Life Is A Hire Way: 5 Tips For Startup Hiring

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News: Life Is A Hire Way: 5 Tips For Startup Hiring

  1. Mike Cannon-Brookes posted "Life Is A Hire Way: 5 Tips For Startup Hiring," talking about how Atlassian hires engineers. The tips range from "recruiting is marketing" to "make space for smart people" and "know when to not hire someone," with an added suggestion to avoid keywords when hiring. It's good to see how people hire; that tells us how to market ourselves to them. The part about knowing when not to hire someone is interesting. Atlassian follows a "gut check" approach to seeing if they think a potential hire would mesh well with their existing teams:
    • Do you want him on your team? This is the number one question we ask our interviewers. Not do you think this person should work for the company, do you think they're good but do you want them on your team. Is working closely with them for the next year something you'd want to do?
    • Does he pass the beer test? Basically, if I was in a bar with this person drinking beer (or juice, or tea or anything) are they interesting? Would I learn something from them? Would I want to stay? If so - they're probably someone I want to be around.
    • Are they fired up, passionate, enthusiastic? Simply put, positive people make for positive teams in tough times. Passionate people rub off on the whole team. Try to find as many of them as possible, put 'em in a room and let 'em make magic.
    Of course, this lets people slip through the cracks occasionally - witness those programming wizards with Aspberger's Syndrome or similar tendencies, who don't socialize well but are very talented nonetheless.

    Threaded Messages (12)

  2. Along these same lines, there was quite the frenzy a couple weeks ago about hiring programmers. There were lots of cross posts on various blogs, but this is my favorite: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000781.html The basic concept being that many people interviewing for programming jobs appear to not have good programming fundamentals. Simple things like "write a function that outputs the Fibonacci numbers" that illustrate an understanding of looping constructs and branching. I won't rehash the entire argument here, but its a good read with lots of good comments. ---Pete http://nerdguru.net
  3. Alternate programming test idea[ Go to top ]

    During the first part of the interview ask about all the programming languages the candidate has even casually used. Then pick a language the candidate has never really used, give him a decent book or two and a computer with an appropriate dev environment (but no internet connection), and set him loose on a programming problem. The problem should cover basic programming constructs (loops, recursion, basic data structures, etc), but should not be a common example used in universities. I haven't ever tried this, but I think it might work. It hopefully would better test skill rather than memorization.
  4. Of course, this lets people slip through the cracks occasionally - witness those programming wizards with Aspberger's Syndrome or similar tendencies, who don't socialize well but are very talented nonetheless.
    But the process doesn't have to catch every talented programmer. That's the point: they want to catch talented programmers they can actually work with. Despite what billg is saying to Congress, there is a large enough pool of talent that you can hire from the set that is both talented and able to integrate with a team.
  5. Beer Test ??[ Go to top ]

    Does he pass the beer test? Basically, if I was in a bar with this person drinking beer (or juice, or tea or anything) are they interesting? I'm not sure about this one. Lots of Americans voted for George W. Bush in 2000 based on the beer test and their feeling that George Bush was more interesting and likeable than boring Al Gore.
  6. Yes, Beer Test[ Go to top ]

    Does he pass the beer test? Basically, if I was in a bar with this person drinking beer (or juice, or tea or anything) are they interesting?

    I'm not sure about this one. Lots of Americans voted for George W. Bush in 2000 based on the beer test and their feeling that George Bush was more interesting and likeable than boring Al Gore.
    The difference is in an interview process, you have the luxury of passing on both candidates.
  7. the beer test...[ Go to top ]

    is actually the Stanford Shopping Center test by immensely talented Guy Kawasaki http://www.logoworks.com/july06kawasaki.html "6. Apply the Shopping Center Test. As the last step in the recruiting process, apply the Shopping Center Test. It works like this: Suppose you're at a shopping center, and you see the candidate. He is fifty feet away and has not seen you. You have three choices: (1) beeline it over to him and say hello; (2) say to yourself, "This shopping center isn't that big; if I bump into him, then I'll say hello, if not, that's okay too;" (3) get in your car and go to another shopping center. My contention is that unless the candidate elicits the first response, you shouldn't hire him." My advice on hiring - do all the blocking and tackling. Figure out that the candidate knows their stuff, then put them in a situation where they have to interact with their peers in a real-life situation. We called it the audition. If they can't communicate and defend their ideas in that situation they might have trouble in your engineering culture.
  8. Re: Beer Test ??[ Go to top ]

    Does he pass the beer test? Basically, if I was in a bar with this person drinking beer (or juice, or tea or anything) are they interesting?

    I'm not sure about this one. Lots of Americans voted for George W. Bush in 2000 based on the beer test and their feeling that George Bush was more interesting and likeable than boring Al Gore.
    Do you guys always have to turn everything into Bushbashing? It's getting extremely old (quite apart from being both inaccurate and irrelevant). Personally I'm convinced for example that Bush is doing a far better job (not that it's the best that could be done, not everyone is Reagan) than either Gore or Kerry would have done...
  9. Re: Beer Test ??[ Go to top ]

    Personally I'm convinced for example that Bush is doing a far better job (not that it's the best that could be done, not everyone is Reagan) than either Gore or Kerry would have done...
    But it illustrates the point. The point is that the beer test actually tells you nothing about a person's performance at a specific task, be it as a president or as a programmer.
  10. Spot on[ Go to top ]

    I totally agree with this, and I have used a similar methodology when recruiting staff. Its better to have someone who is likable, intelligent and you can get along with for the long run, as skills can easily be acquired. I especially agree with hiring someone you can learn from, which is why I always try and pick people who are much smarter than me...
  11. "3. You Don't Win With Money"[ Go to top ]

