They say that company culture starts with your first hire. This is what makes hiring one of the most risky but most rewarding processes in a company. These are some lessons I’ve learned regarding while building a hiring process for multiple companies over the last 10 years.
Most of how companies do hiring is based on the assumption that people aren’t going to put forward a true, honest opinion of themselves. The interview, which is supposed to decide whether or not you enjoy sitting in a cubicle next to somebody for eight hours a day, is almost always a high-pressure conversation where you are almost expected to lie or embellish the truth.
So the process tends to favor tellers over doers.
In other words: the hiring process as we know it actively encourages lying or intentional “tweaking” of the truth. This leads to both hiring managers and prospective employees believing some really big misconceptions about the hiring process. We will use this chance to tackle those misconceptions.
Amazing Companies Have Many People
Actually, they do not. Many companies and job-seekers fall into this mantra that companies hiring successfully are amazingly productive and successful companies. Hiring is not a consequence of success. Revenue and customers are. More often than not, hiring is a consequence of the failure to create enough value for your product to grow without help.
So, companies that are truly amazing have few people because they are able to accomplish great things efficiently with few people. This does not mean you should feel bad or inadequate when you hire people but you should not be proud and act all high and mighty about it.
Hiring people is a great thing because it gives you more options and resources. No one is perfect, and you can not expect to do everything yourself, but the process of hiring people should be a humbling experience for the company. After all, you are hiring someone to do a job you could not do without them. Always respect that!
People Should Be Hired for Culture Fit
No, they shouldn’t. And they should not be discriminated against for the same reason. Hiring diverse people is actually a great thing. Although your company culture starts with your first hire – it does not end there.
You do not need new employees that will fit into your company culture but people that will contribute to it. Most people consider that good corporate culture is static and decided early in a company’s life. It’s not. Your culture will expand as your business expands. The idea of safekeeping the company culture does not work and you should abandon it right away.
New employees will not become different because they expanded company’s culture. They’ll change what different looks like so you would never tell that they were a possible bad culture fit the day they were hired. There is a deep and natural human bias to hire people “like us.” Fight this bias.
By giving different people a chance to interview for a position you also lower the chances of missing someone really great – and passing up great people is never a good thing. The phrase “Hire slow, fire fast” comes from the fear that companies have of hiring bad people, but very few companies are afraid of missing out on great ones. And the cost is unknown and uncapped. Facebook passed on Brian Acton (WhatsApp co-founder) and it cost $8B and a board seat.
It sucks to let people go and this is why you should use extensive hiring process that helps you evaluate your prospective colleagues to the maximum but do not discriminate on people that start the evaluation process. If candidate passes the initial technical stage you should give him a chance no matter how different from the rest of team he/she is.
Hiring Experienced People Is the Best Way to Go
Hiring experienced people is really great. But hiring people that can further grow is even better. To be honest, technology is usually a young man’s game, so most great employees might not have a long resume.
It is important to note that potential and experience are not opposites. Potential is the first derivative of experience. Most candidates have both, and both are important. But potential is far more valuable. Interviewing for experience is easy because you are discovering what someone has done. Interviewing for potential is hard because you are predicting what they will do. An employee with a lot of potential that gives maximum effort is much better for your company than an expert.
This doesn’t mean expertise isn’t important, but the velocity of change in the tech industry is so high that static expertise quickly becomes obsolete. As a hiring manager, your job should be to hire people whose potential will explode when they join your company, pulling your business forward along with them.
One of the best ways to find people with high potential is to look for curiosity. While experts talk about what they know, curious people talk about what they don’t know. When you interview, verify expertise by discovering strengths. And then look for curiosity.
Productivity Metrics Boost Performance
Most great and efficient companies I know have no individual success metrics. This is because it usually does not help improve performance management. When you give people a quantifiable number as a value of their accomplishments, they will try to chase that number, no matter what. They will stop doing the little things that do not show up on the stat sheet.
The results for your business can be devastating.
I like comparing business processes to basketball because it offers really great parallel. There is a term for this in sports and it’s called the “empty stats guy”. This refers to people that stat-pad their statistics at the end of a game, when it does not really matter.
A customer support representative that boosts his numbers by only choosing to solve easy customer problems is a good example of this. His results offer great number but that does not translate to success. There is a reason why the NBA does not give Most Valuable Player awards to people on losing teams. If what you are doing does not add up to more wins for your team, you are not helping.
It’s true that some companies are better at measuring results than others. Measuring is not necessarily a bad thing. Hockey, for example, awards an assist both for a pass leading to a goal and for a pass leading to a pass that lead to the goal. Basketball has a lot to learn from hockey, and so do businesses.
Also, having “good numbers” at one job or position does not mean you are going to be good at your next job, next company or next role in the company. This can actually lead to something called Peter principle – a law that says that it is the future of every big company to have its “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”.
Pass on Ego, Hire Humble People
Just kidding. This one is actually true. Always pass on jerks, even if they are highly skilled. They are detrimental to everyone else and will always net you a net negative in the end.