One of the founding principles at Solution Seeker is quality over quantity in everything we do, and that also applies to our hiring and the size of our team. It sounds cliché, but it is quite difficult to stay true to this principle amidst all the noise we are subjected to on the startup scene and beyond in the world at large. At Solution Seeker we have intentionally kept our headcount low, because we think small teams communicate and perform better. We want to avoid unnecessary hierarchy and bureaucracy, which helps us keep things simple so we can focus on the important things. In short we believe smaller teams have a greater chance of succeeding in today's highly competitive and uncertain marketplace. We are a tight-knit team of a couple dozen people, and don't necessarily view growing to 100 as any meaningful goal just to be able to tick it off some list of "startup success criteria".
It is also worth noting that we are a company that highly values active ownership. That means that Solution Seeker is mainly controlled by us working here. Sometimes, this leads us to do things differently than what is "normal" or directly goes against accepted best practices. Concretely, it means that we don't make any decisions, including hiring decisions, for any other reason than it truly making sense to the existing Solution Seeker team. We don't hire just because we can afford it, or someone just left, or that it looks good to outside perspectives such as investors. We hire as a response to a real need, often manifested as having greater ambitions than our existing team can deliver, to avoid overworked colleagues or to bring on competence or experience we are lacking.
In Solution Seeker we care strongly about cultural fit. As a small and tight-knit team, ensuring cultural fit is the most crucial part of our recruitment process. We use many sources of information to assess cultural fit, but one central tool is our value framework. There will be a separate post about our values soon, but central themes are fun, excellence and actions over words. We always speak and act as a team, and look for people that put the customer and team before themselves. The fact is that the Solution Seeker team consists mainly of kind and stubborn engineers that never give up, and we believe that speaking the same language and acting on the basis of the same values ensures that we can move fast when we need to. We look for candidates who love to dig deep down into problems, learn new skills and share the knowledge with great enthusiasm. We put “we” over “me”, and for us that also means that we give colleagues the trust to control their own workdays. Finally, this also means that if there is any doubt about cultural fit in the hiring committee, the answer will probably be no.
General outline of our recruiting process
If you are still reading, cudos :) Let's finally go through some of the principles underpinning our actual hiring process. As I alluded to in the introduction, we recognize the time and effort candidates put into participating in our hiring process. We strive to make the process interesting and an opportunity for the applicant to learn something new, both professionally and about themselves. If you are considering applying for a position with us, we hope it can be a process to look forward to and that you feel was worth the time and effort regardless of the result.
- Broad basis for making a decision: Both sides need ample opportunities to get to know the other party and showcase themselves in the best possible way, in both formal and informal settings. We also know that we, as a company, are being evaluated by the candidate every bit as much as we are evaluating the candidate. We conduct several interviews, assessing technical competency and cultural fit/values, exposing the candidate to several Solution Seeker employees. The candidate is also encouraged to attend social gatherings or informal events, giving a broader basis for the final decision making.
- Give applicants the opportunity to put their best foot forward: According to Google, psychological safety is paramount to making great performing teams. How can we achieve this in an interview setting? How can we ensure the applicant has the chance to put their best foot forward? We try to create a relaxed environment, and avoid questions or tasks that can feel as though we are out to get you, because we are not. Believe us when we say we really want to be wow'ed by you! We often give questions or tasks that candidates can prepare for before the interview. Another example is to let candidates in dev interviews use tools they are comfortable with.
- Be transparent about the process and frequently update application status: We write out and communicate the steps of each hiring process, and inform candidates about important dates before the process starts. We try to make sure candidates are followed up at least every few days, even if it is just an e-mail saying we need a little more time to make the decision.
- Personal feedback: Considering all the things we are trying to achieve with our small team, giving personal feedback as to why we turn down candidates is unfortunately not one of them. Hopefully, this post gives you an idea of what is important to us and how we evaluate candidates, and helps make the process more transparent. I really wish we could prioritize this issue, and want to emphasize that we do understand the frustration candidates must feel when rejected without fully understanding why. But I also hope you can recognize the time, effort and consistency it would require of our team to do this in a fair and satisfactory way to the applicants we turn down, and how impossible this task is with the small team that we are. We want to treat all our applicants equally, and since we are not able to provide this feedback to all our applicants, we have chosen not to provide it just to those who ask either.
Hope to see your application in our inbox soon!
Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash.