How We Hire at Big Cartel

We like to keep our team small here at Big Cartel. We’ve intentionally kept a small team, and with a super low turnover rate, we don’t hire very often. When we do grow our team, it’s a rare and exciting time.

But we also know how stressful it can be for the folks on the other end of the process, hoping to hear back, praying for an interview, dreaming of an offer. We take this responsibility to applicants very seriously, and since we’re doing a bit more hiring than usual right now, I thought this would be a good time to pull back the curtain on how we approach hiring.

Whether you’re considering applying with us in the future, or you work at another company that needs a fresh perspective on developing an inclusive and productive hiring process, this look into how we work should be helpful.

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Why we hire

At Big Cartel we hire to allow us to do a better job of serving our artist community. We don’t hire for the sake of growth. We don’t hire just because there’s money in the bank. We don’t hire to build a ‘winning’ team that looks good to investors. We don’t even always hire to fill a role that someone just left. At our core we believe in the power of small teams. Small teams have an easier time communicating, don’t need as much bureaucracy, and force us to keep things simple.

When we hire

In general, we hire when we need people. Are our ambitions bigger than our team? Are we seeing signs of stress or that some folks are over-worked? Then maybe it’s time to hire. However, it should not be our first impulse to hire in response to those feelings. Perhaps we’ve got our priorities wrong. Or maybe we’re continuing to do a small thing that made sense a year ago, but changing that small thing now will allow us to reclaim balance. The point is we’re very intentional about when we hire, and in some cases even intentionally avoid it to try and keep our team small.

Who we hire

Our community of artists is as large and diverse as the people who inhabit this planet. It’s truly a cross section of humanity. We hire people to whom that means something, people who find that empowering and exciting and who have a strong desire to help them.

As Big Cartel the-platform-that-empowers-many-individuals-from-marginalized-groups Big Cartel the-company seeks to do the same for potential employees. We recognize that there are very few companies like us in the world, and that there are, in turn, very few opportunities to work for a company that cares so deeply about the individual. We want to provide as many of those opportunities as we can to people who may be overlooked. We take steps to make sure we seek these people out, help them understand why they should apply, and try to recognize that past opportunities are not always a reflection of ability as we review candidates.

How we hire

As a general rule we don’t outsource hiring work to recruiters or HR people. We feel it’s important for members of our team to be very involved in the process of screening, interviewing, and debating the merits of candidates. This gives our process a personal touch, helps eliminate biases, and distributes the workload. The team director selects a small handful of employees to help with the hiring process. Fewer folks ensures consistency of interviews and allows for better decision making because the same few people have ideally talked with each candidate.

Our actual hiring process from team to team may vary slightly but there are a couple important principles underpinning it all.

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Seek out applicants from diverse backgrounds

First, ensure that the language in our job postings is inclusive. Talk about our values and try to craft a post that appeals to people for whom our mission connects on a deep level. Then, make sure we’re advertising in places where we have a higher chance of reaching folks from all walks of life and a variety of backgrounds.

Treat candidates with respect

Every candidate deserves a response. Even if they’ve only submitted an application they should get a note letting them know they didn’t make it through this round. If they poured their heart and soul into their application, or had a few interviews but didn’t make the cut, they should get a personal response. Call out something from the interview you appreciated, maybe even give them some tips to improve. This is the absolute hardest part, but nobody deserves the silent treatment.

Respect people’s time by making sure they don’t sit for more than a few days without some kind of follow-up. Even if it’s just to say we’re taking a little longer to make a decision. That said, if it’s not an obvious YES!, it could very well be a no. Be decisive about turning people down so folks aren’t in the queue forever.

Don’t expect people to do free work. Take-home assignments that require several hours to complete will favor someone with free time who can afford to work for free during that time.

Especially avoid having candidates do work that could be interpreted as unpaid contract labor (like redesigning our marketing site or rewriting a help article). If this is unavoidable, offer fair compensation for that work.

Allow as many candidates as possible to put their best foot forward. If they’re doing a dev interview let them use tools they’re comfortable with. Let them know what to expect before a skills assessment interview. Help them understand, in general, the rubric on which they’ll be judged. If you’re going into an interview you shouldn’t have to first divine what the interviewer expects to see then show it.

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This always-evolving process has been many years in the making, but was just formally articulated by our Product Director, Lee Jensen, as he was preparing to hire at the start of this year (he’s already brought three great new people on board!). It’s the result of mistakes we’ve made and lessons we’ve learned, but I’m super proud of how it reflects who we are as a company and showcases how thoughtful we try to be throughout the entire hiring process. We know the job search can be an anxiety-inducing time, so at the very least, if you apply for a job at Big Cartel, I want you to know we’re handling your application with great care.

Anna Brozek

CEO of Big Cartel, previously Community, Customer Support, and Operations. Started from the bottom now I’m here. ✌️

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