The Importance Speed, Intra-Company Communication, and Identifying Ambition in the Hiring and Onboarding Process
Head of Product Engineering at Territory
My company's original hiring process was to speak with one engineer about a new candidate who would then speak to another engineer. If the feeling was mutual, they would pull the trigger and hire the person. After countless, futile onboards due to lack of direction and/or confidence in the new position and company culture, more often than not, the result was in the new employees being fired or choosing to leave on their own accord. Soon after, I became the person who was to be 100% responsible for focusing on the hiring and onboarding process for Territory Foods, which now boasts ten employees from the original four. The main problem I faced was that we were hiring people without a system in place to identify compatibility for the new hires in terms of company values and clearly defined working roles.
I decided the best place to start was to get together with other engineers, as well as the CEO, in order to compile a list of what we thought were the most important qualities to us in terms of hiring new employees. I then jumped in head first by publishing a job posting, which for the first time, had a clear description of the role while trying to present the company with as much appeal as possible. For me, this meant listing out the benefits more than we had in the past and more than other companies generally do in order to create an enticing entry point for prospective employees. I also wanted to attract mission-driven people and thusly made sure our mission was presented at the top of the posting, making it really human and not overly corporate.
"I decided the best place to start was to get together with other engineers, as well as the CEO, in order to compile a list of what we thought were the most important qualities to us in terms of hiring new employees."
It turns out that through the 8-10 interviews I was doing per day, our original list was fairly incomplete. However, throughout consistent communication between engineers, recapping what had happened during the interviews, points of confusion I encountered, and contemplating what applicants had to offer that we hadn't originally thought about, we were able to revise our process and better define what we were truly looking for. Aside from conversational questions, we never really went into anything coding pre-hire. I was looking for, practically speaking, if their resumes matched their experience and if they demonstrated ambition. Our backend engineer would then ask more thought invoking questions about the processes concerning certain coding concepts. Finally, our designer had his own set of criteria and questions around the notion of empathy. During this process, it became clear that we were going to set up a culture embodying the idea that, even though we are hiring you, you will become a part of a very elite sports team. Whereas I didn't necessarily expect anyone to come on as captain, I did hold expectations that they would come on board and start doing the necessary drills to get to that point. With this, I knew we needed to also set ourselves up to be good coaches, so as part of the hiring process we set clear guidelines of what the first 4 weeks would entail. In addition to that, we would get together with the new hire at the 30, 90, and 180-day mark so that they knew exactly what to expect, and likewise, what was expected of them.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I was able to take away from all of this is that when looking for new employees, the most important thing to identify is their level of hunger and ambition and being able to seek out what they want to do with their life. If you can identify those things, everything else will become a lot easier. What I mean by that, is that someone with these qualities is more easily ready to align themselves with the ambitions and cultural expectations of the company, which I also learned are crucial to helping move the hiring process along at a quicker pace. For me, the biggest cultural expectation was that we were all doing our part. Although that may sound counterintuitive and an overly competitive way to work, but in our experience, it actually fosters the opposite because the people you end up selecting know they have to bring their best to the table. Subsequently, they are constantly asking for feedback and it creates better communication within the company when they have to compete, much like the aforementioned sports analogy.
"Perhaps the biggest lesson I was able to take away from all of this is that when looking for new employees, the most important thing to identify is their level of hunger and ambition and being able to seek out what they want to do with their life."
If I could go back and do it all over again, I would do much of it in the same manner, but in taking the hiring experience I have now, I wouldn't need a month of interviews to do so. I would emphasize the need for speed and really get together with the people in the company that the new hires would be working with and understand what they are looking for and keep that feedback loop quick between us. From this, I was additionally able to learn the importance of dedicating that attention to detail and not skimping or multitasking in the process of hiring. I would advise taking that as a number one priority, allowing you to move rapidly and give the necessary attention and understanding of the kind of person you are looking for. In other words, it means a lot of interviews in a short amount of time and not getting bogged down by having a lot of different people speak with new candidates. After about a month and a half, we had created a great hiring process directly developed from these learned lessons, that allowed us to hire ambitious people, based on our specific requirements, within a two day turn around from the first interview to the last, to the final offer. This fast pace hiring process, with a keen eye to the indispensable aspects of the position, is extremely important because a lot of companies take their time and you need to be swift in order to procure the best talent.
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Head of Product Engineering at Territory
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