Hiring is a skill that’s usually overlooked at every startup. It’s also a skill that you don’t get to train or practice. How often are you in the process of hiring?
I’ve found myself in the hiring process at most three months out of the year. Then it’s another year or so until hiring becomes a focus.
It doesn’t matter if the size of your team is five or over a hundred employees. A hire will be working with a small set of people. That oen addition to a small group accounts for a large percentage of change. I think you should treat every hire like your first hire.
Over the years I’ve found that there are several ways you can practice hiring (even when you’re not hiring) and I wanted to share them.
Meet People Who Want or Are in Your Position
Every interview involves you meeting someone for the first time. Getting better at this type of ice breaker conversation is important. The best way to get better at this is to keep doing it over and over. I have two days a week that I leave open for meeting new people for coffee. Doesn’t matter who you are or why you reached out to me we can grab a good cup of Joe.
I’ll also actively seek out people I’m interested in meeting. If you’ve done something I think is impressive, write interesting tweets, or are in the same role I’m in we should get to know each other.
By doing this I improve my conversational skills every time and I get to learn a lot about observing people. Every person I meet is different but also very similar. This has helped me identify things to look for that hint towards someone who I would want to hire.
Learn to Ask the Right Questions
I can’t stress this enough. The time you spend with a candidate is precious. Every question should be thought through and you should know what to look for with each answer.
There are several great blog posts on hiring. My favorite which I’ve shared here before is @kennethn's blog on "How to hire a product manager". In the post he includes an amazing analysis of what to look for in a product manager, and what questions can help you find what you’re looking for.
Other blogs like this exist for development, marketing, and every other possible role that you can imagine. Set some time aside every other weak and do your research.
As a side note, I don’t believe in asking puzzles and logistical questions. They’re unfair to the candidate and don’t tell you much. You’re the one in the room with the answer and get to judge them on why they didn’t come to the conclusion the same way you did. Talking with someone can tell you just as much and more than a puzzle.
Understand the Role You’re Hriing
This can easily be overlooked. When you’re hiring for a similar role to yours or a direct report, you’re not looking for a mini-me. Really understanding the role, responsibilities, and skills the candidate will need to embody can help you diversify your hiring and build out an amazing team.
People are what make companies, startups, organizations, groups great. Regardless of how amazing the product or service you offer is - the people behind it are what matter. Practice hiring, it will be worth your while.
[Update]: I forgot to include this great post over on A16Z "Building Your Recruiting Muscle" which focuses on the interview process itself.