Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hiring for a startup

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Our first employee, Alice, has been amazing. Unfortunately she's from Shanghai (Mike met her when he was working in Google's Shanghai office) and in a month she heads home. So we're hiring a new employee in Guangzhou!

Hiring is a difficult process and something we want to get right, particularly when:
  • We're a startup so this person will have a big impact on our business,
  • We live in Sydney and the person we're hiring will be our only person on the ground in Guangzhou,
  • We're hiring someone in a foreign city where English is spoken well by only a small percentage of the population.

    Google was a great training ground for hiring, they do it very thoroughly. I had 13 interviews before being hired (I went for 2 different roles) and I enjoyed being involved in hiring great new people for our team in Sydney. Some of the things I learnt there which I'm applying now:

    1. Don't rush hiring, be thorough.
    It's an obvious thing to say but harder to actually do when you have a to do list that's a million items long, but I keep reminding myself that it will cost a hell of a lot more time if we hire the wrong person. To this end:
  • Alice and I have interviewed 5 people so far, and have 2 more interviews today.
  • I'm going to pick the best 2 or 3 people and have Mike and Jodie interview them via video. It's not quite 13 interviews but that was overkill and we only have 4 people working in the business at the moment!
  • We do a short written English test at the end of the interview just to check we're going to be able to communicate ok via email.

    2. Develop a good set of criteria for what you're looking for in a person.
    Our criteria:
  • A good cultural fit. We want someone who is outgoing and friendly and has a startup/get things done attitude.
  • Outstanding organisational skills. The role will constantly be changing and we'll have lots of different tasks to do that change each week.
  • Excellent English skills.

    3. Take good, thorough notes and review the person as soon as the interview finishes
    Again, easier said than done when you're busy, but Alice and I chat about each person as soon as the interview is over and review them against our criteria above. It's easy to get straight back into your work after an interview, but when interviewing a lot of different people if you don't review them and take good notes you'll forget. I also want to keep track of my areas of concern for each person so if we ask them back for another interview, I can ask Mike and Jodie to focus on certain areas.

    Any thoughts on what else we should be looking for? A few people have asked about what we have Alice do over here so I'll do up a post detailing the job description soon.
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