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Best practices in hiring June 8, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in Entrepreneur, hiring, start-up, startups.
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Marc Andressen’s latest post on how to hire the best people you’ve ever worked with is long but useful reading for all entrepreneurs. It reminded me to post a hiring process that I recommended to some entrepreneurs recently; I figured I’d paste it from the email as it may be of broader interest:

1. Get resumes prescreened against a profile from a recruiter (or from some referral source you trust like me or friends in the industry or whatever)

2. For resumes you like, do a phone interview of no more than 30 minutes – you’re looking for reasons to say “no” at this point

3. For people that you like on the phone, have one person do an initial interview in person for one hour. Ideal is to aim for end of day, say 4pm or later.If it IS working out, make sure that others are available to meet afterwards if the first interviewer likes them so that you don’t have to bring them back. But If its not working out, be frank about it, and don’t be afraid to cut the interview short rather than wasting your time and theirs. You can just say “thanks, bye” and not waste anyones time.

Make sure that you have a standard set of questions that you ask people interviewing for the same job. I personally prefer “behavioral interviewing”. e.g. focus on behaviors and not just skills. Skills you can test quickly and from resume. But behaviors are things like “Can you tell me about a time when you had to launch a new product – a release 1.0, rather than an upgrade of an existing product”; “We work on short deadlines here – can you tell me about a time when you had a project to do on what you thought was an unrealistically short timeframe”. etc. You frame up a specific behavior that you need and ask them about a time when they faced that same behavior. They often tell you what they WOULD do – make sure you keep them focused on a REAL SITUATION and what they DID do. Then look for behaviors in their answer that would either fit or not fit.

4. If you like ’em, make an offer almost right away. Its a hot labor market right now, so know what “market comp” is beforehand (we can help with this; so can a contingent recruiting firm”) and the best folks are not on the market for long.

5. Reference check yourself (ie don’t rely on the recruiter), and do it obsessively. Not just the people that they supply you with – look deeper, call people you know at those companies, ask the references for other people that they worked with etc. This is a massive time suck, and you will hate doing it, but it is the single most important thing that you can do.

6. Once you find people you like, sell them hard and from every angle. [Your investors] can help with this, so can partners, other employees etc.

7. Its not likely for top calibre talent that you can bring them on as a contractor first, then transition to full time. Some employees (a small minority) prefer this becasue they are test driving you as much as you’re test driving them, but don’t count on it.

8. If its not working out, don’t let it fester – move quickly to terminate. You’re too small to be able to afford people who are a bad fit and you can’t carry dead weight. And people rarely come around – your first instincts are usually right.

If you forget everything else, make sure you remember #5. Reference check obsessively. People don’t do it anywhere near enough.

Comments»

1. Rob Labatt, ezboard, Inc. - June 8, 2007

Jeremy,
For technical recruits I’d add that we have had great success with giving a standardized technical test at the beginning of the first interview. It tends to cut out the BS talkers and allows the really capable (regardless of their resume quality) developers shine through. More than once we have had folks with beautiful resumes wash out (and walk out) in the test. Equally, we have had folks shine and deeply impress us (read: “we hired them) even though they had thin resumes or light social skills.
FWIW – the test has to be real, achievable and tough.

2. Best practices in hiring  »Technology News | Venture Capital, Startups, Silicon Valley, Web 2.0 Tech - June 8, 2007

[…] Source:Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog Marc Andressen’s latest post on how to hire the best people you’ve ever worked with is long but useful reading for all entrepreneurs. It reminded me to post a hiring process that I recommended to some entrepreneurs recently; I figured I’d paste it from the email as it may be of broader interest: 1. Get resumes […] Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

3. Joe Cohen - June 11, 2007

Jeremy – great post. Been thinking loads lately about process around recruitment and hiring and this will help to crystalize. We’re a lot better at moving the wrong people off the team but I fear we’ve missed closing some good ones.

I’d also add that fit is a huge unknown that we test for tirelessly. Even to the point of putting people through, in an interview, a simulation of what they might expereience on the job (small group of sleep-deprived people with zombie-like focus on a single point or task).

4. Jeff - June 14, 2007

Thanks, Jeremy. We’re in the middle of a bunch of hiring, so this is perfectly timed for me.

You make great points about emphasizing behavior over skills. We ensure that we know how employees will act in a real situation by making them perform a difficult task as part of theuir interview. For instance, we give our analyst candidates one hour to analyze two business plans and prepare a brief write-up of their analysis.

Interviews are always full of a lot of yap about how good the candidate is or was. It’s fun to see the look on their faces when I , in essence, say “Alright, you talk a good game. Let’s see what you’re really made of.”🙂


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