Management Tip: Hiring Great People

At the request of Bryce, I'm adding another tip on management; hiring great people. Of course, the EEC already has great people, so I took his request as a bit of a challenge. I've been fortunate enough to have interviewed numerous people during my time at Microsoft and have three great employees working for me. Two I hired into the team, one I inherited from a previous manager. All three have great technical skills, but more importantly, all three are able to approach problems with new ideas and switch roles (PM, Dev, Test, Release, Ops, Sales, Presenter, etc.) as needed.

So, these are my tips for hiring someone great:

  1. Capability vs. Skills: Hire someone with the ability, attitude, and interest in learning new things and tackling big challenges. Specific skills (competencies) can be learned. Of course, some skills may be tied to years of experience, so that needs to be considered. However, if the person is constantly learning new things because they want to, then they most likely can learn the skills you require for the job.
  2. Diversity: Don’t hire someone just like yourself, or at least make sure you interview strong candidates who are not like yourself. New ideas are much harder to come by if you never leave your own bubble. Related to this is the idea of hiring someone better than you. Your team will be much stronger and you can count on your team to excel if everyone can do their specific jobs better than you can. I know my guys can run circles around me regarding the topics that I need them to be experts in, and I rely on it!
  3. Values: Make sure you trust the person to do the right thing, will represent the company and/or your team in the right way, and is someone you would feel comfortable working for one day. You don’t want to work for a jerk, and it’s very possible that after a few years you could find yourself working for the person you hire.
  4. Job Description: Make sure you know why you are hiring someone and what they will be doing. Sure, their job will change over time, but the more specific you can be to start with and during the interview process, the easier it will be to discuss the job with the candidates.
  5. Active Listening: Don’t forget the Active Listening tips, which can work great in an interview to draw information/answers out of the interviewee.
  6. Intelligence: Make sure the person is smart. Impressively smart. Smarter than you. Smarter than me. You probably need to hire two people, but can only hire one. Someone has to figure out how to do all the work. Since you’re hiring people, that means that you didn’t figure it out. Let’s hope the new employee can! (I’m only slightly joking about this.)
  7. “Teamwork”: Yes, teamwork is very important, but make sure the person has actually done some work, and not simply relied on others to do the work. This can be seen as teamwork, which is a good thing, but can also be a problem of “riding the backs of co-workers”. No offense to people who have worked hard to get an MBA, but I’ve run across a few people with MBAs who seem to have this problem of never being able to deliver/do anything – lots of talk and no action. Again, that’s not meant to be a ding at anyone with an MBA, but in my experience, that’s where I run into it most often. And no, I don’t have an MBA, but I’m always very interested in talking to people who have them, because I like to know what their big projects were or some interesting experiences they had during their MBA.

A bunch of great quotes and other hiring tips are at: - including Microsoft specific ones