Albert Wenger on Recruiting

A few weeks back Albert Wenger of USV gave a talk on recruiting and they’ve been nice enough to post it for our viewing pleasure.

While the talk focuses on startups, many of the key takeaways can be applied to any organization. Some highlights…

  • Always be collecting candidates. Make a note of them in some fashion – LinkedIn, Pocket, Drive spreadsheet, etc.
  • Know your first hire. And the next. And the next. Talent should be a priority just like product and customers.
  • In the early stages, hire known quantities (friends, previous coworkers) and folks who can wear multiple hats. Easier to predict success if you already know who you’ll be working with and they can adapt to any situation.
  • Recruit for attitude – keep calm and get shit done.
  • Interview quizzes have no predictive quality about how employees actually perform. Even Google admitted to it.
  • Sample questions – what book do you think everyone on the team should read? what’s the last awesome thing you learned? what did you not like about your previous job?
  • After 10 people, things like diversity, culture and team structure start to matter. Get these right before you hit 20.
  • Other things to consider at this stage are recruiting technology, process and employee on-boarding.
  • To get to 50 people you’ll need to invest in management and building a large funnel of candidates (using social media, conferences, university outreach, etc.)
  • Have a great process – get back to everyone, don’t drag candidates along, etc.
  • Make use of networks – LinkedIn, Behance, GitHub, AngelList, etc.
  • Make use of tools – Boomerang, Google Drive, Ziggeo, JobScore
  • Don’t make use of traditional outside recruiters if possible (but retained search works well for senior hires)
  • Don’t change your process for senior candidates – still look at lots of people, don’t get starstruck, don’t rush the process
  • At scale, don’t just throw bodies at a problem. Stick to your process, measure it, and continuously improve it.
  • Talent is one of the top 3 CEO tasks (the other two are finances and strategic vision)

Great stuff.

When hiring dev team folks I often like to ask what I call upstream / downstream questions. If you’re a developer, that would mean questions around design and UX. If you’re a designer, it’s questions about front-end / mobile implementations and trends. It’s really good to see how the person thinks about the tasks that precede or follow their own. A front-end developer who is passionate about design is probably going to produce better work than one who is not.

I also like to use some YC questions…

  • Describe the time you most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
  • Tell us something surprising or amusing that you have discovered.

Again, more ways to see how the person sees the world around them, not just the job function they’ll be performing.

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