May 29

As readers of this blog know, we’re about to hit 40 people at Treehouse and we’ll be at 60 in three more months. There was only seven of us 12 months ago, so we’ve grown very fast.

How have we hired so many good people so quickly? Let me show you …

Finding the right people

We find new potential employees through four channels:

  1. Tweeting from our personal and company accounts
  2. Posting on job boards like 37signals and Authentic Jobs
  3. Emailing our Treehouse Newsletter list
  4. Personal recommendations from friends and the Team

Fred Wilson just wrote a great post called Where to Find Strong Talent that’d I’d also recommend reading.

Amazing benefits

We make recruiting a lot easier by having very good benefits and a cult-like Mission. You need both of those things to attract world-class talent. This is all laid out on our Jobs page, which lists our benefits:

  • Full salary for a 4-day week! We don’t work Fridays. Ever.
  • 18 vacation days, federal holidays, and two weeks off at Christmas
  • $5,000 for your hardware, software, chair and desk
  • Free iPhone + monthly contract
  • Free lunch every day
  • 401(k) contribution matching, 100% matching up to 6% of your salary
  • Full coverage for medical, dental, and vision

Using Trello to manage the process

We take applicants and load them into a Trello Board. I’ve created a public example that you can view, copy and then edit. We use Trello because it’s visual layout is very easy to understand. As someone moves through the hiring process, their ‘card’ gets moved left to right.

Each person is labeled with the department they’re applying to (Marketing, Sales, Product, etc). The labels are colored so it’s easy to visually see what’s going on. You can also filter by label or person responsible.

Here are the lists on that board:

  1. Inbox
  2. Promising
  3. 1st Interview
  4. 2nd Interview or Project Trial
  5. Waiting for CEO’s Approval
  6. Need Job Offer
  7. Job Offer Sent. Waiting for Acceptance
  8. Hired. Need to be placed in Trello on-boarding Board
  9. Not Hired
  10. Internship?
  11. Freelance Contractor


A card for each applicant is created and placed in the “Inbox” list. This is just the big bucket that all applicants get placed in.

There is one person in charge of hiring for each position and they are assigned to applicant’s ‘cards’ in Trello. For the sake of clarity in this article, I’ll call this person the Hiring Manager.

For example, Nick is in charge of hiring all our new Teachers, so he needs to advertise the position, filter all the candidates, interview them and then put forward people he’d like to hire for my approval (as the CEO).


The Hiring Manager puts the good folks in the “Promising” list and emails them to setup a first interview over Skype

1st Interview

We do all first interviews over Skype. This allows us to spot any immediate problems with the applicant before we spend time meeting in person. During this interview the Hiring Manager will ask a lot of questions and talk as little as possible. The best thing is to just let the Applicant talk and see what happens.

2nd Interview or Project Trial

If the person gets past the first interview, then they get placed in the the ‘2nd Interview or Project Trial’ list. If they aren’t right for the Team, we kindly tell them we’re not progressing with their application and then place them in the ‘Not Hired’ list.

For our Marketing and Product hires, we do a two-week trial project with them and we pay them for their time (usually their day-rate * 10). This is a real-life project where we can see how they interact with the Team and how good they are.

Waiting for CEO’s Approval

Once they successfully pass the 2nd interview or project trial, the Hiring Manager sets up a Skype call with themselves, the candidate and myself. I have a good 30-60 minute chat and let them do all the talking. I also explain our Mission and why what we’re doing is important.

Next steps

The next two lists are fairly self explanatory: “Need Job Offer” and “Job Offer Sent - Waiting for Acceptance”

Hired: Need to be placed in on-boarding Trello Board

Once they’ve accepted the job offer, we place them in this list as a holding place until they get loaded onto the appropriate on-boarding Trello Board.

On-boarding Trello Boards

We have one general on-boarding Trello Board for all employees. This is where HR sets up their employment, issues a contract, gets them setup on Google Apps, explains benefits, etc.

Once they’ve been moved through this Board, they get moved on to the appropriate on-boarding Trello Board, based on which department they’re joining. For example, we have the following on-boarding Trello Boards:

  1. Product
  2. Marketing
  3. Sales
  4. Teaching
  5. Video

Each one of those has unique training and setup requirements so it makes sense to have them as separate boards.

Not perfect but getting closer

Sadly, before we implemented this process we had to let three people go. This was almost 100% attributable to me hiring too quickly and not going through a proper process, as described above.

Once we started the above process, we’ve not had to let anyone go and everyone we’ve hired has been at the top of their game.

Please share any hiring tips you’ve learned, below in the comments!

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