Last week I told Mark Josephson, CEO of Outside.in, that I have a greater appreciation for the hard hiring work all of you entrepreneurs do right now.
Yesterday all of the investment professionals in our firm sat in a conference room for seven hours and waded through hundreds of amazing applicants for the two open positions we have at Union Square Ventures. We cut the 616 applications (359 for Analyst and 257 for General Manager) down to 75 (47 for Analyst and 28 for General Manager).
For the past week, my partners and I have done little else but work on this project. It is exhausting work. I believe we could hire any one of at least three quarters of the applicants and be very happy with our choice. But we only have two positions and we owe it to ourselves and the candidates to be thorough and make the very best choice we can.
People and Product are the two most important things a company has. In our case, our product is our ongoing work so we are even more people dependent than most of the companies we invest in. But regardless if you are a product oriented business or a service oriented business, you cannot invest too much time and money on your people. It is critical.
Our hiring process has always been a bit unusual. We announce the open position on our blog and invite anyone to apply. We do not require a resume. In fact, we prefer that candidates not send one. We want to see the candidate's online presence and we want to know what they have accomplished.
Looking at over 600 online presences and mapping that to what they have accomplished is time consuming work but the insights you get from doing that are incredible. I said to my colleagues yesterday that it was like we interviewed 600 people yesterday.
That number is now down to 75. My partner Albert has a post up on the USV website explaining where we are at in the process and where we go from here (phone screens). This is our third hiring update post so far and I am sure we will do a few more. The candidates seem to love the transparency of this process and how we are communicating. That's a big takeaway for me. If you use the web to source your candidates, you also need to use it to communicate to everyone in the process. It works very well.
I'll end this post with a graphic from Albert's post. Check out his post because he has a bunch more graphical data including some great word clouds. This is a map of all the places in the US that our GM candidates come from. We also have a number of candidates from outside of the US but we couldn't get them on the map for some reason.
Like the word clouds, it’d be interesting to see one of some of the discussions here.
My cool info tools sense is tingling. Would be a couple lines of code.API hit to your favorite semantic house (Zemanta makes perfect sense here)tag cloud the entities but here’s the kickerAdd human filtering, enable us to add tags an upvote tags and only show the top one per comment
Sounds great Mark. There are so many features that I want from Disqus.
Excellent ideas mark. My personally held belief is that human filtering is the future of web search and organization. In the real world, money organizes the world (and it also aids search greatly), and at it’s core, money is simply the visual marker of effort moving between humans.
Human filtering is also the past of web search. All the links didn’t get there themselves. In fact one could argue that the more automatic links that are created, the worse link weighted network search tools become.
Mark… I think you may have hit upon a very important point here. In the past, links were primarily created by humans and for distinct purpose, but as websites grew accustomed to SEO, links were more and more created only for the purpose of improving their search engine position. Thus, gaming the system has made the internet ready for a new type of organization.And you are right! In the past it was human filtering, and in the future, it is also going to be human filtering! But exactly what type of filtering is the question. Something that is difficult to automate, and holds real value I think. :)We don’t want our web to be sorted by machines I guess. At least, not entirely by them. ^_^
Right on.The trick is leveraging human opinion on quality at the micro level (links, sentiment) and algorithm at the macro level (massive systems mining all that juicy data).Time to setup an Avatar Leland. Whatya think of AVC, is this place awesome or what?
Transparency is key and very reassuring from an applicant’s point of view. Thanks for the update.I can also get behind your statement about how important your people are. Not only are they the key to a business but wrong decisions or poor choice of character can be devastating to a small group in the short term.
A seven hour meeting, on any topic whatsoever, sounds grueling. Kudos for persevering, and keeping the applicants updated.
Product and people are cyclical. You wouldn’t attract such good people without a good product first. That product started with the right people.If you get it right early on, the momentum seems to work well in your favor.
That’s a great insight reece. They feed off of each other
Yup… and it speaks volumes to the work that you, Brad and Albert have done at USV.
This is a great observation, which arguably becomes the culture of a company combining these two things.
Not disagreeing with you in the least but I would suggest that we often overlook the opportunity to make things better through transformational training and team building. I have made it to the pay window a few times on turnaround or distress situations and I have been as proud of the performance of a bunch of what had formerly been losers.The big difference — leadership.
That’s why I love companies like yours JLM. You bring redemption to distressed situations. And my guess is that if something deserved to die you’d let it — which in itself is a form of respect.
Hi Fred, this gruelling process is yet another reason people will not want to hire someone that seems to be a ‘hopper’. Maybe you can comment on that after you complete your hiring process.
Well ours is a two year and out process so we do this every year or twice every other year
Fred – Can you do a post on optimum VC fund size at some point? How much per partner, optimum number of partners, etc? I’m very curious about your opinions on these matters.
optimum VC fund depends on many factors… Gorilla44.
$100mm to $125mm, two to thee partners is optimal in my mind
I’m curious to know if you used any automated tools that helped you map the online presence to accomplishments. I understand it would be more qualitative but utilizing some AI (like what Hunch does) should prove helpful. Thoughts?
The only tool we are using right now is jobscore
Is this going to be like American Idol where even #2-10 become famous and make it on their own? You should think about adding Ellen DeGeneres or Randy Jackson on your evaluation team when you get to the face to face pony show 🙂
Would give a whole new dimension to Randy’s “it was a little pitchy” line. 🙂
Hahaha, that’s perfect William
You can imagine the analogy between American Idol process vs. USV recruiting, a la Rock Band vs. Startup. Starting point: lots of candidates, online presence/singing at home, several rounds, most get eliminated, more make fools out of themselves, lucky few get more airtime in front of the judges, the audience applauds/cries/cheers (us, the commentators), suspense arises, how many more weeks are we going to wait?, then down to 10, to 3, offers are given (recording contracts)…and then…the “lights are dimmed”, and the winners are announced, and they become instant USV Idols. Fred/Ryan Seacrest blog/tweet about it, then the winners get their own blogs and start competing for our online (air time) time.Everybody is happy & exausted til next year…:)
but maybe Meritocracy exists after all?
