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Exponential organizations are a new breed of business built to scale very rapidly. These are enterprises that operate 10 times better, faster, and more cost effectively than their traditional, linearly-operated peer organizations. They exploit the benefits of “exponential”, or scaling, technologies to one-up competitors, disrupt industry icons, and keep competitors at bay. Uber and Airbnb are prime examples, but there are over 100 such organizations.

A key factor in their success is their ability to hire good people to manage that growth. As many entrepreneurs have learned, growing fast and finding good people is critical but very time consuming, and everyone can use more time.

We’ll outline here a method for hiring a great candidate in one week that we devised when starting Singularity University.

Singularity University was founded to explore the effect exponential technologies have on bringing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems — those that touch a billion or more people. One summer at our NASA campus, we had 300 hours of lectures delivered in 10 weeks by 160 different speakers. The operational requirements were extreme, and our core team totaled fewer than 10 people. We quickly needed more help to cope with the pressure and to grow and scale.

We didn’t have the luxury of waiting weeks or months to make a new hire. So we hacked the traditional process and collapsed the hiring cycle from weeks or even months, down to days.

Here’s how the process works:


Write a job description and place it on Craigslist, LinkedIn, or similar online locations and socialize it as much as possible. Here is an example of a job description from a recent hiring position from one of our organizations.

Tips: Make it clear you’re hiring fast and don’t publish a salary. Make sure you collect First Name, Last Name and, at the very least, an email address at this stage. Don’t worry about getting too many; volume is okay at this point. It is strongly recommended to do this on Friday afternoon.


In a favorable hiring climate, you’ll typically get 150-200 responses over the weekend. On Monday night, create a survey and send to all applicants with questions relevant to the job requirements. We used SurveyMonkey and Typeform. Tell the prospects they have one day to fill out the survey. Here’s an example (question three is critical).

Q1 – How many years of experience do you have in each of the following (0-1, 1-2, 2-4, 5+).

      1. QuickBooks
      2. Excel
      3. Audits
      4. Expense procedures
      5. Collections

Q2 – How expert are you in the following areas (none, beginner, experienced, expert)

      1. Pro-forma financials
      2. Management accounting
      3. Regulatory processes
      4. Dealing with board members

Q3 – What are your annual salary expectations

      1. $40-$45k
      2. $45-50k,
      3. $50-55k, etc.

Q4 – How immediately available are you?

      1. Immediately (aka tomorrow)
      2. Within 2 weeks
      3. In a month


Morning – Analysis

In the morning, analyze the responses. In our experience, 60 to 70 percent of applicants fill out the survey. The rest self-selected to be ignored, and you don’t want them anyway. Sort by the salary band you can afford and filter by the experience for which you’re hiring. Pick the top 10 and invite them to 10-minute phone interviews that afternoon. Be sure to pick the eight best-qualified candidates and a couple of outliers for comparison.

Later in the afternoon works well for the phone interviews because you will have the morning to do all the analysis and prepare. The candidate’s information will be fresh in your mind. It’s also easier and faster for everyone in terms of scheduling. Candidates can likely arrange more easily for a mid- or late-afternoon break if they are on the job elsewhere.

Afternoon – Phone Interviews

Conduct these with your hiring manager and one colleague sitting in on all the calls. Interview and get a feel for the candidate to get a general feel for their appropriateness for the position. At the end of the calls, choose your top three candidates and invite them to in-person interviews.


Morning In-Person Interviews

You will have the top three candidates in your office for interviews with the same two to three members of your team present for each. Afterward, select the two finalists for the position.

Afternoon – Check References

Call the references of the top two candidates and you’ll find your winner. Or, if the need is extreme, your budget can absorb it, and the candidates were equally strong, hire both for a trial period.

Analysis and observations

The key innovation here is the use of the survey; you are getting the candidates to render their work experience in a structured way, tailored to your requirements. Filtering the resulting output is relatively trivial. This is not the process to use for an executive hire, that’s different. This is one process to use for quickly hiring operators at scale.

Salim Ismail spent eight years helping building Singularity University as its founding executive director and then global ambassador. He is an investor, entrepreneur, and author of Exponential Organizations, as well as a member of the X Prize Board of Directors.

Kent Langley is a serial entrepreneur, investor, international speaker, and experienced technology executive. He is faculty at Singularity University, where he teaches Data Science and Exponential Organizations. He works to apply technology for humanity on projects that educate, feed, clothe people.

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