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August 26, 2020

Find Hidden Gem Candidates in a Niche Industry (and Stay Human)—Interview with Rob Collie and Kellan Danielson from P3

Illustration of a Woman looking at a man who has a robot style antenna on the top of his head.

P3 has no equal.

As a premier consultancy firm specializing in Power BI and the Microsoft data platform, P3 is the leading firm to watch.

After working as the BI product leader at Microsoft for 13 years, P3 founder and CEO Rob Collie decided to venture out on his own to help other companies with their BI strategies and literally wrote the book on Power BI in the process. 

Collie’s book, Power Pivot and Power BI: The Excel User's Guide to DAX, Power Query, Power BI & Power Pivot in Excel 2010-2016is out now

Collie’s technical knowledge and infectious enthusiasm led to quick team growth, and soon Kellan Danielson came on board. 

Fast forward to today and Danielson is Collie’s right-hand man, President and COO—and with these two powerhouses leading the way, it’s no wonder P3 has grown from one man’s light bulb moment to a premier consultancy, creating over a billion dollars in value for their clients. ✔️

But the journey hasn’t always been smooth, especially when it comes to growing a quality team to meet increasing demand.

We couldn’t resist catching up to find out exactly how they navigated the path to growth while staying solidly human. 

Check it out!

How to hit all your hiring goals and stay human

Although P3 makes staying at the top of their game look effortless, that’s only half the story—behind the scenes, holding out for top talent takes real determination. 

Because hiring top quality candidates is #1 priority—even if that means hiring no one. 

“What we're looking for is someone who can successfully operate with autonomy. We invest our trust in each employee, and they are responsible for not only delivering work each week, but also driving client satisfaction and retention,” explains Danielson. 

“[When I worked at Microsoft] the bar was super, super high with a really low hiring rate. When a candidate came in, we didn't have a 50:50 expectation they'd get an offer, it was more like 1 in 10. And I learned all the pros and cons of that. At P3, our offer rate is under 2% of applicants. When you've got a quality bar that high, now you need volume,” adds Collie. 

To get applicants through the door, P3 offers some pretty awesome perks: remote working, an incentive program in addition to their salary and a solid team culture, to name a few. But that’s not all—they keep their CX as high as their candidate standards, so keeping hiring human is a must.

 It’s no wonder they have a 90%+ employee retention rate.

“We have a rallying cry internally which is ‘No robots’,” explains Collie, “We work really hard to be very, very friendly with candidates, because we know we're touching so many people and we're only hiring or offering 2% of them. Plus, we really do just sincerely care. We want people to feel good about the whole process, even though very few will receive an offer.”

Hiring quality talent while managing high candidate volume and offering a great candidate experience—that’s a lot of boxes to check. So how exactly do they do it?

Here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to keep all your hiring goals afloat—and most importantly, human.

Want to make sure every candidate is treated with respect? Learn exactly what an ATS is and how you can use it to reply to thousands of applicants fast.

Stage 1: Show candidates you’re open for business 👋🏼

In a new niche like Power BI, hidden gems are hard to find because the roles themselves are new. 

“We're trying to find that slim percentage of the business world who accidentally grew into data developers without ever realizing they’d crossed that line,” says Collie. “Most organizations have a zone between the business groups and the IT groups that are unassigned. It's not a formal designation, but some companies are starting to figure this out [and are creating these roles].”

In other words, finding candidates who fit the bill is hard. So, the first step for P3 is to make themselves available—even when they’re not actively trying to fill a role.

P3 is always accepting applications for great candidates to join their team. When necessary, they ramp up the volume of incoming applications through advertising. “We're quite aggressive on advertising through Indeed, LinkedIn and other platforms,” explains Danielson. “And that means we get more people than we need in any given week. Right now, we're probably on maybe 10 a week on each of our various roles.”

Having roles consistently open means they’re much more likely to find those hidden unicorns.

“We're always on the lookout for a great consultant, kind of a diamond in the rough in our industry. It’s a significant thing so you want to keep that funnel always open,” says Danielson.

