Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hiring The Best People You've Ever Worked With

Southwest Airlines print ad from 1999.

Here's an insightful read from the smart folks over at PMARCA.

Marc Andreessen, the man behind Netscape and as many believe, the success of the Internet, shares his thoughts about hiring practices today.

I like the fact that it's relevant to both people in charge of hiring, but also potential candidates in preparation for an interview.

Here's an excerpt from Marc Andreessen's How To Hire The Best People You've Ever Worked With

First, Drive.

I define drive as self-motivation -- people who will walk right through brick walls, on their own power, without having to be asked, to achieve whatever goal is in front of them.

People with drive push and push and push and push and push until they succeed.

Winston Churchill after the evacuation of Dunkirk:

"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

That's what you want.

Some people have it and some people don't.

Of the people who have it, with some of them it comes from guilt, often created by family pressure.

With others, it comes from a burning desire to make it big.

With others, it comes from being incredibly Type A.

Whatever... go with it.

Drive is independent of educational experience, grade point averages, and socioeconomic background.

(But Marc, isn't a 4.0 GPA a sure sign of drive? Well, it's a sign that the person is driven to succeed on predefined tests with clear criteria and a grader -- in an environment where the student's parents are often paying a lot of money for the privilege of having their child take the tests. That may or may not be the same thing as being driven to succeed in the real world.)

Drive is even independent of prior career success.

Driven people don't tend to stay long at places where they can't succeed, and just because they haven't succeeded in the wrong companies doesn't mean they won't succeed at your company -- if they're driven.

I think you can see drive in a candidate's eyes, and in a candidate's background.

For the background part, I like to see what someone has done.

Not been involved in, or been part of, or watched happen, or was hanging around when it happened.

I look for something you've done, either in a job or (often better yet) outside of a job.

The business you started and ran in high school.

The nonprofit you started and ran in college.

If you're a programmer: the open source project to which you've made major contributions.


If you can't find anything -- if a candidate has just followed the rules their whole lives, showed up for the right classes and the right tests and the right career opportunities without achieving something distinct and notable, relative to their starting point -- then they probably aren't driven.

And you're not going to change them.

Motivating people who are fundamentally unmotivated is not easy.

But motivating people who are self-motivated is wind at your back.

I like specifically looking for someone for which this job is their big chance to really succeed.

For this reason, I like hiring people who haven't done the specific job before, but are determined to ace it regardless.

I also like specifically looking for someone who comes from some kind of challenging background -- a difficult family situation, say, or someone who had to work his/her way through school -- who is nevertheless on par with his/her more fortunate peers in skills and knowledge.

Read it all: Over Here.

Thanks Marc, great post.

That's Right,