Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

How Do Set Clear Hiring Expectations

Managing Expectations
Hiring

9 August, 2021

Ben Retourné
Ben Retourné

VP of Product at BlaBlaCar

Benjamin Retourné, VP of Product at BlaBlaCar, describes how to come up with clear hiring expectations that will maximize your employees’ success.

Problem Hiring in startups is all about setting clear expectations from the start. While managers mainly hire for a specific role, there are things that cannot always be specified in job descriptions or are constantly evolving. If this is not clearly communicated during the interview or in its immediate aftermath, people will at some point leave or be let go.  

The fact that there was a disconnect from the start between what you expect new hires to do and what they will do once they join, indicates a lack of clarity. Mismatches of this kind generate a lot of frustration. A new hire is not at ease, you are not at ease, and stakeholders who will notice misalignment will also not be at ease.

Actions taken

To avoid the problem of misaligned expectations, I try to be explicit about the company mission and key objectives for an upcoming period before a new hire joins in. Whether this is communicated during the interview or in its immediate aftermath, it is taking place before their official start date. Many people told me that it is too early to bring up expectations before the person starts working, but in fact, I think it never is too early, and I will seize the earliest opportunity to set expectations right.

One of the first questions I would ask a new hire would be, What does success look like to them in three months. For example, if they join on September 1, what do they expect to achieve by December 1. I would create the document containing my own expectations and their answers and socialize it broadly across the organization. Everyone would get a chance to learn about those expectations and what the new hire will be doing. This is critically important because expectations of all people who would be interacting with the new hire should be aligned.

This document also serves to guide the new person and help them self-evaluate their work. New hires are often overwhelmed by doubt: Am I doing this right? Having a clear path they should follow from day one is a key to their success. For example, the document may state that they should be working on four areas, each of which would have certain milestones. By checking those milestones, they can self-evaluate if they are on track in those four areas and, if yes, not worry too much.

One of the main challenges I face is how to frame what people shouldn’t be working on. Unlike things that one should be working on, things they shouldn’t be, are typically part of unspoken assumptions and unwritten truths. Yet, most misunderstandings are hidden in unwritten truths. Therefore I would always be explicit and have everything in writing: a new person will work on A, B, and C but not on D.

Finally, communication is critical to managing expectations. Sometimes it takes to over-communicate, but over-communication triggers questions and feedback, and if anything was unclear, it would be clarified. Communication is all about repetition and preparation. It doesn’t involve only a new person, but other people who need to share documents, engage in conversation, answer questions, etc. An extra effort put into communication will no doubt be paid off in the long run.

Lessons learned

  • Be clear on what is expected from a new hire within the first three months. Those expectations should be tangible and verified by someone on your team in terms that those are feasible for one person to achieve. If you have vague or unrealistic expectations, that will leave a lot of room for interpretation. Leave too much room for interpretations, and you will have difficult discussions.
  • Involve other people. Expectations are about alignment: a new hire’s, yours, and everyone else who will be interacting with the new person. Make sure that everyone’s on the same page and that everything has a paper trail.
  • You can never over-communicate. You need to repeat every single thing at least three times to consider that as communicated. When it comes to expectations, it takes even more repetition.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

How to Strengthen Your Team Pitch

29 November

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, details his journey to improve his personal hiring process and team pitch.

Alignment
Personal Growth
Hiring
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Changing Company
Vadim Antonov

Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Why Overloading Product Teams Never Work

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he identified the symptoms of his overworked product team and worked towards defining conflicting priorities.

Managing Expectations
Product Team
Deadlines
Stakeholders
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

How to Build Rapport With an Introverted Manager

17 November

Piyush Dubey, Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft, shares his journey of climbing up the career ladder through awkward times dealing with an introverted manager.

Managing Expectations
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Piyush Dubey

Piyush Dubey

Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft

Demystifying the Cult of the Founding Engineer: Talking to Customers and Discovering “Hidden” Talent

23 November

Albert Lie, former Founding Engineer and Tech Lead at Xendit, didn’t know what it takes to become an early engineering hire and not a lot of people around him experienced this unknown and arcane path. He had to learn it the hard way from the pitfalls he encountered along the way and he has been creating numerous frameworks to measure his growth and keep burgeoning in this role since then. He codifies and expresses the systems he put in place surrounding the balance of customer inquiry to product building and growing the engineering team.

Alignment
Meetings
Feedback
Hiring
Prioritization
Albert Lie

Albert Lie

Former Tech Lead at Xendit

How to Build a Software Team from the Ground Up

12 November

Deepesh Makkar, Sr Director of Engineering at SunPower Corporation, shares his experience transitioning his organization from contractors to a 50/50 split of full-time employees and international vendors.

Hiring
Motivation
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Agile / Scrum
Deepesh Makkar

Deepesh Makkar

Sr Director of Engineering at SunPower Corporation

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.