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Define what you can gamble on when hiring.

Rich Sun

Sr Technical Director, Game Studio at Netflix

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Problem

Several years ago, I was working at a mid-sized game development company and I needed to hire a solid graphic engineer. After a few interviews, I came across a candidate who was smart and had relevant experience in the relevant domains. However, during the interview, I detected that he might prove to be difficult to work with.

Actions taken

I was aware that sometimes people who fulfill these types of specialized roles can have strong personalities, so I decided to hire him anyway. This decision turned out to be a big mistake. He was extremely demanding and became a disruptive influence on the team, at one point even sending me a long list of ultimatums. Moreover, he was not performing as well as expected. Ultimately, we had to let him go.

Lessons learned

I learned that you and your team should, ahead of time, define together what your must-haves and deal-breakers are when it comes to candidate attributes. While sometimes you will be in a situation where you have to take a gamble on somebody, you should never gamble on your must-haves of dealbreakers. Having a great team that works well together was important to us, but I knowingly gambled on this and I shouldn't have done that. However, these pillars can vary a lot, depending on your experiences, company culture, situation and team dynamics. For example, I am personally much more comfortable gambling with on-paper skills and education levels than I am with team fit.


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Rich Sun

Sr Technical Director, Game Studio at Netflix


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