Hiring For Soft Skills

Han Rusman

Head of Product at Sensorfact



"I wanted to hire a lot of people rapidly, as I needed to grow a team in one year from 10 people to 25-30. While I didn't know how much I needed to grow from the start, I knew I had to grow a lot. The team of 10 people I already had wasn't hired by me, so they were a misfit in terms of the culture I wanted my team to have, and they didn't have enough technical skills."

Actions taken

"I was very clear from the beginning about my plan and about what I wanted, and tried to ensure the team was also onboard. As a result of this, some people left as they thought the technical level of skills I was expecting of them was too high. At the same time, there were other people who thought it was great and who took on the challenge. I started hiring for people with a lot more technical skills by taking the most technically skilled person in my team, making sure he was always a part of the interview process, and taking on his advice more than the others. However, I made a mistake, as I focussed too much on technical skills. There were a few engineers who were great technically, but who lacked certain soft skills. I decided to lower the bar for soft skills, thinking I could get them up to speed later. Hiring is basically a fulltime job. In hindsight, I should have pushed for people with both soft and technical skills and slowed down the process of hiring. What I've realized is that it is incredibly difficult to change people's soft skills, and it's much easier to grow people's technical skills. If someone has bad behavior, it's unlikely those behaviors are going to change. As more and more people were flowing into the team it became increasingly difficult to retain the team's culture, to stay organized and to communicate. We had to go through a lot of reorganizations and it was a really messy period. In addition, because I was so busy with hiring, I didn't spend enough time with onboarding team members. Due to this, some people we worked hard to hire left after just six months because of their frustration."

Lessons learned

"We now have two interviews with each candidate. The first mostly focuses on soft skills and culture fit, and if candidates do well they go through a technical assessment. This makes the interview more concrete and forces you to think about soft skills in detail. In addition, what you do after hiring is even more important than hiring. Ensure that you have a clear onboarding process, so that your new hires feel like they understand what is required so they can hit the ground running."

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Han Rusman

Head of Product at Sensorfact

Leadership & StrategyEngineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementTeam & Project Management

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