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I am a perfectionist. Not in the trite kind of “everything I do must be wonderful” way, but in the paranoid, nothing-is-good-enough, seeing-around-corners way.
When I evaluated candidates for my team at Vungle, I was very thorough. I had the sourcing team find every possible candidate. I collected reams of data on every one. I prepped a long list of behavioral and case questions. I recorded meticulous notes. I conducted blind references. I tried to meet as many candidates as possible, and then calibrate them, so Vungle ended up with the optimum employee.
It sounds great in theory, but it became a big problem, fast. We’re in an ultra-hot new field — in-app advertising — and we’re trying to scale fast to grab all the market share we can. My process didn’t break, but I became the bottleneck for a lean talent team that also needed to hire PMs, sales people, and — most crucially — engineers.
I had to change.
Flipping the script
So I tried an experiment. Instead of interviewing everyone on the planet and trying to optimize, I set a goal to hire the first person who met all of my criteria. The results: Twice the people hired in half the time, a fantastic relationship with our talent team, and a growing cadre of amazing engineers to build products I’m excited to market.
Here were my main take-aways:
Present can be perfect.
There may, somewhere, be a Platonic ideal of a marketing associate, or visual designer, but the candidate you will end up with after a search of any length will actually only satisfy the following criteria:
- Good enough
- Available (or susceptible to poaching)
If you have a good candidate sitting in front of you, that person is the perfect person for the job. Hire them.
Soft skills over hard skills.
Okay, your candidate has never put together the specific kind of PowerPoint presentation you want. They have never written the actual lines of code you need. If they’re a great cultural fit, hire that person every time over a more experienced candidate.
Startups are a team effort. The company is so small. It’s more important to have someone who’s 75% of what you need and is highly incentivized to learn, than a prima donna with every skill you think you want. Startups don’t have time for distractions and personal intrigue. Hire someone who everyone can get along with, figure out a learning plan for them, and charge ahead.
When in doubt, flip a coin.
It’s very unlikely that any job that you have is so unique that there isn’t more than one perfect person for it. If you have a good sourcing team, you’ll probably meet plenty of “perfect fits” for your roles.
I noticed that I had the most trouble choosing between two options when both were equally amazing. If I was having trouble choosing, I would flip a coin, and go with the winner. It’s worked well so far.
Although it’s too early to tell if the people I hired will be able to scale with the company as we go from Series A to IPO, early signs are encouraging. Better yet, I now can spend more time on strategic initiatives than on hiring. Top-down decision-making turned out to be a great hack for me. I hope it’s useful for others, too.
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