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.
It’s tempting to want to jump into specifying concrete things about the person you want to hire by describing their skills or experience. However, because you want someone who will succeed in the role, it’s helpful to specify the outcomes you want before attempting to describe candidates. Starting with individual requirements might cause you to lose perspective of what you actually want to accomplish later in the hiring process.
Answering the following questions will help determine successful outcomes for this role:
What will occur if you hire someone who is successful in this role?
What would be the impact on the team, the business, or the product?
Next, you can pick a time period—a year, five years, ten?—and then break that down into what would need to be accomplished in shorter periods to meet those outcomes:
[What would] a typical day or quarter [look like] for a person in this job? If someone executed perfectly in this day or quarter you designed, would it meaningfully and reliably drive impact for the company and business? Will executing at that level even be feasible and fulfilling for a single person?AnnE Deimer, Inclusion and Diversity Program Specialist, Stripe*
You’ll begin to see what responsibilities the role should entail to reach these desired outcomes. Note that responsibilities are activity-based (like “design, implement, and maintain software”) and outcomes are results-based (like “help rewrite our feed service to improve the experience of over 100M monthly users”). When aligning with your team, it is best to focus on outcomes. The responsibilities of the role may make more sense for a manager to determine.
caution One pitfall to avoid when thinking about outcomes is making them too temporal or short-term focused. If the immediate need is for a specific project, what will the role look like beyond that? If you can’t articulate how the role will evolve over time, you may not need to hire a new full-time employee.
Desired Skills and Characteristics
Once you have clarity on what success looks like for the role, the next step is to come up with a set of competencies and characteristics that will make that success likely, including specific technical skills, nontechnical skills, and traits and values.
While seriously considering each of these buckets is important, it’s wise to be careful not to end up with a list of rigid (and uninspiring) check-the-box criteria. If your criteria are too rigid, you might overlook some of the most promising candidates, especially if the role itself is a little ambiguous or is expected to evolve in the future.