• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

How We Hire: Interviewing, Contracting The First Startup Employees

Now-Hiring-Exit-Here.jpg.scaled1000

A week-long contract with a potential employee is enough time to assess whether you want to hire.

By Elizabeth Yin (Co-Founder, LaunchBit)

Making our first full-time hire was really nerve-wracking.

Finding someone really sharp AND would fit in super well was going to be a challenge. So for full-time candidates, we’ve adopted what companies like Pulse and Hubspot do. We work with potential candidates on a contract basis first before extending a full-time offer.

Having done this a few times now, I *love* their method.

Our process from start to finish is pretty simple. First, we screen resumes and interview people. If we find someone we think we’d love to hire, we’ll work out a temporary contract to see if there’s a good fit on both sides. Note: we absolutely pay for their work and use a standard contractor agreement to make sure ownership of the work is clear. We do this with *everyone* who has made it passed the interview stage, including candidates who are currently working full time at another company. In those cases, a shorter project that can be done on nights/weekends is more apt.

We’ve found that this process illuminates people’s working styles and personalities quite accurately. Resumes and interviews can be a good way to test for competency, but it’s hard to determine culture fit and workflow without actually working with a person.

Of all the people we’ve worked with on a contract basis, we’ve only hired 40%. This stat is actually disturbing to me, because it means we’re not good at knowing whom to hire based on interviews alone. However, we’ve also found that we don’t actually need a long contract to predict if we’ll make an offer.

Usually, after about a calendar-week we’ll be able to accurately assess if we’ll end up making an offer at the end of the contract. We don’t make contracts any longer than one month in deciding on a full-time position. It’s super important to be clear about the length of the process and what is involved and not string people along. This means that if we’re on the fence about someone at the end of a contract, we’ll just not do anything – a non-decision effectively becomes a decision to not hire. We figure if we’re not super excited about working with a person after a month, then we wouldn’t be super excited as time went on.

To be clear, this process is a two-way street. During this short contract, a candidate can very much decide that working at LaunchBit is not for them. So, when we do decide to make an offer, I’m always nervous, because I’m never sure if the candidate feels the same way about working at LaunchBit. But, that’s the way it should be – both parties should know what they’re getting into before committing to working together for a longer term.

How do you hire?

This post originally posted at LaunchBit’s blog.

About the guest blogger: Elizabeth Yin is a Co-Founder at LaunchBit and is currently in the 500 Startups incubator program. She is an internet marketer and backend programmer. Previously, she ran marketing for startups and also worked as a marketing manager at Google. Prior to Google, Elizabeth wrote backend code for startups during the rise and fall of the dot com era. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford and an MBA from MIT Sloan. Follow her on Twitter at @launchbit.