Musings On Hiring

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I’ve recently embarked on a very exciting professional journey: hiring a team. I could not have imagined how drastic the transition between being an “individual contributor” and a hiring manager would be unless I experienced it firsthand. I wanted to catalog some of the things I have been learning through this process of endless phone screens and team definition.

For full disclosure, I feel lucky to have the support of my peers, direct reports and my own manager who are helping me stumble through some of the challenges of being a first-time manager. The first and most important lesson so far is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. These things take time but it’s worth the effort. Oh and hey, I’m hiring!

1. Have a clear vision of your team structure before you begin hiring.

Even if you have been given a distinct number of headcount, envision what your team will look like in 12 months. 2 years. 3 years, etc. How do you expect to grow and scale the team, and how will this person play a part in that expansion? What are the expectations you have of this person as the team changes?

2. Keep phone screens to 15 minutes of talk time. +5 minutes for questions at the end. 

Keeping it short and concise allows me to have some time at the interview to reflect. The truth is, you don’t really need a full 30 minutes to get to know someone, and there is no way that person can tell you everything he or she has done in depth in that amount of time. Keeping it surface level means you can reduce the amount of time actually spent on the screen.

3. Trust your gut. You know within the first 3 minutes whether or not this is someone you can work with.

Follows from the last point. When you know, you know. And generally you know pretty quickly.

4. If you talk more than you’ve listened, you’re doing something wrong.

I talk a lot so this one has been particularly hard for me. You can’t get a strong sense for what a person has done unless you give them unbridled time to speak freely. It also indicates how well this person knows to discern what is important to tell, and what is better left for a longer conversation.

5. Care more about the questions they ask you than you ask them.

It’s a 2-way street: they’re testing you as much as you’re testing them. A smart interviewee will know that and will take time to ask intelligent questions that will help them assess whether or not this is the right opportunity for them. The savviness of the questions is also indicative of the kind of work they’ll do and the way they work with other people

6. Assume they’ve done their homework. Ask the kind of questions you would ask someone on your team and see how they respond.

When it comes to really testing how qualified someone is, assume that they are another member of your team. If that person is able to answer questions in a way that would be satisfactory for anyone else on the team, you’ve found a suitable match. Sometimes these things are coachable (especially when they are product- or company-specific) but often you can deduce if they have the soft skills or not.

7. Ask your peers if they would hire that person for their own team. Rely on other people’s feedback. 

This is the most accurate benchmark of whether or not you should hire the person. As my colleague says “A players hire A players – so get the opinion of the other A players on your team”

8. Ask yourself if you would work for that person some day. 

One of the smartest people I work with gave me this advice. Some day, the tables may be turned. Hire people you genuinely want to work with and who can teach you as much as you can teach them.

9. Hire people who have skills you do not. Think holistically about your team.

For example, I’ve never done sales. My function is a support function for revenue generating teams, but without the perspective of someone who has actually done that job, it’s hard to put myself in a seller’s shoes. Hiring someone with that vantage point can fill a void on the team.

10. Once you’ve made the hire, set expectations for your current team and your new employee.

It’s better to have transparency than to keep people guessing. Be honest about that person’s leveling, and what it will take to see the new hire grow and flourish in this role. Also, be honest about the kinds of opportunities this role affords after that person has grown out of it. This way you can work toward a shared set of goals.

Bonus points: I’ve been taking inventory of all of the things I’ve learned from my managers. What worked and what didn’t in each of their styles. I’m even drawing upon managers I had years ago in banking or summer internships. I feel fortunate that I’ve had some positive, strong managerial influences over the last 5 years.

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Musings On Hiring