You can not hire great people if you do not know what makes them great. We define three core characteristics that a candidate needs to have.
A while ago, we wrote on CEP which we use in our hiring process. While CEP is intended to provide clearly measurable metric on actual performance, there’s also a deeper component of our hiring process – and that is screening for cultural fit.
We have the minimal set of personality traits that we all aspire to, and happily embrace within the walls of our fortress. This minimal set of core characteristics (which are different from core values) is focal for flourishing our company culture, our “way of doing things” – such as task owning principle, making mistakes fast and quick, doing things one never did before, and so on. However, these core characeteristics are also pivotal in our hiring process. Wrapping the hiring process around them assures that we get the candidates who indeed are the best possible cultural fit.
Why is this important for a startup? Arrogant people rarely admit mistakes, and are willing to learn from them. You’ll be making tons of mistakes every step of the way, and you really need comrades next to you that will not be stubborn and arrogant. Humble people love sharing and giving; exchanging ideas and leveraging energy of exchanging ideas unselfishly inside entire team is the single most important advantage you have over competitive company/startup.
Why is this important for a startup? People with strong integrity will do the right thing, even when nobody is watching. They’re accountable to themselves before anyone else, and will make sure to deliver as promised. You really can’t afford to look over anyone’s back, or toss a coin whether she’ll do what you agreed that morning on the meeting, or come up days later with something completely different saying “yeah, I know we agreed to do X – but Y is so much better”.
Why is this important for a startup? People with a curious mind are not afraid to get outside of their comfort zone and try something new – which is what people in startups do every single freakin’ day. It is extremely risky to invest time and energy in someone who 9 months down the road doesn’t want to switch to another framework/programming language, or speak on a conference, or step into another role just because she is quite comfortable just where she is.
It is much harder for great developer to become humble, than for a humble person to become a great developer.
Our way of “screening for culture fit”: Looking for a sign of greatness
During a candidate evaluation, we try to get as deep as possible in getting positive or negative on each respective value. We poke a candidate trying to provoke arrogance, or other core belief in her very hard to learn whether she will reveal weak integrity in the matter. It does not mean that a person who is not adventurous will automatically be flagged as a reject, but she will have a very tough time convincing us that we’re a good fit. Each question is designed in the manner to reveal either a warning, or a sign of greatness. If we ask – “tell me about a time you knew you were right, but still had to follow directions or guidelines“, the great sign we’re looking for is when candidate did what needed to be done, especially in a time-critical situation, then found an appropriate time and place to raise issues and work to improve the status quo.
Interestingly enough – whenever we didn’t pay attention to these core characteristic, and chose a candidate based on her technical ability, we failed. After years of paying the price, we simply had to discover – and more importantly properly use – our core characteristics.