Basics of hiring

TLDR: If a candidate’s interview feedback is not a “HELL YES!!!”, err on the side of rejecting a good resource than hiring an average one.

Why am I talking about hiring?

Because I see that this very thing is done incorrectly so many times.
What I find too trivial and common sense seems near impossible for people to understand.

Some of my background here so you can make a choice whether to proceed further or not.

I have worked in the software industry for 9 years and have been in four organizations.
1. A game development company.
2. A software services company.
3. A large-scale (4000+) company built around a product.
4. A startup with 100% remote workforce.

I find all of this experience immensely valuable and each part of my career made me learn interesting things about the industry and humans in general.

At a single point in time, I have had direct reports of 30+ people, which opens horizons of understanding about managing humans.

I have conducted 150+ interviews of people ranging from 0 years of experience to 15 years of experience.

I am not going to give an exact proposal of how to do interviews, because it's not important, neither required nor possible.
Rather, here are some tips that you must follow as rules and the next wave of employees in your company will be a class apart.

If you fear that the people you hire might actually be better than you and maybe replace you then do not proceed.

Disclaimer: "All advice is bad advice" - Rami Ismail

No particular order intended.

1. Hire before it becomes an urgency.

Hire proactively rather than reactively if you can afford to do so. In haste, humans make bad decisions. Good people are hard to find, so give yourself leverage to reject 20-100 people before settling for the right person. One good hire goes a long way and one bad hire goes a long way too.

2. Put socially groomed and developed introverts in the interview panel.

Introverts speak less and observe more. They are better at judging people because of the time they have spent overthinking and observing. Don't pick awkward or socially inept people for the interview.

3. Interviewers should understand psychology.

Your interviewer should understand human psychology and be a psychology enthusiast. If you don't have that person, first hire that person. It's better to have an interviewer who is literate in psychology from any of the notable works and generally an observant being.

4. There should be at least one intuit in the interview panel.

Intuitives are people who can connect seemingly irrelevant dots in a matter of seconds. Keep one intuitive on the panel.
How can you find if someone is an intuit or not? I would suggest profiling your organization through the eyes of someone who understands psychology deeply. As a fallback, in absence of such a person, psychoanalytic tests can be used such as Big Five, or MBTI.

5. If the candidate is more than 3 years of experience, hire only if he/she teaches you a thing or two.

Hire people who are smarter than you on some things. This way you can introduce variety and people with complementary skills in your org. If you have never learned a thing or two in any interview you have conducted, then fire yourself. Either you are too smart for the place or you are too arrogant.

6. Ask candidates what did they learn on their own.

Measure self-initiative by figuring out if they have learned something on their own that was not a requirement of their job or academics.

7. Keep interviews long.

Don't shy away from keeping interviews long. If candidates can't hold ground and keep sanity in 2+ hours of interview, it is an automatic reject.

8. Consider referrals but assign your current employees a credibility index and keep it updated.

Referrals are big. Referrals are important. Prefer getting a referral from your employees. However,  always take interviews without any bias and assign a credibility index to your current employees. Develop credibility index based on the performance and value of the employees and update the index based on the people they referred. In smaller organizations, mental notes are enough. Document if necessary.

9. If you have the slightest doubt about the candidate, don't hire.

I repeat, slightest of the doubts. Period.

10. Hire the right personality for the job.

Consider understanding psychological aspects of personality types and their impact on professional lives. We undoubtedly need a very different personality for a programmer vs a customer account manager.

11. Ask some open-ended questions with too little information so much so that it has no answer.

See how they cross-question or arrive at the answer. What sort of assumptions do they take and the quality and thoroughness of assumptions if they take some. It really helps to measure analytical and critical thinking skills.

12. For senior and lead positions, hire through references only.

It's better if you have 90% of the information already at hand for crucial hires. 1-5 hours of the interview can't tell that much than a referral who has spent 2-3 years working with the person. Remember the credibility index though.

13. Always size communication skills.


14. Always size analytical and critical thinking.


15. Always size motivation, self-initiative, and learning skills.


16. Always ask yourself, would you enjoy working with this human.

This is one of the best thumb rules. See, if you hire that human, would your work life be more interesting and enjoyable.

17. Hire good and well-rounded people.

Don’t be focused too much on either tool, tech, functional or soft skills, etc. Try to hire well-rounded people unless the job is contractual or very specific in nature.

18. Don't ask "what is" questions.

If most of your questions can be answered with a 10-second Google search, change your questions. Not because someone might be googling it but because those are not good questions, to begin with.

19. Every question you ask gives you a chance to size up someone’s analytical capability.

Never settle on the first answer. Build questions on the answers. Drive conversation. Explore depth and understanding of the candidate. Figure out how do they navigate uncertainty.

20. Cross question the answers even if they are right.

If the candidate is right in some answer, sometimes, reject it and insist on the opposite and see how do they react. It gives a lot about the person.

21. See if they have a variety of experiences. If they are in one job and tech/product for too long, it’s a warning sign.

Consider point 17 again.

22. Don't let the candidates confuse you.

Especially for senior positions, interviews tend to become subjective. Maintain objectivity.
Find conciseness of speech in people. If he/she is talking randomly/too much blabber, it’s a warning sign. They might be trying to confuse you. If you don’t understand something, ask again.
Beware of people throwing too much technical jargon at you.

23. After each hire evaluate how you did and adjust.

If you hired someone and you are not satisfied with your purchase, reflect on what went wrong and what not to do next time.

24. Do not succumb to pressure from the HR or CEO.

Some CEO might tell HR, I want to hire 25 engineers this quarter. HR's job is to achieve that number asap. HR will push you to rethink the candidates you have rejected or try to get a yes out of you.

Do not be that CEO.

Do not be that HR.

Do not be that engineer who succumbs to this. Sometimes, you have to succumb, but face as much music as possible and don't settle for less. For the greater good.

That's all folks for now.

You may disagree with these tips but they have helped me a lot. Looking back, I appreciate myself for the hiring decisions I have made.

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