An innovative approach to support hiring

Posted in Hiring, Leadership

One of my tasks last year was to setup support engineering team for one of our products. Once we identified a lead who can potentially run day-to-day operations the next big task was to complete the hiring. If the hiring gets delayed, we run the risk of facing more challenges – delays in resolving customer issues, lowering of customer satisfaction scores, overworking existing team and losing customers. In worst case, there was a chance of losing the openings themselves.

I was not ready to lose the openings neither ready to compromise on my law of hiring. So for some of the candidates, I started trying few different things.

Role Play

I asked candidates to play support representatives and I played an irate customer. We used a familiar product and started shooting my questions. I also had the lead watch our conversation and share notes. The role play helped me assess customer handling capabilities as well as maturity of the candidates in a tough situation.

Take Home Assignment

Since candidates are coming from many backgrounds, it was becoming very difficult to assess their technical and learning abilities in the context of our product. And the solution was easy. I started giving them take home assignment (time bound) to install the product, prepare an overview and learn two areas where we get maximum queries from new users.

The Learning

It was a very interesting experience. Any candidate who gave unreasonable excuses after agreeing to finish the assignment by certain time was a no hire. Those who did come back and we successfully hired showed their ability to learn quickly, research about the product and present a good overview and common challenges that users face. These are all highly required qualities for a support role. What I also found out that some candidates wanted this job badly and their performance in the assignment showed their interest.


We were able to hire good folks who were already trained on the product and can start contributing from day 1.

10 Things you should do to set New Hires for Success

Posted in Hiring, People & Culture

This is the time of the year when new campus graduate join their first organization to start their career.  And like everyone else, these first time employees want to be successful in their careers. If you are a reporting manager, how can you set them up for success?

In my recent blog on Law of Hiring, I wrote about how a new hire changes the average performance of the team. Now that a new person is joining, how can this be used as an opportunity to bring about a positive change in the team?

Here is my list of top 10 areas to cover for new hires as a reporting manager –

1. Product Related – Ask them to learn about the product they will be working on as an end user. If they don’t know how users are going to use their product, they have already failed. Ask them to install the product and write their first application. This should happen during the first week of joining.

2. Technology/domain related – Ask them to learn the technology required for the role, and related spectrum around it. Typically, this is a longer process and also related to on-job training. But having a plan around areas to learn is a great start.

3. Company related – Provide a quick understanding of company and its overall direction and strategy. If you can’t, your new hire is in a wrong team.

4. Business & customer related – Who are typical customers of your product. Why do they use the product to solve what kind of issues? What is the future roadmap or vision of the product? Depending upon the role, some amount of information around business should also be covered like pricing and how the product is sold.

5. Process related – There are several processes that a team follows. While most processes are understood once someone uses them, it is most important to talk about best practices to follow and bad practices to avoid. This is your opportunity to improve processes and set expectations before new hires pick bad practices by observing others. For example, for a development team, it can be about doing proper source code review , or doing appropriate amount of unit testing before checkin.

6. Soft skills for high impact – These qualities are subtle but many new hires and managers miss to develop them right from the beginning. Self-driven, low management overhead qualities and communication skills are desirable. New hires should discuss with managers and pick top 3 else the list is too long.

7. Time management – Yes, it should start from day 1. Managing office time, not indulging in time-wasting activities, managing web browsing and Facebook time are important. It is very difficult to achieve peak performance without proper time management. Add ability to prioritize work to that list. You must share your experience and expectations with new hires.

8. Innovation – Many companies and teams desire to build a culture of innovation. They are struggling. This is an area of big opportunity for both new hires and managers. There are several models and processes available, you help setup one for your new hires. This is a good long term investment for both.

9. Culture & Values – My simple ask is around hallway or water-cooler discussion. What topics helps to build positive impression? Explain new hires how to use the informal discussion time to generate new ideas, initiate interesting professional discussion and build relationships. These informal conversations define the culture of your team.

10. Plan for first 4 weeks to make an impression – All of the above should be part of new hires first 4-week plan. This is the time when everyone is forming an impression about the new hire and he/she should drive this plan – it is a matter of his/her career and success.

Entrepreneurship is #1 career aspiration today

Posted in Data visualization, Hiring, People & Culture

In April, I floated a survey on What do you want to be in your career and I received a great response from many folks within a week of sharing the survey. So much so that I had to purchase a basic plan on survey monkey to analyze the results properly and quickly.

In the 7-question survey, overall results from the four central questions are shown below.

1. What is you career development/growth aspiration?

36% folks want to become entrepreneurs followed by 35% folks who are looking for a new team or promotion to a new team. This is true for individual contributors and managers. This question allowed multiple-choices so do not try to add to 100%.

What is surprising is that almost 60% people are looking at new roles, new teams and new companies to meet their career aspiration. Very few people (31%) think of current team to be able to provide opportunities for their career growth.


