Tilt's A-Method Recruiting Model

January 8, 2015

A recent study shows that companies with mature talent acquisition strategies perform 30 percent better than their peers on business outcomes. Tilt, a high-growth crowdfunding startup in San Francisco, has built its strategy around the methodologies of recruiting experts Geoff Smart and Randy Street, authors of the New York Times Bestselling book Who: The A Method for Hiring. In this book, Smart and Street offer a solution to company’s #1 problem, hiring mistakes, and share fundamental strategies to hire top-performing employees.

Norm Cook, Tilt’s Head of Talent, shares the steps the team took to build a strategic - and effective - recruiting model.

First, Norm and Brian Birtwistle, Tilt’s COO, put their heads together to identify the three main objectives of Tilt Recruiting:

  1. Increase probability of hiring A-players
  2. Minimize the chances of mistake hires
  3. Leverage Greenhouse

“We want to hire A-players, but it’s equally important to minimize the chances of mistake hires. Leaders are just starting to think about the impact of a mistake hire on the bottom line. Greenhouse can help us make smarter hiring decisions, so that we meet our first two objectives .” - Norm Cook, Tilt's Head of Talent
Norm found that the Greenhouse platform supported the guiding principles of this book.  In particular, he followed the below steps, and through Greenhouse he implemented them into the recruiting practices at Tilt.  Here’s how they did it.

1. Clarify the job’s mission, outcomes, and competencies

Before posting a job description, Norm works with a hiring manager to determine the success traits of the role. Together, they create a Greenhouse Interview Plan. They add competencies to the job description and to a candidate Scorecard. Then, these attributes are assigned to specific interviews.

For example, Norm was recently seeking a new Online Marketing Manager. For this role, an A-player would be a strong writer and creative, but also analytical and data-driven. He or she would need to work autonomously to write variations of copy, while generating reports to identify what was working best.

Clarifying a job’s mission, outcomes, and competencies upfront creates alignment between recruiters and hiring managers, helps identify the characteristics of top-performers, and creates a pleasant onboarding experience once a candidate is hired. “Long before a candidate is hired,” Norm says, “we know exactly what’s expected of the role. This sets up candidates for success and provides a great onboarding experience.”

2. Interview methodically

Methodical interviewing is the process by which talent leaders implement structured interview plans that are focused, consistent and repeatable. This is critical in order to avoid making mistake hires, and a step that many companies overlook.

“We make better decisions through methodical interviewing,” Norm says. “Candidates used to drive the conversations, and interviews were generalized and ineffective. Now, interviews are focused and purposeful so that we can extract meaningful information.”

Focused - Within Greenhouse, Scorecard attributes are assigned to specific interviews. This ensures that Tilt interviewers are collecting meaningful information, and determines which stakeholders have ownership over specific attributes.

Consistent - Each candidate interviews the exact same way. “You have to standardize your process across all interviews,” Norm says. “That way, you can accurately compare candidates and make evidence-based decisions.”

Repeatable - Set an interview plan from day one so that you can repeat it; this is the only way to scale your hiring process and to optimize it. Repeating your process helps you collect data that will identify room for improvement.

For the Online Marketing Manager, Norm mapped out the below interview stages for each and every candidate that was interviewed:


Scorecard | Screening Interview | Topgrading Interview | Focus Interview | Homework and Presentation | Reference Check


The Scorecard was built with Tilt’s Growth Lead, the hiring manager for the Online Marketing Manager position. A Topgrading interview stage focuses on the details of a candidate’s background, seeking to identify patterns or trends. Focus interviews evaluate the competencies needed in the job itself, and the candidate will meet with several team members. During the Homework stage, the candidate’s skills are tested. By the reference call, the team has all the information they need to make an educated decision on this candidate.

3. Apply the 90% Rule

If the above process is utilized, Norm and his hiring team never have to shoot from the gut. Once a candidate completes each interview stage, Norm asks the team, “Does this person have a 90%+ chance of success based on your interviews with him/her?”

A candidate should only be extended an offer if the question is met a resounding yes. “Define A-players from the beginning,” he says. “Don’t settle; waiting to hire a top performer is much, much better than hiring the wrong person.”

Since implementing this model at Tilt, the process has been streamlined and effective. The team has been able to hire top performers and provide clear expectations of their performance. The new hire for the Online Marketing Manager role, Kent Fenwick, says “Each of my interviews with Tilt was thoughtful and productive. I was eager to work with a team that knew exactly what was needed from this role. They presented interesting and real problems during the interviews, problems I knew I could help solve. On day one, I could dive in.”

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