5 Stumbling Blocks To Hiring Engineers in Silicon Valley (and NYC)

These mistakes are frequently made by first-time founder/CEOs and seed stage companies….

1.) Seeking someone in their own image who is willing to work 18 hour days, including an unwillingness to look at candidates who have a different (or non-startup) background or are a missing a few buzzwords from their resume.

It might work for your first few engineering hires, but scaling it becomes incredibly difficult and brings with it huge lost opportunity costs. The faster you move out of your comfort zone, the better.

I know one well known start-up who has been trying to fill a role for over 4 months, and has gone through two dozen candidates, simply because of a strongly held philosophy by the founder who mandates 80-hour work weeks which effectively eliminates most people who are married or have kids.

2.) Using fizzbuzz technical coding challenges as a proxy for how effectively someone will contribute to the team & your company hitting its product roadmap goals. Check out how Stripe does interviews.

“Can this person meaningfully contribute to us hitting our product roadmap?” and “Can we work well together with this person?” are the two most important questions… not whether they’ve memorized an obscure algorithm from CS class 5 years ago.

3.) Accurately & honestly assessing where your company stands, and realizing that if you’re a 7, trying to hire a “10” can be a recipe for failure. This is especially true if you’re trying to pay below market rates.

4.) Moving with a sense of urgency and speed.

If hiring is really your #1 priority, being willing to skip your monthly lunch with mom in order to make time for a hot candidate.

In general, working under the assumption that anybody good is going to have multiple paper offers in hand, is a good philosophy. Start a countdown clock the first time you meet someone, you have 10 business days to present them with a paper offer or a rejection. The longer you wait, the more competing offers you will have…

If you’re trying to hire at the talent level that Amazon/Google/Facebook/Dropbox/Square compete for SPEED is best advantage – they have the brand recognition & deep pockets, you don’t.

5.) Decisiveness. “Making the offer when you’ve found the right house” vs. changing your mind because the color of the living room is wrong. Don’t hunt unicorns, because they don’t exist!