Hire the best talent
After joining a newly formed platform team and building a product POC, we got the green light to build out the group and three teams. Even in the competitive market of 2019, we managed to attract some of the best talent and build three solid teams that could deliver the ambitious roadmap. What made our team attractive to the best talent? We had impossible ambitions to create a cloud platform for the whole of Mastercard, we held the bar extremely high, we had a culture where we did not tolerate jerks, we empowered the team to deliver results to the customer, we did not micromanage, and we based team and individual performance based on what the team delivered to the customer.
The team had a lot of fun every day, and the word quickly spread that we were a place where the best engineers wanted to come and work. On top of that, by focusing on attending various events, creating a diverse set of candidates in the pipelines, and consciously monitoring bias in the interviews, we were able to turn a team that was 16 percent female into a group that was 44 percent female, including two out three engineering managers. The diversity gave us balanced perspectives and incredible cooperation within the group. Over the next year, we built a cloud platform for multiple groups and invented and built out a set of enterprise services that led to millions in net new revenue.
The exciting part was the interview process that we utilized. We had two rounds: a coding project that was much more difficult than real-time coding on hacker rank but without the same time pressure and a multi-person on-site round. Because we were constantly hiring, the benefit of this approach was that we could get a high throughput of candidates and cross-check individual bias in the multi-person round. We also did not have to pull engineers away from their projects which saved a lot of context-switching. After working in multiple places and talking to different people and their attempts to copy big tech's interview process, we saw no evidence that more extended interviews result in better candidates.
Thus, keeping the hiring process simple and efficient should be the default for startups and smaller organizations. Big tech companies can afford to put their entire team in the loop, but you don't since you need 100 percent of your engineering time to build your product. In addition, big tech companies did not get big by emulating other big companies at the time. Imagine where Amazon would be if they emulated IBM. Or if Google emulated Microsoft. We recommend keeping the interview process light and focusing on hiring for character and culture fit.
This is not to say that you should not have a rigorous interview process. You should. But you should also have a process that is efficient and effective. Always ask why and what is the purpose behind each round. Ask if you have the right decision-makers. Standardize the scoring of candidates based on metrics that makes sense to your organization. And most importantly, feel free to change the process if it is not working. The final goal is to hire the best talent rather than have a process claimed to be the best elsewhere. Apply test iterate agile approach to hiring just like you would with your product.
As we interviewed 100s of candidates, we developed a set of hiring principles that we have successfully used to hire the best talent. Here are some hiring do's and don'ts.
Hire for character - you can't teach character but you can teach the rest.
Give projects that reflect actual work - the candidate performance on the project will give you a good idea of how they will perform in the job.
Challenge during the interview - determine how the candidate will perform under pressure.
Hire the best out of first 37 percent of candidates - this has been statistically proven to lead to highest chance of getting the best candidate overall. Save yourself 63 percent of your time and effort.
Don't rush hiring - quick entry often means quick exit.
Don't waste your time with multiround nonsense - unless every round has an independent decision maker in it. Othewise, everyone else will just agree with the hiring manager.
Don't penny pinch - your flexibility opens up quality of the candidates you can attract.
Don't get trapped in looking for perfection - understand that best candidates are also imperfect human beings and professionals, just like everyone else, regardless of the image they present.