Monday, November 2, 2009

Is Interviewing a Burden?

Jason wrote a nice post today about startup hiring. Hiring in startups is different from hiring in bigger corporations because the stakes are so much higher. A bad hire at a startup can crush employee morale, sap valuable time and energy, and in the worst case, kill your company. None of Jason's thoughts were new to me, having worked for and/or with Jason for almost 5 years. Even so, it was worth the read.

There was a comment that struck me as missing the mark. Anonymous wrote:
Good people also don't have time to take tests, or really don't care. Every job I've applied for I get an offer 90% of the time.
...
At the end of the day, having all these filters and questionnaires will deter the "good" people.

If you're getting an offer 90% of the time you apply and you still feel burdened by personality tests and 3-question questionnaires (as in Jason's example), you must be casting your net too broad. Here's an alternative:

Figure out where you want to work. If you want to work for a startup, follow the startup blogs, twitter feeds, whatever comes after twitter, for companies in your area. Get a sense for the various company cultures. Eliminate from consideration any company that you know would not be a culture fit for you. Good. Now you have a short list. Keep it up to date even as you're happily employed at your current job.

When your current job comes to an end, pull out your list and figure out who's hiring (if they're following Jason's advice, they all are). Apply. During the application process, determine if the company is still a place you want to work. Do the things that the company is asking of you as an applicant unless and until it becomes obvious that the job, not the application process, is incompatible with your personality, ambitions, etc. Because you have a short list and a high offer rate, you don't have to apply to that many jobs, so whatever the load for any given job, as long as it's not completely out of line, the total load just is not that high. If a company is out of line in their requirements, then it's probably not a good fit anyway.

Notice how this meshes well with Jason's advice for hiring. Boiled down, he says companies should have a public persona that is both desirable and honest. Seek to hire strong candidates when they are looking for a job. As a candidate, I say, find desirable companies when you're not looking for a job. When you're ready go talk to those companies. If you're getting offers from 90% of places you apply, you only need to apply to a couple of places to land your next gig.

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