Thinking of Hiring An Automation Expert?

For busy solopreneurs and creators

I'm currently writing an in-depth article based on this tweet from Dan Koe. The aim is to assist those who might currently, or soon, find themselves in a similar situation with a focus on automation and systems.

Plus, questions covering:

The article is taking longer than I expected, but I wanted to share an important tidbit from it, especially for those considering hiring an agency or a Fractional Chief Automation Officer (CAO) for their automation needs.

  • Note: This is meant for solopreneurs and content creators. Not for larger companies*.***

    There is a lot more that goes into hiring a CAO for a startup or companies looking to scale fast.

The exercise I'm going to share was introduced to me by a former mentor of mine who has since passed away. He used this exercise with his clients when they hired him to assist in finding an automation agency during his time as an automation consultant. I also used this approach during my stint as an automation consultant last year and my clients also got great results.

It involves giving a potential automation agency "homework" or asking them how they'd approach an “issue” with something you'd like to automate.

Creating an Email Marketing Dashboard (Hypothetical Exercise)

Imagine you're using beehiiv and need an email marketing dashboard that displays your most critical email marketing stats. These include metrics such as:

  • total posts,

  • average open rate,

  • click-through rate,

  • new subscribers,

  • unsubscribes,

  • new email subscribers,

  • net new subscribers,

  • net growth %, etc…

However, there's a challenge.

While beehiiv has a Zapier integration, it doesn't provide the metrics (aka ‘data points’) you need to create this type of dashboard. Also, there is no API or webhook available (at the time of this writing).

What would they do?

The key here isn't just them knowing the solution but understanding their approach and how they communicate a potential solution.

Often, they might hurry and overcomplicate their response, which could indicate a lack of knowledge, poor communication skills, or both. But here are a few things I’d look out for:

1. Did they ask about other methods to retrieve these metrics/data points?

For instance, did they ask if you received emails from beehiiv that included these metrics, or if you could somehow opt-in to receive them? beehiiv automatically sends daily and monthly reports of these stats, as seen in the examples below.

Daily Growth Recap – Daily email sent with # of new subscribers for the day

Monthly Subscriber activity in June

Monthly Recap for June

It’s a simple question, but their answer will provide insight into their thought process and understanding that there are alternative ways to automate a task, even when a solution isn't immediately apparent.

2. Did they rush to provide an answer, or did they request more time to form a solution?

Personally, I prefer someone who asks for more time to think than someone who rushes to provide a poor response. I'm sure you do too.

3. Most importantly, did they avoid jargon when responding, and did they adapt their answer to their audience?

Here’s an example of a response filled with technical jargon:

In order to create your email marketing dashboard, we’ll parse the email metadata by setting up an automation rule that captures specific header fields. Next, using our proprietary…” 😴 NOPE.

A simple statement such as, "We can extract the relevant data from any email or report sent to you and convert that data into a dashboard," is perfect.

In creating a hypothetical exercise like the one mentioned, there are a few key steps you can follow.

The goal is to construct a scenario that tests not only the technical abilities of the potential hire but also their creativity, communication skills, and problem-solving approach.

Check out the exercise and template below, but first:

Here's a step-by-step process on how to create a similar exercise:

1. Identify the key skills: These could include problem-solving, critical thinking, technical prowess, communication, adaptability, etc. In our case, the key skills are the ability to solve a technical problem creatively, clear communication, and adaptability.

2. Draft a relevant problem scenario: This should reflect a real-life situation they could potentially face on the job. In our example, we created an issue with having to design an email marketing dashboard without the convenience of direct integrations or APIs. This scenario tests their creative problem-solving skills and their technical knowledge.

3. Define the desired outcome: What is the candidate expected to achieve at the end of this exercise? Is it a solution to the problem or a plan to tackle it? In our case, it's a solution for creating an email marketing dashboard, even if not an exhaustive one.

4. Determine the constraints: This might include limited resources, a lack of specific tools, or time limitations. This adds a layer of complexity and tests their adaptability. In our example, the constraint is the lack of direct integrations or APIs.

5. Develop questions to guide the candidate: These can help to test the candidate's approach and thought process, rather than just their final answer. They should encourage the candidate to think aloud and share their decision-making process.

6. Create evaluation criteria: This will help to evaluate the responses effectively. You should consider factors like the approach to the problem, clarity of communication, creativity of the solution, and alignment with the defined outcome.

Example Hypothetical Exercise:

Title: Designing a Customer Retention Strategy without a CRM

Scenario: We are a small startup that currently doesn't use a CRM tool. Yet, we need to develop a strategy for retaining customers. The data we have is scattered across multiple spreadsheets and tools, including email marketing tools, website analytics, and social media analytics.

Desired Outcome: A basic plan for how to consolidate and use this data to better understand our customers and develop a retention strategy.

Constraints: No CRM tool. Limited budget for purchasing new tools.

Guiding Questions:

1. How would you consolidate the existing data from the different sources?

2. What would you consider as important data points for understanding customer behavior?

3. How would you plan to use this data for a retention strategy?

4. If given a budget to invest in a tool, what kind of tool would you recommend?

Evaluation Criteria:

1. Approach to consolidating and organizing data.

2. Understanding of important data points for customer retention.

3. Clarity and practicality of the retention strategy.

4. Understanding of available tools and technology in the market.

Remember, the goal of this exercise is not just about getting the right answer, but also about understanding the candidate's thought process and approach to solving problems. It's also about testing their communication skills and how well they can explain their strategies to non-technical team members.

If you’d like this in a Notion template, click the button below.

I hope this helps, and I’d love to hear from you. If there are questions or topics you’d like me to cover related to this, please send me an email and let me know!

Join the conversation

or to participate.