Recruiting a Great Engineer

Thomas Stocking

Chief Information Security Officer at BlueWhale Research



"After doing all the usual things (posting the job to online boards, contracting a recruiter and writing a job description) I found myself as expected to be the recipient of a stream of resumes, phone screenings, and interviews, in that order. After meeting my second candidate, who I instantly recognized as having the ego of a demigod, and some of the talents as well, I began to question my initial hubris that I, personally was the best qualified person to lead the engineering team. I was confident I could do the job. It was mine for the asking. But was it really the best way to create the product we needed?"

Actions taken

"I reset my assumptions, and started asking the interviewees pointed questions not just about technology, but about teamwork and process. About conflict and trust. I grilled them on hypothetical no-win scenarios to make them admit they had no answer, and quizzed them about whichever of the bad alternatives I offered they chose, and why. I asked them questions about their knowledge, and went farther than I could answer myself, to see not only if they had the skills, but to see if they would lie and make up an answer. That's always a dealbreaker for me." "I decided only after a brief but painfully objective process of weighing strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages of the candidates."

"In the end, I chose someone I felt I could trust for the lead. That first act of extending trust had (in this case) a lasting effect; and the person and I, after many years working together though we no longer do, are still friends."

Lessons learned

"Now, when I hire I look for people who will push us to be our best. While I ask the team for opinions, I don't always end up with the staff favorite. I look for honest people, who will lift the team they join to new levels. Trust is key, and it must be earned, and maintained to have productive working relationships."

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Thomas Stocking

Chief Information Security Officer at BlueWhale Research

Leadership DevelopmentDecision MakingTeam & Project Management

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