Stage 1 recap:

  • Give candidates the opportunity to apply, even when you’re not actively trying to fill a role
  • Treat hiring as a digital funnel, similar to sales or customer acquisition
  • Always keep your eyes open for top quality candidates
“We're always on the lookout for a great consultant, kind of a diamond in the rough in our industry,” Kellan Danielson, President & COO, P3

Stage 2: Use an automatic questionnaire to screen for heroes 

Once they’ve advertised a role and have a solid candidate pool, it’s time to find that one-in-a-million consultant. 

With so many candidates and such little time, P3 uses Breezy to automate their systems.

“We have different stages in each position. First, all candidates go into the initial stage, which is really just about pre-qualification. Like, are you in the US? What's your pay range? The answers to those questions will trigger emails or progressions to different stages, and we have automated emails that go out if they don't meet those qualifications,” explains Danielson. 

P3 use Breezy’s automatic stage actions to move candidates through the pipeline 

For P3, automation makes all the difference.

“It wouldn’t be feasible to broadly advertise job openings without a good automation system to filter candidates out initially. If we had to handle all that manually, we'd probably say we're just not going to advertise. [Breezy’s automation] allows us to throw a larger net.”

And with a massive 50% not making it past the initial screen, the time saved is HUGE.

“Half of those people we’re able to sort proactively; not waste their time, not waste our time. And that is amazing, right? Right there, we double our horsepower.”

Stage 2 recap:

  • Use an automated questionnaire to tick off the role musts like location, etc.
  • Create stage actions to filter candidates to different pipeline stages
  • Set an automated, personalized email to all non-qualified applicants

Stage 3: Run the ultimate test project

Ever since P3 began, Collie has known that simulating the actual work a candidate will be doing is key to finding top talent. 

But before they dive in, they ask candidates a quick yes/no question to find out if candidates will have the ability to complete the simulation. 

“We present a technical question and ask if they know the answer. If they say no, we recommend that they spend some additional time learning and come back when they’re ready. This additional screening saves us time on the most intensive part of the process, and it saves the candidate’s time as well,” explains Collie. “We’ve had people answer “no,” spend time learning these capabilities, and then return, take the test, and get hired."

For those who accept, an automatic email invites them to take part in the test project.

“It's a technical interview with some emotional confidence testing components. There are things I don't want to reveal because they're part of the secret sauce,” laughs Collie. “The people who have come through this process and have been successful are amazing. They're even better than what I expected them to be. They always clear it by a lot or they don't clear it at all.”

The testing process takes 2-3 weeks, with back and forth emails as P3 plays the role of client.  

“We tell them we're going to pretend to be a client, and we're going to send you a client type problem. It's never one back and forth in the real world, so the [test project] isn't that way either. We've designed it to simulate things pretty closely,” says Collie.

For P3, the test is more important than the interview, but a follow-up video call finally seals the deal (or not).

“If they pass the test, they pass the interview. But we do require the best two out of three: two out of the three directors, or Rob and I, have to approve of the candidate in a video interview before we actually hire them,” says Danielson.

Stage 3 recap:

  • Test candidates’ knowledge with a quick yes or no question and recommend if they should proceed based on the response
  • Create a test project that closely aligns with the job role
  • Set up an automatic email explaining the test project
  • Decide how many ‘yesses’ you need to reach the offer stage
  • Invite successful candidates to interview stage for a final culture-fit check

Breezy’s automated email templates and bulk emailing help P3 deal with high candidate volume, fast

The future’s bright: Finding hiring success in a new field 😎

As one of the first companies in the field, P3’s journey is set to change with the growing industry—and that’s sure to impact their hiring. 

“In the next six months we foresee a very specific skillset and we plan to hire between two or three candidates. The business intelligence stack continues to evolve and advance, and as it matures there’s also a lot of new infrastructural/architectural technologies coming online, and our hiring profile needs to continually adjust accordingly,” says Danielson.

And it’s not just the changing client requirements that impact the way P3 hires—the recent pandemic and associated economic challenges have encouraged them to think about the future.

“[During the pandemic] we actually increased the size of our team. But it doesn't speak for future months,” says Danielson. “A lot of people have gone through the phase of adjusting their workflow and how they're working every day. And now people are realizing we could be in this really long term.”

But with their automated hiring process in place and a determination to make waves, the future for P3 looks breezy. 🍃