I always found it interesting how there are so many movies, articles, and songs about finding “the one” in popular culture. Not only how important it is to find a good match, but also what you can do to get there. I can’t avoid making an analogy to hiring. They are different things, I am aware. Nonetheless it’s useful to see things from a different perspective.

In what respect are dating and hiring similar? Both are emotionally demanding. Think about how time consuming, anxious, and introspective the hiring process is. How your sense of purpose and personal growth are tied to them. How both parties are looking for a (hopefully) long term arrangement. And how much time you end up spending with your work colleagues. Sometimes more than the time you spend with your partner.

Hiring the right person is extremely important. The average cost of a bad hire is $15k (recruitment time, advertisement, onboarding, team productivity, etc.) The main cause? 43% of respondents of a survey on the topic answered that they made bad hires because they needed to hire someone quickly. [ref. 1]

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The number one advice is “Be patient”. Like in love also in hiring, the best time to hire is when you don’t need to. Most companies hire at a “needs basis” and don’t have the luxury to do so. Especially fast-growing startups that want to have steep headcount growth. But as in hiring as in love, you don’t want to be desperate and make reckless decisions. You should hire when you don’t desperately need it. One time I heard that this is the MO of big tech. You look for the right person first, not someone to fill a project. And then after you find the person, you can see where it can fit better in your company.

Where to look for “The One”? The more classic places are the ones where you can find people with common interests. In the case of companies: Industry events, and meetups. People attending these are usually engaged in their professions, looking to learn and share experiences with other attendees. And you want people that are passionate about what they are doing. It’s just more fun that way. The other option is colleagues and friends of your teammates. They would be already vetted people for what concerns culture. The social validation stamp is important and can shortcut what makes the interviewing process hard. People in your team are invested and want to improve the place in which they work. Their vouching for someone else it’s a strong signal.

This often doesn’t scale. Meetups, events, and friends of friends are limited. Especially if you are a small company. It’s important nowadays when your company doesn’t have a strong branding or a presence in the tech community. So, you must default to online dating. The professional version of Tinder, LinkedIn. Where you look/source for the best profile by looking at a picture and looking at a bio where instead of swiping left and right, you scroll up and down. There is nothing wrong with it. You gotta do what you got to do. Just be upfront so nobody wastes their time. What are you looking for? What are your non-negotiables?

The important thing is to screen for mutual interest as soon as possible. You want to gauge a candidate’s passion for the craft and their involvement beyond meeting the basic qualifications. Do their previous experiences align with your expectations? Can you assess their unique, personal attributes before the first interviews? This can happen in various ways. Check for their professional social media profiles, their public projects, and repositories.

After that it’s the moment for the first interviews. Interviews are dates. You want to understand something about them more than just ticking some boxes. You should try to get to know the person at a deeper level. Remote interviews are hard at that. There is a lot that can be conveyed in person, with gestures and mimicry that doesn’t translate through a webcam. You should be aware that there may be a certain level of anxiety in the beginning. But being confident, not cocky, is always something to assess. You don’t want the person you are interviewing to appear needy. And, as any date be on the lookout for red flags. While interviewing a candidate for a startup I was working for I ignored a big red flag because we were desperately looking for a candidate. The red flag in that case was the willingness to admit wrong doings or understand and be open to other points of view. It’s particularly helpful to ask the candidate to do a small project or exercise and then reviewing it and giving feedback to it. See how they react. It is the main thing I look for nowadays.

Besides that, for interviews there are no special techniques. Or none that I know and that I can speak about. How does the conversation flow? Why are they interested in the role? Are their goals aligned with the ones of your company? Interviews are not enough. Often the best matches are assessed when you can test how you work together in a realistic scenario. Often this is not possible, but I venture this may be the reason why big tech interviews are so long. They want to see as much of you as possible. Using long interviews as a surrogate for joint work.

After some dates it’s the time to commit. Things come with commitment, but particularly the commitment of making it work in the future. You want a consensus among the team. You don’t want it to be an individual decision. We all have our biases and blind spots. You want to gather a varied set of opinions. Here the biggest sign is that it should be a “Hell yes or no” decision. You need to have a strong conviction. There is a significant investment from both parties. You shouldn’t start a relationship if you are not excited about what there is to come.

There are multiple points we have gone through. Where to look for one, how to think about interviews, and how to make the final decision. Like in love, also at work you want to find a sustainable match with whom you want to share the journey ahead. You want to find the right hire. Not only to avoid losing time and money, but also to improve the culture. Of course, finding a romantic partner is different from finding your next colleague. You don’t want “the one”, you want to find “multiple ones”. And it’s not so romantic to say that you want someone, anyone. But there are multiple things in common, as anything in life, the social component is important. Like in love-life, in your work-life you want to find a special person, “the one” that fits your company the best.