AAAAH

The strange utterance we use to explain our hiring practice and culture.

Early in the formation of Helpful Human, I realized that I didn’t have to be a great entrepreneur to commit to hiring the best people I could find. Even though I didn’t know where we’d end up as a company, it occurred to me that hiring high-quality people could compensate for my business shenanigans.

I was right.

As we’ve interviewed people over the last couple of years, we’ve collectively arrived at an acronym to describe our hiring criteria that has stuck. Say it with me now,

“Aaaah!”

It’s as if you’ve just taken a long drink from a refreshing beverage on a hot day. Or perhaps you just realized a profound truth. Either way, it’s easy to remember.

We’re not a perfectively formed team, but together we have delivered on the promises the acronym suggests and have heard as much back from our customers, partners, and vendors.

Please use what you can from the following explanation of our acronym to augment or guide your own hiring and culture making practices.


Everyone wants to spend time with affable people. It doesn’t matter how smart or accomplished a person is, if we don’t enjoy being around them, then they probably won’t be happy and productive colleagues. Affability is a critical component of our company culture. It will always hold its place as the first step in our hiring process and what defines us as a team.

When we’re looking to fill a position, experience is always necessary. But we have discovered that most people still have gobs to learn. Even if they have impressive abilities, their skills aren’t complete or fashioned in a way that’s entirely useful to us.

So you’ll often hear us say, “It’s not what you know today, it’s what you can know and how quickly you can know it.” We’re looking for people who have an aptitude for the work and can grow into their future expertise.

Things don’t go the way we plan them 60% of the time, 100% of the time. We need people who aren’t going to crumble in misery when their codebase has to be refactored, designs rejiggered, or their role in a project reconfigured. Being able to adapt and keep a cool head is important.

It’s tempting to cast blame elsewhere for self-preservation. Throwing people under the bus seems to be a full-time career choice for some.

Being accountable for yourself (and your team) is super important. We have found that those individuals who are willing to own their mistakes are well-rounded humans.

And finally, we are humans, providing things that humans use, at the request of other humans. Robots haven’t taken over (yet), and therefore we still have an important role.

But there is a deeper overall mission here: By being the best humans we can be, we are providing greater value through humility, creativity, friendship, failure — all the things that make humans beautiful and vulnerable.

Transparent humanity gives us all an advantage over those who wear a professional veneer or attempt to fake their way to success.

Let me know if you have a similar/different acronym you use. I’m interested in your experiences.