How to hire the best employees

Original author: Marc Andreessen
  • Transfer
There are many subtleties in hiring people, and many smarter people have often written about this. Therefore, I will not try to cover everything. But I will pass on some of the lessons I have learned, the lessons of how to hire the best people for a startup. In this article, I will address two issues. Criterion: what to value in the candidates. Process: how to conduct the hiring process, and how to correct possible errors.


Many will say - hire smart ones. This is especially true for our industry. You will read: "hire the smartest, and success in your pocket." I believe that intelligence itself is too overrated. I have not seen statistics that would confirm the relationship between pure intelligence, measured in any way (achievements in education, intelligence tests, the ability to solve logical problems) and the success of the company.

Of course, you don’t need dumbasses, and you would like to work with smart people. But let's think about it. The main rumors about the role of intelligence in the success of the company come from drop dead successful companies - Microsoft and Google. They are famous for hiring the very smart. Microsoft measured intelligence as the ability to solve logic puzzles. I don’t know if they are doing it now, after hiring MBA managers, but they did it at one time. A classic example of an interview question was: “Why are the sewer manholes round?”. The correct answer, of course: “Who cares? We’re not dealing with sewers! ” (After that it was necessary to turn on a chair, get up and leave).

Google uses educational achievement as a measure of intelligence. Academic degree? Cool. Master? Following! Bachelor? At the end of the line.
And this is in contrast to many years of experience stating that people with a degree are the most difficult to motivate to produce commercially successful products.

On the one hand, there are no questions about the success of the two companies mentioned. Maybe they do it right. But maybe, maybe - their success is associated with many other factors. Huge markets, aggressiveness, at the right time in the right place, key sales deals, and (at least in one case) - a great product. ( Note perev. - I would like to ask the author - where did the excellent product come from? People did it after all. )

Because I don’t know the second Microsoft company, built on hiring well-solving people puzzles. And another Google that would grow on hiring doctors. So maybe there are other hiring criteria that are just as, or even more, important. I think these are the ones.

The first is assertiveness . I define it as self-motivation. People walking through walls who do not need to be asked to achieve the goals that are in front of them. Assertive people press, press, press, press, press, press, press, press - until they achieve success.

Winston Churchill on the Dunkirk operation:

Despite the setbacks, we will not surrender or submit. We will reach the end, we will fight in France, we will fight on the seas and oceans, we will fight with increasing confidence and growing strength in the air, we will fight at landing points, we will fight in the fields and on the streets, we will fight in the hills, we will never give up. And even if - which I won’t believe for a minute - our island or a significant part of it will be captured and people will starve to death, our overseas empire, armed and guarded by the English fleet, will continue to fight.

Here is what you need. Some have this property, some do not. For some, the presence of this property is associated with guilty feelings, for others, with pressure from the family. Someone has a burning desire to achieve more. Someone with leadership. It doesn't matter, just take them.

Assertiveness does not depend on education, grades in studies and socioeconomic indicators. But aren't good grades a sign of assertiveness? Well, this is a sign that the person was motivated to succeed in certain tests with clear criteria. In conditions when parents of students pay a lot of money for the privilege of participating in these tests. Maybe this is like motivation in the real world, or maybe not.

Assertiveness does not depend on previous career successes. Assertive people do not stay for long where they cannot succeed, and simply because they have not succeeded in the wrong companies, it does not follow that they will not do this for you - if they are assertive. It seems to me that this trait can be seen in the eyes of the candidate, and in his story. In history - I wonder what a person has achieved. Not where he participated or played a role, or hung around. I look at what you have done - at work or out of work. The business you started at school. Or a charity. For programmers: an open source project in which you actively participated. Anything.

If there is nothing like this, if the candidate simply followed the rules all his life, came to the necessary lectures and exams, and took the right steps in his career without achieving something outstanding and noticeable in relation to their common history - he, apparently, is not assertive enough. And you will not change it. It is very difficult to motivate people who do not motivate themselves. But motivating those who motivate themselves is like a wind in the back of your organization.

I like to look for people for whom work is a chance to succeed. Therefore, I like to hire people who have not done this before, but who seek to do so. I also draw attention to people with a difficult life situation - difficulties in the family, the need to look for work back in school ... Those who competed with competitors knowingly superior in knowledge and skills.

And finally, beware of people from very successful companies. There was such a saying when IBM was the main player in the market: do not hire people from IBM directly, let them first fail somewhere else. And when they realize that the real world is different from IBM, they can be taken. A lot of people in very successful companies were just passionate about the flow. Career success is great, but you need to check that the candidates from successful companies really did what they say. And what they understand is that the real world is different from working at IBM in the 80s, at Microsoft in the 90s, or at Google these days.

The second is curiosity. In the sense that a person loves what he does. Anyone who loves his job, treats him with exceptional curiosity and interest. They read about him, study, talk with others. Immerse yourself in it. And they are working hard to stay in the stream. Not because they need it, but because they like it. Anyone who is not interested - does not like his job. And you need people who love.

