Jacob Kaplan-Moss

I’m a software developer, co-creator of Django, and engineering leader. I work at Latacora and co-own REVSYS. Previous jobs: Hangar, 18F, Heroku. If you’re looking to contact me, please see the ways I’m available to help.


Team size isn't a measure of success September 11th, 2023

Most managers have internalized the idea that team growth, in and of itself, is a unalloyed good, and a sign of success. This is wrong, but it’s understandable. Team growth feels like success, but headcount by itself isn’t a measure of success. Instead, we should judge management success by impact and efficiency.

Mailbag: Should you give candidates feedback on their interview performance? August 25th, 2023

Should you give unsuccessful job candidates feedback on what they did or didn’t get right?

Do I need a consultant, contractor or employee? August 24th, 2023

When is it the right choice to hire full-time staff, and when should you use consultants or contractors instead? The short answer: hire consultants for guidance, contractors for execution, and employees for stability and flexibility. For the long answer, read this article.

Hire for Floors, not Ceilings August 16th, 2023

When you’re hiring, try not to get caught in the trap of evaluating candidates based on their best possible performance. Look instead for consistency: reliable results in variable conditions, the ability to deliver predictably with consistent quality, and so forth.

Giving It All Away: My Philanthropic Plan May 15th, 2023

A major personal accomplishment in 2022 – something I’m proud of – was creating a philanthropic framework. My wife and I intend to use this framework to guide our charitable giving for the rest of our lives, with the explicit goal of giving away almost all of our wealth in our lifetimes. Here’s some backstory, and all the details of our plan and the framework that guides our giving.

Follow-ups to "Incompetent but Nice" March 31st, 2023

I received a ton of replies to my previous piece in “incompetent but nice” people. I’ve collected some of those replies, and some of my own follow-ups. I’ll cover: what managers should do; the theme that this is almost always a management failure; and my advice for people who are worried that they might be the “incompetent but nice” person.

Incompetent but Nice March 28th, 2023

A question I’ve never been able to answer to my satisfaction: how do you manage people who are nice but can’t do the work?

Professionalism: You should maintain a transition file November 9th, 2022

When you change jobs, ideally you’ll have the opportunity to brief your successor directly. But that isn’t always possible: you might get fired or laid off, you might leave for another job without a clear successor named before your last day, you might have to take sudden medical leave, etc. Situations like that will be disruptive, it’s unavoidable, but a transition file will help minimize that disruption.

Performance "Seasons" Are Useless — Use Anniversary Reviews Instead October 25th, 2022

Stop doing performance reviews based on the calendar year. Instead, schedule performance reviews around each person’s individual calendar — a year after they join the team, switch roles, get promoted, etc.

The Intersection of Tenure and Seniority October 20th, 2022

Patterns of short tenure are normal at the beginning of a career, but are more of a red flag in more senior roles. Here’s why.

When Is Short Tenure a Red Flag? October 14th, 2022

A pattern of short tenure – multiple short jobs over a small period of time – can be a red flag, but necessarily. I’ll dig into short tenure in this article. What’s “short”? What’s a “pattern”? When you’re thinking of switching jobs, when and how should your tenure factor into the decision? For hiring managers, when is it reasonable to be concerned about job tenure, and what should we do when we become concerned?

Writing With Copilot October 14th, 2022

On using Copilot as a writing assistant, and my complex feelings about the ethics of doing so.

Is this a parable about software development? October 13th, 2022

You tell me.

Role Title Terminology October 12th, 2022

In my writing about hiring and management, I often talk about role titles – terms like “manager”, “director”, “executive”, and so forth. I’ve found that many readers find the precise definitions of these terms confusing. So here’s a glossary of the terms I use when I’m talking about job titles.

Post-interview recommendations: a case against 'maybe' September 23rd, 2022

If you’re ever an interviewer on a role I’m hiring for, there’s this one thing I’m going to ask you to do that might feel weird. After you conduct that interview, I’m going to ask you to send me a recommendation, and I’m going to insist that the recommendation begins with a very clear “hire” or “no hire”. I won’t accept any form of “maybe”.

Quality Is Systemic September 9th, 2022

Software quality is more the result of a system designed to produce quality, and not so much the result of individual performance. That is: a group of mediocre programmers working with a structure designed to produce quality will produce better software than a group of fantastic programmers working in a system designed with other goals.

Taking notes in interviews August 12th, 2022

Techniques for effective note-taking during interviews.

Panel interviews don't work July 8th, 2022

There’s a Right Way to conduct job interviews: one-on-one, with a single interviewer per interview session. If you need multiple interviewers (you probably do), schedule multiple sessions, each one-on-one. The alternate approach, panel interviews – having multiple interviewers in a session at once – is almost always a bad practice. It increases stress on the candidate, risks measuring the wrong things, and doesn’t lead to better results. Avoid panel interviews: they don’t work.

Checking References: What to do if a reference check goes wrong July 6th, 2022

Most of the time, reference checks go very well: you only turn up information that confirms your decision to hire this candidate. But sometimes — maybe about 10% of the time — the reference will tell you something concerning. Here’s what to do if that happens.

Checking References: How to Check References June 24th, 2022

Part two of my reference check series, covering the nuts and bolts of conducting a reference check. When should you check references? How many? How should you contact references? What questions should you ask?

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