Hiring process part 2 · finding and capturing talented people

Arseni Mourzenko
Founder and lead developer
November 6, 2014
Tags: hiring 15

It's dif­fi­cult to in­ter­view can­di­dates for a spe­cif­ic job. It's scary to hire some­body who shouldn't be hired, and it's un­for­tu­nate if you don't hire some­one who should be hired.

While it's prac­ti­cal­ly im­pos­si­ble to sug­gest any­thing on the choice it­self, es­pe­cial­ly giv­en the ex­treme speci­fici­ty of such choic­es from com­pa­ny to com­pa­ny or from per­son to per­son with­in the same com­pa­ny, there are on the oth­er hand a bunch of pat­terns and prac­tices to ap­ply dur­ing the in­ter­view it­self to un­der­stand as good as pos­si­ble the pro­file of the can­di­date.

To avoid too much the­o­ry, I'll take two ex­am­ples of in­ter­views where I was my­self a can­di­date. Com­par­ing those in­ter­views al­lows to elu­ci­date a few of those pat­terns and prac­tices.

The first in­ter­view was done by Tal­entSoft—a com­pa­ny which builds a soft­ware prod­uct for tal­ent man­age­ment. This medi­um-size com­pa­ny grew very fast in sev­en years and has a cap­i­tal of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 2 000 000 € at the day this ar­ti­cle is writ­ten. It shares with The Maer­sk Group a large build­ing in Paris and oc­cu­pies half of it. While it kept a part of a spir­it of a start­up, it was able to evolve into an ac­tu­al cor­po­ra­tion—not the bu­reau­crat­ic, in­hert en­ti­ty, but a cor­po­ra­tion which does the stuff right, can af­ford best de­vel­op­ers and tools, and just feel pro­fes­sion­al.

The sec­ond in­ter­view was done by Pic­tav'In­for­ma­tique—a tiny com­pa­ny in a small French town. The com­pa­ny builds a bunch of soft­ware prod­ucts for French Cham­bers of com­merce. In 25 years, the com­pa­ny was un­able to evolve into some­thing big­ger. Its cap­i­tal is 8 000 €, it oc­cu­pies a small flat in an ap­part­ments block and... there is noth­ing more to tell about it.


A proac­tive com­pa­ny is con­stant­ly look­ing for tal­ent­ed peo­ple. Even the com­pa­ny doesn't grow, it should still look for new peo­ple, be­cause no mat­ter how good are the work­ing con­di­tions and the spir­it of the com­pa­ny, old­er em­ploy­ees will leave.

Be­ing proac­tive means us­ing every tool avail­able in or­der to find peo­ple who can po­ten­tial­ly be hired. A friend of a col­league of our DBA is a de­vel­op­er? We want to hire more about him. Some­body found an in­ter­est­ing, well-writ­ten, tech­ni­cal­ly chal­leng­ing blog post? We want to talk to the au­thor. Some­one left a high­ly re­put­ed IT com­pa­ny? We want to know why and if he would like to work for us now.

This is the case of Tal­entSoft. They con­tact­ed me on Ca­reers.SE by pre­sent­ing them­selves and kind­ly ask­ing whether I would be ready to dis­cuss my ca­reer evo­lu­tion with them. I was ready, so I did.

Pic­tav'In­for­ma­tique, on the oth­er hand, is all but proac­tive. The only thing I've found is that they post­ed an an­nounce­ment on French un­em­ploy­ment of­fice web­site. I haven't found any oth­er signs of ef­fort from them. What does that mean?


Pre­sent­ing your­self and the com­pa­ny is cru­cial: this is the first op­por­tu­ni­ty to know each oth­er, and fail­ing this op­por­tu­ni­ty is rather dis­ap­point­ing. For­got your name? That's un­for­tu­nate. I won't an­swer very pos­i­tive­ly to a per­son who starts busi­ness re­la­tion by stay­ing anony­mous. For­got to pre­sent your com­pa­ny? Maybe the po­ten­tial can­di­date won't dare ask­ing you for the de­tails. For­got to spec­i­fy the tech­nolo­gies you use? You may lose time to a per­son who is ready to work for you, but won't ac­cept work­ing with those tech­nolo­gies specif­i­cal­ly.

More im­por­tant­ly, de­fine the roles. At this stage, you are not the boss, not yet. You're a per­son who are look­ing for a tal­ent­ed per­son. A tal­ent­ed per­son who has a choice be­tween work­ing for you, or work­ing for one of the many oth­er com­pa­nies. He has choice. You don't.

The mes­sage I've re­ceived from Tal­entSoft is ex­cel­lent. First, the per­son con­tact­ing me pre­sents her­self and the com­pa­ny. Then, she ex­plains the con­text: the com­pa­ny is work­ing on the new ar­chi­tec­ture, there­for they look for new peo­ple. Fi­nal­ly, she asks if I would be in­ter­est­ed in talk­ing with an R&D man­ag­er in or­der to de­ter­mine whether their com­pa­ny is in­ter­est­ing for me. Hm. Let me re­peat this: their com­pa­ny is in­ter­est­ing for me. See the con­trast with the job of­fers writ­ten in the style: "You may spend the next thir­ty min­utes writ­ing your cov­er let­ter that you'll send us to­geth­er with your re­sumé, and some sec­re­tary from hu­man re­sources might one day take a look at it and judge if it's worth our at­ten­tion".

What about Pic­tav'In­for­ma­tique? Well, I re­ceived no an­swer what­so­ev­er. When I called, the CEO blamed their e-mail sys­tem. Or maybe he was just too lazy to an­swer?

Stay fo­cused

The can­di­date re­spond­ed pos­i­tive­ly. This is a good sign. But stay fo­cused on your goal, which is to hire a good per­son. Some com­pa­nies make ma­jor mis­takes here: they lack ba­sic or­ga­ni­za­tion, or they don't know how to com­mu­ni­cate, and they quick­ly lose rep­u­ta­tion in the eyes of the po­ten­tial can­di­date.

Stay­ing fo­cused means two things: