Skip to main content

Hire Fast, Fire Fast? Not so Fast.

Silicon Valley is full of advice and it frequently comes from people who have little experience on the subject matter.  A popular topic surrounds hiring and terminations with the king catch phrase being: “Hire Fast, Fire Fast.”  To me, what that usually means is lack of diligence, thought, communication and courage.

When hiring people love going with their gut feel, often with disastrous results.  There is an obvious subject of diversity of thought, appearance and background.  When thinking “fast” you are probably hiring people like yourself because humans quickly react to people who they believe are in their tribe.

A startup that lacks the resources of a big company often becomes so desperate to get technical staff that when a decent candidate comes along, excitement ensues and the employer doesn't slow down to put them through a more rigorous hiring process.

I highly encourage technical founders and engineering executives to write out their precise hiring process.  Of course, you can skip parts of it when appropriate, but you should skip parts of it consciously.  Here are some things to ponder:
Do you give people a coding exercise?
Do you review their public code?
Do you check references?
My hiring process document is 5 pages - I’ve been refining it for a long time and it’s continuously evolving.

In my opinion the bar is even higher for terminations. It should never come as a surprise to an individual getting terminated. The “performance improvement process” has a bad rap because it’s used by big company management to avoid making tough decisions. Still it benefits you to have a formal process outlined and follow it.

Obvious cases for firing fast include; crime, harassment and offensive behavior. Other issues like speed of work, hitting quota, not delivering the right kind of solutions definitely deserves several conversations prior to actually terminating the employee.  Chances are, if you hired a smart person who has been learning and achieving things in the past you can probably get them to improve their performance with appropriate feedback.

To start up executives, I recommend getting very comfortable with the following phrase: “we need X, you are producing Y, we need this corrected in Z time or we’ll need to start looking for someone else to do this job”.  Being able to have an honest, direct conversation is what separates the tough but fair leaders from those who avoid the subject all together and suddenly decide to “fire fast”.

Lastly, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to outline your process and calibrate it with your Board of Directors, people you respect in the industry and your team.  It will help you balance Thinking Fast and Slow.

Here are some articles that were a source of material and inspiration:
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/233022
https://techcrunch.com/2011/05/26/startup-mantra-hire-fast-fire-fast/ 
https://www.fastcompany.com/3005967/why-hire-slow-fire-fast-bunch-bs 
https://hbr.org/2014/03/hire-slow-fire-fast 
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140915174239-5946358-why-hire-slow-fire-fast-may-not-be-the-best-advice/ 
https://www.thehartford.com/business-playbook/employee-termination 

If you like this article you might also consider my writing on Highly Effective Software Teams and Win Forever review
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!


SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Highly Effective Software Teams

A few weeks ago our Board of Directors asked me to present my assessment of the state of software.
 I was hired to organize and grow the software team and the directors wanted to know what kind of a team we needed to build.  I was hoping that I can just reference an article somewhere that would give me the answer, unfortunately I didn’t find anything suitable. During my research I did find some great material that will be helpful if your job is to put together a highly effective software team.
A highly effective software team has the following key characteristics: dependable, committed to shared goals, passionate about technology, respectful and compassionate.  These are not limited to technology industry, it can easily apply to finance, medicine, or sports as well.  Below is the summary and references that I found. Dependable If you are creating a software product, you need to deliver your software to your users.  Your users need to know that you are able to solve their problems on …

Two Critical Questions for Your Next Interview

I’ve interviewed probably over 500 engineering and management candidates over the last several years.  There have been a lot of really smart people who have applied at DocuSign, Microsoft and Tempo Automation. A surprising number of them didn’t have a clear answer to these two essential questions:

Why are you interested in joining our team?Why should we be interested in you? 
If you are an applicant, having a prepared answer for these questions is critical.  If you are a hiring manager, you should ask them and have a clear answer to these questions at the end of the first interaction with your future team mate.

In a field where work is somewhat predictable and static, those questions are less critical, but in software development perseverance, ingenuity and focus make all the difference. These are the two main questions that will separate a subpar and a superb hire.

When I discuss those two questions with an applicant I try to go below the surface.  Generic answers like “it says you ar…