5 Tips (you haven’t heard) to build an EPIC tech team

George Brooks

Business

Originally posted on on Ideas by Crema - Medium May 6 2016 (some updates)

We’ve been recruiting creative and tech talent for nearly 9 years. We are still small and mighty (26 FTE today), but we’ve built an amazing team, and I think we’ve nailed a few ways to do that well.

We may not always be hiring, but we’re always recruiting.

1. Let the team hire (carefully)

Team interviews is not a new idea. The challenge is that this must be done very carefully. Early on, when the company was much smaller, we, as co-founders would vet an applicant, run the first interview, and then allow the entire company to interview the candidate. It was fantastic! The team uncovered so many details that we didn’t see. They could sniff out when someone was blowing smoke about their true skills. They could pick up on some of the subtle cues that would have made working with this person a potential nightmare. Or else they could see potential in someone which surpassed our own vision for the position at hand. A hire that could take us to the next level!

Mob mentality takes over quickly.

Be careful with team hiring. A great existing team and culture desires to protect their own at all cost. Mob mentality takes over quickly. We found that open group feedback quickly moved negative, not positive. It only took one person saying, “Did you pick up on this?” and it would follow with, “Not initially, but now that you point it out, that is so true, there is NO WAY that person could ever be a part of our team.”

Ask for feedback individually via email. As the company grows. Break smaller teams down to do the interview, and make sure there is some cross-discipline review — not just devs hiring devs, and creatives hiring creatives. Finally create some structure for the questions that the team should ask. This will set a better rubric for how candidates stack up against one another.

2. Only hire people who WANT to work for you

This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t tell you how many people we’ve interviewed that were perfectly qualified in both skills and experience, but the overall sentiment was that they just didn’t want the job. Or maybe its that they didn’t want to work for us. There was a sense of, “I’m pretty great, and the job description you posted sounds alright. I’ll do you a favor by letting you hire me.”

Wait, what?!?! We are trying to change the world here. We need people that are pumped about that. They need to believe in what we’re doing. I need to see that they would be loyal to that mission, and are willing to hit the ground running to do it with us. If you’re just applying because the position seems “alright,” you’re not a fit for us.

3. Recruit people that have experience with customer service

People that have had to work as a server, for example, in service understand what it takes to create a great customer experience. Serving others instills a long lasting sense of humility. How do you handle getting cussed out, then manage to up-sell dessert with a smile? How do you defuse an irate customer? How do you listen and guide a customer to pick the dish perfect for them, and yet profitable for the restaurant, all while they are distracted by menu decisions, personal conversations, and a noisy environment? How do you keep a customer happy while doing what you can to turn the table so you can serve the next person?

How do you handle getting cussed out, then manage to up-sell dessert with a smile?

This ability to serve, adapt, show empathy, direct an experience, and delight a person so that they come back again… this is what every tech teams needs. Sales, design, development, management and strategy will always be thinking about how to create a better customer experience, and have the thick skin and adaptability to handle any situation. Industry skills, education, experience, are not enough to build a great company without the ability to think about the person. We are in the business of people. We just happen to create technology and grow businesses.

4. Hire Slow

You’ve probably heard this one. But I think it’s worth a reminder. I’m not saying, “don’t hire at a good pace.” We’ve watched many companies enjoy the luxury of a capital infusion or a big raise, and the goal becomes growing the team and scaling sales, development, and customer conversion to X% month over month growth. Awesome! This is so dangerous if not done very carefully!

Hiring the wrong people can destroy what you are setting out to do.

Just remember that hiring fast changes your culture. It must be said again and again: Hiring the wrong people can destroy what you are setting out to do. Slow down. Check your gut. Make sure that that the next hire is the right hire. Never hire someone unless you and your co-founders are sure. You may have the feeling that you just need more bodies, but likely the team you have is capable of so much more!

5. Find a “merry band of misfits”

Seek out team members willing to try new things. Find people comfortable with breaking the status quo who can pivot quickly. Look for people that don’t all look and talk the same.

Carefully consider when hiring the the popular “rockstar” individual. There will always be that developer or designer in the community who is is well-known for their influence. They are in hi-demand. The positive is that it can be an impressive promotional tool for recruiting others who want to work alongside. Even their personal brand can help to increase exposure for your business.

On the other hand, it can be a distraction. Not always, but sometimes as one’s individual personality grows, they run the risk of not seeing what’s best for the company.

We joke sometimes that we are a “merry band of misfits.” Our varying backgrounds, skills, and personalities make us better together. We also value a HUGE dose of humble-confidence. Confident that we can do GREAT work, and humble enough to know we are still learning.

Quick list of other things we love:

  • People that are well-traveled.
  • People willing to learn
  • People that haven’t been job hopping
  • People that others speak highly of

Interested in hiring the amazing team we’ve built? Let’s talk!