How we hire

We are OPEN!

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Marcus Aurelias

Getting a company off the ground is hard, in fact, it’s more than hard. It’s a self inflicted, never ending stream of validating, planning, second-guessing, data crunching, penny-pinching, and building. It keeps you awake at night, infects your dreams, and it’s there waiting to wake you up in the morning with a slap in the face. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because the great thing about hard things is that, well, they’re hard. And tough problems attract the type of people I like to be around.

But, you still have to find and hire them…oh, and you can’t really pay them that much, or afford to use a recruitment company.

So, how do you continuously ship product improvements, grow your clients, develop your technical infrastructure, raise awareness, generate revenue, and create a culture that people want to be a part of?… I think the secret is a hiring technique that we’ve started calling, ‘progressive immersion’, or, ‘just in time’ hiring.

I’m part of the team that run Distributed, a company that services London media agencies with SEO, Analytics and Web development (specifically data, machine learning and Ai products) using a distributed workforce. Over my 5 years running Distributed I have had two priorities:
Make sure my clients are happy with our work
Hire, and retain the very best talent

The first is easy, if you get the second right. So how do you get the second right…


Talent get talent
Ask your existing staff if they have worked with anyone that they think is great.

Go to where they are:

Get your ass on upwork, linked, muzli, KD Nuggets or any other site that has a pool of talent in the specialisms that you need.

Use hashtags

Do your best to maintain somewhat of a social profile, use the networks that make sense for you, and remember that hashtags are a great discovery tool, use them… #nowhiring

Finding a fit

Once you’ve found your prospective team members, arrange a short chat with them, preferably over Skype, it minimises the disruption to your day and allows you to see if you have a personality fit. You and your team spend more time with each other than you spend with your families, its important you get on as personalities first, and professionals second.

From target to team member

After your fist chat you’ll have a feel for how they’ll fit into the team. The next step is to make sure they have the level of ability you need in the team they’re potentially joining.

Now, there are a hundred different tests for every tech specialism so I can’t advise at a granular level here, but what I will say is that your test should focus on the candidate’s ability to learn, adapt and improvise. If you only test on a single domain specific qualifier, you have no indication of how your new team member will develop and grow with your business. I will always choose to hire someone who although technically less qualified displays these traits as they will beneficial to the future of my team and my company.

Make the offer

Again, there are many different styles to making an offer to a prospective team member. Hopefully you’ll know by now what’s important to them both in their career and in their personal life, and where they see themselves progressing to in the future. I’ve always found the best approach when making an offer to a new team member is to ask them what they’ll be happy with after verbally explaining the role again and being very clear on the level of professional commitment required. If you can comfortably accommodate what they ask for, then agree, and get them started, negotiating a new team member down on salary or up on expectations just for the sake of it is pointless and counter productive. If you can’t accommodate their requests then work with them to plan for a scenario when you will be able to, or let them go, it’s as simple as that.

Keeping them on the team

I’m very proud to currently have a 0% churn rate at Distributed, but that doesn’t mean it will or even should stay at zero forever. Sometimes it’s right for team members to move on. It’s my job to make sure that it’s for the right reasons (role change/new experience/new team etc.) and not because we’ve created a stagnant team architecture, or a culture that is forcing people to look for new roles.

It sounds really obvious but the only method I’ve used so far is communication. I hold regular 1–2–1’s with my team members as individuals and as a group, find out what’s working for them and what’s not and then…this is the kicker…I take action. Where possible pain points are removed and again where possible we amplify what’s working for the team. This has (so far) seen us able to retain all of our team members and continue to grow our company culture inline with the scale of our business.

Something that’s a great inspiration to me is the #recommendedreading slack channel we have at Distributed, so I’ll share a couple of recommendations from it with each post.


Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Carlo Rovelli
Seven very short, and exciting lessons told by Carlo Rovelli that make physics come alive in a very simple emotive way.

The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe
A brooding, gothic poem of lost love and regret that reads like a punk song.

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