Advice for Successfully Recruiting the Right Candidate
21 November, 2018
The recruitment process can be a luck-of-the-draw game. In my first startup, maybe 15 years ago, I lucked out when trying to hire three interns. I interviewed six people and from these six I hired three exceptional workers. They were amazing at their jobs and recruiting them was super easy. Since this was my first experience with recruiting I thought it would always be that easy. Later, when I had to recruit another person, well that was a different story. It was extremely difficult and very complicated. I just happened to be really lucky the first time. And sometimes that's just how things go. But usually you have to work pretty hard in order to recruit the right person for your company. So what are some things to think about while going through the hiring and interviewing process?
First, be aware that it's standard to conduct 100 interviews before you find the right candidate. Early stage startups, late stage startups, big companies, it's all the same. Especially for startups this can be an even more difficult task than the rest because at some point you have to convince candidates why they should join your team. And usually compensation is the deciding factor. So starting with a larger candidate pool will give you an advantage for finding the perfect fit.
Also, know which type of candidate you are looking for, a junior engineer or a senior engineer. The more junior the person is, the easier it is to hire them because they need experience and there isn't much to evaluate them on. Opposed to hiring an intermediate or a senior engineer which is a bit more complicated. With these two you enter into an area where you need them to have some knowledge, some experience, and something that they can bring to your company.
This next one is specifically for startups. The first phone call you make to a candidate is not to evaluate that person. The first call is to seduce the person. Larger companies have the upper-hand in regards to reputation, compensation, and facilities. So if you don't enchant and persuade them in that first call, then even if you want them on your team, they won't want you.
During the interview process, be clear with yourself on what expertise you are looking for in a person. If you are hiring somebody for one of their strengths and that person doesn't surprise you during the recruitment process, then don't hire them. A clear indicator is a simple assessment during the interview process: if the person didn't teach you something or you didn't learn something during the interview, then keep looking. You want the person to be better than you with that one strength that you don't have. They should have a better understanding of their expertise than you have.
Finally, when making callbacks, know exactly what you want to dig into. Be super precise with what you want because if you just bring him/her back without specifics, you will not end up learning more than you did before. Outline what would be the success criteria and what would be the failure criteria. Defining rules beforehand is a good way to be clear and decisive.
- It's okay to make mistakes in the recruitment process. You don't have much time to evaluate a person because it's just an interview. People are different during the interview process than they are when working with them. So don't be afraid to try things and make mistakes.
- Be picky about candidates. Really evaluate if a person is the right fit for you, for the team, and for the company.
- Don't onboard a bunch of people just to have to fire them later. It's all right to do once in a while as you always have the possibility to fire someone if it doesn't work out. But only do it occasionally and do it quickly after they are hired because you should know within the first couple of weeks if it's not going to work out.
- Spend the time to recruit. Don't rush it and don't force it. Although the process can be difficult, don't regret not spending more time looking.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
We doubled the Engineering team from 54 to 109 full-time employees. We expanded our team footprint to include: Brazil, Portugal, and the US. We evolved our road mapping and planning processes from two Product squads to eight Product squads, in alignment with PM areas of ownership.
VP Engineering at Trustly Group AB
Nani Nitinavakorn, the Sr Product Owner at Revolut, shares how she gained her first technical position, creating a direct method to apply for jobs.
Sr Product Owner at Revolut
Federico Fregosi, VP of Engineering at Contino, shares how he hired a candidate with an untraditional background and grew into a key player in the industry.
VP of Engineering at Contino
Nikita Ostrovsky, Sr. Manager. Site Reliability Engineering at Peloton Interactive, shares how he has grown multiple small teams to medium-sized teams, hiring new candidates and creating a psychologically safe environment.
Sr. Manager. Site Reliability Engineering at Peloton Interactive
Ranadheer Velamuri, Director of Engineering at Tesco, shares how he brought experience diversity into a team of senior engineers to increase energy levels and innovation within the team.
Director of Engineering at Tesco
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.