Hiring to Overcome Risks

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Updated August 24, 2022
Technical Recruiting and Hiring

You’re reading an excerpt of The Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring, a book by Osman (Ozzie) Osman and over 45 other contributors. It is the most authoritative resource on growing software engineering teams effectively, written by and for hiring managers, recruiters, interviewers, and candidates. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, over 800 links and references, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

You want to identify the key risks in what you’re trying to do, then you hire for those risks.Vinod Khosla, founder, Khosla Ventures*

In standard approaches to hiring, teams focus on what it will take to accomplish their goals and be successful. However, in situations that require high innovation, these goals might need to change very quickly over time. In his essay “Gene Pool Engineering,” Vinod Khosla writes “It is easy to hire to boost a team’s strengths without addressing a team’s weaknesses. Fundamentally we believe that a team can be ‘precisely engineered’… to manage the risks and to take advantage of opportunities to create disruption without running afoul of key requirements of the industry.” Khosla argues that in these situations, a team should hire based on both opportunities and risks. The steps he recommends (which we reproduce here) are:

  1. Identifying the five biggest risks a team is facing.

  2. Defining the skill-sets necessary to address those risks.

  3. Locating the “centers of excellence” where those skill-sets might exist.

  4. Finding and hiring the top experts in those “centers of excellence.”

Hiring Opportunistically

I always have a role for talented people.Mark Suster, Managing Partner, Upfront Ventures*

Say you come across a fantastic candidate, but they just don’t fit into any of the open roles you have right now. Should you try to hire them? Exceptional talent is rare; exceptional talent that is attracted to your company is even scarcer; exceptional talent that is attracted to your company and at a serendipitous moment where they would make a move requires the stars to all align. Can you miss that opportunity?

Stripe CTO Greg Brockman had a philosophy of hiring for people, not roles. He suggests that “If you can think of one thing this person can do, then there’s probably ten more you’re not thinking of that he/she can do two months from now.”*

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