How brown M&Ms have improved our hiring process

A few thoughts on hiring, and as such, a few thoughts on being hired


We’ve been hiring a lot lately. We still are — and will continue hiring on a rapid pace to address the demand for our services.

That’s exciting.

Hiring is exhausting and difficult.

Resume scrolling. Email sending. Story telling.

Candidate screening. Interview organizing. Hard question asking.

Then the hard part — onboarding, training, finding the appropriate flow rate through the firehose, etc.

I’ve been acting as an ad hoc recruiter for the past twelve months.

Thankfully our search for a human resources manager, whose responsibilities will include, among others, recruiting and hiring, will soon be coming to an end.

To mark this glorious occasion, I’m writing about what I have learned and a few observations I have made. Perhaps it will of interest to you.


Remember that old story about how Van Halen requested a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown candies removed be provided backstage at their concerts?

Turns out it was true.

It also turns out there was a purpose to the request.

From David Lee Roth’s autobiography:

Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

The removal of brown M&Ms was a test to signal attention to detail. If brown M&Ms were present in the candy dish, Van Halen suspected other details of the contract had been ignored as well.

The internet and its many tools have made finding and applying to jobs easy. Click. Click. Applied.

Why not apply to every opportunity when the marginal cost of application is already zero?

That’s great for a job seeker. It’s constant resume scrolling for the employer.

For example, we recently received 179 applications for two open positions over the course of one week.

That’s a lot of resumes to review.

As a recruiter (especially as a temporary recruiter with other job responsibilities), I desire to know if the job seeker has at least spent a few minutes contemplating if our company is even a good fit for them.

So we started adding a brown M&M to every job posting.

A brown M&M is a prompt at the bottom of every job description. The prompt instructs a candidate interested in applying to answer a question in lieu of sending a cover letter.

It’s a straightforward ask and the approach the candidate takes in responding to the request is often as informative as their resume. It also tells me the candidate has (likely) spent time thinking about whether or not they would like working with us.

A non-response to a brown M&M is an automatic rejection.

Of those 179 applicants — how many do you think took note of the brown M&M?

27.

A manageable number. And the majority were great candidates.


Status:Go is a technology implementation partner for healthcare delivery provider organizations. Learn about our work at CentralManagement.work.

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