tell people, Alex, first of all, thanks for joining me. Tell people what Carrot does.

Alex Zerbach: Sure, absolutely. Thanks for having me first off. Carrot helps real estate investors and agents generate leads online. So these are people looking to buy and sell their house. And so we offer them websites, some marketing, some behind the scenes tools to go ahead and make those transactions happen.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So your customers are the agents or larger companies who have lots of agents and or when you’re saying investors, what does that look like?

Alex Zerbach: So investors, the most common example, if you’ve seen shows like Fix or Flop or, Tarek and Christina, where they’re looking for a house that might need some work, they’re going to go update the house and then either keep it as a rental for themselves or flip it and sell it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We’re going to get into the hiring process. And you’re going to walk through that. But first there’s a cool story about how you got the domain Carrot, It’s really hard to get a domain that’s easy to say, easy to spell that people can recognize.

Alex Zerbach: Yes. Yeah. That story is like probably one of my favorites since my time here at Carrot. So for the longest time we first started off, we were OnCarrot and that was because we couldn’t get the domain. And that analogy like Carrot on a stick that’s lead generation. So we had that and it kind of drove us nuts because our brand was Carrot. The people kept calling us OnCarrot. And so randomly our CTO, Chris found on GoDaddy that was up as an auction. And we like lost it. We were like, “No way, we got to bid.” So we reached out to the broker and he’s like, “We’re doing best offer only no multiple offers. Like you got to submit your best.” And so we were like, “Man, how are we going to position this offer in a way where it’s not just about the money, et cetera, et cetera.”

Alex Zerbach: So we looked up who actually owned before us. And it was a man who did a very specific type of painting that the process of the painting was very specific. And it turns out unfortunately that he had passed away. So the domain was in his will, or whatever they call it. And so there’s actually a special lawyer who was transacting the deal. And so we said, “Hey, we’ll put in an offer. We put in a pretty large amount of money.” And then said, “But we’ll also have a page dedicated on our website forever, as long as we own the domain to Michael’s painting and his artwork.” And the family loved that. And we also sent him some swag, some Carrot t-shirts and some cups and said, “This is why it means a lot to us. This is our vision for the brand going forward. And we love for Michael to be a part of it.” And so lucky for us, they accepted the offer and we transferred-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s more than just a transaction.

Alex Zerbach: Yep, exactly. So out of the human element to it, which is part of our core value and our mission.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s pretty cool. Where can people see about that person’s painting in, an offer on the page.

Alex Zerbach: Yeah. So if you go to and then, put me on the spot, I think his last name is K-U-P-T I have to… We can get the right link in the show notes, but it’ll be his picture.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to check it out. That’s awesome. Absolutely. Very cool. So basically his first and last name with Okay. Awesome. Alex, talk about hiring for a second. I want you to walk through. There’s a hiring process, performance reviews and beyond, but talk about the hiring process. Someone’s ready to hire, walk me through what you do.

Alex Zerbach: Sure, absolutely. So one thing that I want to say to start is we’re definitely not the absolute expert on hiring, but we, as a bootstrapped company, we’ve had the privilege to learn and test things out, make mistakes and grow. And I know for some companies, especially if you’re a venture funded, it’s like hire as fast as possible. Maybe not even concerned about costs, just getting people in to help push forward. So we’re not quite that way. We’re looking at it from a perspective of making the right decision. This person potentially could be with us for the next 5 to 10 years. We have to have a career path for them, performance reviews to help them get coach and training, et cetera. So we really want to take our time upfront and have a really dialed in process to bring them into our ecosystem.

Alex Zerbach: So one of the first things that we do is a 4R document, and this is not new, this is pretty common. It’s your role, the requirements, responsibilities and results pretty standard. But what we really key in on there is the results. We try to make these as specific as possible with metrics, and we’ve made that mistake in the past with having lacking results. And then it’s almost like you’re not quite clear on what that person’s going to do in the business. They come in and you have a really tough time charting like performance reviews, career growth, et cetera. So we review all of the 4R docs before we go into the requisition process and start to get people, applicants in the door and we hone in on the results. And so that’s key. That’s critical.

Alex Zerbach: From there we do have like a multi-step process where you request the hire and we look at it and make sure budgetarily, it makes sense, et cetera, you’ve done your homework, but we use the Who method. And so that’s Geoff Smart Company, ghSMART. And we got introduced to that methodology from a couple of our mentors and coaching groups who have done it with great success. If you look at it and you’re a small business, Carrot’s about 40 employees, it might seem overly complicated. And this is only for those really large Fortune 500 companies. But what we found is by having a standard way that all leaders are going through the process and you have these series of interviews with a specific outcome and specific questions you’re asking it really simplifies things in a way it does add more time. Don’t get me wrong. You’re going to be taking time. But I think it’s important to take the time upfront when hiring, because if you hire somebody say for $50,000 job and they’re with you for 10 years, now, look at the impact that’s had on your business, right?

Alex Zerbach: So don’t rush it from the start. But where I was going with that is in the Who methodology, you have a hiring scorecard. And that hiring scorecard is basically, objectively, how are you going to score this candidate versus another candidate? And so that 4R doc, going back to the results, we basically mapped those results as the outcomes in the hiring scorecard. And so we like it very specifically if that’s a sales role, the quota is a $2,500 MRR month over month. That’s a result that just mapped in as the top outcome in the scorecard.

Alex Zerbach: So there’s a lot of parody there, which makes it easy. And then some people will say, “Well, huh, if you have a 4R doc, why do you also have a hiring scorecard?” Well, A 4R doc is going to be with person through their tenure with our company. So we do performance reviews and things like that. And they have a scorecard we’re going to be looking at the results there. The hiring scorecard is purely to bring in the best candidate at that time. Then the scorecard just lives in our Google Drive. And the 4R doc is what they commonly refer back to. So unless we want to, we can go into more depth on the Who process specifically but-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah talk about one thing, maybe a few things that stuck out for you in the Who process and it’s highly recommended. Who by Geoff Smart and Brad Smart wrote Topgrading. And I think Geoff is the son of Brad, I think. And so both of those are phenomenal. What sticks out to you in the who process?

Alex Zerbach: And so what really turned us on to like the idea of it was, as we grew, we had more managers coming in, more leaders stepping up. So therefore more people hiring to grow teams. And without a set series of questions, manager A would hire this way and manager B would hire this way. And at times we would get really awesome candidates and at times not so much. So we really wanted to standardize the way we ask questions. And so that’s what, Who does for us. So in one of the interviews, you’re going to ask specific questions about their previous career history and looking have they ever done the outcomes that we need or have they not? And so these, I don’t like the word force, but they require, I guess our hiring managers to look through that stuff in the same way.

Alex Zerbach: Whereas in the past, sometimes people glossed over some parts, maybe view a job as not relevant. But I do think, if somebody’s talking about their career experience and journey, everything’s relevant and the way they talk about certain things, you can learn a lot, even if it’s in an industry completely different. We were just talking to a candidate for in SaaS. He was a mechanical engineer and some of the stuff he was talking about with process and how they did their meetings and how they talk to leads and stuff were very much translated into what we do at SaaS. We’re with a SaaS company. So I wouldn’t discount that.

Alex Zerbach: And then the other big thing is how we check references. I think everybody in the hiring process struggles to, especially if someone’s coming from a big company to get a reference check, there’s a lot of roadblocks to have those conversations. There’s a lot of laws around that. And this Who process helps you figure out a way to still have those calls or discussions without it being cumbersome or a roadblock.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So the hiring process, and then so you go, yes, this person is great. Then what? Talk about the onboarding a little bit.

