Automattic’s Dave Martin Publishes His 5 Step Remote Hiring Process

photo credit: Peter Slutsky
photo credit: Peter Slutsky

If you’re thinking about applying to work for Automattic, you might want to read this article first. Dave Martin, Creative Director at Automattic, published an in-depth look behind the scenes of the remote hiring process for the design and growth portion of the company. He explains the five step process in detail which gives future applicants a good idea of what to expect.

It’s a fascinating read and I learned that every part of the process has a purpose. For instance, every trial project consists of work that would normally be completed by existing exmployees. Every question asked by Martin in the interview process has a purpose, whether it’s to glean information or get a feel for how the applicant communicates.

The one area of the hiring process I’ve routinely seen scrutinized by those who don’t make the cut is the lack of specific feedback on why they’re not a good fit for a position. Dave Clements, who almost made it to the final stage of the hiring process, criticized the lack of detail from Automattic on why he wasn’t a good fit.

My only criticism of my whole process from start to finish is that I wish they would have gone into more detail into on why I was not a good fit for them. They had been so verbose and open up to that point about any question that I asked of them, but when I asked why they had come to the decision to not move forward, I was given a fairly generic response as they ‘couldn’t go into too much detail’.

Martin tries to do his best to highlight why someone is not a good fit, but the process is not easy and the number one goal is to hire the best people.

If things don’t end up working out, I’ll do my best to highlight why. At this point the applicant has invested quite a bit of time. I try to be as specific as possible as to why they are not going to proceed to a final interview.

Telling people no is hard, but mistakenly bringing on the wrong people can be much worse. While you want to always be kind, and helpful to all applicants, your primary responsibility when hiring is to ensure that only the best people get hired. That is priority number one.

Whether you’re a distributed company or someone who’s interested in working for one, there is plenty to learn from the post. I also encourage you to read this Harvard Business Review article from 2014 featuring Matt Mullenweg, on holding auditions to build a strong team. If you’ve gone through the Automattic hiring process, let us know what it’s like in the comments.


4 responses to “Automattic’s Dave Martin Publishes His 5 Step Remote Hiring Process”

  1. This sounds horrible. Poor applicants. They waste a lot of time, complete the “trial project consists of work that would normally be completed by existing exmployees”, and when refused they are neither financially compensated for their work nor even get an explanation. Work for free for a profit-oriented company as “part of the hiring process” then get kicked out with a big fat nothing. Capitalism at its best.

  2. This system is somewhat similar to how other remote-friendly companies screen and onboard new hires. I’ve read that Treehouse also does paid projects with candidates before hiring. This is good for both the hiring companies and the candidates. Each party gets to see what it would be like working with the other. Communication styles are assessed. Real work that needs to get done by the hiring company gets done, and the candidate is properly compensated for their time.

    The major difference between paid projects for candidates at Treehouse and Automattic is Treehouse pays you at your normal rate, while Automattic sets the same rate for everyone, $25/hour.

    I think this is the most fair way to take candidates to the final stage before hiring.

    One person mentioned their frustration at not knowing why they did not advance in the selection process. While we all want to improve and analyze what happened in a situation like that, the hiring company may not be advised to disclose specific details by their human resources or legal departments.

    “Silence is golden”, if you will.


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