The good news is, we're hiring! We're looking for a marketer for all our pubs as well as an editor/evangelist for WhichTestWon.
When you're a small company, the stakes are enormously high for each new hire. Someone who doesn't work out can easily set you back six months or more.
I've never found resume-surfing useful. Too much BS, too hard to compare apples-to-apples. LinkedIn profile surfing is better, especially for online marketing and editorial positions, because those skills are exhibited in your LinkedIn profile. I review the quality of your connections and groups, whether you link anywhere, if anyone recommends you, your Twitter stream, etc. (Yes, I've dumped some people who had great resumes but lousy LinkedIn pages into my "no thanks" pile in the past.)
I also use our online application forms, built via our FormStack account (I used to use online survey software, but the URLs scared applicants thinking my job opening was survey spam) to do the first round of evaluations. Some questions are the same - your contact info, your LinkedIn ID, etc - but mostly the questions are developed specifically for the position in question.
I ask two types of questions -- one set is for specific hands-on experience; ie., please rate on a scale how expert you are at each of the items on a list of what's required for the job. The other set is for rating your likes/dislikes for various parts of the job. I've believe you not only have to know what you're doing, but you have to have a genuine enthusiasm for it to work at our company.
BTW: If you rate yourself "very high" in everything on both lists, chances are we'll knock you off the list as well. Nobody is excellent at and utterly enthusiastic about every part of a job. It's unrealistic.
And yes, sometimes I stick in a few ringers -- asking about talents or activities which are not involved in this job -- for the purposes of weeding people out. For example, our marketing job is 90% tactics/ 10% strategy, so I asked applicants how much they liked strategy. If you answered that strategy is your favorite thing in the world, I know this is not the job for you.
Lastly, although about half our staff works virtually and I've hired plenty of great people in the past who I never actually met until ages after they started working for me (in one case six years), after being burned a few times, now we try to meet every top candidate in person. Even if they'll work virtually.
Only by looking someone in the eye can I evaluate their emotional intelligence and sense of responsibility. Either you're a "grown up" or you're not. It's nothing to do with physical age. Some people are born "grown up" and others never get there. Again, we're a small company. I'll always make the time to train a grown-up, but there's no room for hand-holding kids.
So what about calling references? Unless your references are for a company that's at our same growth-stage, and for a job that's a fairly good match, I've found references surprisingly useless.
Actually, I've been seriously led astray by genuine, positive references in the past, not once but several times. Your super-star student or employee could turn out to be my stinker. So, for me reference calling is a pro forma activity to cross the 't's, and nothing else.
Want to work for my company? You'll work hard, learn a lot, be fairly self-directed, and get in on what is still pretty much the ground floor of a growing concern. Our gross sales tripled last year. We're targeting 50% minimum growth for this one.
Grown ups only please ;-)