The Hiring Decision Checklist

As a startup in rapid-growth mode, at Course Hero we have a lot of hiring meetings. Early on, they tended to be long, drawn-out discussions that went in circles a bit, and we had a hard time making clear, confident decisions.

Over time, though, we’ve refined our discussions to be much more efficient and decisive. One of the biggest improvements has been to articulate a specific, actionable checklist of characteristics to discuss. By contrast with open-ended generalizations like, “is this person smart,” “do they match our requirements,” and “are they a culture fit,” here’s our checklist:

1. What is this person’s ceiling?

As a growing company, we look for people who have a lot of potential. We need people to grow into new positions with the company, take on bigger challenges, and generally unlock new skills and talents. We want this to be a great long-term hire, not just fill a short-term need.

Senior candidates are probably closer to their ceiling already, which should come through in the form of strong job skills. But in every case, we want to find someone with the potential to be outstanding. If you look forward, beyond where this person’s skills are right now, what do you see?

2. How does this person make us better?

It’s far easier to find reasons why you shouldn’t hire someone than make a convincing case that you should, especially when one negative opinion has veto power. I’ve found it helpful to flip the question around, though, and ask the team to look for specific ways this person will improve our team.

  • What skills do they have that we don’t?
  • What can they do better than anyone here?
  • What changes to our culture or process will they cause to make us better?

With junior candidates, it might be less obvious, but there should still be some potential. For example, will their creativity help us brainstorm new projects? Will their ambition drive us to accomplish more? Will they bring in new, fresh ideas?

If you can’t come up with at least one specific way that an employee will improve your team, that might be telling you something.

3. Is this person teachable?

For any hire, we’re going to be investing precious time helping them succeed. For a junior hire, this means on-the-job technical training, mentorship, and patience as they learn the skills to be effective. For a senior hire, it means helping them understand our codebase, practices, and philosophy, so that they can start contributing and improving what we do. In all cases, we want to be confident that there’s going to be a great return on that investment. For example, will they learn something the first time, or will we have to keep reminding them? Will they be able to extrapolate new skills and ideas into problems they haven’t seen before? Are they open-minded about how to do things?

4. What exactly will this person work on for the first 30/60/90 days?

Be specific. If we can’t come up with a good list of valuable work that we’re confident they can handle, that’s a bad sign. Create a detailed roadmap of projects for this person. Is that work worth the cost of hiring someone? Will we be happy in 90 days with these results? This topic can bring a lot of clarity to the hiring discussion.

5. Will I like being around this person?

Sometimes called the airport test, it’s important to discuss how you’ll feel about spending several hours per day with this person. You go through a lot of good and bad times as a team, and it’s a lot easier to do so with people who generally make you happy.


Answering these questions, as a team, helps us achieve focus in our hiring decisions, and has cut our hiring meetings from an hour down to 15 minutes. This is an important savings, since we’re doing more hiring than ever. We’ve also adjusted our interview approach to make sure we get answers to these questions.

As always, let us know if you’d like to learn more about working at Course Hero!

Management, The Art and The Science

Building, curating, and leading great teams of people to do extraordinary things

    Josh Tyler

    Written by

    EVP Engineering and Design @CourseHero, changing the way people learn. Author, Building Great Software Engineering Teams. Views expressed here are my own.

    Management, The Art and The Science

    Building, curating, and leading great teams of people to do extraordinary things