Launch Pad Blog


RECAP: The Interview Process: Best Practices for your Startup

by Jane Buescher | Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

On December 5, RockIT held an event centered around the interviewing and hiring processes at startups. We shared results and insights of a recent survey we conducted of more than 100 engineers (primarily in the Bay Area). The presentation and takeaways from that survey are here.


Following the survey overview, Aki Taha presented "Recruiting stories and hiring hacks for building a great team." Aki recruited globally and locally at Google, Greylock Partners, Dropbox, and most recently his own company, Persona. He broke down the recruiting and hiring process into 3 steps: Sourcing, Interviewing, and Closing. For each step he addressed the problem, the usual (ineffective) fix, and the actual (effective) fix.




Key takeaways:

1. What you think of as a sourcing problem, is more likely a marketing and tracking problem:

- Create a differentiated, repeatable message that each member of your team is using; this is the story that you want people to know before they interview with your company

- If a company is well-branded with a repeatable story, referrals are more likely and your brand will continue to build

- Use a tracking system consisting of referrals from your employees and candidates that you have met along the way; engage these candidates systematically, over the long term, and in meaningful ways

2. It is not enough to get the right people in the door - the interview process is really difficult to do well

- Think about your culture - how things get done, who is doing particularly well at your company, what was missing from those that you have fired, etc. This will help you determine whether a candidate has "cultural fit"

- Use your job descriptions as a marketing tool rather than a list of skills

- Design your interview process to maximize the candidate's exposure to the team

3. People often confuse a low closing-rate with a need to offer more money, change the deadlines they provide for offer decisions, and sell harder

- Need to sell during the interview process

- If you've designed your interview process well (per #2 above), you will be able to show candidates what the team and work are like and will have to do less reactive selling

We next moved on to a panel discussion on How to Sell Engineers on Startups. The panel was moderated by Dan Portillo, VP of Talent at Greylock Partners, and consisted of:

1. Dave Golombek - Director of Technology at Lookout Mobile

2. Chris Griffin - CEO at Betable

3. Leslie Chicoine - Director of Product at 42 Floors

4. Poornima Vijayashanker - CEO of BizeeBee and Hiring Consultant

5. James Tamplin - CEO and Founder at Firebase 




Some of the insights that the panelists brought up:

Sourcing & Process

- Source for aptitude and attitude - more important than sourcing for 1 or 2 specific skills

- Sell company vision as the first step

- Keep it casual - give out coding tests/challenges after the candidate has gotten to know the team

- On the topic of coding challenges, one way to get around resistance to taking the test is to view it as a "badge of honor" and a point of commonality among all members of the team

- As the company scales, maintain your culture

- Thumbs up / thumbs down decision same day as the onsite interview

Selling & Combatting Counter-offers

- Selling your startup is about targeting the right all starts with the right sourcing

- Ask candidates what they have been working on, what they enjoy about their work, and what is missing. Use this as ammo to sell your opportunity throughout the process

- Send a computer with code base early to the new hire (even if their start date is a month out) - this makes them feel part of the team right away

Retaining Employees

- Make engineers an owner of product or process, or even a co-founder after working there for a period of time

- Ask all employees to fill out a chart with 4 quadrants: Skills on one axis on a scale of "good at" to "not good at", preferences on the other axis on a scale of "like to do" to "hate to do"; use this for coaching and keeping employees happy with the work they are doing