A great overview from Marc Andreesen, of a16z, on how you can hire amazing employees.
"I think intelligence, per se, is highly overrated. Specifically, I am unaware of any actual data that shows a correlation between raw intelligence, as measured by any of the standard metrics (educational achievement, intelligence tests, or skill at solving logic puzzles) and company success. Now, clearly you don't want to hire dumb people, and clearly you'd like to work with smart people. But let's get specific."
"Because here's the problem: I'm not aware of another Microsoft that's been built by hiring based on logic puzzles. And I'm not aware of another Google that's been built by hiring PhD's."
"First, drive. I define drive as self-motivation -- people who will walk right through brick walls, on their own power, without having to be asked, to achieve whatever goal is in front of them."
"Of the people who have it, with some of them it comes from guilt, often created by family pressure. With others, it comes from a burning desire to make it big. With others, it comes from being incredibly Type A. Whatever... go with it."
"Driven people don't tend to stay long at places where they can't succeed, and just because they haven't succeeded in the wrong companies doesn't mean they won't succeed at your company -- if they're driven."
"I look for something you've done, either in a job or (often better yet) outside of a job. The business you started and ran in high school. The nonprofit you started and ran in college. If you're a programmer: the open source project to which you've made major contributions. Something."
"If you can't find anything -- if a candidate has just followed the rules their whole lives, showed up for the right classes and the right tests and the right career opportunities without achieving something distinct and notable, relative to their starting point -- then they probably aren't driven. And you're not going to change them."
"I like specifically looking for someone for which this job is their big chance to really succeed. For this reason, I like hiring people who haven't done the specific job before, but are determined to ace it regardless."
"Second criterion: curiosity. Curiosity is a proxy for, do you love what you do? Anyone who loves what they do is inherently intensely curious about their field, their profession, their craft. They read about it, study it, talk to other people about it... immerse themselves in it, continuously."
"Sit a programmer candidate for an Internet company down and ask them about the ten most interesting things happening in Internet software. REST vs SOAP, the new Facebook API, whether Ruby on Rails is scalable, what do you think of Sun's new Java-based scripting language, Google's widgets API, Amazon S3, etc. If the candidate loves their field, they'll have informed opinions on many of these topics."
"One way to test for an aspect of ethics -- honesty -- is to test for how someone reacts when they don't know something. Pick a topic you know intimately and ask the candidate increasingly esoteric questions until they don't know the answer."
"Third and final criterion: ethics. Ethics are hard to test for."
"They'll either say they don't know, or they'll try to bullshit you. Guess what. If they bullshit you during the hiring process, they'll bullshit you once they're onboard."
"First, have a written hiring process. Whatever your hiring process is -- write it down, and make sure everyone has a copy of it, on paper. It's continually shocking how many startups have a random hiring process, and as a result hire apparently randomly."
"Second, do basic skills tests. It's amazing how many people come in and interview for jobs where their resume says they're qualified, but ask them basic questions about how to do things in their domain, and they flail. For example, test programmers on basic algorithms -- linked lists, binary searches."
"The same principle applies to other fields. For a sales rep -- have them sell you on your product all the way to a closed deal. For a marketing person -- have them whiteboard out a launch for your new product."
"Third, plan out and write down interview questions ahead of time. I'm assuming that you know the right interview questions for the role -- and frankly, if you don't, you probably shouldn't be the hiring manager for that position. The problem I'm addressing is: most people don't know how to interview a candidate."
"Fourth, pay attention to the little things during the interview process. You see little hints of things in the interview process that blow up to disasters of unimaginable proportions once the person is onboard. Person never laughs? Probably hard to get along with. Person constantly interrupts? Egomaniac, run for the hills. Person claims to be good friends with someone you know but then doesn't know what the friend is currently doing? Bullshitter. Person gives nonlinear answers to simple questions? Complete disorganized and undisciplined on the job. Person drones on and on? Get ready for hell."
"Fifth, pay attention to the little things during the reference calls. (You are doing reference calls, right?) Most people softball deficiencies in people they've worked with when they do reference calls. "He's great, super-smart, blah blah blah, but..." "Sometimes wasn't that motivated" -- the person is a slug, you're going to have to kick their rear every morning to get them to do anything."
"Sixth, fix your mistakes fast... but not too fast. If you are super-scrupulous about your hiring process, you'll still have maybe a 70% success rate of a new person really working out -- if you're lucky. And that's for individual contributors. If you're hiring executives, you'll probably only have a 50% success rate. That's life. Anyone who tells you otherwise is hiring poorly and doesn't realize it."