Tinder for jobs.
Isn’t that what hiring for your startup sometimes feels like? You swipe right and hire the first nice person who shows up that seems like they can do the job? Roughly two weeks after they're hired, you start to wonder: What went wrong? How do I get rid of this one?
It does feel like dating, with very different consequences for mistakes. Consequences that cost your company the most important thing you have: burn rate.
This post should help you avoid some of those mistakes, without resorting to clichés ("hire slow, fire fast!"). I’m talking specifically about hires above the 12-person mark in a company’s growth. Below that, you’re hiring a lot of people you already know, and many of them, if not all, are doing multiple jobs, all at warp speed. My best advice is to look for raw intelligence above all else. Why listen to me? I’ve helped start four companies: Real Media, Tacoda, Etsy and Exfm, and I estimate that I’ve hired 100 employees in that range. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in hiring those folks, but when I analyze the winners, a distinct pattern emerges.
It’s easy to write down what I think the process should be, and it’s actually easy to execute the plan; the hard part is the evaluation, but the goal of this outline is to make the evaluation part as easy as possible.
Evaluate candidates in three areas:
- Are they capable of, or already producing, high quality work in a startup environment?
- Are they a good culture fit for your company?
- Can they do the specific job for which they are being hired?
Yay! It’s Venn diagrammable!
It’s also very important to involve as many people in the company as you can. You want to ensure that each hire is successful and has as little trouble as possible integrating into the team once they arrive.
What’s the best way to do this evaluation while allowing input from multiple people? An interview plan. Create an interview plan in which you ask each candidate:
- The same questions
- In the same order
- Each time
- With the same people asking the questions.
It took me roughly 10 years to figure this out, and once I did, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it previously.
The biggest advantages:
- It’s much easier to create an index of which candidate is the best.
- It's easier to manage and track your conversations across departments and with employees who are part of the process.
- Your employees’ time is easier to manage- they know exactly what they’re in for during an interview, and so does their manager.
- You prevent inexperienced people from asking questions that are illegal (a big deal) while still getting great feedback.
The biggest disadvantage:
- You need to spend time preparing a plan for each role that you’re hiring.
Wait, that’s actually an advantage.
Hiring at Etsy was the best use I ever made of this framework. Candidates would meet with six to nine people total, with representatives from every department in the company. As often as we could, we’d sit the candidate down in front of five to six people and follow the plan. The post-interview discussions were so much more valuable: “I like how she answered this question.” “He wasn’t comfortable with all of us asking questions, how can he possibly take on 200 customer service emails at once?” Employees were at ease with the process, and felt empowered.
The easiest way to build a plan is to address each of the three evaluation areas separately. Make sure you identify the attributes that will enable you to determine if the candidate is the correct fit. For example, maybe it’s loyalty; simply Google interview questions that test for loyalty. And attitude. And whatever other attributes you want to pursue, to ensure that your candidate really is the right one for your company.
Build your plan. Make your company better. And please, please, please, do not ask anyone what their biggest weakness is. Because we already have more than enough candidates that are "too much of a perfectionist."