My Diverse Hiring Playbook January 4th, 2024
I’m really proud of my track record building diverse teams. When I’ve been responsible for hiring, those teams have consistently been more diverse than industry norms, often significantly so. Over the years, I’ve developed a set of “plays”, some go-to tactics for increasing the diversity of my hiring pipeline. This is that playbook.
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.
🔗 Canonical: the recruitment process really is that long/complex/you... August 9th, 2023
If you want to design a good interview process, then read this and do precisely the opposite. Good lord….
🔗 How Are Soft Skills Soft? April 21st, 2023
The origin of the term “soft skills” really highlights the absurdity of what we now call “hard” skills.
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?
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”.
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?
Checking References: Yes, You Should Check References June 22nd, 2022
Reference checking isn’t optional: it can save you from making a big mistake. Reference checks are your last line of defense against hiring a jerk.
Making a Compelling Offer — in this economy? June 16th, 2022
An edited transcript of a talk I delivered at the CTOCraft Hiring MiniConf. How do you make a job offer that’ll be accepted when other companies are out there offering candidates over a million dollars?
Mailbag: Dealing With Misalignment While Hiring May 23rd, 2022
Answering a question from a reader: how do you deal with misalignment – arguments about skills, pay, etc. – when hiring?
I was on The Changelog February 14th, 2022
I was on The Changelog, talking about work sample tests and hiring in general. Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or right here.
That Wild Ask A Manager Story February 14th, 2022
Ask A Manager had a wild story a week ago. A company interviewed someone, hired him, but when he showed up for work … it was a totally different person. A friend asked, “if this was your hire, and you manager asked you to change your hiring practices to prevent this, what would you do?” Nothing. I would do nothing. Here’s why.
Developing a Values Interview Question January 31st, 2022
How do you develop an interview question that measures a core value?
Work Sample Tests: Wrap Up and Q&A January 6th, 2022
This is the final post in my series on work sample tests. It’s a wrap-up post: I’ll address a few random points I couldn’t quite fit in elsewhere, and answer some questions from readers.
Work Sample Tests: What doesn't work (and why) December 30th, 2021
I’ve written about a bunch of effective work sample tests and the “rules of the road” that make them effective. One thing I haven’t talked about is counter-examples: types of work sample tests that don’t work. I tend not to do this sort of thing: I find it’s usually more useful to talk about what does work than to pick apart what doesn’t. But here, I think it’s illustrative: looking at why certain kinds of work sample tests fail can help illustrate the principles of effective tests. Let’s look at a few kinds of work sample tests that (usually) fail, and why.
Work Sample Tests: Labs & Simulation Environments December 24th, 2021
The work sample tests I’ve covered in this series so far all involve software development. But what about roles that don’t involve day-to-day coding: roles like security analysis, penetration testing, technical support, bug bounty triage, project or program management, systems administration, technical operations, and so on? For those roles, I turn to simulated, “lab”-style environments. Here are some examples of that kind of test.
Work Sample Tests: ‘Reverse’ Code Review December 15th, 2021
For most software engineering roles, the best work sample test will be some combination of the exercises I covered earlier in this series. But not every role; there are some circumstances where other types of tests fit better or are better at revealing some critical piece of information relevant to hiring. This post covers one of them: a “reverse” code review, where instead of you reviewing the candidate’s code, you have them review yours.
Work Sample Tests: Bring Your Own Code December 7th, 2021
If you’re hiring engineers, some candidates will already have code they can share: side projects, open source, and so on. It’s silly to ask those candidates to write new code just for your interview if they already have code they can share. So, if you’re asking candidates to code as a work sample test, you should also offer to let candidates submit something they’ve previously written. Here’s how.
🔗 Shreyas Doshi on the hiring fallacy December 4th, 2021
Great Twitter thread with some hard truths about “we need to hire more engineers”
Work Sample Tests: Pair Programming November 30th, 2021
I tend to prefer asynchronous work sample tests. The flexible scheduling of asynchronous exercises (i.e. “work on this whenever you like”) works better for the majority of candidates. But for some candidates, and some roles, synchronous exercises work better. By “synchronous” I mean: work sample tests that are explicitly scheduled, and that has both the interviewer and the candidate working directly together at the same time. In these cases, I often turn to pair programming.
