Brazil Program/Community Hiring Process

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A National Program Consultant was being hired by WMF to lead some of the Brazil Programs work, specifically by supporting and advancing the work already done and being done by the Wikimedia Brazil community. For the success of this position, it was agreed upon by both WMF and Wikimedia Brasil that community integration into the hiring process was essential, and so a method was collaboratively determined to get the best new employee possible! The outcome was an innovative interviewing process done jointly with WMF and WMBR, ultimately resulting in the hiring of an awesome program leader (ok - we are a bit biased:))!

This overview itself was done in conjunction with the Brazilian community, as we reflected on the things that went well and those things which could be improved. For the full conversation behind all these points, see the page and discussion on the Wikimedia Brazil page.

Purpose of the process[edit]

Incorporating community interaction into the hiring process helped us identify the top candidate for this position given (a) the already existing strength of the local community and (b) the need for the ultimate employee in this position to interact with the community. So, the purposes of the entire hiring process were:

  1. Ensure the community was an advisor to the WMF in the hiring process
  2. Test the candidates' ability to interact with the community
  3. Allow the candidates' an opportunity to see what the job would be like (in a way)


The process resulted in three distinct phases all infuse with community support. The community worked with WMF to:

  • (1) promote the position to high potential applicants
  • (2) interview the top ~10 candidates, via two community-selected delegates
  • (3) engage on wiki the final 4 candidates, through discussion on topics on Wikipedia
  • (4) advise WMF on the results of the on-wiki assignment.

Steps for Hiring Process[edit]

Application acceptance and initial screening

a) Scope out position responsibilities[1]
b) Contract with executive search firm Michael Page to facilitate recruitment and initial screening
c) Apply screening and applications by Michael Page, resulting in a shortlist of candidates 7-15, to be completed by 31 Dec 2011

Community role
  • Advise in scoping of position description
  • Recommend contacts for the position (be engaged in the recruiting of the position)
Preliminary interviews

a) Selection by Wikimedia Brasil community of two volunteers to participate in in-person interviews alongside WMF's Barry Newstead[2]
b) Interview 12 candidates in Sao Paulo with Barry + two selected community members to create a shortlist of 2-4 candidates, to be completed by 7 Jan 2012

Community role
  • Determine selection process of volunteers to serve as interviewers, and come to consensus as to whom will be the assigned volunteers
  • The two volunteers come to Sao Paulo and participate in the interview process
Wiki assignment where candidates will prepare their thoughts on the situation for the Wikimedia Movement in Brazil

a) Determine questions for the assignment, parameters of the assignment, and the assessment criteria (WMF & WMBR) [3]
b) Conduct assignment online, with feedback from the community throughout (note: all in Portuguese), to be completed by 20 Jan 2012
c) Feedback given by community on the performance of the finalists on the assignments[4]

Community role
  • All of the above tasks :)
Post-assignment follow-up and interview with WMF

a) Skype interview with Jessie Wild - Special Projects manager who has worked a lot with Brazilian community, to be completed by 20 Jan 2012

Community role
  • None
Selection of National Program Consultant

a) Compile the results of the assignments with the interview feedback for the finalists and select top 1-2 candidates for final interviews at WMF, to be completed by 26 Jan 2012
b) Final interview in San Francisco with Barry and WMF Exec Director Sue Gardner in SF, to be completed by Feb 3 2012[5]
c) Make offer to candidate, to be completed by 15 Feb 2012 d) Announce the hiring of candidate and prepare for orientation[6]

Community role
  • The two assigned volunteers to relay the community consensus about the candidates[7]


What went well[edit]

  • Interviews by volunteers and WMF together gave a good idea to candidates of the main requirements for the job
  • Online assessment allowed candidates to get a feeling of what was expected from them
  • Online process went quickly enough to keep candidates interested and available
  • More objective process than many other hiring processes done by WMF and other international organizations! This was appreciated by all parties involved

The challenges[edit]

The process was not without its challenges, and we have areas for improvement, certainly. Some of the challenges we faced, which complicated the process overall:

  • Privacy for candidates: some candidates had to be careful about announcing their application to avoid threatening their existing jobs. As a result, it is important to have some levels of anonymity.
  • Privacy for community members: many of the community members are active in open knowledge fields in Brazil, and as a result are likely to interact with the finalists in some capacity in the future. Signing one's name on an open review of such candidates could be a delicate situation for the community member.
  • Time to engage: the duration of the online assignment was only about one week in totality, so the finalists' were very impacted by their ability to spend time engaging during that specific week. Due to the intense nature of the online assignment, those candidates who for whatever reason did not have as much flexibility in the given week were negatively impacted.
  • Assessment criteria: the criteria established to assess the assignment was not adhered to by the majority of community members who gave their feedback.
  • Practical vs academic: some finalists expressed that the exercise resulted in too much academic conversation as people tried to "prove" their worth, rather than work collectively in finding a solution.
  • Politicking: the on-wiki assignment could warp into promises from the candidates to the community, rather than constructive challenging of topics.
  • Community involvement: there was only a small group of Wikimedians (5-8) who really participated, resulting in some slower conversations on-wiki as well as one-sided arguments. It is important to get more engagement.
  • Effectiveness of external executive search firm: our search process was so unique, it was a challenge to communicate our desires and process with a more traditional executive search firm. We should be very cautious of expectations when engaging with a similar firm in the future (not to say we should not do so!).

Suggestions for improvement[edit]

1. Determine from the outset to incorporate the community in interviewing

Though WMF worked with the community in scoping the position and the timing of the position announcement, the idea of having the community integrated into the interviewing process did not happen until after the position was posted and WMBR approached WMF. The process worked fine, but the conversations on transparency and community involvement ideally should have occurred *before* the position was posted.

2. Construct a more structured assessment page

The first reviewers structured the assessment page by Reviewer name followed by their brief assessment of the individual candidates. Most organized their reviews in descending order. What could perhaps be more valuable is creating a review table, which could be filled in by supporting points and examples by community members, rather than having point-by-point assessments. If individual and more elaborate reviews are desired, these could be placed on the talk page, with the ultimate agreed upon outcome being the assessment table filled in on the main page.

It would be also important that the above mentioned review table contained criteria previously agreed by community members, WMF, and any other relevant party (e.g., CIS in India) is shared openly in order to guide the reviews. There could be a collumn for open comments, avoiding that each volunteer had different criteria in mind when evaluating. The candidates should also be well aware of what this criteria is as well, so they know how to best expend their limited time.

3. Crystalize the community consensus on candidates

As per the above, no consensus was reached by the community about which candidates were "the best." Rather, there was a list of community member's comments per candidate. This is more similar to a voting process, as opposed to a consensus process. The community is an essential advisor to the ultimate decision by WMF, and it is important for them to have a collective voice. The volunteers assigned to relay the community's thoughts should help clarify within the community what the overall consensus is, and also hold individual community members to the criteria that are listed. This would ensure the community felt their input is heard by WMF in an effective way.

4. Recruitment announcements

One of the areas of disconnect with the Executive Search firm is from which networks we should recruit. Though we got the word out through our own networks, it would be better to prioritize from the onset the job positions among fields directly related to free culture, free software and NGOs fields. In Brazil, the company hired for recruitment was not very much in to these fields world.

5. Communication about full process for the candidates

It might be useful to inform candidates from the beginning that the final candidate will be required to go to San Francisco (if it will really be necessary). In Brazil, some candidates were desperately getting the American visa in the last minute.

6. Online task format

In the Brazil assignment, the candidates had to expound upon a few open points of contention. It would be interesting to test other modes of candidate interaction with the community, like hosting an FAQ, composing a thought-piece and responding to feedback, or perhaps reviewing a project proposal. A problem with the brazil pilot is that community members started asking additional questions to the original assignment, which made it difficult for candidates to focus on what they were originally tasked in doing.


  1. See Original position description. It is important to note that this piece was not done in complete conjunction with the community but ideally should have been (see Recommendations)
  2. For full selection process, see Selection Discussion
  3. See Assignment discussion page for more background
  4. See the review page for individual assessments of the finalists
  5. Note that interviewing with the executive director is required by all new hires
  6. See announcement by Barry on March 1, 2012
  7. See "Suggestions for Improvement": consensus was not fully realized

See also[edit]