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Hiring En Masse

Hiring

31 August, 2020

Mason Mclead
Mason Mclead

CTO at Software.com

Mason Mclead, CTO at Software.com, highlights all the advantages of hiring at once a group of people who have already worked together.

Problem

As the company grows, you will have to hire a great number of people, often at once. If you hire them from all different places, besides training them, you will have to deal with the relationship-building in order to turn that group of disparate people into a unified, highly functional team. You can shortcut that if you look for the existing teams that are after a new opportunity -- all at the same time. You can find those teams at companies that are going out of business or companies that are pivoting to a different sector and are letting go of entire teams.

Keeping an eye on those opportunities will allow you to take advantage of having teams with already established bonds, but also to help teams that have been laid off and are looking for a continuation of employment.

Actions taken

I would try to follow the most recent developments in the industry. I would keep an eye on LinkedIn and my local Built-In page for announcements on restructurings and layoffs. Also, professional associations, like the CTO Forum, which I am part of, would typically announce layoffs before they would happen because they would try to get people to hire their best engineers. If you use external recruiters, they are frequently connected with the higher levels of a company and would learn of any similar developments quickly and could help you bring those people in.

Once you find those people, you have to move fast -- the longer it takes you to get them, the more spread out they will be. You should find out who is an informal leader of the group and connect with them. I would invite them all over to a party or happy hour, engage with them, have my engineers meet them and then, go through a very shortened group hiring experience. Make sure that a leader of the group understands that they are not picked off one at a time, but should bring the whole group over. Most often they will know exactly who to bring over and who not to. If they don’t want to continue working with someone they have an opportunity to tell you.

If you can’t find a single leader in the group to communicate through, keep everyone in the loop and informed. Communication is key here to keep the group together.

You will still have to do technical interviews and if you find someone that doesn’t make the cut, you should talk to a leader of the group and get their honest feedback and viewpoints on the individual as a second opinion. This approach gains you insights from someone who knows the person much better than you do and will also highlight your commitment to transparency and will lay foundations for a trustful relationship that will enable you to partner with them to make the final decision.

Once you’ve interviewed, selected, and hired them, there are many paths you can follow in terms of integrating them with the existing team:

  • You can have them come in as one team and if they have domain expertise in a particular area that you don’t have, have them join you as a separate team, for example, as a security team. In this case, you can take advantage of them being able to work together and communicate, just make sure that they don’t get entrenched within their own team and that they have lots of interface time with other people.
  • You can spread them more evenly throughout your existing teams, especially if it is a cross-functional team. You can augment your existing teams with whatever specific skills they have and still have the advantage of them having previously established relationships. They might feel being split up, but it is a common feeling when joining a new company.

The approach I always took was to split them up and augment the existing teams as that proved to work better especially in a remote setting.

Two main benefits of hiring en masse are:

  • Hiring is time-consuming and your team is already struggling being understaffed, so being able to bring quickly a lot of talented people all at once and to have them go to training all at once will save you a lot of time and effort.
  • Most of the people you will hire have just got laid off or the prospects of their existing company were uncertain and providing them a fast transition into a new position surrounded by the people they already know will give them a sense of safety.

Lessons learned

  • If you take a group of technically gifted people and put them in a room together, they will still not make a good team and it will take some time for them to learn to communicate among themselves. But if you are able to bring a group of people that already developed a bond, that would be a powerful force multiplier.
  • You will still have to invest in good communication and honest feedback. Make sure that people know who to talk to when they have questions and make communication open. Successful teams are as much about technical competencies as communication between people on the team.
  • Act fast! If you read an article about someone downsizing or someone’s failed a round, find the highest-ranking person in the organization who could be helpful (CTO or VP) and contact -- and visit if possible -- them immediately. Send the message of support, but also let them know what you have available and learn more about what they have to offer. Also, make sure they understand that you want to hire all the team at once. CTO or VP would be usually proud of the team they assembled and nurtured together and would be pleased to know that someone appreciates and wants to keep that value.
  • Have the first meeting with the whole group in an informal setting, at 4 or 5 pm, at your office or a nearby cafe and get everyone to talk -- what they have been working on, their lives and aspirations -- and get a feel who are the best people to bring over.

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