Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Hiring well

How you do hire the best people, in the most efficient way?

This question was the essence of a great conversation I had this evening with a young Agile Manager from a fast growing, Polish start-up. We're both in Bucharest for the grass roots Agile Lean Europe 2013 conference, so this will no doubt be one of many great conversations.

We compared notes and shared ideas. The take away was:

  1. Attract the best talent. Through community involvement over a number of years, his company is way ahead in this area (thankfully they're in Poland, so not direct competition :). Joking apart, this reinforced the importance of developing and promoting your R&D Team as a brand - it pays off in the search for new talent.
  2. Always phone screen first. If using agencies, have them do a pre-call, and get them to collect information to dig into on your own phone screen. Give the agencies a mix of open-ended and specific questions, e.g. "how to you learn?", "what have you learnt most recently?". Design these to give an early indication of height and cultural fit.
  3. Show-me-your-code. If the candidate passes the phone screen, send them a coding exercise to complete. Their solution will give lots of insights, at very low cost.
  4. Always meet face-to-face. If the candidate passes the coding exercise, then either do a Skype call (if remote working will be a significant part of the role) or skip straight to a face-to-face. The goal of the face-to-face is mostly to determine cultural fit. My friend put it this way: "only hire people you'd want to go for a beer with, so go for a beer with them". Our approach in more reserved England is a four-part face-to-face involving a code review and kata with an Engineer, a technical discussion with an Architect/Engineer and Engineering Manager, followed by a "cultural" discussion with a couple more Managers. The CTO often gets involved at this point too. A tour of Engineering is also done.
  5. Use a tool that makes it easier to scale this process out to lots of people (in terms of both candidates and those doing the hiring). What was hilarious was that we both use Trello for this, and both have recently set up Zapier to allow candidates to be added by email (this was ahead of Trello's recent addition of their email-to-card feature).