On cultural fit and misfit

So people basically want to do a good job. They want to see the meaning of their work. Which is a different thing for different people. Some love to see their product used. They are customer-oriented. They prefer quick-and-dirty – but deployed and used – over clean, well-engineered but otherwise useless software. Other don’t care about the user – they care about the well-engineered software. Some perhaps are in-between – they want their code being good, but they want it also to be it useful for a wide audience. Or some may want to build only software they use – so they have a deep understanding of the user. The point is – people are different. They may want the same in the abstract terms – meaningful work – but their vision widely differs.

So the way you work – if you are customer-centric or not, the amount of planning and designing up-front, the granularity of the tasks – a lot of details in the work depend on the top management (in software development – usually on the CTO) and his vision what is the most effective way to build software. This affects the culture. It’s natural to seek people that would go along with the way you work. Otherwise the people you hire will be frustrated and will eventually leave. Hiring for cultural fit is hiring people for whom you can provide meaningful work.

And then there’s this advice to hire for cultural misfit. Only by by hiring people that see the world differently you can advance.

So there’s a clear conflict here. You need to hire for cultural misfit to get something better then you have. If you want to change the culture, you need to hire people that fit in your envisioned culture and not the one you currently have. If you need innovation, you need diversity, you need to escape group-thinking and so you need to hire for misfit.

But the people that do not fit would not be satisfied and will leave.

So how do you hire for misfit? Or more precisely, how you retain misfit?

The question is how much misfit your management can accommodate? How much you can tolerate? How much the “fits” can tolerate? Do you want everyone to work in the same way or you allow people to act on their own ways? Do you have standards, processes that are must, strict rules or are you loose? Can the misfit act on his way and are the others allowed to follow his lead, or you prefer the new hire to first follow the rules, then break them? How much variance you allow?

Here is an example. You have a very-well organized, priority-sorted backlog of tasks. Everyone have to pick one of the top 3 tasks (you allow people to pick not exactly the top one, if they feel they will be better working on something else, but still you restrict them to one of the top priorities). The new guy picks somethings that is not in the high priority at all. Even worse – does something that is not in the backlog at all. How do you react? Would you allow him to work his way -assuming that his work is good, but it’s not aligned with the priorities you’ve set – or would you let him know what is with priority, so next time he choose better? He ships a feature that do not meet your definition-of-done criteria – perhaps it doesn’t have tests, or it covers only 80% of what is required. Would you ship to your customers, or wait until it fits your criteria? Those might be some extreme cases – but they define how extreme misfit you may accept.

As a misfit is basically two things – a disruption, that can lead to innovation, better performance, new ways of work; and at the same time, well.. I didn’t find a better word, but misfit – a person that feels uncomfortable in your company and perhaps the people in the company feel uncomfortable too. Someone that is not thrilled about the work you do (or the way you do it). So there is a spectrum between the two and how much of the disruption you can accommodate determines whether you will keep the misfit and have a creative disruption or you will lose it and stick to the group think.

What it takes to recruit?

I often receive messages from recruiters that contain a link to a job ad or just the whole body of that very same ad. That’s not what recruitment is about. If I’m interested in a job, I can see the ad on the job boards (or at any other medium) and there’s no need for someone to send me the message. I admit, having someone personally send you the message at least gives you a person to contact in case you are interested; but it’s easy enough to add the contact details in the job ad itself, so anyone can get more information before applying.

In a job market where you get dozens or hundreds of applications for single position, you have to choose the best applicants. This is a hard work, one that requires not only skill, but good intuition as well. When you hardly have any candidates however, which is the case in many high-tech jobs, screening is not enough. You have to attract the candidates first. And if you are going to reach them directly via e-mail or social web sites, it’s an even harder job.

Има още

Paying people to join, to stay or to quit the company?

When I started this blog 5 years ago, I didn’t know the term sign-on bonus. Back then I suggested offering employees a “welcome bonus” as an unconventional way to attract talent. It turned out it was already a common practice – one that gained a lot of popularity in the recent years.

Now, 5 years later, I still think sign-on bonuses need reinvention. What’s different between my original idea and all of the implementations I found is the reasoning behind such a policy, and I find my reasons closer to the “pay-to-quit”, first offered by Zappos in 2008. Има още

Towards unlimited vacation

Originally published at LinkedIn

Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about „unlimited vacation“ – with companies like Netflix, Virgin and 37signals offering employees as many days off as they want. This idea seems radical to most managers and there are even some critics that say such a policy is actually harmful for the employees – some statistics suggest that people who are offered choice of how many days they will take off, actually take less days than usual. Anyway, the movement towards extended vacation is well aligned with the general movement towards more flexibility in the workplace, so lets look at why such policy may or may not work.

