Hiring lessons – Part 1

I’ve made a ton of mistakes in hiring people and wanted to write down the lessons I’ve learnt till now.  I’m not sure how many parts this post would have, here’s the first one anyway.

Speed vs hire
Why does a company having 5x more programmers than you, move slowly or at the same pace as you? Apart from the overhead to manage more people, it’s the failure to maintain a high hiring bar that’s causing the slowness. I made this mistake. It’s a very rationale thing for anyone to ensure that the hiring bar is kept high. But why do we slip? or more precisely, why did I slip? Some of the reasons below may resonate with you. Let’s call the bad hire, Joe.

Insecurity
I had an insecure feeling that if I didn’t replace the programmer who quit, immediately, my product would slow down, it’d affect customers, revenue would go down and so on. It’s bad to hire (or even interview) anyone with that sort of a mindset. It makes you twist facts, rearrange some of the evaluation parameters just to make that hire and feel “secure”. Ironically, all the things I feared started to happen, before I asked Joe to leave.

Size
The most dumbest way to evaluate a company is to base it on it’s size [1] and more often than not that seems to be the metric everyone is bothered about. The first question anyone (friends/investors/press) you meet asks is “How big are you now?” This made me feel weak as a founder since I thought I wasn’t “growing”. Thankfully I didn’t make any hires based on this but I did have those moments.

Betting
Someone with a really impressive profile  is interested in your company but doesn’t completely convince you. What do you do? I made a mistake of hiring Joe thinking he’ll eventually contribute because he has a strong profile. That never happened. The “eventual” in a startup is a few weeks or maybe even days.

Goal
One bad goal that you can set for the company is determining how many people you want to hire in the next x months. How many times have you heard a statement similar to this “We’d like to double our team by next quarter“. That’s a sure sign of lowering the bar at some stage in order to meet the goal. 

All of the reasons directly relate to desperation to hire someone to grow the company. It’s okay to wait for 3 months with a slow growth and then hire someone who’ll make the growth exponential to match the goal at the end of the year, than hiring when you’re not completely sure of.

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Notes
[1] Instagram was worth $1B when they were just a 12 people team.

2 thoughts on “Hiring lessons – Part 1

  1. +1 to Insecurity. It lead us to do all sorts of things without really realizing the management cost associated with it, “Can’t hire in SF? Hire in London, setup Skype etc..”. Lacking empathy for other developers and the pain they will have to go through working with poor-developer/remote developers is worst thing to do to team and product.

  2. Good one. As mentioned in the post, people mostly focus on the wrong params, like the number of employees. I totally agree that If a small team can make good revenue, then why does company size matter. A good example is 37signals.

    It’s an interesting read.

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