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Emerging From our Hiring Failures

When Jake told me we were hiring again, I had two contradictory and gut-wrenching reactions: Excited relief, and overwhelming fear. 😬

You see, the last time we tried to hire was tricky.

No, let me rephrase.

The last time we tried to hire was a shit-show.

We were overwhelmed with applicants. Some of them good, most of them ok. The most impactful, though? Oh, they were the assholes!

The lasting impression from our previous attempt at hiring was one of pain, sadness, and utter confusion.

Side note: Why the hell do people get so abusive when they don’t get to interview? As if calling someone a dickhead is going to make them realize how wrong they were in their hiring decision. I mean what the hell?! 🤷🏻‍♂️

I started to have flashbacks to conversations with Jake as he flirted with burnout. Remembering his struggle to remain upbeat while deflecting a torrent of abusive and unjustifiably cocksure applicants.

Then I remembered how we all felt the fallout from it as a team. It was excruciating. Most of all because Jake was the only one really managing the process. So he absorbed all the hate and deflected it away from the rest of the team.

As noble as it was, there was nothing the rest of the team could do to lighten the load when it became soul destroying.

It was like a catalytic scene from a revenge thriller. We watched from behind a bulletproof glass window, helpless as our stoic friend on the other side was tortured. Battered by hateful comment after hateful comment. The John Wick part of me desperate but unable to smash through the window to distribute some verbally-charged vigilante justice. ⚔️

First world problems, I know. But it was still painful to watch. No-one should have to suffer abuse for any reason, let alone for doing their job.

I think it was one of my toughest experiences as an employee, and one of our most challenging as a team. It’s hard to watch someone you respect going through something like that. And it’s fair to say we weren’t in any rush to repeat it.

But as we grow, we’re finding our workloads are hitting a critical point. 🌡

Up to now, we’ve been pretty good at absorbing and sharing the additional strain throughout the team. It’s one of the reasons for my timely pivot to customer education, taking on the support and allowing the engineers to focus on building a great product.

The trouble is, there comes a point where all our cups are brimming. We all have things we want and need to do, but little time to do them. As I pointed out in a previous post, when there’s so much we’re trying to achieve, we wind up achieving very little.

So while I grimaced at the thought of hiring again, I knew it was an inevitable and necessary pain. We just needed to be more precise with the whole shebang. And this time, I’d be taking a more active role!

Don’t Post it Anywhere Everywhere

One of our biggest mistakes last time around was posting the open roles to any job board we felt was relevant.

As a remote-only company, we thought it made sense to post the job on remote-focused boards.

Oh, how wrong we were! 🙈

I’m sure at some point there was a need for job boards. But right now, it feels like they’re one of the main contributors to the horror-show that is hiring. And nowhere is this truer than remote-focused boards.

The overwhelming majority of the applicants we had from previous job board postings were horrendously unsuitable—to put it mildly!

In fact, a huge proportion of these applicants were instant rejections on the basis they didn’t really look at what the role was.

They certainly didn’t hit any of the criteria beyond “willing to work remotely”. It seems that there’s a massive contingent of people who just want a remote job, and as a result, will apply for every remote job going.

I’m curious to know what these people think would happen if they got the job. What if the kid with zero shipping credits and no technical aptitude or ability actually got the full-stack developer job?

Then what?

A week in, after showing a complete lack of credentials they end up getting sacked for being utterly useless. Then everyone’s back to square one.

🤷🏻‍♂️

The silver lining is that while they’re a source of major fatigue, the unqualified rarely follow up their rejection.

Call to Arms

This time around, we made the collective decision not to use job boards. 🙅

Our figurative workload receptacles are already overflowing, so the thought of having to sift through hundreds of generic, irrelevant applications made us queasy.

Instead, around a week ago we took to our respective networks. We shared job listings lightly via our personal social media accounts and reached out to specific people we thought might be a good fit.

And we had a few incredible applicants as a result. The quality of applications far exceeded our last effort. 🦄✨

In fact, the rate of applications that led to a Slack interview for our Customer Education listing is somewhere around 70% right now.

As my first time hiring for over a decade, I feel like that’s pretty darn good.

What’s more, all the people we’ve interviewed for the Customer Education role so far have been exceptional. They’ve given us a ton to think about in terms of how we structure the teams, and what roles we will eventually hire for.

I guess my struggle now is in decision making. ⚖️

Aligning the Job’s Worth

I’m starting to feel like making the right decision boils down to the applicant’s ability to do the job/fit in the team/grow with the company and the current value of the job itself. 💸

Knowing what a job’s worth can be a difficult task from both sides. Particularly when the hyper-inflated salaries of funded valley-startups are setting such unrealistic expectations. Their influence extends far outside of their silicon bubble, and it’s tough to ignore.

The last time we were hiring, we got some stick for undervaluing the role. But in hindsight, it’s clear that wasn’t the case at all. It just wasn’t the role the person thought it was, or worse, they were projecting themselves in the role and valuing it that way.

Everyone should be paid what they’re worth. That is irrefutable. But the caveat is everyone should be paid what they’re worth if they’re in a role that’s worth it.

Entry-level roles should have entry-level salaries. Regardless of the experience of the person doing the role.

Alignment is crucial. You wouldn’t expect a surgeon to take the role of a cleaner and demand a surgeon’s salary for doing so.

Looking at the customer education role, I have to keep this in mind. We know what the role is worth right now and we know where we’d like it to be over the next few years.

Now we just need to find people who’re aligned with those expectations.

Emerging From our Hiring Failures
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