Whenever I sit down to write a JD, ask for the budget to hire a new person, or review applications, I keep a running list of hiring ideals nearby to ensure I can quickly check against them and validate them against the real world.
A process is too close to the implementation details, and those vary too much from company to company. These are my personal guidelines.
⚠️ I write for myself, this is my personal blog. I do not speak for my employer. ⚠️
Hiring well is hard to do when people are burned out. Hiring teams need to be excited about the work being done, they need to take care of themselves, and they need to understand the organization. This is impossible if the hiring team isn’t confident about the team they are hiring for.
If our process is no better than a coin flip, we’re wasting valuable time. Whenever I add a new set of questions to a process, I ask myself how I know that it works. Very often, I can’t know that it will work, but I can make an initial guess based on the people we have in the team.
Hiring is a team activity, and it can include everyone. In my last job, most of the organization’s hiring philosophy had been defined by the founders, but over time many of us got to add to it and adjust the old documentation to our new context. In another scenario, I had the opportunity to define it from scratch with my team, and over the years we adjusted it, experimented, and grew with it. Some of those experiments were terrible, like a white-boarding task that was so badly designed, it resulted in juniors doing better than seniors… but we did learn, and overall we hired really talented and kind engineers that performed well with our team.
Hiring is not our default action. We don’t hire if we don’t know why we need a new person, or if we can figure out a better alternative. We don’t place value in how many people someone is managing. Understanding why we hire, understanding the goal behind our hiring targets, and being clear on our expectations for each role are all basic but important parts of a fair process that serves candidates and the teams they will join.
We don’t hire ICs into unstable teams with bad dynamics. If the new hire’s entire workload is focused on fixing this, they are probably not an IC, and they are there because everything else has failed. Hint: when that’s the case, the problem may be one level above the team. Expect drama.
Creating inclusive and diverse teams is a requirement of any high quality hiring process. If the only people making it through our process are overrepresented people in tech, we stop and re-evaluate what we are doing. For an embarrassingly long time, I didn’t really understand the pipeline problem… or more accurately, I thought the pipeline problem 100% explained why we didn’t have as many women as I wanted us to have in our team. Our racial diversity was better than the industry average but still lower than I would have wanted it; our gender diversity was abysmal. As a majority of white, cis, heterosexual people, we had a lot to learn.
We center humans; we look for the unique combination of skills and experience they bring to the table to evaluate if they are a fit at this time.
We provide timely and kind feedback, structured guidelines on what’s going to happen next, and work on systems that tackle and limit biases.
We don’t lean into structural inequality by leading salary conversations with “What’s your salary range”, we establish the salary bands the company manages for that position.
We are creating a new team, not just adding an individual. We know teams with new hires may go back to forming for a little while, and we adjust expectations with this in mind.
We expect to create inclusive, diverse, high performing teams that help the organization reach their goals. How we do it may change, but the goal never moves too far from the above.
We hire with the goal in mind.