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December 20, 2019

How to Find Hidden ‘Unicorns’ in an Avalanche of Applicants—Interview with Kyle Maltz, Dollar Flight Club

Kyle Maltz, Dollar Flight Club

The first rule of Dollar Flight Club?

You talk about Dollar Flight Club—because this 2016 startup has a story worth telling.

Back in 2016, founder Jesse Neugarten found himself stuck at Mount Everest Base Camp following a devastating earthquake. Witnessing the impact on the local population gave Jesse a new lease on life, and he went home to create a startup that would change the face of travel.

Teaming up with pal Kyle Maltz, the pair—along with their ever-expanding remote team—have built something pretty awesome.

Dollar Flight Club is “an email/app subscription service that alerts 800,000+ members about the world's cheapest flight deals leaving their home airports.”

For Kyle, working on this game-changing project with Jesse was a no-brainer.

“Jesse and I worked together at a different startup before this. Jesse started [Dollar Flight Club] while we were there and it kind of took off. And then, you know, we got to chatting and I was like, look, I want to come and work with you.”

Fast forward two years and the team is up to ten remote employees—based as far apart as Seattle, Bali and Stockholm.

We caught up with Kyle, Director of Sales and Partnerships, at his office in Seattle to find out exactly how they managed to 5X their startup in just 2 years. 

How to deal with an avalanche of candidates 

“If you had to sum up our experience—travel's really sexy. People love it,” Kyle laughs. “When it's super sexy like that, people really apply to it, they want to apply to it constantly. So, volume is a big thing.”

And it’s no surprise that people do apply.

“You put [a role description] out where you're like, ‘You get to work remote, you have unlimited time off, you do whatever you want (which is kind of our culture), if you want to work from a beach in Bali, by all means, go do it!” says Kyle.

Right. Where do we sign? ✍️

Clearly, finding applicants isn’t a problem for DFC. In fact, their main challenge is the exact opposite—they almost have too many people applying.

For their last opening, they received 492 applicants.

*Pause for dramatic effect*

“That’s a ton of people, right?” says Kyle, “Could you imagine if we put it out there and just used email? You know, there's literally no way. There's no way.”

For a small startup like Dollar Flight Club, time is of the essence—and sifting through so many applicants could easily cause a meltdown.

“We have to be really quick. We don't have time [because] everyone's wearing a crazy amount of hats—we're doing PR, we're doing the marketing, we're doing design work, engineering work...”

It makes us tired just thinking about it. 😴

But for Kyle, it’s all part of the fun.

“Startups are not for everyone. People like to think they can work in startups. A lot of people can't handle the heat... [But] we work with a lot of really interesting, cool partners. [We get] discounts on hotels and flights and stuff. And that's kind of the perks of working with us.”

So how does a team of ten handle an onrush of wannabe beach-based employees?

Kyle shares his stage-by-stage secrets of exactly how they survive (and thrive) in the face of such huge applicant volumes.

Stage 1: Scale up your efficiency

To the envy of HR execs around the world, finding candidates is a breeze for Kyle and his team.

“For us, it's super simple. I mean, we just have our little link on our site. And if you want to apply, you go to the role,” says Kyle.

But it hasn't always been that easy.

When Dollar Flight Club first started out, their processes were pretty old-school—post something on LinkedIn and ask potential candidates to email them.

“We would just put something on LinkedIn usually and just kind of network. And for the most part, it was just like apply to an email… a quick ‘Why do you want to do this?’… and then we’d go through the candidates,” says Kyle.

But they soon found out that wasn’t a long-term solution for handling a remote hiring system.

“Putting stuff on LinkedIn and getting them to email me is not efficient. That's a shit show. It destroys your inbox and you regret doing it quickly,” says Kyle. (He's not one to sugarcoat it.).

They decided it was time to change. And for Kyle, it was all about finding the right tool.

“When we started to need to scale up, we were like, all right, we need a tool just to make this easy—something that we can post jobs to and bring candidates and quickly review them.”

Kyle still uses LinkedIn and remote-working sites to advertise their roles, but now email is off the agenda. They use Breezy to manage their candidates instead.