Alex Zerbach: Okay, sure. So after we make the offer and they’re accepted and all that stuff. We have a pretty awesome onboarding process. Again, something we’ve learned over the years of bringing on a bunch of loss in team members. For us, it’s in a system like Asana, but basically it links out to documentation which indoctrinates them to the culture. It tells our story of why we’re in business, who we serve, some of our core tenants, our core values, how we measure those core values and then just goes into the product and their role specifically. We have each team member, each new team member join each team’s call so they can see, who’s on the team, what they do, et cetera. And on their very first day with us, we put them on the spot on the company call and ask them to introduce themselves. We ask them some wacky questions to just get them thinking on their feet, but also learn something from them. But our onboarding process right now is about two weeks.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. And then you mentioned performance reviews. How do you run those?

Alex Zerbach: Performance reviews, man, we still have a little bit of stuff to tweak, but I’m really pleased and proud of the process and where we’ve made it to. But what we try to do is everything we do in the hiring process, we try to have… If you look at leading lagging indicators, we try to have something in the backend, which ties back to why they’re in the business. I think everybody wants to do great work and you have to show them what that is. And then have objective measurements to say, yes, this is great. And so in our performance review, we use a levels and steps framework. So as you grow your career, you go across steps and then promotions or levels, and we tie your performance reviews to things like your scorecard.

Alex Zerbach: So when we say, “Hey, you got to have a $2,500 MRR quota as a result of this job.” Well, you’re going to track that weekly. And then every six months we do a performance review, we’ll pull it up and say, “Okay, show us how you did.” If you’re under, “Hey, what’s the plan to get you back on track?” If you’re over, that’s awesome. “What’s your plan going forward? Do we need to bump this up? If so, what does that mean for your career? What other opportunities are here? What are you seeing? What do you need coaching on and training on?” And really our performance review is centered around three parts, which is their scorecard, their career ambitions, where they want to go. And so we’re starting to map that out with them. Maybe there’s not a spot quite yet in the business because we haven’t grown to there yet, but we’re like, “Let’s investigate that together.” If you can help us get there or set that up, let’s chart that out and see what that would mean.

Alex Zerbach: And then the third thing is we always try and leave performance reviews with some training or coaching opportunity agreed upon. And we use a smart goal and we put it in a software that we use for our one-on-one meetings. And we say like, “Okay, between now and our next performance review, let’s get you leveled up on delegation or negotiation or whatever it is.” And we work with them and it’s the leader’s goal to make sure that regular check-ins are happening and they’re progressing on some of those, either soft skills, hard skills, whatever that person needs.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Alex, you mentioned software, I’m wondering what software do you like to use internally, externally, whatever it is. And it could be for the smart goals or anything.

Alex Zerbach: Yeah. So we use Officevibe for one-on-one agendas. They also will send out surveys to collect feedback from your team and they’ll do EMPS reporting, which our people team is really big on. That’s kind of their North star metric, if you will. So that is a great software. I know there’s a couple others that operate in the same space, but that’s one that we’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years. I could give out our stack, if you will, of some other softwares we use remotely. So we use Slack. We’re big on Slack. We’ve finally, I think cracked partially the Slack code in terms of conduct and how to set up the channels and the do’s and don’ts of communication there. We use Asana.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What are some don’ts?

Alex Zerbach: Don’ts? So we have a Co.Lab channel for each team, so Co.Lab marketing, Co.Lab product, Co.Lab operations. And what we do is we try to have that be like one way communication, meaning if somebody needs something from the ops team, they go in there and they just drop the request. But the ops team is not supposed to be sending requests out of there to bring people into that channel to ask. And so basically we set this kind of standard, which is if a request comes into your team within 24 hours, please try and address it. And so it’s very much, because you know how Slack can be like, the expectation is immediately respond. And so we have team channels for team stuff, and we only allow the team members in there and you can talk, private stuff and all that kind of things. So nobody’s really like looking at how you’re working or what you’re saying, a Co.Lab channel and that the responsibility of the leader to make sure all request are solved in 24 hours.