Има още

Re-stating the interview questions

There is a set of interview questions so common that we forgot their purpose long ago. Those questions are so common that the candidates are ready with some common answers as well. As recruiters however we ought not to ask the questions we have to, but to get the answers we need. And we may have to re-state those questions in order to get more meaningful answers – often, multiple times during the same interview.

Има още

Should you work for a bad boss?

Originally published at LinkedIn

In his article Should You Ever Work For A Bad Boss? Jack Welch suggest that one should choose the good company over the bad boss. But how can be there a bad boss in a good company? Bosses have a great of impact on the company – on hiring, retention, and overall on the performance of the employees. Keeping a bad boss for sure would cause of lot of damage. Welch’s argument is that the bad boss will eventually quit. My questions is whether this is actually a good company? Има още

Re-motivating people

Originally published at LinkedIn

Everybody talk about disengagement. There are studies showing that huge percent of the employees are disengaged and the idea of lifetime employment has gone. In tech, working 1 to 3 years for the same company is something usual, but not the years worked count – only the years the person was actually engaged in the job. I don’t want to waste time explaining how important engagement is, or proving that the majority of the people are not engaged. I’ll assume that if you continue reading this, you agree with the importance of engagement or you are curious enough to see what I’m going to suggest. Има още

Наемане на пасивни кандидати

Привличането на опитни специалисти е изключително трудна задача, особено в сфери като ИТ, където има много голямо търсене и постоянен недостиг на кадри. Не само, че хората с необходимите умения обикновено имат работа, но дори и да се случи подходящия специалист да си търси такава, то той ще има множество възможности, от които да избира. Много от специалистите, които си търсят работа, имат друга такава, така че и те спадат към така наречените пасивни кандидати – т.е. хора, които не си търсят активно работа.  Има още

The wrong questions

The whole hiring process is broken: ineffective job ads, inability to assess candidates, interviews that do not reveal what we need to know, hiring the wrong people and inability to keep employees. It’s not a surprise that we end up with disengaged people.

The problem is that you can’t know anything from the CV and often you even don’t interview the people you need. The problem is that those people do not apply for a job in your organisation. The problem is that you are offering a job to people, which in the best case scenario reject the offer, in worst – accept it, just to leave in several months. The problem is that after all tests and interviews you really don’t know how the person will perform on the job. In short, the problem is that you are asking the wrong questions.

Има още

The job offer

After you have conducted an interview (or more than one, if there are multiple interviews in your hiring process) and you have selected your top candidate, you are sending your job offer. This is your last chance to make the wrong move and to provoke rejection. This may happen if you didn’t do the job offer well or if you send it too soon – before you have actually won the candidate. Following are few advises that will help you to close the position successfully.

  • The job is not only a position and a payment. Nevertheless, too often the job offers contain only the position the person will be hired for, and the salary she will receive. Start with a short introduction, explaining how your company will help for a great career, and what the employee will bring to the company.
  • When you get to the salary, describe the review process – in what timeframe the salary may be reviewed, and what specific conditions are to be met. Make sure to include the whole package as well.
  • You should not offer the minimum salary the candidate have requested. It’s well known that employees are often not that good in salary negotiations and that’s one of the hardest parts of the interview for them. Employers on the other hand often ask what is the minimum wage the employee would accept and they have their reasons for that. Make sure you know not only the minimum, but what payment will make the person happy, as well as what are her expectations for future raises.
  • Requiring immediate response is also a mistake. Give the candidate day or two to consider the offer, letting her know that you’ll call to clear any questions she may have, then call to discuss it. After the offer is accepted verbally, you may send any documents the candidate needs to sign.
  • Some companies first call to tell the offer. Although this gives the chance to discuss it in advance, it’s better to call after the candidate had enough time to consider your offer.
  • Setting expiration date for the offer is not a good thing to do. I have seen job offers which expire in 3 days. Any attempt to apply pressure for the candidate to accept the offer is hurting your business. Instead of this, call the candidate and ask when you can expect a decision to be made, explaining that you depend on this to continue with your hiring process. Use this to learn as much as possible about what prevents the candidate to accept the offer immediately.
  • Even if it’s discussed on the interview, include what expectations have to be met in order for the candidate to be considered a successful hire. This is extremely important if you have a trial period – it’s better for both parties if it’s clear under what circumstances the trial will be considered successful or not.

There’s always a chance for the offer to be rejected. You have to call and to ask for the reasons. Maybe the candidate is still not sure about the position. Never forget that the candidate may have multiple offers to chose from. And if she is currently employed, it’s even harder to chose your company. In that case it would pay off not to apply pressure, but to invest in longer relationship and approaching the candidate when she is ready to make the switch.