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Trying To Hire Too Rapidly

Pete Woodhouse

Chief Technology Officer at Prosper

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Problem

"While working at Paypal as a Senior Director, I was in charge of a development team of about 60 people. We had built a really nice model for the team, which had resulted in the team running very effectively to customize Paypal for different market segments. The team was very successful and the business loved it, resulting in them practically throwing money at us. However, because of this, I was also asked to hire fifty people per quarter, which would have taken the team to over 250 people by the end of the year. Somehow, I allowed myself to be talked into this."

Actions taken

"The business said that wanted to invest in my team, and as a technology leader, it's rare to hear this. It was a new experience for me to be offered more money because usually you are asked to do more with less. However, this hiring effort just wasn't achievable. I knew in the back of my mind that it would be really difficult, but I decided to give it a shot. Ultimately, we were only able to hire about 15-20 people per quarter. In addition, there were a number of projects we were unable to deliver on due to not meeting our goal, as they had been dependant on our rapid hiring of engineers. When you attempt to scale really rapidly, this puts a huge burden on your engineering team. Not only do they have to do their normal work, but they have to invest time into interviews and selection. When engineers invest this time, it's important to make sure that when you get to the face-to-face interview stage, the people you're interviewing are likely to be what you are looking for. There was also a lack of candidates. In retrospect, this may have been because of the location we were trying to hire in. In the Bay area, it's really hard to get that many high-quality candidates in such a short period of time. There are some places where it's easier to hire - we were hiring in Singapore as well, and in Singapore we met all of our goals. The final factor that contributed to us struggling to scale was that we didn't have a good interview process. Instead, we engineered the process on the go, meaning we were always catching up with what the new process was."

Lessons learned

"I would never let myself get talked into this type of situation again. Since then, I have learned much more about how recruitment and hiring processes work and I have learned what it takes to get good candidates. It takes time, a bit of luck, and a fantastic process to hire good candidates, so it's important to allow time for this."


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Pete Woodhouse

Chief Technology Officer at Prosper


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