Work Sample Tests: Coding “Homework” November 23rd, 2021
Coding homework is my default work sample test: I use it for all engineering roles unless it’s obvious that another kind of exercise is better. There are good reasons to make homework-style work sample tests the default: they’re relatively easy to construct, they scale reasonably well to large hiring rounds, they’re accurate simulations of real work, and easier than most other kinds of tests to construct in a way that maximizes inclusivity. Here’s how to conduct a coding homework work sample test.
Work Sample Tests: A Framework for Good Work Sample Tests: Eight Rules for Fair Tests November 17th, 2021
What makes a work sample test “good” – fair, inclusive, and with high predictive value? Here’s my framework: eight principles that, if followed, give you a great shot at constructing a good work sample test.
Work Sample Tests: The tradeoff between inclusivity and predictive value November 10th, 2021
Good hiring processes try to maximize inclusivity and predictive value, but unfortunately, work sample tests bring these goals into conflict. There’s always a tradeoff between predictive value and inclusivity. The guiding principle of work sample tests is: construct a test that balances predictive value and inclusivity. Fair work sample tests will be predictive enough to give you a high degree of confidence that you’re making a good hire, while also being designed to be as accessible to as many candidates as possible.
Work Sample Tests: Introduction to Work Sample Tests November 9th, 2021
Earlier this year, I wrote a series on interview questions. Good interview questions are one key to hiring well, but they’re not the only key. Today, I’m starting a new series on another critical factor in effective hiring: using work sample tests, aka practical exercises. This is part 1: what are work sample tests, and why do we need them?
Mailbag: Adapting Interview Questions for Junior Candidates March 29th, 2021
Sébastien asks: “Would you say that your questions are equally applicable to junior and senior positions?”
How Long Does It Take to Hire Someone? March 11th, 2021
How many hours does it take to hire someone, from approval of the open position to their first day? I tracked a recent hiring round I ran, and found it takes about 100 person-hours. Here’s a breakdown of where that time goes.
“Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” March 8th, 2021
Asking candidates why they left their last job is common… but should it be? I’m not sure. What do you think?
Unpacking Interview Questions: Types of Interview Questions March 1st, 2021
There are three types of interview questions: behavioral, hypothetical, and trivia. Behavioral questions are the gold standard; they’re the most effective at predicting job performance. Hypothetical questions can be useful in certain circumstances, if used correctly. Avoid trivia.
Unpacking Interview Questions: Interview Question Series Wrap Up February 15th, 2021
A summary and wrap-up of my Unpacking Interview Questions series, covering why I wrote this series in the first place, some advice on developing your own questions, and answers to a few questions.
Unpacking Interview Questions: The Weakness Question February 12th, 2021
The fifth and final part of my Unpacking Interview Questions series, where I share one of the questions I use when I interview for technical roles. Today’s question is the most difficult-to-ask of the series, but also one of the most valuable: asking a candidate to discuss one of their weaknesses.
Unpacking Interview Questions: “Tell Me About a Disagreement…” February 11th, 2021
Part 4 of my Unpacking Interview Questions series, where I share one of the questions I use when I interview for technical roles. Today, an oldie-but-goodie: looking into a candidate’s ability to disagree and resolve conflict professionally.
Unpacking Interview Questions: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion February 10th, 2021
Part 3 of my Unpacking Interview Questions series, where I share one of the questions I use when I interview for technical roles. Today: making sure candidates align with organizational values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Unpacking Interview Questions: “Tell Me About a Project You Led…” February 9th, 2021
Part 2 of my Unpacking Interview Questions series, where I share one of the questions I use when I interview for technical roles. Today: measuring a manager’s ability to lead projects and manage them effectively.
