My biggest mistake was not paying enough attention to hiring. In this post, I will share with you my lesson and what I’ve done about it.
Hiring is the most important thing that you can do as a manager. Who you hire will shape your team’s culture, make you happy (or sad), and affect the company’s direction (eventually).
In my previous positions, both I and HR did not pay enough attention to hiring as we should have. Our previous interviewing process was very primitive. A typical interview process includes a technical assignment, and anywhere between 1 and 3 interviews. We did not have any rubrics for the take-home assignment and the interviews. Hiring decisions were made solely by the hiring manager and often biased by his perception of the candidate. In short, our interviewing process was unstructured.
As a result, I have made several hiring mistakes that cost us time and money. For privacy concerns and respect for the people who have worked with me, I will not discuss in detail about the mistakes I made. But I have hired people that do not fit with the team culture, people that hold the team back and people who don’t want to develop in our field (data & analytics).
Reinvent a retailer’s data & analytics interviewing process (preface) I recently joined a leading retailer in Vietnam and was tasked with building a data & analytics team from scratch…medium.com
You can read more about my motivations for revamping the interview process in my previous post above. Inspire by the Google hiring process and having a fresh start at building a new team, we have come up with a revamped process that is much better than the previous one.
The process now looks drastically different than before. For all of our hiring positions (data analyst, data engineer, data scientist), we will have 4 to 5 interviews and a technical assessment. The process and the interviewers are among the most significant drivers in candidates’ overall satisfaction, according to Google’s internal research. The process is as follow:
Meet and greet interview: The hiring manager will be conducting the first interview and brief them about the position. Doing that can be time-consuming for the hiring manager. However, we want to have this stage first because we want to inspire the candidate with our visions and have a general assessment. If the candidate is interested in the position and the hiring manager doesn’t catch any red flags, the application will be proceeding to the next stage.
Technical assessment: There will be a technical assessment for all our hiring positions. The assignment will help us see how our candidates perform in their elements and we will have some follow up questions. The exercises are mostly open questions and we don’t have a deadline so the candidate can spend as much or as little time as they want. After receiving the answer, we will decide if we’re going to proceed to the next round.
Technical interview: In the next step, the hiring manager or a team member will have 1–2 technical interviews depending on the position. The candidate will have a chance to present their work, and we will have some follow-up and technical questions.
Teammate interview: We believe that the people who will be working with the candidate should have a say in who will be their colleague. As such, 1–2 team members will also participate in the interview process.
Bar raiser interview: This is an idea we borrowed from the interview process of companies like Google or Amazon. An independent manager from another team will also join in to make sure that we don’t hire subpar people just because we are overload and desperate. Subpar people will not only decrease the overall team quality, but they will eventually raise to be managers and hire more subpar people.
Hiring committee: A hiring committee, contains all of the interviewers, will sit down and evaluate the candidate based on our rubric. Any interviewer will have a veto vote not to hire the candidate given that they can provide concrete evidence for their vote. If on the other hand a hiring decision is made, we will extend an offer to the candidate. HR will also collect more information, such as referral interviews, payslip, to support the hiring decision.
Even though the process seems long, it only takes about 5 hours for the interviews and 3–4 hours for the assignment. We usually finish our process anywhere between 2 and 4 weeks. We are looking for candidates who share our visions, and I think the right candidate will make the time investment. So far, we have found great candidates, and most of them seem to be happy with the new process.
Things that we could improve
Same interview questions for different candidates: Google believed that using the same interview questions for various candidates will help reduce bias in hiring decisions.
Train interviewers: Not all people are born an interviewer whether we choose to tell ourselves otherwise. We will look into developing a training program for our team so that they provide candidates with a positive experience while effectively assess the candidates’ fit.
Visualize candidate assessment: We are data people, and we love to collect and visualize data. Right now, our interviews and assessments are recorded to a Google Sheet using Google Form. We can add some visualizations there to help the hiring committee.
Hiring is important
Conduct structured interview
Have clear and details rubrics
Interview is a learned skill
I was initially planning to write about the mistakes I made as a manager, but the first mistake got too long, and I turned that into a post of its own. I will be writing another post about the lessons I learned as a manager, so stay tuned.
Please clap if you find my post helpful. Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any feedback on our current hiring process at firstname.lastname@example.org