Picking Who to Hire

Learn how to pick people who are going to be a good fit for your company.

Commons mistakes while hiring

Before you start hiring, you should know who exactly you want to hire. This might sound like one of the most obvious statements in the world, but there are subtleties to finding the right people to make your team even more effective. Hiring managers fall into some common traps when given the ability to hire anyone for their team:

  • They just hire more engineers. No matter what the problem is, just throw more engineers at it, right?

  • They just hire the most senior person possible. Surely, the most senior candidate will have seen it all before. Forget about these people with only a few years of experience. Let’s just get the experts in, surely?

  • They hire people just like themselves. Culture fit means “one of us,” doesn’t it?

Wrong! There’s much more to putting together a highly functional team than just finding seven carbon copies of yourself. Remember that as a manager, you are trying to find ways to increase your output, where your output is defined as:

The output of your team + The output of others that you influence

Things to look for while hiring

Teams are interdependent by nature. In technology, we work on complex problems that benefit from a diverse range of skill sets, experiences, and viewpoints to produce the best possible work. Today’s cross-functional team typically consists of engineers, one or more designers, one or more QA, an agile practitioner, a product manager, and an engineering manager. These are fully functional teams that can build software from end to end. Assuming you aren’t replacing a member of staff that has departed, and even if you are, an opportunity to hire is an opportunity to pause and look at the team as a whole.

Consider of the following:

  • In a typical week, where does the team tend to slow down or get blocked? For example, do tasks bottleneck on QA, or are there simply not enough back-end engineers to balance the output of the front-end engineers?

  • Which area of your team has the least seniority? Are there dependencies outside of the team for any particular type of work where it would be advantageous to have that support inside the team instead?

  • What is the team’s opinion on where they are lacking support? Who would they add if they were choosing?

Before you rush to pull the trigger on hiring more engineers, step back and consider the whole interdependent team and seek their opinions on the matter. It may be the case that adding an additional QA engineer will be more effective for increasing the overall output of the team compared to adding another JavaScript developer who adds to the throughput bottleneck. Likewise, suppose the team often deals with complex streams of work and has difficulties with prioritization and organization. In this case, it might be more valuable to hire an agile practitioner to focus on team efficiency rather than making it even more disorganized. Don’t just opt to throw engineers at the problem. It’s up to you to optimize for the whole team’s output.

More talent isn’t always necessary

In addition to picking the right skill sets to add to the team, you should also be looking to find someone who is the right level of seniority. You may be thinking, ”shouldn’t we just get the most senior people possible?” That’s a good question. Most certainly, you should be trying to hire excellent seniors. However, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do, nor is it always the best solution to your situation. Here are a couple of reasons why.

Are you familiar with the classic project management constraints, typically called the iron triangle or triple constraint? It states that you can model an ideal project with three categories: good, fast, and cheap.

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