Unpacking Interview Questions: “Explain a Topic At Multiple Levels…” February 8th, 2021
Part 1 of my Unpacking Interview Questions series, where I share one of the questions I use when I interview for technical roles. Today: asking candidates to explain a topic at multiple levels. This is one of my favorite questions to ask for engineering roles; strong performance on this question correlates very highly with high job performance on my teams.
Measuring Hiring Manager Effectiveness September 14th, 2020
Hiring is one of the most important parts of a manager’s job. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a metric I use to measure hiring performance. It’s simple to calculate, and reasonably effective at revealing performance differences between managers. Here’s the formula:
Training Interviewers September 8th, 2020
What’s the best way to train folks to conduct job interviews? I have a process I’ve used for about five years that seems to work well. It’s loosely based on the “see one, do one, teach one” methodology used by many medical schools.
Effective resumes need to contain two things: responsibilities and accomplishments. The first tells the read what your job was; the second, what your results were. Unfortunately, most people fail at the second part. I’ve seen thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of resumes, and most don’t contain accomplishments. This makes it difficult for a hiring manager to get excited about your resume: knowing what you were supposed to do doesn’t tell a reader how well you did that thing.…
Layoffs are Coming March 13th, 2020
It’s looking increasingly likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a recession. It’s easy to think we might be immune from the effects of a global recession, but my experience is that tech companies are quick to cut staff, especially engineers, in the face of declining markets. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. Either way, it’s not going to hurt to prepare.
My questions for prospective employers (Director/VP roles) April 23rd, 2019
Last time I was looking for a job, I wrote up a list of questions I wanted to ask prospective employees. I just ran across the list again, and figured I’d share. I was looking for a senior management role (Director/VP-level) in Engineering or Security, so the questions are sloped in that direction. Also note that I was in a fairly strong position; I didn’t need the a job immediately. So, I was able to ask fairly direct, challenging questions.…
My interview kickoff script, annotated November 29th, 2018
When I interview, I say nearly the same thing at the beginning of the interview. It’s a script I’ve practiced and honed over the years . It’s only eleven sentences, but each has a specific purposes. I’ve iterated on this for years, and it’s pretty tightly honed at this point. I published this script in the guide to interviewing I wrote at 18F last year, but never got a chance to break down where it comes from…
Hire me to help you hire November 27th, 2018
Do you have a growing engineering organization that needs help hiring effectively? I can help! I have consulting availability over the next few months to help organizations hire better. I can design your hiring process, write interview questions, teach staff how to interview successfully, or even run your hiring rounds. Read on more for details, or if you’re interested, hit me up: [email protected]. What I can do for you In a nutshell: I will help you hire more effectively.…
Work for me! April 25th, 2011
Are you looking for an awesome web development gig? Then you should come work for me at Revsys. We’re hiring a full-time Python/Django developer. Update: The position’s been filled. That said, we’re continuing to expand, so if you’re an awesome Python/Django developer and want to work with us, get in touch anyway. For the right person we’d create a position. Revsys is a consulting and services business built around Django; we specialize in scalability and real-world deployment concerns.…
Looking for a Django developer? June 10th, 2009
Need an experienced Python/Django developer? A good friend of mine is looking for a new gig. He’s employed currently and wants to keep his search on the D/L, so I’m putting the word out on his behalf. I can vouch for this mysterious individual: I’d hire him myself in a heartbeat if I could. He’s got years of Django and Python experience, and a killer work ethic. So if you’ve got a space on your team and would like to fill it with someone awesome let me know (jacob @ this domain) and I’ll put you two in touch.…
Strike averted January 13th, 2006
I’m thrilled to announce we’ve hired James Bennett (a.k.a ubernostrum in #django) as World Online’s new front end developer. About a month ago he wrote: I’m desperately looking for someone to pay me to build something with Django, and if it doesn’t happen soon I’m just going to go on strike. Whew — strike averted. Seriously, though we’re extremely excited to have James joining our team, and we can’t wait to see the cool shit he’s going to build here.…