Paul English is the CEO and co-founder of Blade, and was previously the co-founder and CTO of Kayak. He is an incredible entrepreneur known for building high-caliber product and engineering teams. Paul led nToggle’s recent lunch and learn session focusing on hiring and culture building philosophies.
Paul – “I really enjoyed the nToggle team. Here’s my advice on building world-class teams - Super Bowl Teams as I call them. It’s the only way to build industry transforming companies.”
Today is Day One…
You have to build an extraordinary team in order to do great things. When I co-founded Kayak in 2004, people asked me how we were going to compete against Expedia. My answer was simple. Our people are better than theirs. We had hired to build capability, and we created a corporate culture where co-workers had one another’s back. Culture is not a philosophical statement written on your walls or in some dreaded employee manual -- it’s how people treat each other every day. Hiring the right people and setting the right culture has an amplifier effect on what organizations can accomplish.
Doubling a Team is Easy. Tripling it is Hard.
It is easier to do things yourself than train people, but you won’t be able to grow with this mentality. And, I’ve seen many people fall into this trap. Take a long-term view of hiring - always be recruiting. A company’s strongest employees can both build product and advance the team. Sometimes people need to be pushed to do both since it can seem overwhelming, but the rewards are far greater from building a larger team that can take on bigger and more complicated projects.
The Seven Day Rule
My goal is to complete the recruiting process in a seven day cycle. The clock starts ticking the moment I hear a prospective candidate’s name and an offer is made by day seven. I personally reach out to candidates on day one so I can get them energized about the company and schedule an interview. Keep in mind you should always hire for the person, not for the role. If you find a truly amazing candidate, hire them and then figure out where to place them within the organization.
Once a candidate arrives at the office, make sure they are engaged for their entire visit. This is known as my couch rule - nobody is ever left to sit alone on a sofa. My goal is for employees and candidates to engage in high-energy situations the entire time. This gives both sides the time to get to know one another in a setting that reflects the broader culture.
And, all candidates come in twice - they meet me and four members of my team on day one and four other team members on day two. This should provide a great view of the candidate and enable the candidate to get to know you.
Candidates always meet with staff who are my best recruiters. These “recruiters” both sell the company and train their co-workers to become top-notch recruiters. Now you begin to see the flywheel start and it builds on itself allowing the hiring to occur at a faster pace.
How to Vet Candidates
Understanding whether a candidate is a cultural fit and if they have a history of getting things done is better validation than a test. I like to ask personal questions during the application process. This information is helpful because, for example, I like to hire people who are athletes or musicians or were in the military -- because those types of people work well in teams.
I also like to ask questions that provide less theoretical answers. Instead of asking how a candidate works on a team, I turn the question around and ask “How did the people on your team perform?” or “Who is the most impressive person you ever worked with?”
You here at nToggle already know who are the best candidates for your company. Go out and get them…today is day one.