2. What actions can help you meet your career aspiration?

The top three choices here are – talking to seniors and colleagues (66%), acquiring new technical skills (57%) followed by acquiring soft skills (55%). As expected, individual contributors care less about soft skills but most about technical skills followed by talking to seniors and colleagues. However, managers care less about technical skills compared to soft skills.

3. How frequently do you think about career development & growth?

91% people actively think about career growth while only 3% do not think about it. Those who are frequently thinking about career development are looking at entrepreneurship and new teams. Entrepreneurship is the top choice for managers and new team for individual contributor.

It will be interesting to correlate employee engagement and career development results. A recent Gallup survey showed 87% employees worldwide are disengaged in their jobs. I see a strong correlation here and it is plausible that career growth issues are responsible for some of the disengagement. But I did not ask a direct question about current engagement.

4. How often do you check careers of your peers, colleagues & seniors to get some ideas for career path?

88% people check careers of others and 63% does so very often. I think this also tie down to 66% folks talking to seniors and colleagues when planning their career growth.

I calculated Pearson correlation coefficient using joint probability distribution between how frequently someone thinks about career development & growth with how often someone checks others career. A result of 0.57 shows a fairly good correlation between these two variables. What it means is that someone thinking frequently about one’s own career is often looking at others career path.

If you need raw results, please leave a comment below.

How your hiring abilities impact voting decisions

Posted in Decision Making, Hiring

It is that time of 5-year period when you have to make a political choice. The good news is that more people are making this choice. The polling figures so far shows around 20-40% increase in the polling. There is a sense of urgency in the people. However, many people are still struggling to decide who they can vote as the best candidate.

I want to compare how this decision making process is similar to the decision making during hiring process. Hiring process typically involves a panel of 4-5 people with a hiring manager. Many of us have been part of such panels. The outcome of hiring process is a boolean – Yes or No. You either select or reject a candidate.

If you have been on interview panels for long enough, you may not be surprised to know that there is at least one person who actually ends up with a “maybe” vote. And many companies support this “maybe” decision by having a 3-pointer scale or much worse, a 5-pointer scale. The worst is when the entire panel declares a “maybe” decision resulting in “on-hold” candidates.


Now if you are an interviewer who replies with a clear Yes or No, you should not have much trouble in deciding your candidate for this election. It is possible that you have done a detailed research, asked references, attended a campaign or just used your gut.

If you are an interviewer who often replies with a “maybe”, you are in trouble. What do you do when you are the hiring manager and you are forced to select or reject a candidate? Do you try to find more information about the candidate? Do you discuss with other interviewers? Do you search their web presence? Do you do background verification? Do you talk to references to know about their past work? You will probably do anything that will help you to make a firm decision.

There are many things that you can do if you want to make a good choice. The below quote by Jim Collins is applicable to both hiring and voting.

“Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus”

Note to my international friends and followers – India follows multi-party democracy with 6 national parties, 47 state parties and 1563 other parties.

What makes us feel good about our work?

Posted in Hiring, People & Culture

In December last year I started writing a blog post “All employees want to feel special” that I am yet to finish. However, I came across TED video from Dan Ariely that talks about what motivates us to work?. I want to mention some of them that I have experienced and noticed them at work to work!


1. Seeing results of your work and customer appreciation is a great motivator. Knowing that your work is helping someone, increases your own performance.

2. “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely says. “The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.” I concur.

3. We erroneously think that other people will ascribe the same value to our own work as we do. This is specially true when we do work that involves good amount of effort. Many a times, outcome fetches higher value.

4. Positive reinforcement (from managers?) about our abilities increases our performance. A challenge state and not threat state helps with better results.

5. Finally, as Donald Driver, a noted football player and NY Times best selling author noted something very interesting in his article on “Why Do Kids Read What They Read?”

Kids read what they read to have fun!

I guess this feeling of having fun is independent of age, location, environment and many other things.

Law of Hiring

Posted in Hiring, People & Culture

The law of hiring states:

“Hiring an individual whose potential to perform is below the current team’s average brings down the team’s average performance”.

Conversely, “Hiring an individual who can perform better than the current team’s average increases the team’s average performance”

Why the law is important? Because the law of hiring determines your team performance. A sample calculation based on this law illustrates this point.


This means that the hiring exercise should focus on assessing a candidates potential to perform. Higher the delta, higher the influence on the team’s average. There will be times when your assessment will go wrong but at least being aware of this law allow you to take corrective measures during your next hiring gig. This awareness also help you to provide any training and mentoring facilities to the new hire.

What constitutes performance and how to assess it is not an easy task. However, it is something that you must prepare yourself, in advance, if you are the hiring manager.

The team’s overall performance depends on you. Are you listening? How have you applied this law?