Last Tuesday night I attended a networking event in which Paul English, Co-Founder and CTO of Kayak.com, spoke about how to hire and build a successful startup through MassInnovation nights held at the Microsoft NERD center in Cambridge.
In his talk he covered a range of topics, but it all stemmed from prioritizing the team above anything else including customers and profit. He opened up the talk saying, "Leadership is team building and it needs to be an investment of yours to build a great team."
It starts with you as a hiring manager taking the reins on the hiring and recruiting process itself. Paul English is a CTO, but he calls himself a recruiter at heart. Paul's always recruiting. He suggests not to outsource these duties to an HR department exclusively, because it will only remove you from the process itself and tend to create more process that in the end hinders your ability to be aggressive and timely. He's also built a very successful company using this philosophy.
Before you hire, you need to attract the right people. Assuming you get them in the door - now you have to interview them. Paul goes on to explain, "The difference between hiring an A player and an A+ player is that an A player will bring in millions for your company, but an A+ can bring in billions." How you interview needs to be attractive for the A+ players out there or you're screwed.
Pick Your Interview Team
Everyone has different styles in interviewing and some people are just plain bad at it. As the hiring manager, you know who these people are - so don't put them in the interview team! They might be very good at what they do, but they're just not good at interviewing. Look at your team and ask who's interested in interviewing first, then talk about the different styles that they will use when doing so. In a technical hire, there needs to be an element of technical questioning of course, but there also needs to be a balance as well. Don't make up the interview team solely on "technical drill sargeants" but have some team members that can round out the process and make it attractive.
Define the Process
It should start with you, as the hiring manager, to conduct the first screen. You are more serious than anyone on your team about the importance of the team culture. No matter how great someone is technically, if they don't fit the team dynamic they're not going to be hired anyway - don't waste time, do this up front.
Make the candidate feel important from the start - if you're using a recruiter (internal or external), make sure to meet the candidate face to face first if possible. If the recruiter has already done an initial screen, you need to trust they know what they're doing not towaste your time to schedule a face to face. There are more non verbal cues that you can look out for in a face to face interview that you cannot pick up on during a phone call - and the simple fact is that candidates don't take the interviews as seriously if it's on the phone and it comes off that you don't as well.
After you initial screen, make sure you have an interview team set up to continue the process. This shouldn't be everyone on your team, but the members of your team that are engaging and understand the importance of building your team the right way. Building an effective interview team is your responsibility and you need to make sure you're maticulous about assigning the right people to help you out in this arena. Don't pick the best coder if they're not a good communicator, they might be great at what they do, but if ends up making the candidate feel uncomfortable then it's not worth it.
Meet with the interview team ahead of time so there is a consistent vision that's being communicated and go over what everyone will be covering. A consistent theme from your interview team shows organization and passion for what you stand for. How a company hires is typically how they manage - set the stage by being organized. This is your culture, make sure it shows from the start.
Don't do this...
- Don't drag process out. First interview to offer should take 5-7 business days or you will lose all the momentum that you worked so hard to gain in the process.
- Don't delegate the entire process. HR is a great resource, but you're the manager. Be involved in the process from beginning to end, it shows that you care about hiring the right person more than the actual process.
- Don't let egos get in the way. In technology it's not always black and white as to the way to do things. Granted, there's wrong ways of going about solving problems but don't have the interview turn into a technology pissing contest.
- Don't let maybe's stay maybes. Every hire is a risk - some more than others. If you talk out some of your concerns with the candidate, you can either solidify or aleviate your concerns with them. You can be a hero - just for one day.