    Frankly, I think this is plain wrong. There might be some truth in it when moving from university into your own full size job, and of course there are people who want to work in a certain city or neighborhood. But apart from that people quickly realize that there is a certain amount of money they can (or cannot) get and that in the long run they still will be able to do interesting things. I work as a contractor but I sometimes have interviews for permanent contracts that I attend because the place is interesting, the company is interesting or someone failed to tell me that they are really looking for permanent. The argument usually goes like this: Employer: Well we have this cool job, you work 40/42 hours a week and you have all this job security etc. But frankly, the compensation you ask is far more then we are able to (read: want to) pay. But hey, think about the job security, work life balance, the retirement plan etc. Myself: Er, yes, but being able to work 40/42 hours a week as I do now, with twice the salary and the same amount of vacation will technically enable me to decide at 48 if I want to work any longer rather than at 63 (without considering inflation). I'd call this work/life balance. Employer: Right......
  12. Joel Spolsky's article, Hitting the High Notes, cautions against hiring mediocre talent: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/HighNotes.html
    The mediocre talent just never hits the high notes that the top talent hits all the time
    Jive Software uses techniques from the book Topgrading to identify 'A' players: http://www.softwareceo.com/attachments/jive/com103106.php
    Cool culture tip #2: Use structured job interviews to measure a candidate's fit. There's a lot smaller pool of people in Portland than in NYC. How has Jive handled hiring in their new home? "We have a detailed, consistent, structured process for finding the right people," Hersh says. "We made mistakes in the past hiring people who weren't right, culturally speaking. When some engineers see it as a nine-to-five job and others see it as their life's calling, it just doesn't work out. "We adapted our interviewing process to ferret out the people who are a really good fit. Our process now includes more people in the interview, and more structure around the behaviors we're trying to elicit. "A candidate may have to interview with six people in three or four visits, depending on the level. We've had some people come in seven different times. "We take our cues from a book about employee behavior: "Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People." "It's a book about finding and keeping 'A' players, and it gives a structured interview process. You learn how to create questions that can illustrate behaviors. "For example, if we're looking for a support engineer, we'll ask, 'What does a support engineer look like? What kind of behaviors do they exhibit?' "And some answers might be that they work well with people, they're good communicators, they're not prone to getting stressed out. OK, then, what are the questions we can use to ferret out those behaviors? Cool culture tip #3: Use tests to evaluate skills. The Jive Software interview process also includes practical tests for all positions. "For a sales person, we may ask them to give a presentation," Hersh says. "They may do it over the phone, or maybe we'll ask them to pitch themselves to an audience of interviewers. It helps us understand their critical thinking, their presentation skills, and get a sense of their style." For an engineer, Jive will ask the candidate to create some code. Here's their example instruction sheet, asking a support engineer candidate to demonstrate they can handle deployment, questions, and resolution-logging for Jive's Wildfire product. "Then we have them sit in a room and go through the process," Hersh says. "They have to install the app, do a live support chat, and so on. They can see our style, and we can see theirs." Cool culture tip #4: Hire passion first, experience second. "Great people who don't have a specific skill set are much better for us than good people with the exact skill set," Hersh says. "For example, we hired people to manage our support and professional services teams who hadn't done that before, but had the right kind of passion. Some were engineers who wanted to get into management or consulting. "Yeah, you know there's a period where there's going to be a lot of training involved, but you also know they have the drive and the muscle to get through that. "It gets back to culture: The more you have people who like to work with each other, who are compelling people: Those are the ones we like. "Sure, you want people — especially in sales and marketing — who have some background in the area you're hiring them for. "But if we're looking at Candidate A who has domain knowledge and no passion, and Candidate B who lacks the domain knowledge but has fire in the belly, we're going to go with Candidate B every time."
  13. Google hiring strategy[ Go to top ]

    http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2006/03/hiring-lake-wobegon-strategy.html
    Hiring: The Lake Wobegon Strategy Posted by Peter Norvig, Director, Google Research You know the Google story: small start-up of highly-skilled programmers in a garage grows into a large international company. But how do you maintain the skill level while roughly doubling in size each year? We rely on the Lake Wobegon Strategy, which says only hire candidates who are above the mean of your current employees. An alternative strategy (popular in the dot-com boom period) is to justify a hire by saying "this candidate is clearly better than at least one of our current employees." The following graph compares the mean employee skill level of two strategies: hire-above-the-mean (or Lake Wobegon) in blue and hire-above-the-min in red. I ran a simulation of 1000 candidates with skill level sampled uniformly from the 0 to 100th percentile (but evaluated by the interview process with noise of ±15%) starting from a core team of 10 employees with mean 75 and min 65. You can see how hire-above-the-min leads to a precipitous drop in skill level; one we've been able to avoid. Another hiring strategy we use is no hiring manager. Whenever you give project managers responsibility for hiring for their own projects they'll take the best candidate in the pool, even if that candidate is sub-standard for the company, because every manager wants some help for their project rather than no help. That's why we do all hiring at the company level, not the project level. First we decide which candidates are above the hiring threshold, and then we decide what projects they can best contribute to. The orange line in the graph above is a simulation of the hiring-manager strategy, with the same candidates and the same number of hires as the no-hiring-manager strategy in blue. Employees are grouped into pools of random size from 2 to 14 and the hiring manager chooses the best one. We're pleased that these little simulations show our hiring strategy is on top. You can learn more about our hiring and working philosophy.