Alex Zerbach: And then we have of course, the fun channels. And then we have channels for automation. So Slack bots to go in there and do status update type stuff. And then we get everybody the permission to opt out of some of that noise, but you have to be in your team channel and you have to be in your Co.Lab channel. And then we also have project-based channels that we try to have it seasonal. So they shouldn’t just be up forever because that tells you, there’s probably something wrong in the project process. They should be up discussing the project and then closing the project launches. So we’ve just documented all of that in our training center and set expectations for each type of channel.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: No, I love that you get a little granular with it because I just, maybe I’m a slow learner Alex, but recently I discovered on Slack, I should just hit the mentions and reactions and find out what people need from me instead of going through all the channels. So that I’m like, “Why did I not do that sooner?” So if anyone geeks out on Slack and they haven’t used that like me, check it out. So Slack, what else, what other?

Alex Zerbach: Yeah. Slack, Asana, Zenefits we use for like on the people side of things, specifically managing our team, Workable is what we’re currently using on the hiring process. So that’s how we are managing things going out and then applications coming in, those are some of biggest. We use Productboard for our product, and then of course, kind of the usual stack with like Atlassian and Github and stuff on our product side engineering.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’d love to hear, not for gruesome sake, but a horror story of the hiring process.

Alex Zerbach: Sure. Yeah. I think everybody, the more you hire in a company, you’re going to have some of those kinds of interesting cases, but we had one where this guy’s resume was amazing. He came from some really big companies. We saw some of his past work and it looked amazing, interview he’s very well spoken, very articulate, smart. Seemed to be a great culture fit, really aligned a lot of our core values had specific examples. But for the last, I guess three or four years he was freelancing. And so that was not necessarily that interesting for his job type.

Alex Zerbach: So we hired him and he onboarded and within the first 30 days, we came to a mutual agreement that it just wasn’t going to be a fit. So we were really scratching our heads, looking back, like how could this have happened? Where he looks so amazing on paper. He went through the process and it really had us questioning our process, like what did we miss? And then for him to also say like, yeah, I don’t want to work here. It was just baffling to us that you had get this far in and then pull the rip cord. But unfortunately for us too, his main function in the business was going to be a very key feature rollout and release and with the hiring of him and then him leaving that really set us back about almost three to four months in terms of getting that out. So it was a good lesson. I’m sure there’s people with more horror stories, but that’s just one.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: How do you explain that happening? Because everything seemed to check out.

Alex Zerbach: Yeah. I honestly think it comes down to, he could have done the job. I think there was some things in our culture that his personality type, maybe he just was giving us lip service or saying what we wanted to hear. But at the end of the day, I just don’t think he saw a long-term future for him with our entrepreneurial positive vibe that we have in our business. I don’t think it really suited him.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Did you do anything differently next time or you just feel like it just happens?

Alex Zerbach: That was actually, probably it was last year and it was right around the time we were starting to read about Who, so we didn’t actually do the Who method on it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it.

Alex Zerbach: I’m really interested to go through and see if that kind of situation happens again with Who. Going back, what we should have done is dig a little deeper into his reference checks, that possibly would have highlighted like, “Oh yeah, he’s great but doesn’t stick around long.”

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Love it, Alex. First of all, thank you. I have one last question, but I want to encourage people check out Very easy to spell, very easy to find. Also check out other episodes of the podcast. Check out Alex question is about the people team. So I love for you to expand on when before we hit record, you said the people team is how we are going to just stay proactive.

Alex Zerbach: Yeah, absolutely. So that 2019, we had just crossed 30 employees and we were starting to realize, there’s some opportunities in the business to improve the culture, help our team grow, et cetera. And we did make a very conscious decision not to bring on an HR function in the business. We view HR as it definitely is needed, we contracted out. But it’s a reactionary problem solution type thing. And we also believe as soon as you bring in HR, you’re going to find problems. Problems will come up. But what we really wanted was more of a proactive, like culture-based function in the business. So that’s our people team. And right now it’s one woman named Danni and she is phenomenal, but we sit down with her every six months and we say, “Okay, what in our culture could be improved? What can we do with our budget, our time, our energy to just make Carrot a way more enjoyable place to work?” And it already is, we have EMPS that is very competitive. It’s always going up.

Alex Zerbach: And so with the people team, one of her main roles is helping with the hiring process. So for any leader who’s coming in, who goes through the Who method and maybe a flood of applicants come in, Danni can actually take some of those first interviews and go through and check for, are they going to be a good culture fits because she’s very in tune with our culture constantly improving it. She’s randomly sending out. We just had a Valentine’s day. She sent everybody a little gift card and said like, “Have a coffee on us. We do pizza parties, we do these things.” And Danni’s kind of at the core of it, making sure we do that. And so-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s huge, because that stuff gets dropped.

Alex Zerbach: Yes. And if it comes down to the leadership’s responsibility, you have to weigh that out in terms of priority. But if you have somebody in your business, who’s literally their job is to bring in A players. Bring in the best talent possible, make sure they’re taken care of, treat them really well and look for ways to make their experience great. I think it’s a no brainer for us. People are one of our highest or most biggest expenses. We should be investing in them. And so we have somebody who helps us make sure we do that effectively.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So that was my last question. So this is my second. This is actually my last question, but I just want you to go a little deeper on that. What are some examples that have worked really well as far as culture goes that maybe she’s come up with or you’ve come up with the team? Especially in this virtual world.

Alex Zerbach: Absolutely. So couple of things, one is we do virtual retreats. We used to do them in person, but now they’re virtual. And so Danni’s really helped us level up there. She organizes everything, but we started bringing customers onto our team retreat. So our team can actually interact with people their helping hear their story, feel that connection. She also helps put together the swag boxes. We’re big on that. So this year we all got custom vests, insulated vests with our name on it and stuff. So she’s helping, think about that, budget for that. We actually do what we call a culture initiative. So every quarter we try to do something and so last quarters was Learn Something. And so we have a Slack channel where there was people in there learning how to do cross stitching. There was so many in their learning how to speak Spanish, people learning how to play with guitar. And so we’re just giving them the opportunity to do that. Some of it on company time and share.

Alex Zerbach: And then this quarter is pretty interesting. We’re calling it Carrot Recess. And so once a month we have an event of some sort. It could be like, walk your dog. It’s not overly complicated. And we’re doing stuff where people can just show up on a Zoom meeting, hang out, working lunch type style thing and get that out of the office, but still connecting type stuff. So Danni’s main focus is that. One other thing that she’s really good at and helping us with is training and coaching opportunities. So we’re doing an effective meeting training coming up. We’re doing a time management training coming up. And those are just 30-minute optional meetings that people can join if they want to level up on that. And we’re starting to find experts and bring them in and have them train our team, which our team loves. See outside perspective, I guess, on some of these topics.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s great. Alex, super valuable. Thank you for sharing that. Everyone check out, especially if you’re an agent or you know an agent or you know agent company, or investor. Check it out. Tell them to check it out. Check out our SweetProcess and more episodes. We’ll see everyone later. Thanks so much, Alex.

Alex Zerbach: Thank you.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown podcast. Before you go, quick question. Do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up. Go to sweet like candy and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk-free 14-day trial.

Owen: Hi, this is Owen the CEO and co-founder here at SweetProcess. If you enjoyed listening to this podcast interview, actually, you know what I want you to do? Go ahead and leave us a five-star review on iTunes. That way we get more people aware of the good stuff that you get here on this podcast. Again, go on to iTunes and leave us a five-star review. We look forward to reading your review. Have a good day.

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