Life

Leadership: Finding Somebody New

Finding somebody new can be a really tricky process. Recently I’ve been through a wave of interviews with various candidate, and I have a renewed respect for recruiters and HR personnel that handle this process on a day to day basis. How can you evaluate skill, character, fit, and so much more in such a short time span? Here is what I’ve started applying to my own evaluations.

Word on the street is that Jeff Bezos sent out a memo early on during the founding of Amazon as three key questions for hiring new people:

Will you admire this person?

If you think about the people you’ve admired in your life, they are probably people you’ve been able to learn from or take an example from. For myself, I’ve always tried hard to work only with people I admire, and I encourage folks here to be just as demanding. Life is definitely too short to do otherwise.

Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?

We want to fight entropy. The bar has to continuously go up. I ask people to visualize the company 5 years from now. At that point, each of us should look around and say, “The standards are so high now — boy, I’m glad I got in when I did!”

Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?

Many people have unique skills, interests, and perspectives that enrich the work environment for all of us. It’s often something that’s not even related to their jobs. One person here is a National Spelling Bee champion (1978, I believe). I suspect it doesn’t help her in her everyday work, but it does make working here more fun if you can occasionally snag her in the hall with a quick challenge: “onomatopoeia!”

So far these questions have served me well. I believe asking these questions forces you to think beyond the immediate “required skills” listed on the job application and to see how they would fit in the big picture of your teams, and company as a whole. It also helps reinforce the notion that I don’t want to hire more people just like myself. Having a wide diversity of backgrounds and though processes makes tacking challenges even easier since more ideas can be brought to the table. There’s a good chance that the candidate that majored in foreign languages before coming into the realm of web development is going to bring perspective I never thought of before, and I LOVE that.

If I were to distill it down even further, I might say don’t hire the people that impress you, hire the people that impress AND inspire you.

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