Authentic &


Matt Douglas, Founder and CEO of Sincere Corporation

The 24 Hour Challenge for Job Candidates

Every month, I spend a lot of time interviewing candidates. At Sincere, we hire full-time employees, independent contractors, and interns. Regardless of the position, all of us work together as a close team. So it’s critical that we hire people that fit the culture and vibe.

I’m fond of saying that ‘good’ people are relatively easy to find: place an ad on LinkedIn or and you can find educated, experienced, and talented people within days. But finding truly GREAT people is really hard — how do you find people with superb communication skills, a strong work ethic, excellent personal traits, combined with a willingness to join a small company? And how do you make sure that the skill set and mindset of this new person will be additive to the team you already have in place? I can tell you from experience: hiring great people is very hard.

Over the years, we’ve developed a sequence to our hiring process to find great people. Our goal is to learn about the person as much as possible before we offer a position. We want to know how they think and what makes them tick. One part of our process is something I call the “24-hour challenge.”

Here’s how the “24-hour challenge” works: We ask the candidate to send us an email within the next 24 hours. In the email, we ask for two parts:

PART 1: We want to know how interested you are in the position. Why should we hire you? Are you the right fit? We want to hear what makes you excited about the opportunity and the Company. Given all of the resources available online, you can learn quite a bit about us. Convince us why you are the best fit for the position, what makes you excited to join us, and what unique qualities you bring to the team at Sincere.

PART 2: Send us something that shows us who you are and how you think. This is an opportunity to help us get to know you better. It could be something creative like a writing sample or a poem. Maybe it’s an amusing picture that you’ve seen or something that means something to you on a personal level. Or maybe it’s just a rant on something that you find interesting. There are no guidelines here – just show us who you are and how you think.

So, how do we evaluate the 24-hour challenge?

1) Did you deliver the email within 24 hours? In a small company, it’s critical that we hit deadlines and deliver on-time. Therefore, we want to know that you’ll actually be able to deliver and hit deadlines — even with this small challenge. With our 24-hour challenge, it is simply unacceptable to be even one minute late. If something came up and you can’t get back to us within 24 hours, we expect an email letting us know why. If you’re late, we won’t even bother reading your email. Is this harsh? Maybe. But we’re looking for GREAT people – and great people always deliver on-time. (Side note: don’t be cute and send your response only a few minutes before the deadline – that just annoys us and makes us wonder if you are serious about the role.)

2) How do you think? Are you creative or literal? Are you self-aware? Do you have a sense of humor? Can you communicate clearly with your words? It’s amazing what we can learn about a person from the 24-hour challenge.

3) Are you excited about the opportunity at Sincere? Why? Have you spent the time to critically evaluate the opportunity? Are you ready to join a small company?

Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty cool things as a result of the 24-hour challenge. We love a variety of responses, and it’s fun to see what people send us (the more unique the better). Here are a few examples of memorable 24-hour challenges we’ve received over the years:

•  A custom-made Mad Lib about the candidate’s life and the reason why Mad Libs were a recent obsession for her.

•  A video of the candidate Irish dancing, and the story of how she set out to learn this skill in college to fulfill a childhood dream.

•  A story (with supporting photos) about how the candidate tracked down a rare antique book about his hometown, discovered it had never been digitized, and set out on a project to properly translate the old-timey font with help from technology.

•  A passionate four-paragraph essay about why Superman is the best superhero.

•  A photo of “ice henge” and the story behind how the candidate and their friends began constructing freeform ice sculptures in New Hampshire.

Ice Henge
Candidate 24-hour challenge submission photo

•  Photos of the candidate at two separate ticker-tape parades, the story of how she ended up at both, and why she loves these celebrations.

•  The tale of the candidate’s first job in high school as a chocolate-covered strawberry mascot for a local chocolatier, and lessons learned.

•  A video of snow causing bubbles to form on an ash-coated fire pit, and the candidate’s musings about the physics involved in this phenomenon.

If you’ve read this post because we’ve given you the 24-hour challenge, I hope this gives you a really good idea of the purpose of your task. This is your last chance to make a memorable impression on the key people who make the hiring decisions at Sincere. We’re trying to answer the question: are you good or are you GREAT for Sincere? After a few years of using the “24-hour challenge,” I’m convinced it helps us uncover great people to join our team.

©2024 Matt Douglas