What a clever insight. Throw in a bit of Donald Trump’s Apprentice and voila!
For large businesses and/or highly desired jobs this would make a good TV show. No joke. ^_^
I personally think a Tech Startup version of the Apprentice with Fred Wilson as Donald Trump would have a good TV audience, although this blog is like a show where the audience participates.
Another possibility would be something similar to discovery channel’s “Dirty Jobs” series. Instead of dirty jobs though, the host would make his world through the wild world of startup’s, VC meetings, and other jobs related to the cutting edge of the technology world. : )
Hey that would be pretty valuable info, What would you call it?
“On the Edge” maybe? “Bootstrapping: Life of an Entrepreneur” maybe? Finding the name for a TV show is hard work 😀
a better show: let’s do a congressperson and his/her staffers. That’s got to be interesting considering the state of washington….
I often wonder how much is of this business is cynical or how much of is I am…
More likely someone from the AVC community like JLM
Funny coincidence, I am in the midst of hiring four new folks. Upgrading an old economy business with “business” people. Just like a B school exercise in changing the culture of a company by changing the people. Only it is for real.Hiring military academy grads w/ MBAs. All combat vets. The military is bleeding talent because they are all tired of the constant deployments — oh, yeah, the getting shot at business too. No work ethic problems with these guys.I am truly flabbergasted by the quality of the talent available. It is inspiring to see the young men who are fighting our country’s wars.The hardest thing I have to do is to write a guy who is perfectly qualified to tell him he did not get the job. He is a world beater but I only have 4 positions.I think today is the greatest employer hiring market in 50 years. Upgrade all your talent and save money in the process.The real problem is exactly what you have indicated — when you get to the top 10% you are talking about a group of people who can all do the job. It is like picking an Olympic hockey team from All Americans.
I’m not a military grad, and I’m not in texas- and I would work for you. I think it would be fun in an oddball sort of way. (there are many reasons one could be tired….)
About a month ago, I interviewed a very nice and sweet young lady. An Emily type person. Perfectly groomed, a bit quiet and understated, quite matter of fact. Unassuming.She had been an MP Captain with 5 years of total service and two Iraq tour. USMA grad with service in Iraq shuttling around high value prisoners from interrogation to interrogation.She had been alerted that some Bath Party members might try to rescue some of these prisoners. She was cautious but not alarmed.She got jumped and promptly killed the 3 Iraqi men who attempted to free her prisoner. She killed them w/ a 9MM pistol from 5-10′ away. She used 6 bullets. A very professional “double tap”.I did not hire her because the position would have been very awkward given her gender and she really did not want to travel so much.But I am tempted to buy a business just to have that young lady run it. She is literally a killer. Some lucky SOB is going to get that killer on their team.
I can see parts of why- I still think it would be sort of interesting to work with you.
I’m sure she had other things going for her, for you to have considered her, because the whole killer thing doesn’t always translate into a good fit in the business world. A combat vet (75th Ranger Regiment, CIB) joined my reserve unit after his active duty stint was over. His day job was running a dunk tank at carnivals with his mother. He’d sit in the chair and insult the folks throwing the balls to dunk him.Interesting fellow to have a beer with, but maybe not the best fit for JLM Industries.
JLM, you said it. I can’t emphasize enough how true this is.The funny thing? The current state of the market and lost jobs are a direct result of the higher class and wall street fat cats making mistakes. The core competencies and ability to produce great service and product of most working people across the globe has not all of a sudden become worse.JLM have you ever read the book “The Shock Doctrine” ? It focuses on the creation and outcomes of disaster capitalism… using wars and disasters to implement massive free market reforms in countries that were previously pursing protectionist ideologies. I think this might give you some additional insight into why many military grads might be eager to get out of the military and into business instead.
I will get that book and read it. Sounds interesting. Thank you.Funny story — a million years ago when me and bunch of other trade school guys were getting out of the military, we flirted with going into I banking.”Stress test” interviews were all the vogue and they used to team up a senior banker with a young stud with the young stud providing the stress. It was all kind of contrived and silly.A buddy of mine (Abn Rngr Silver Star, CIB) was subjected to such an obnoxious interview and the young guy got in his face pressing him hard and asked what was he going to do when things got dicey and he was under stress.My buddy responded: “Historically, I have usually killed the individual who created the stress.”Interestingly enough, he got the job offer but did not take the job.
I like that job interview answer. Classic.
And to think I almost missed this: “Historically, I have usually killed the individual who created the stress.”A single comment can make my week. Great stuff JLM!
wow. i just left a comment a few back about that style of interviewing. i had it done to me in the past and i found it distasteful. i take the exact opposite approach.
“The hardest thing I have to do is to write a guy who is perfectly qualified to tell him he did not get the job. He is a world beater but I only have 4 positions.”i’ve been doing that all week JLM. it’s super hard. and many of the people i’ve been saying no to are loyal members of this community. people you and i have gotten to know and like and respect. i say no every day to many people but i never have gotten comfortable with doing it.
