How To Hire: From 800 Applicants To The Top 3 In A Few Hours

When it comes to hiring remote employees, there are both good sides and bad sides. On the positive, you get access to a much bigger talent pool compared to being restricted to your local area. This increases the likelihood you’ll find the right person for the job. However, this access to a global workforce also means you can receive more applications than you can practically review. In this episode, I’ll talk about how to hire and the way we shortlist candidates at Sendtask. Using this process, we’re able to go from hundreds of applicants down to the top 3 in just a few hours. Enjoy!

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Video Transcript

When we started Sendtask not only did we start a new company and a new product, but we also started experimenting with a new way of building a company. Unlike Mediasign [which is a media agency and this is Mediasign’s HQ], Sendtask is a company without an office.

We have 13 team members from 12 different countries and everyone works from home or a co-working space. In some cases, while they’re traveling. Very often that’s also the case for me.

Like many other things in life, there are two sides to this approach – advantages and disadvantages. I think the important part is to become conscious of both and figure out the game plan for how to deal with the disadvantages.

In my view, building a company is all about the company you’re building it with. By this, I mean the people that you surround yourself with when you accept this challenge to try and build something new and solve a problem that no one has solved before.

So why am I mentioning that? If you’re building a company without an office, you have access to a far greater talent pool. You’re not hiring in any certain city but from all over the world and thus your chances increase to get very good people.

Of course, there are downsides to this. You also need to set up your process so you can handle a lot more applications. When we hire for a new role in our company, we write a briefing and we post it everywhere on the internet – and then we get a lot of applications. In this video, I want to show you how we go from hundreds of applicants down to just the top 3 with a process that requires almost no manual time input from our side.

Step 1: The Job Post

We post our vacancy on, Upwork, social media, our website, we send it to friends, and we send it to recruitment agencies. This way we get an average of 800 applicants per role. This number is far too big for us to look at every single application and make a judgment call on whether that person should make it to the next round or not.

Step 2: The Tripwire

The first thing we do to handle these 800 applications happens while we write our job briefing. This is typically a two-page document with small fonts that takes about seven minutes to read. On the second page, we include a note that says something like this:

If you’re interested in this job, start your application with exactly this sentence:

“Hey Cédric, I’m the UI rockstar that you are looking for!”

This helps us filter out 85% of all applicants. So we get down from 800 applicants to about 120. Only about 15% of applicants get this one line right and it saves us a tremendous amount of work that we would otherwise spend on going through these different CVs and applications.

Step 3: The Form

But 120 is still a large number. As a next step, we go from 120 to about 30 to 40 applicants. Here we create a Google Form with three parts:

1) General information

The first part is focused on general information. We ask you about your date of birth, your location, your skype name and so on and so forth so that we have that in our database.

2) Attitude

The second part is where we try to test your knowledge and enthusiasm for what we’re building. In the case of Sendtask, we ask you about your favorite productivity app and what you think could be improved. We ask you about recent projects you’ve done in that space and if you’ve ever thought about building your own productivity app. We use this section to understand how much time you have spent on the topic.

3) Expertise

The third part is where we put some expert questions. Someone in our team who already has a similar job comes up with questions and keywords that should appear in the answers. This makes it quick and easy to double-check if these are right or not.

We then send out these Google Forms to all remaining 120 applicants. Not everyone gets back so we’re left with about 30-40 people who fill in the form. And we make it hard. If you do it properly, it takes you one and a half to three hours, depending on the role that we’re hiring for. You need to invest a serious amount of time.

Step 4: The Review

Next, someone on our team, typically this is an assistant or a project manager, goes through the answers and they look for different things.

In the first section, they review if everything has been filled in. If something is missing, the applicant is immediately rejected.

Second, they look at how much time you’ve spent thinking about this area of expertise. That’s a crucial part for us because we believe that skills can always be learned but the attitude has to be there. If someone doesn’t show the right attitude, they’re probably not going to be a good fit for our team.

Just checking if the person put in the right amount of energy into giving us good answers, we get down from 30-40 applicants to about 10.

Next, we have the person that came up with the expertise questions review the answers and assign points. That’s how we get a ranking and from there we arrive at our top 3 candidates.

Step 5: The Test Task

I don’t personally believe too much in CVs and motivational letters. I believe in seeing how you work and if we collaborate well together. So we reach out to the top 3 candidates and we give them a test task. Typically, it takes a day or two to complete which is somewhere between 6 and 12 hours of hard work.

Step 6: The Interview

After this test task, you schedule a call and present why you’ve solved things the way you did and where the challenges were. This is the first time I interact with our candidates which is amazing, right? Getting from 800 to just the top 3 without spending a single minute on this process. I think that’s what allows us to scale our companies and our hiring process.


I hope this episode provided some value to you and gave you some inspiration for how to hire at your company. If you’ve ever been frustrated with too many applications that end up on your desk and you remember one thing from today, it should be this:

The trick that works well across industries is having a very detailed job description and including that tripwire so you can automatically filter out the bad eggs.