📕 Part I: Early Stage
The secret to building great companies is to assemble a workforce that is passionate about the company’s mission and aligned on what operating principles win markets. Accelerate that alignment by hiring people that demonstrate strengths in the areas you care most about.
“Honestly, most of what ultimately defined us happened in the hiring of the first twenty people. So the question of what do you want the culture to be and who do you want to hire are in some sense the same question.” — Patrick Collison, Stripe
Now that you’ve defined your culture, it’s time to create an interview process that attracts the right talent. Drop your company principles in the form and we’ll email you principle-aligned interview questions along with a calibration guide to assess candidate’s answers.
How you structure the interview process also matters. Set up a process to test for functional skills (coding, sales, etc.) AND principle alignment. Amazon spends 75% of interviews on principle alignment for every potential hire, from experienced vice presidents to brand new college graduates.
Start with a phone screen to test functional skills. At Amazon, the hiring manager holds an hour-long interview to ensure the candidate has the functional skills needed to do the job well. A second optional interview can be used to cover any concerns or topics missed from the first interview. The phone screens are used to determine whether the company should invest the time and money to interview the candidate in person.
Amazon then hosts one day of back-to-back interviews (formerly in-person) to test for functional and behavioral skills. Before the interviews, the hiring manager sends a pre-brief to the interviewers to get them up to speed on the skills needed for the role, assigning each interviewer 2-3 competencies. Use this pre-interview worksheet to scope your role and assign competencies to the team.
Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, set up a process for making high-quality hiring decisions. Here are steps to ensure you have an interview process that is consistent, evidence-based, and unbiased.
- Request written feedback from all interviewers — Written feedback helps interviewers crystallize their own thinking, especially when assessments have to be supported with evidence from the interview. It also makes it easier for the group to digest all information on the candidate.
- Limit groupthink by gating feedback — Set up a system so interviewers can’t see each others feedback until they submit their own. Gated feedback needs to apply to all interviewers, including the hiring manager. This way you get an honest assessment of each interview before people can be influenced by the rest of the group.
- Give veto power to a neutral employee — The hiring manager and team have a natural desire to lighten the workload with a new hire. This inclination can lead to poor hiring decisions, especially in periods of rapid growth when everyone is underwater. Add one experience interviewer who is not on the hiring team — and give them veto power over the hire if needed.
- Host a mandatory debrief meeting — Set up a meeting with the interview team to come to a final decision. The neutral interviewer should lead the discussion, interviewing the interviewers. It is the neutral interviewer’s job to call out trends across interviews and challenge other interviewers when their assessments are illogical or light on evidence.
Keep the hiring bar high — The candidate should be compared to current employees of the same seniority, not against other candidates. Consensus approval isn’t required, but at a minimum the hiring manager and the neutral interviewer should be in favor. A few bottom line statements to assist with coming to a final decision:
- Does this candidate raise the overall talent at the company? (i.e. better than 50% of employees of same seniority)
- Does this hire have long-term potential at the company? (i.e. can see potential to be promoted twice)
- Do you admire this person?
- You’re better off not hiring, than making a bad hire. If you’re on the fence, the answer is no.
Talent is your company’s most important asset, driving product, engineering, and everything else. Make interviewing a core responsibility for all employees and train your team to interview well — it may be the best use of your time towards your company’s long term success.
“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon’s success.” — Jeff Bezos, Amazon
To try out this approach, submit written notes using the interview feedback tool. The form will automatically gate feedback, so interviewers won’t receive others feedback until they submit their own. We’re also building summary view that can be used to guide the debrief discussion.