The Improvement Principle

5 minutes, 4 links


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.

important Underlying each of these principles is a commitment to measure the success of your hiring process on an ongoing basis and over time, and make adjustments and improvements where necessary. As companies grow, measuring and improving the process can become a major area of focus. The sooner you can start understanding why, when, and how you hire, the more likely you’ll be to build an unstoppable team.

  • Focus on both the process and the end results. Recruiting is a complex activity, and most hiring managers are strapped for time. It might take time for changes in your process to yield results. A lot of time spent on recruiting might be repetitive, and it might be frustrating as you realize that most candidates don’t end up being a fit and joining your team. Paying attention to the trees instead of just the forest can actually help.

  • Break your process down into day-to-day activities. Each activity should be clear and concrete. Most of these activities will involve moving candidates from one stage to the next. It should be clear who is responsible for each activity.

  • Keep an eye on metrics. Metrics help ensure that the entire pipeline is healthy. You should be able to tell whether each stage of the pipeline is functioning. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall victim to the “activity trap” (where you view activity and time spent as your primary performance metric, even if that time is not fruitful).

  • Have clear areas of ownership and accountability for your hiring process. At any point in the process, those involved within the company should know who can give them a clear answer to highly specific questions like, “Where is Candidate X in the process? What is the next step? Has that been scheduled? Where do we stand on Candidate X, and them on us?” In many cases, having one person own the entire process will increase efficiency, consistency, and timeliness, and ensure rigor in the overall hiring program.

  • Continuously improve your process. There are tensions between these principles, and tradeoffs that have to be made—every company has shortcomings on some of these dimensions. Tensions and tradeoffs are OK and inevitable, but where you compromise should be aligned with the company’s principles and the team’s needs. As you talk to candidates, define processes, and work with a team to scale, check whether you are meeting the demands of these principles, or having to sacrifice one for another. They will help you understand where you can improve, what you value most, and where you and your team are strongest. Even an effective process can rot over time as your company grows, as people join and leave your team, or as you get complacent.

Hiring isn’t the kind of work that provides you constant dopamine hits. It involves a lot of dead ends and frustration.Harj Taggar, CEO, TripleByte*

Given all of the interrelated elements at play, it can be helpful to think of recruiting as a product. Many readers of this Guide may be familiar with product development processes. We think treating your recruiting process as a product, with both candidates and the company as your customer, can be a powerful analogy, and can help you arrive at most of the principles we’ve defined. For instance, if you treat recruiting as a product, you would search for product-market fit by trying to match your offering (company and role) to your customer (candidates you’re trying to hire). You would focus on quantitative metrics, but also have ways to track your quality, and you would be relentlessly focused on your customers. You would be rigorous and structured, but you would experiment and use feedback loops to monitor and improve your process.

Medium’s hiring process (originally developed by Dan Pupius) treats hiring like a product, which they’ve found also helps reduce bias in their hiring.

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