Take programmers. Ask the programmer about the ten most interesting events in the world of Internet programming. REST, SOAP, the new API from Facebook, whether Ruby on Rails applications scale, how JavaScript is developing, APIs for widgets from Google, Amazon S3, etc. If the candidate likes his field of activity, he will have his own opinion on many of these topics. And that is what you need.

You can say - well, yesterday’s students have the opportunity to spend a lot of time to understand all this and stay in the stream. But what about a person with a family who works all day and cannot read blogs at night and on weekends to stay in the subject? Well, then the work that he does does not give him such an opportunity. Do you need a person who would allow himself to stop developing and stagnate for so long? Indeed, thanks to the Internet, the opportunity to be in the subject and develop is practically free ...

In my experience, assertiveness and curiosity often go together. It's easier to stay assertive when you do what you like - and you automatically show curiosity.

Third and last: ethics. This is the hardest to check. Watch for any bad signs in the candidate’s career, or any imperfect recommendations. Unethical people always remain that way and rarely relearn. Let priests give people a second chance, not hiring managers.

One way to test a candidate for ethics is to test his reaction to something he does not know. Choose a topic in which you are well versed, and ask the candidate more and more complex questions until you go beyond their knowledge. After that, they will either say that they do not know, or they will try to deceive you. And if they try to trick you into an interview, they will do the same, working for you.

A candidate who is confident in his abilities and at the same time ethical, such as you need, will say “I don’t know” because they are sure that the rest of their answers will demonstrate their knowledge and that you will not respond positively to attempts cheating. Because they would also not react to this positively.

Hiring process

First, write the process in writing . Write it down and give it to everyone. I never cease to be surprised how many startups hire people randomly - and as a result they get random people.

Secondly, do a simple testof opportunities. It is amazing how many people who come for an interview do not cope with simple tests on the topics that are described in their resume. Programmers can be tested on simple algorithms - linked lists, binary search. Just in pseudo code - it doesn't matter if they remember the correct calls to Java libraries. But it is important whether they can depict on the board what they teach in the first year of theory of algorithms. A lot of people come to the vacancy of a programmer, not being able to program. Someone who answers without hesitation answers questions like linked lists - like a breath of fresh air. For other areas, the principle is the same.
Let the seller try to sell you your product, from the initial contact to the completion of the transaction.

Let the marketer draw on the board a plan for the launch of a new product.

Third, plan and write down interview questions in advance . I believe that the questions that are suitable for the desired position, you know. If not, then you probably should not be hiring for this position. What I mean: Most people do not know how to conduct an interview with a candidate. And those who know may not be able to come up with good questions on the fly. Therefore, you need to make sure that questions are thought up and written down in advance for each interview. I myself do this - I always go into the meeting room with a list of questions, because I do not want to hope for impromptu.

And this is very convenient, because it is possible to improve issues over time when interviewing subsequent candidates for such a position. This is one of the best ways to improve the hiring process - to improve questions, improve criteria, and how to measure whether a person falls under the criteria.

Fourth, pay attention to the little things . These little things in the interview are inflated to huge problems when a person works for you. Is the man not smiling? It is probably hard to work with. Constantly interrupts? Egomaniac, chase him. Declares that she is well acquainted with your mutual acquaintance, and at the same time has no idea what he is doing now? Liar. Long answers simple questions? Not organized, not disciplined. Chatting incessantly? Horror.

Fifth, pay attention to the little thingsduring the collection of recommendations (do you collect recommendations?). Most people downplay the shortcomings of former colleagues, which they talk about in the recommendations. “He’s cool, smart, lyalyalyalya” ... “Sometimes he wasn’t very motivated” - a slug, you have to kick him in the ass every morning. "Sometimes it was hard to get along" - a very unpleasant person. “Worked better with men than with women” - sexist. “Sometimes I’ve been sad” - is prone to depression. Well, you get the point.

Sixth, correct your mistakesfast, but not too much. If you are scrupulous about the hiring process, success will accompany you in 70% of cases. If you're lucky. And this is for ordinary employees. If you hire executive directors, success will be 50% of the time. That is life. If someone convinces you of the opposite - he is a bad recruiter, and he himself does not know about it.

Most startups are in no hurry to correct their mistakes in hiring - that is, to dismiss those who did not manage.

First, understand that even though dismissal will be very unpleasant, after it you will feel much better than you can imagine.

Secondly, the backbone of your team will be glad that you will do this - they knew that a person is not coping, they want to work better with colleagues, so they will approve of your action to maintain a high average level in the company.

I wrote “not too fast,” because the backbone of your team is watching how you fire people, and if you hurry, you will look wayward and moody. But believe me, most startup managers usually have the opposite problem.

Thirdly, you render the service to the dismissed. You free them from a role in which they will not succeed, and give them the opportunity to find a better role in another company, where they may well succeed. And if they couldn’t, then they shouldn’t be hired. There is a plus in our industry - many jobs are constantly appearing, so you do not throw people out on the streets. Therefore, do not worry that you doom his family to begging. You do not play such an important role in his life.

I can make a list of the people I’ve fired who have succeeded in other companies. This, however, does not mean that they then communicate with me.

And, of course, appreciate those wonderful colleagues and employees who work in your team. Given the above, they are special people.

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