If they graduated in three years rather than four. If they have a good reason they didn’t graduate. If they survive the coffee scenario. If they’re passionate about playing the violin or writing short stories or something that doesn't require a suit and tie.

These are some of the criteria Bethany Perkins uses to sort out who will get an offer letter at Software Advice, and who won’t. Perkins herself was a bartender when she applied for a customer-facing role at the company, which is essentially a matchmaking service between software buyers and vendors (they provide free reviews of staffing software, too). CEO Don Fornes saw Perkins's recruiting potential after learning about Poison Apple Initiative, her theater production company. Rather than overlooking it as a mere hobby, Merritt understood that casting and producing shows required massive amounts of energy and a discerning eye for talent... two very recruiter-like qualities. For two years now, she’s been "calling the shots rather than pouring them."

“We’ve always looked for diamonds in the rough,” says Perkins, who now manages recruiting and human resources. “It takes a keener eye – and a longer look – but it’s worth the extra time.”


And that long look only starts with a resume. Candidates – who frequently come from barista or bartending or waitressing backgrounds – are asked to upload a resume, an optional cover letter, and fill out the necessary information fields. However, before they can click “submit,” the company surprises them with a short questionnaire that contains questions like “What are your top three achievements in life?” This, Perkins says, is one of the best screening tools they have.

“People will agonize over a cover letter, and it usually comes across as really bland, really generic – like a thesaurus threw up on the page,” she laughs. “But that element of surprise helps us see between the lines of their resume. There might be a handful of resumes I will look at and say, ‘meh.’ But when I read their questionnaire, I go, ‘I’m calling this person immediately.'”

Perkins embraces a more holistic view of personal achievement, looking beyond what is strictly "professional." Candidates will talk about the fact that they saved up to buy a car or released a solo album while going to school full-time -- if you invite them to.

In the application stage and during the first phone interview, Perkins says it is difficult to tell whether a candidate can redirect their passion and energy toward software analysis . But as long as there are a “minimum of red flags,” the process moves forward.

“I’ve hired people who didn’t go to college or who dropped out. As long as you have a good reason for that,’” she says. “We want people who think the challenging things are the most worthwhile things in life.”

QuestionnaireAnother example of a red flag would be someone who describes a professional environment or goal that cannot be achieved at Software Advice. “Of course, people don’t come in and say, 'I want to do inside sales lead generation for enterprise software… but if they say they want to travel or meet with clients face to face, well, we’re not jetting about to client meetings,” she says. “So I say, ‘If you want to be a mover and a shaker and networker, you won’t like it here.'”

For sales candidates, the company has devised its own role-playing test called “the coffee scenario.”  It’s a mock sales call led by COO Austin Merritt, who plays a tough customer who tries to replicate common challenges that salespeople face. He looks for articulate, energetic candidates who are able to think on their feet and steer the conversation. This is another way in which personality probably trumps on-paper experience at Software Advice.

In the absence of concrete experience, the selection process for non-sales roles becomes just as hands-on. “People come in during the final stage in the process and spend half a day shadowing, listening in, seeing what the pace is like. Writers do a writing assignment. PR candidates make a campaign. So everyone really rolls up their sleeves at some point during the interview process,” she says. This is also an effective way to shake off the candidates whose image of the job may not align with reality.

“People have self-selected out of the process at pretty much every stage,” says Perkins, who always breathes a sigh of relief because it means she won't have to deal with defectors after a two-or-three-month-long investment.

I wanted to know if accepting a job offer at Software Advice meant the dissolve of these "diamond" candidates' true passions. Turns out, Perkins still runs her theater company, putting on three shows a year, and the company is truly supportive of everyone's outside-of-work activities.

“There are musicians that work here who play in bands, and people have come to see my plays. We’re supportive if you want to have a life outside of software advice,” she says. “We expect a lot from our employees, so we make sure you have the work/life balance.”


Tags: Cover letter, Industry, The coffee scenario, Roleplaying, Software Advice, Bethany Perkins, Austin Merritt, Poison Apple Initiative