“[We] went from that to… now, where we're getting candidates at a pretty high volume and going through and making sure we find really qualified people.”

Stage 1 recap:

  • Use LinkedIn and relevant free job boards to post your roles
  • Find a great hiring tool like Breezy to make your processes super efficient
  • Ditch email

Stage 2: Work the right process, with the right tools

Once he’s got a (very) healthy number of candidates, Kyle’s next step is to sift through the applications.

“When you deal with high volume because it's a really attractive [role], and at the same time we're not outsourcing [recruitment to] anyone—you just need a good tool to do it quickly and efficiently,” says Kyle.

They use Breezy to organize the whole lot.

“I'll usually run through candidates and just earmark essentially. It's like an earmarking system. You kind of say, hey, this person's qualified enough for someone else to review, when you have that quantity.”

And it’s because of their high candidate quantity that it’s so important to organize applicants to the max. After all, you don't want to miss out on any hidden unicorns.

“If you really want to do [a high number of candidates] justice and go through them, you can't dive into the resume until you’ve at least weeded some out, which is unfortunate, but it's realistic.”

To do this, he has a foolproof system for organizing applicants:

  1. Run through candidates and earmark the best
  2.  If one catches your eye, quickly glance at their resume
  3. Then mark them as Good, Very Good or Neutral
  4. Work with the team to take a second look at any marked Good or above and slide them over for further review or interview
  5. Offer the interview

Kyle recognizes it’s a combination of great people and the right tools that really make the difference.

“You need to have really good tools, and obviously really good people … It streamlines everything. And so, you get super efficient.”

Here’s the lowdown on Kyle’s full process:

Stage 2 recap:

  • Use an automated tool to help streamline your processes
  • Work with your team to find the best candidates
  • Earmark the best applicants so you can go back and look in-depth
  • Create an organized recruitment system to help find any hidden unicorns

Stage 3: Pro attitude + chill interviewing = the perfect match

So, you’ve used an applicant management tool to pick the best of the bunch, and your candidates are on their way to interview.

What next?

For Kyle, it’s about finding out whether they’re an appli-can’t or an appli-can. (Sorry, it had to be done 😂)

Above everything else, that means seeing if they’re the right fit for the team.

“We're pretty chill. I mean, we're very laid back. But we're very professional at the same time… Culture fit’s a big deal when you're small. One bad apple will really screw things up.”

So, finding someone to represent that culture is a top priority for him. Kyle finds the best way to judge is by having a conversational-type interview.

“I can already tell what they’ve done [from their resume]. So, I'm not really interested in that. I'm more interested in their thoughts on things generally… Give me a quick rundown and then like, what are your interests?”

As a remote team, interviews generally take place over video conferencing. Then “if we like them, it's really just a top level, ‘did you enjoy the conversation? Do they have the skills?’… At the end of the day, they just need to sound like a cool person that we can get along with. And they're not just like—I mean, there's a lot of goofballs out there,” laughs Kyle.

But for Kyle, the final decision is simple.

“You just gotta trust your gut,” he says.

Stage 3 recap:

  • Outline your priorities—i.e., culture fit, specific skills, etc.
  • Make sure your interviewing style reflects your team culture
  • Use video conferencing if you’re a remote team

It’s a candidate’s world

When it comes to Dollar Flight Club’s success, the numbers speak for themselves.

The team has grown 5X in less than 2 years.

But as Kyle’s mantra goes—they couldn’t do it without streamlining their systems.

“We really want good people these days, and we're getting bigger... When you're two people and you turn into four, you know, it's literally doubling the size of the company, even though it’s really small… You just need those efficiencies.”

For Kyle, it’s not just about making his own job easier—it’s about making the process easier for the candidate too.

“It's actually much better for the candidate because you actually are getting seen. Imagine getting like 79 emails—half of them are not getting seen. But here you get a baseline and each person is getting a little peek into them by looking at their quick submission.” 

That’s why Kyle remains an advocate for the tools that make his life easier. 

“Our ability to grow as a company is only possible now because you have the tools to help you get there… [If] you don't want to allocate a ton of resources and you need to be efficient with your time. You need a good tool.” 

Bonus video content from Kyle: