Building A Team: What Can You Bring To The Table?

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By Jean Hsu (Engineer, Obvious) Discussions about hiring so often revolve around what you should look for in a candidate and how to evaluate their technical abilities and if they will fit in with the existing team.

The market is currently incredibly competitive in favor of engineers, so I’d like to turn the tables around and ask what companies can bring to the table in this relationship.

My previous post on Redesigning the Technical Hiring Process touches on the idea of seeking a two-way fit rather than a one-sided evaluation. At the bare minimum, this could be having a candidate in for lunch to see is he will get along with the rest of the team, but if that is all you’re doing, you might want to think more deeply about some of these areas and what your company can offer specific candidates.

Team

Every hire you make will reflect your company and your company’s culture to future candidates. Having a team composed of individuals that work well together is much more important than having a few “rockstars” that don’t play nice with each other. Think about hiring 10x teams rather than 10x individuals, and think about what different perspectives, backgrounds, or skills each additional person is bringing to the team. Most people I know like to be in a workplace where they are challenged but respected, and feel like they are contributing something new to the team.

Respect and Trust

A company’s culture and priorities are reflected in its benefits and work environment. Terracycle keeps morale high despite paying admittedly below-market rates by building a fulfilling, considerate and transparent workplace. Unlimited sick days and good health insurance tell employees, we care about your health and trust your judgment about when you are getting sick and should stay home and rest. Of course, free food, massages, and on-site gyms a la Google are nice-to-haves, but there are less over-the-top ways to demonstrate respect, such as frequent one-on-ones to make sure people find their work fulfilling. Flexibility around work hours and vacation days also reflects a culture of trust and self-motivation.

Respect also means being fair, especially with initial job offers (and be generous with equity if you can’t pay a fair salary). Save your low-balling for when you’re not dealing with your team. Even if people don’t know what they’re worth, they’ll figure it out at some point or another, and I’ve heard people speak about being underpaid with a bitterness that lingers for years afterwards.

Learning and Growth

If you’re looking for an Android developer with 3-4 years of experience or a designer who can also build your backend, you may need to reassess your expectations or be sorely disappointed. People like to be experts, but they also like to be constantly learning new technologies. So if your job search is targeting those who can already do the job (or they already have done the job elsewhere), think about looking for someone who would jump at the opportunity to learn how to do the job.

I had a conversation with a friend a few months ago who was looking for someone to build out automated testing frameworks for iOS and Android. The problem, she recognized, is that someone who is experienced in both iOS and Android development probably wouldn’t want to work on testing for a year. Instead, she targeted smart developers who could learn quickly and wanted to get into mobile development. For that person, the opportunity to take a few months to learn the ins-and-outs of mobile development in both iOS and Android via building a testing framework could be incredibly appealing.

Living Social recently announced Hungry Academy, a five-month program to teach participants how to program in Ruby (no programming experience required). If you make it through the program, you get a full-time offer with an 18-month commitment. This is a great example of focusing on what the company can offer candidates. For someone who wants to learn how to code in a more structured (and paid) environment, this could be a very appealing way to jumpstart their career change.

Whatever your hiring process looks like, it’s worthwhile to take the time to have an open conversation about what he or she wants to get out of their new position. She may be an experienced web developer who would love to dabble in mobile, or would like to learn more about product design and start her own company in a few years. He may be a junior developer who wants to become an experienced staff-level engineer.

Knowing what it is that motivates them can help you see if they will be a good fit, and will also help you help them achieve their goals.

This post was originally published on Jean Hsu's blog.

Photo credit: Nick on Flickr About the guest blogger: Jean Hsu is an engineer at Obvious. She writes at logc.at, a new Android development blog started by Jean with some friends. Before she entered the startup world, she worked at Google as a software engineer for two years. Jean holds a Bachelor's of Engineering in Computer Science from Princeton University. She blogs about her startup adventures and experiences as a software engineer at Jean Hsu. Follow her on Twitter at @jyhsu.