I believe in people and believe in giving people who are eager to learn the opportunity to bring new energy to the team.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Matt Baxter.
Matt Baxter is the CEO of Wedge, the one-way recorded video screening tool that enables candidates to show their true selves. In addition to Wedge, he is the host of The Matt Baxter Show. He is a graduate of Hope College.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my first business when I was 15 years old. It was a lawn care company with a little seed capital (a.k.a. a mower) from my dad. Over six years, that company flourished until I had about seven employees. I had the opportunity to sell the company while I was attending Hope College, and I was very fortunate to sell the company at a relatively young age.
At this point, I started focusing on the “broken” hiring process, stemming from issues I experienced while hiring for my lawn care company. I wanted to fill was to make hiring more efficient while allowing candidates to share their stories above and beyond their resume. In turn, we launched Wedge, a SaaS video screening provider. I will forever have the heart and desire to be an entrepreneur.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
Probably the most interesting, or “craziest” thing that happened to me was the first investment I received. Coming from blue-collar, bootstrapped lawn care, I had little experience with the world of funding and venture capital, until I got introduced to an alumnus of Hope College. We spoke for three minutes in total. He said, “Tell me about yourself — you have one minute,” followed by, “Tell me about your business — you have two minutes.” I answered both. He ended with, “Thanks, got to go — we will be in touch.”
Three days later, he called and asked how I intended to fund my company. He then sent me a check as an investment, after three minutes on the phone total. That exposed me to a larger business world than I previously knew.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
1. Companies need to start by asking fs there a required skill tied to the position — a specific certification, writing code in a particular language, etc. If so, then the first part of an application needs to be focusing on identifying that requirement. It’s a royal waste of both the candidates’ time and HR’s budget to focus elsewhere from the start.
2. Once technical requirements are understood, put into practice an opportunity to identify whether the candidate is right for a formal interview. In our world, we see lots of value in an initial screen, preferably over video.
3. By now, the company should have a candidate (or pool of candidates, hopefully). My recommendation from here is to allow multiple team members from various departments to review that candidate. I believe this approach removes bias from the process. That includes not only the known and harmful biases but also the unconscious forms.
In my experience, salespeople are good at interviewing. I also like having our CTO and COO have a brief conversation with the candidate (or, in our case, watch a video screen). If a salesperson can get past our CTO or COO, then they could sell to that demographic as well. Similar to a dev person, a member of our sales team and I will chat with the candidate. That helps ensure they have the requirements and can communicate well, which in my opinion is one of the more valuable skills.
4. I hire for hustle, willing to trade that for meeting all the requirements. I believe in people and believe in giving people who are eager to learn the opportunity to bring new energy to the team.
5. It sounds simple, but I love looking for candidates that I not only get along with but also those who can teach me while bringing a new level of diversity to the organization.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
1. Attracting talent happens earlier than when you need to hire. If you are a start-up, the founder needs to have a brand presence, needs to be on the frontline out there, sharing the brand of the company.
2. Purpose is essential nowadays. Does your company have a purpose? Do the leaders of the company have a purpose? Nothing complicated, nothing fake, but rather, a purpose that is defined and understood. That attracts talent.
3. People want jobs that offer security. They want to understand what they are going to be doing every day (even though it often changes). I think attracting talent is sharing with the world that your organization can do all of these things while fulfilling its mission.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Change the “me” culture and make it about others. The most rewarding days I’ve had have been spent helping others. I’d love to inspire that movement.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Hold onto material things loosely, hold onto failures loosely, hold onto success loosely. It can all go away quickly. But what doesn’t go away is the knowledge that you learned along the way, and the people you did it with.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
I’d love to meet the executive assistant for Jeff Bezos. I’d love to meet Jeff too, but I’d love to meet the person that keeps up with him and organizes his life. That person is just as important as Jeff in my eyes. I wouldn’t hate it if I could hang out with Tim Ferris, Joe Rogan, or 2 Chainz either.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!