I’m not sure the second half of this paragraph is true, Fred:…I believe we could hire any one of at least three quarters of the applicants and be very happy with our choice. But we only have two positions and we owe it to ourselves and the candidates to be thorough and make the very best choice we can.Actually, you really don’t need to pick the very best person for each job, mostly because there’s no way at all to know who the best person actually is. Given the accuracy of your forecasting ability in hiring, you should hire the first person who maxes out your predictive ability and not waste a ton of time splitting hairs when in fact you don’t actually know if the ‘better’ people are better.Right?PS I love that you’re not relying on resumes, which in fact decrease the amount of useful data in front of you.
SethWhile you are most likely correct in concept, for myself and out of respect (or slavery) to the process and the applicants, I would finish the drill till exhaustively done.
“PS I love that you’re not relying on resumes, which in fact decrease the amount of useful data in front of you.”Seth, I absolutely love that comment at the end.As for the rest of it, I’m with Arnold….I’m torn between intellectually knowing that there’s no way to tell with confidence who is the best fit for a role and the fact that any company can’t survive without well-defined processes. We’ve all been in situations where candidates who seemed perfect, or roles that seemed perfect for us, ended up to be anything but.
I think it is generally a more friendly approach towards hiring if one says that they are not looking at resumes. Why? Because it allows us to be judged on our current merits, not on what has happened in the past. Or so I believe. Giving someone the chance to be better then their history might indicate means a lot.
As usual Seth you said what I was thinking better than I did in my own comment. It’s how you suggest an alternate view with that vicous marketing right hook: “Right?”How can Fred resist that idea sale ;)?
you may not get much if any benefit of a better eventual hire from the extra workbut the residual effect of showing this much respect for everyone who applied (or even just finds this method of hiring intriguing) when you didn’t need to on a purely selfish short-run basis is almost certainly worth the extra effort, in terms of future hiring, deals, portfolio company hiring potential-you’re not only investing in the two year employee: but in all future network effects which may spring forth from the impressions of all the applicants (and interested observers such as myself)cliche as it may be, you can’t put a price on respect: look at anyone who tries buying it.
Great point on the signalling of the methodology. Sometimes I’m a little cut throat in my thinking, as in: accomplish what is needed with the minimum resources/cost. Of course marketing is built in to such a public and transparent hiring process.But there are mixed signals. Time spent on super fine search of associates is time not spent with portfolio companies or help finding them much needed engineers (startups can grow quickly and need to fill many more than 2 positions).
You are absolutely right!It’s along the lines of a consumer products company recognizing that every job candidate is also a potential consumer of their products and treating them accordingly. (Although you’d hope it was more altruistic than that.) The way that USV is approaching this hiring process ties into their branding and their reputation in the marketplace. (There is a reason that they received 600+ applications and that this many people even knew about the job within one week to begin with!) I doubt that anyone who has observed this firm for any length of time would expect any less of them. It’s too bad that with such a powerful employer brand they don’t have more opportunity to leverage this (is there a way for their portfolio companies to piggyback?)USV’s approach is highly strategic regardless of whether or not it is intentionally so. (We can take bets as to whether it is.) The beauty is that it is both strategic AND authentic — and transparent to boot.
i am reblogging that last line. it is such a compliment!
i’m with you jared. we are trying very hard to respect everyone in this process. it’s time consuming and a grind but my mom always told me to “do unto others ….” and that’s how we like to behave at USV
I hadn’t thought of it that way seth. From a selfish perspective, we should do that. There are several candidates I would advocate hiring right now. But I feel we set up a public process and are now committed to seeing it through
Other question: Do you have candidates that you would advocate other people should hire (since you now have a list of 541 candidates who you should know fairly competently, as well as a network of other people who might need someone from the 541 candidates) Also do said 541 candidates need each other in any which way?
I love Seth, but I completely disagree on this point.Even from a selfish perspective it doesn’t make sense. Yes, you’ll never find the “best” candidate, but this is a person you are going to be working very closely with for two years, so if you have a pool of highly qualified candidates, why not take the upfront load of chatting/meeting with each of them, and seeing if there’s a personal connection with any of them that trumps the qualification checklist.While it’s tough spending a week talking to all these folks, it’s the best way to keep USV a team of rockstars, and you’ll meet a ton of great people who you won’t be hiring, but will likely be crossing paths with again in the future.
Daryn, most of the personality match you’re describing doesn’t show up instantly. It will appear again and again in times of stress or difficulty. That usually requires more than a single face to face, it requires weeks or months of working alongside each other.
Very good point, Mark. I just wanted to point out that that this GM job (andany job in a < 10 person company) is very much about personality, and you’regoing to get the best insight into that by reading all of these people’sblogs, comments, talking to them on the phone, and meeting them in person. I’m guessing 75% of the candidates are qualified or over-qualified, so thisis where you’re going to figure out who is a good fit and who isn’t.
Totally agree about personality.
When interviewing programmers, My teams have found in-person interviews to be extremely predictive. Not just for personality but also for thought process and technical skills. We give them a programming problem that a superstar should be able to “knock out of the park” in 45 minutes — resolve the ambiguity in the question, choose a reasonable solution, code it thoroughly, and evaluate their own work for strengths and weaknesses. We usually talk about work history and stuff but that never seems to correlate to actual job performance unless it brings out some red flags to make it a clear no-hire decision.You can’t “max out your predictive ability” before interviewing in person. Until that point, you’ve hardly started.
Agree Dylan, but who should invite first, and when have you done enough interviews. My instincts are first come first serve and when you find a fit.
That’s true, usually when you find a strong candidate you need to make a quick decision because it will be weeks or months until the next great candidate is identified.
Let’s ask a question from the reverse perspective- is that true when looking for a job?
So, on that basis, your chances of getting hired depends on the interview order?I feel sorry for Zack Zyngdorf.
and maybe change your name to a number
How about temporal order of applications received?Since we don’t know for certain who would best fill a role or it’s not possible (or important) to differentiate further, Zack would be just as good as Adam Aladin.
Companies can hire like pro teams draft athletes — you can train a world class athlete to play almost any position for which he has the natural talent. This is why QBs make such good wide receivers and cornerbacks.AVC is going to train whomever they hire either directly or by osmosis.I don’t get it why everyone is so down on resumes. They are just one source of info. Today we should all use everything. 360 degree information for 360 degree business persons.
AVC != USV
not really. USV is made up of six people (well actually five because Eric has joined foursquare) and each of us contributes mightily to the overall composition of the firm.
“!=” is the logical operator for not equal to, so we agree.It was a comment in response to JLM who had made the assumption that AVC == USV (it’s definitely not AVC === USV)
What does a resume tell you though? It tells you exactly what I want you to hear in exactly the way I want you to hear it. Now, if you’re a student of human behavior you can pick up things from the way that it’s formatted and written but ultimately, if the person is any good at presentation at all, it’ll be exactly what I asked for when I posted the job description. In the end, the resume is just to screen out those who you don’t want to interview. I think a body of work and and verbal interview is a much better judge of talent than a person’s press kit.
The interview is the most important thing in my view. I do not mean to suggest that any tool is used independently of the others. There is something to be gained by how somebody presents themselves.
JLM, agree here. Face to face interaction reveals so much to a trained eye. On paper, everyone looks like a superstar, so everything written about someone on their profile, paper, and online presence should only be about getting *possible* candidates to the interview.
Well, if you want to help add another dimension to the available data, let’s turn the ‘open source hiring process’ around. Help to crowdsource the phone screen preparation at http://www.unionsquareventu…
i’d love to do that. we aren’t ready for that yet but it’s a great idea
I would add artfully conducted reference interviews to this. I say “artfully conducted” because there is an art to eliciting the type of candor that will produce information that is truly useful. But then, interviewing in general is an art form. In the end I use my perceptions from the interview and information from references as a type of check and balance system.
Interviewing should indeed be the one of the most essential hiring tools at a company’s disposal. Unfortunately, way too many hiring managers are unskilled at it. Show of hands if your company provides related training.
training people how to interview is a big deal. i like to pose questions that allow people to talk about how they work and how they solve problems. i also like to make people at ease during an interview. i’ve been on the other side of some interviews where it seemed like the approach was to make me uncomfortable and i’ve never liked that approach.
Totally. I didn’t mean to suggest that you suggested otherwise. Ha! 🙂 Just that in my experience interviewing (limited in scope to hardware/software technicians/engineers), what I see on the resume is hardly ever what shows up to the interview or what I hear on the phone. We’ve now taken the tact of interviewing for social fit and resigning ourselves to teaching the necessary skills, because, like you said, you can teach a star athlete to play almost any position for which he has talent. If we judge that you fit socially and have an aptitude for technology you’ll win over someone else with more experience but doesn’t fit as well.
yup. and we haven’t even gotten there yet. but i did 16 phone interviews yesterday. between the three of us, we will do 80 of them by the middle of next week to find roughly 20 people we want to bring in for interviews.
If someone is really attentive to their online branding, their online presence will be just as “packaged” as what a resume might be. I don’t know that the online presence will necessarily provide a more candid view of the person. Certainly it displays the person’s level of interaction online — and in USV’s case this is significant and valid. Not so for a lot of other employers.While I am incredibly inspired by USV’s recruitment process, what most impresses me is how much integrity it has for their particular needs and business. There are some businesses where online presence will not be as significant and a resume will be the best initial “snapshot” that indicates that further attention is warranted — especially given the adage in recruiting that the past is the best predictor of the future. (Allowing the resume to be more than that initial indicator is actually senseless IMHO.)I can think of a few instances in which the online presence or body of work may not be the best indicator of a person’s full ability. I think about my own situation in which I am not actively job seeking and so my online presence is geared toward what I can offer to a client (narrow focus) rather than to an employer (broader focus). I’ve intentionally left things out of my LinkedIn profile that I would include in a resume. Perhaps, this is more the exception and not the rule for what USV will encounter.One of my take-aways from USV’s process is the challenge to try to find ways to organically match the recruitment process to the business rather than just applying a one-size-fits-all recruitment model. They’ve presented a brilliant example.
“One of my take-aways from USV’s process is the challenge to try to find ways to organically match the recruitment process to the business rather than just applying a one-size-fits-all recruitment model. They’ve presented a brilliant example.” – Totally Agree.
that last paragraph is exactly what we are trying to do donna. i’m pleased that you’ve recognized that
I was thinking the same on pro athlete specialization. Totally agree on the osmosis feature, but the speed and efficacy of this learning will be based on a social match.
It’s been great to see this process unfold.JLM – your post reminded me of a great presentation by Netflix on their company culture. Prioritizing the profile over the skillset has always been high on my list. Really great read if you have a few minutes:http://www.slideshare.net/r…
“This is why QBs make such good wide receivers and cornerbacks.”In another era, when everyone was expected to play both ways, there were some QBs who were also talented DBs (probably more at free safety than cornerback though). But do you seriously think that any NFL team would put a typical drop back QB at CB today?
Not relying on resumes is the new black, apparently.
They *are* relying on resumes. A LinkedIn profile is a resume with great SEO.
a resume is like a black and white photoa web presence is like a color photo
By taking the full process USV may over-optimize the hiring, but they max other things which are equally important, and probably worth the hair splitting.
There’s a company in Spain building the technology and process to do this. Not exactly a reality show, but you invite the candidates to take part in activities over the course of few weeks in an social network. On the one hand you see how they do at various tasks, but most importantly how they interact with the other candidates. It sounds very revealing and also a great way to sort through many qualified candidates.http://hellochange.net
I like this ED. A process like this will show you who is willing to go the extra mile and take the initiative.I once heard that the difference between a good employee in a great one is the existence of initiative, which usually comes from believing in the work they are doing.
I wish there was a dislike button on disqus, because I disagree with alot of sethgodin’s comment. I know he’s famous and I’m not*, but I think he’s wrong. you should hire the first person who maxes out your predictive ability and not waste a ton of time splitting hairs when in fact you don’t actually know if the ‘better’ people are better.Without getting epistemological here, you don’t know that the ‘better’ people aren’t ‘better’ either. Albert, Brad and Fred are smart guys who have lots of experience drawing conclusions from limited data. So it’s not surprising that they believe that they can find folks who are better…after all, the idea of their fund is that they are able to find ‘better’ investments.PS I love that you’re not relying on resumes, which in fact decrease the amount of useful data in front of you. What does USV want in an analyst?Obviously an analyst has to be able to play with spreadsheets, research and do due diligence. Lots of the applicants can do all of that on a really high level. A resume can help with that. But beyond that, USV wants net natives who have a passion for using technology to improve the way we live. Those types of people can help the partners by disagreeing in a thoughtful way/asking questions in investment committee meetings. And of course, they want someone who is a joy to work with.So what parts of a resume helps in any of that? Do resumes help USV decide if the personality is right? Does it help them find someone with a passion using the internet as a tool to improve lives?Further, I disagree that USV actually decreased the amount of useful data that they got. Rather than a resume, they got LinkedIn, which has everything useful from a resume. Then they asked for web presences, which 1) shows if the person is a net native and 2) tells them a heckuva lot more about whether they to spend 50 hours a week working with me than a resume. From reading blogs, they probably get a much better idea of whether a person has an analytical mind and the personality to express their opinions thoughtfully and amicably.And as a final thought, even if forgoing resumes reduced the useful data, there is lots of behavioral economics research suggesting that even the most intelligent people can make worse decisions given too much data. Sometimes the most important skill is deciding which streams of data have significant predictive power and which do not.* heck, USV didn’t even pick me to go forward in the process. So maybe I don’t understand what USV wants in an analyst.
Whilst you do need to worry about the selection process, luckily you don’t need to stress about the job sales pitch and convincing employees to jump on board.For an entrepreneur recruiting for a pre-funding/pre-revenue company their worries are more towards will anyone apply when all I can offer is “blood, sweat, toiland tears” rather than how can i process the hundreds of worthy applicantsIn essence, view from the trenches, having x hundred credible and willing candidates is a great problem to have
Recruiting pre-funding (particularly coders) is very difficult. You are in London aren’t you Liad?
Indeed. You too?
Yes – will contact you
It is VERY hard. In hind site, underestimating that led, in part, to the failure of my last start-up.Coders are critical! Get good ones and get them early.
I agree Keenan. However, better yet, train yourself on the core competencies required to initially start development on your idea. In the startup world, CEO’s must also be developers. Once people start to see you make progress and pour your heart and soul into something (working 10 hour days), they WILL follow you.In the beginning, time is better spent training yourself and starting development.
I’m currently in this boat, attempting to recruit developers for a pre-revenue idea that I think is world-changing, and it’s been tough. I definitely think it’s a great problem to have, though I’m sure the other end can be just as problematic. At this point, all we can do is rely on our vision and the strength of our convictions, and soon enough we’ll be in Fred’s position.
Go to hacker meetups
You’re absolutely right – starting to do that. Thanks, Fred.
Can you help someone move out (I’m not sure monetary may or may not be an issue- he has a lease coming due in June in Chicago, his family is in Albany and he is looking for a job)He can do Python, OCaml, R, and C++, he is very smart, and he can help build and coordinate the building of a newton’s cradle made of 15 pound bowling balls. I’ve also seen him help build a vending machine out parts that included the inside of an optical mouse.(I want this person in NY badly, I think he would do well in a startup that gives him some freedom, plus then I have a partner in crime to help me build up/write books that are geared to geeky people with senses of humor who want to come back to computing later in life…I don’t believe anything should hold you back..he truly is the type to believe in hacking education and how boring/crappy most stuff is written)
We try to find people who buy into our vision and share the passion for what we are trying to achieve, but like you said, it is hard to attract a decent number of quality candidates in the first place. We’ve been forced to look outside London which is not ideal, but you shouldn’t compromise for quality – as reecepacheco mentions below, it starts with the people.
I know. And we plan to share all these candidates (who have opted into the sharing) with our portfolio
There’s the bonus of all the extra front work. Now I totally get it.
Smart, smart, smart way to leverage your employer brand (though I doubt that’s what you call it). I’d just made a comment to someone about about how great it would be if your portfolio companies could somehow piggyback on this.
The most important thing to me here is that you actually posted the jobs on your site openly. Most other VCs are more secretive, perhaps with concern for their own time and sometimes to avoid recruiting different people.However, I do not necessarily see your process as so transparent, except for openness about the numbers and all these (were they not rather dull?) words in the cloud.It would be interesting to understand a little bit more what you are looking for in terms of qualities except for what can e read from online presences?(No, I did not apply, staying in Stockholm for a while more. Will perhaps add to my resumé that I have just read Linchpin, or maybe not…).
So our initial hiring post was not clear enough? I appreciate that feedback
On the topic of the hiring post being clear. I was under the impression that USV only wanted directions to one’s web presence and no cover letter at all. I have since seen that many, if not all, did write cover letters. I guess I can only hope that my web presence spoke for itself and that you enjoyed not having to read yet another cover letter 🙂
we really like simplicity and brevity. your approach was a very good one.
My founder hackles think that for a two year stint you guys are overthinking the hiring process. I don’t think you’ll know any of the candidates until you see them in action. Better to have a rolling internship and make permanent hires after finding a great fit.Seriously, having the partnership sweat over the hiring process for the amount of time you have is closing on costing you a significant fraction of the salaries of the folks you wish to hire.Alternatively you could each pick X and just power through interviews but I suspect the optimal fit for USV is more a social one than a skill based one. That won’t be a known until the new associates are digging in for a few weeks or months.Ps: love the map, and personal contact you guys have made to candidates that weren’t the right fit. Caught that from Paramendra’s blog
Great comments all around today from Mark and Seth – the consistent approach to value vs. effort and optimization of resources is a clear indicator of their worldview and rationalized approach to results. Great to put a (virtual) pen to it.Also, kudos to Fred for the personalized response to Paramendra, as well as for the latter’s transparency in his message. Two very good examples of the honesty and straightforward communication necessary for success in this space.
Thanks Nathan, I read Seth’s comment after I wrote mine and thought-> “this is how I wanted my comment to sound” 😉
The process probably reflects how important the roles are and how the recruits will fit into the team at USV. As you say it’s a small team where personality probably counts more than general ability (for which there will be no shortage of candidates) and that does take time, face to face is the only way to establish the best fit.I doubt the intern thing would work, takes up too much partner time getting people up to speed.
It’s an organizational hurdle, without a permanent person that can deal with associates/interns they have to bite the bullet every two years and lose a couple of weeks to hiring. I guess it’s a form of batch processing, which I’m a fan of
Batch processing! Mark, you kill me! (but not in the same way as JLM’s military candidate)
Thanks Donna I can’t compete with JLM’s stories about passing on hiring an ex soldier killing machines :)My followup question to her would have been, “can you code?”
It all makes more sense now, according to Fred:I know. And we plan to share all these candidates (who have opted into the sharing) with our portfolioSo they’re helping pre-screen potential candidates for their portfolio companies which is pretty awesome. But I suspect most of the portfolios are having a harder time finding engineers than anyone else (relative pay at a startup as an early employee is terrible compared to working for a big firm, but the experience is priceless )
yes and noyes, we plan to do thatbut no, that is not why we set it up this waywe came up with that idea afterwards
it’s a six person company and culture is everything. it’s like picking a roomate to share an apartment with. you can’t be too careful with something like that.
USV’s eating their own dogfood — I love it. Reading your post generated a number of ideas (that aren’t unique to me, I’m sure)… tag clouds for job descriptions… sentiment analysis of resumes… career graphs for ideal candidates… just the process you’re following is an open selling point for USV to potential candidates… it’s this sort of unique approach to an opportunity that they’ll be living every day… awesome.
Sounds like something a startup could, or already is, doing. 🙂
and as you are hinting dave, there is so much more we can do with this process now that we’ve got it going in the right direction.
no doubt it’s hard work, that’s why crowdsourcing is where it’s at. it ain’t hard work when badges and game play are involved!
If they put mayorships and badges on Excel I’d become an investment banker.
It’s a unique thing to be able to appreciate the position of your portfolio companies – it doesn’t happen often and it can certainly bring a lot of insight into the way that you’re able to work with them through their future challenges. Sharing your experience through the process is valuable to so many people – applicants, your portofolio companies, observers, and anyone knowing they want to do something a little different to find candidates but aren’t quite sure how. It would be interesting to follow a similar process with a firm that might not have (or believe they have) the online reach that you’re fortunate enough to have. I’m proud to see my lone flag hanging out in Upstate New York on the GM map – at least a little bit of differentiation!
No I see that as a problem- lack of geographic variability in the applicant pool means lack of perspectives… i really want a lot more people who are curious about wifi and tractors…
Right, diversity of background, competence and culture allows companies to be open to ideas that would otherwise never come up. A closed corporate culture breeds circular thinking and is one of the primary reasons many large companies have huge problems with innovation.
Fred,Thanks for the personal response. It’s a refreshing change from SOP, though not at all a surprise coming from you.My policy when I’m hiring is that everyone that I talk to gets a personal response as well.But a few of the companies I’ve dealt with don’t even offer the courtesy of a response — even after they’ve flown you cross country and taken a day or two of your time. That reflects poorly on them and likely leads to a lower quality applicant pool going forward because word gets around.
this is not unlike our deal process. we do quick email turndowns for opportunities where we did not take a meeting. but if we took a meeting, then we compose a carefully worded note or even pick up the phone. respecting others is a huge part of getting respect back. the gotham gal says “you get what you give” she’s right
This is a great post Fred, and just goes to show how much effort can go into hiring, and why there are companies who hire people just for figuring out who to hire. It would be interesting to see a reality show built around this, call it the ultimate hire. What’s more impressive is that people from all over the country are applying for the position. You need to realize, even the 1 person you choose, there will always be someone who is better for the job. There is no such thing as a perfect employee, we only wish for great outcomes. Glad you’re looking beyond resumes, definitely important! Good luck!
Check out William’s comment Eric, you guys have the same idea 😀
Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. It could be something like The Apprentice or American Idol. I’d call it “The Ultimate Hire” or something like that.
It would be so cool if you could let this community evaluate the data data for you and come to a conclusion as a group. Then you could benchmark what this community thinks against the conclusions you have derived.
Crowd sourcing.. I like the idea. Though the candidates should be notified and asked for their consent if something like this was to be attempted.
Between Mark Suster, Jason Calacanis and now Fred, really good discussion and debate on this topic. Very timely and much appreciated as we’re about to enter our first, outside the core team, hiring phase for our start up.
If any of your portfolio companies told you that all the exec spent 7 hours around a conference table to pre-qual candidates for 2 positions you would probably question their allocation of resources. I agree on not relying on resumes too much (although the meta data in it can be helpful in pre-selection) but your approach would certainly not be scalable to staff a nascent business. Good for you that you can make the time for such a process. I do really enjoy the blog and the thoughts in it. Good luck with the selection.
yes. you are right that this doesn’t scale well.
I am curious as to whether you can share the general approach you took to get from 616 to 75. It sounds like the filter is primarily experiential (what they have accomplished). Was there a short list of accomplishments/experiences that you were looking for spcecifcally? What will be the approach on the phone screens? Will it still be accomplishment focused, or will it be more qualitative? Will every screen follow a template, or will it be more ad hoc? With regards to selecting the final candidates, how do you think about the trade off between specific relevant accomplishments vs. raw ability and potential? Sorry for all the questions, but the process is fascinating…
we each went through all 600+ on our own and made notes. then we sat i a room together and went through them again this time discussing their merits with each other. we have a “profile” we are looking for in each position but the funny thing is we moved a whole bunch of people into the short list that didn’t fit the profile. there are just some people who we could not resist.
We’ve heard this many times before, Fred: unique company cultures need to find the right person to fit best into that unique culture, so that they get the best performance from that person.The ability to predict future job performance is a real issue that businesses of all sizes could use to immediately affect their success rates with new hires. But how does one accomplish this when there are so many potential applicants and candidates?A good friend is the head of scouting for a major league baseball team, so I’ve always been fascinated with his ability to analyze players i.e. the way a pitcher releases the ball and how that indicates their propensity for longevity or for injury (therefore a riskier hire). My friend also got me into “Moneyball” and statistically-driven performance metrics.In this current age of knowledge workers, we need to measure not the physical attributes, but a worker’s inherent behavioral attributes. This is where we’ve found psychometrics (statistics) to be incredibly useful and accurate at helping to predict future job performance.Through analyzing the behavioral attributes of top performers in a particular job, one is then able to seek those attributes in future hires. The challenge is in finding a predictive system (not just screening) that can scale this criteria to include all applicants, not merely after all the manual work of sifting resumes and phone interviews has been done.
Creepy that our future performance could be so predictable, but interesting. I suppose it’s just more information that you can weight however you choose.
Indeed Ben. Have you seen any research done on predictive systems that capture the important qualities within the tech world?My guess is that the same core values that make a person successful in any field largely impact technology as well. Things like honesty, integrity, self-motivation, and commitment. By examining someone’s web presence we may be able to discover many of these attributes.
There’s quite a bit of research on predictive systems and attributes for people in the tech world and other fields. Some core “success attributes” are the same, no matter what industry, but there are bold differences between different types of position, even within the same industry.For instance, the profile of a successful programmer is very different from that of someone who manages programmers. The same goes for sales positions, where top salespeople are promoted to a management position, but may not suit the role.
I bet this all this data about your readers’ and followers’ backgrounds is a dream come true. I know you enjoy looking at traffic stats and demographic info, but now you get detailed information about each of them. Granted this is a small subset of your readers, but I’m sure it contains lots of gems.On another note, I really like the fact that you involved the entire time when evaluating the applications. Many organizations put all the recruiting responsibilities on one or two senior people, while leaving out the very person they are looking to replace. Including them in the discussion probably adds a different level of richness to the conversation. Good luck!
Congratulations, it’s a very cool approach to hiring!It’s interesting to see that the VC firms most successful in web 2.0, like USV and First Round, are themselves super innovative – probably no coincidence.Here’s a suggestion for the next step: mimic the start-up concept of Minimum Viable Product: have the top ten analyst candidates moonlight for a couple of months (their few hours of work per day is their MVP), and go for the survival of the fittest!Both the candidates and USV will get tons of value out of this process, even the 9 unlucky ones.
First Round is such a great example of a firm that eats its own dog food. i love what they are doing and have done.
I think you should narrow it down to about 10 or 12 people for each position and then do a reality TV show!
That made me LOL. 🙂
Actually I would like it to quiet down….give these people some real lives, quiet lives…you know?
Not Union Square Ventures http://goo.gl/fb/YEcml
Fred – Not sure if someone mentioned it here, but do you engage your other employees in your hiring process? When you throw in “fits in with our office culture” as one of the traits, it’ll slim down the selection further.
we like everybody involved to some degree but the three partners are driving the process
Go for the Utahns!
I think this is a great example of how transparency has to go both ways, or else it is just power with a different marketing spin: Facebook seems to either not know or care about this lesson.
It would be a great “consolation prize” to work for Twitter, Outside.in, Etsy, et. al. Glad to know that you’re sharing data with the portfolio companies.Best,JHM
BTW, for those of you who didn’t watch Mark Josephson’s co-founder at Outside.in–Steven Johnson–speak at last week’s Hearst New Media lecture at Columbia, it is well worth reading through his notes here: http://www.stevenberlinjohn…
Maybe you could do a few Hiring Mondays posts after your MBA Mondays series concludes? Unlike finance, hiring is not taught in business school nor is it typically taught on the job.
Tremendous idea. Perhaps he could get some USV portfolio company C-levels to contribute.More generally, another idea: the USV site is supposed to be a blog but it’s scarcely updated. Perhaps a “issues when running startups” theme with contributions from USV portfolio co’s would get it going more and get it its own following instead of as an outgrowth of AVC. Unless of course the goal is to have the USV content focus on USV.
“USV portfolio company C-levels to contribute.”That would be awesome assuming they could spare the time.
Out of like 20 portfolio companies that’s like 60-70 top execs. I think you could find *one* to write a short post every other week.Of course, you could add the tremendous people who are in Fred/USV’s network and easily reach the hundreds.There’s great untapped wisdom there I’m sure.PEG
good ideai’ll get donna to collaborate with me on it
In your hiring process, are you going purely by merit, or are you giving extra points for diversity, i.e., to candidates who are members of groups that may be underrepresented in the venture capital business?
I could help with that one!Twice!…at least.
Adding to my previous comment….Although in all seriousness, personally would never want to be considered based on “diversity” as a substitute for merit. Although I have learned that if you do want to want to benefit from the richness of diversity the factors that indicate merit may be packaged slightly differently given differences in opportunities and starting points and in the VC world you’d almost have to do so with a high degree of intentionality — more so than in most fields, I’ve learned. But, that’s a whole topic in itself…plus I’ve never really specialized in recruiting for diversity so there are others more qualified to speak on the subject.
we’ve always hired the best person for the job. i’m hoping (and praying) that person is a woman for at least one of our jobs this time.
Fred, can you share any data on the diversity of the candidates?
Why a woman?Did you ever read Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon? I am reminded of the aside about how the fictional start-up’s receptionist was a woman of exotically mixed ethnic background, since there was so little of the politically desired forms of diversity among the tech guys they tried to check off as many boxes as possible with her.
From my POV, bringing diversity to a team *is* a form of merit.
That sounds like Orwellian double speak.
Sorry, I was being a bit too glib.If you are a member of an under-represented group, and you’re being considered at all, you have most likely demonstrated additional merit in that you overcame whatever form of systemic bias caused your group to be under-represented in the first place. This is *in addition* to whatever value is assigned to the diversity (of perspective, experience, etc.) you would bring to the team.Some kinds of diversity are actually *routinely* valued in this way. For example, ‘coming up the hard way’, ie. overcoming the systemic bias that makes it more difficult for people from working-class backgrounds to enter the professional class.
Apology accepted for glibness.”If you are a member of an under-represented group, and you’re being considered at all, you have most likely demonstrated additional merit in that you overcame whatever form of systemic bias caused your group to be under-represented in the first place.”If you are being considered despite not having the typical qualifications for the position, then that is an example of bias in favor of you. If that also happened at previous points in your career and education, than that would represent a “systemic bias” in favor of you. So it’s hard to argue that your group is underrepresented due to “systemic bias” when the bias has been in favor of you.
You may read ‘being considered at all’ as meaning ‘having typical qualifications for the position’.
And so the importance of one controlling their online identity bubbles up to the surface yet again. I completely agree with this method of evaluating potential candidates… sans resume. It is more difficult work for the interviewer, but the quality of information you will get about candidates based on their online presence and information you can extract from social networks is going to be much more indicative of their overall personality and attitude.When it comes down to it, attitude and personality indicates a great employee, not a fancy resume.By the way Fred, if you are hiring international workers for an international branch, how would you go about finding a potential hire that you can trust? When hiring locally, it’s not a problem because you are able to provide oversight on the day-to-day workings of your new hires. But when hiring internationally, you cannot oversee everything. Thus it’s crucial to find someone trustworthy to keep everyone inspired and working towards the goal. How can you find a person like this?Good article.
Leland, USV has said that they will only work out of one office, so I feel confident that they are not hiring for a second office.As to whether you can trust the employee, does this really change the hiring process at all? You have to trust someone to hire them, whether the branch is domestic or international.
True enough Evan… however, when international, a workers trust is more about “are you motivated to put your best effort forward” rather then “will you show up to work?”. When you cannot see that person face to face, deciding whether they are putting in their best effort or not is much more difficult to determine.However I have never hired for an international position before, so I am unsure about the techniques that could be used here. Do you have any idea?
Leland,My opinion is that hiring internationally requires 1) an understanding of the culture so you know what to watch for, and 2) probing to find out exactly how much the prospective hire understands American/Western/CountryX culture.If it makes me more credible, I’ve lived for the last 2 years on another continent.
Did any of the applicants state their musical taste and their love of dancing? I totally would of. Hehe.
yes. i talked to one of them yesterday. it made a difference to me that he really likes to dance.
As a recruiter, the thought of all those exceptional candidates that you are not hiring has me salivating! (Although I probably couldn’t place most of them until they were more senior.)
Idea: a job board linked to USV, for hackers and general hustlers who want to work at startups. The one linked to Joel Spolsky’s blog was built by an intern as an afterthought and is now a million-dollar business.This one wouldn’t just be a job board where people pay to listings but rather a social place where people can link their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, get recommendations from others. Startups could sign up and people could “follow” them.Fred I’m sure you could find a talented hacker/designer couple to build this for you for whuffie (possibly even from your applicant pool).Just a thought.
yes!we must do that. it’s part of the GM’s job once we hire that person
Thanks!Actually I meant “AVC” instead of “USV” but it would be a cool asset for USV as well.I’d also like the record to show that I got the idea of “following companies for recruitment purposes” before LinkedIn announced the feature. 😉
I was at the Silicon Valley Bank CEO Accelerator Summit yesterday, Jeff Clavier (@jeff) stated that his portfolio companies have over 100 open positions and are struggling to find quality people. Most of the CEO’s in the room agreed, The Valley has a shortage.
and yet we have some great candidates from the valley. i secretly hope we steal one or two good poeple from there.
This map is really cool. I especially like being able to see people who don’t come from some of the major metropolitan areas.