Fletcher Wimbush talks with Shaun Martin, author of "Hack Your Hiring: The Tactical Playbook to Find, Evaluate, and Hire A+ Talent" on how to attract and find the best talent using the right job ad.
Check out Shaun's podcast and website on these channels:
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rebase/id1279914568
Fletcher: I want to welcome everybody to Hire Talent Podcast, it’s strategic optimizing, hiring advice for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs, and today I’ve got Shaun Martin, a really interesting guest, outside of my normal purview. He is a career software engineer and became a software engineering director and executive, and leading software development teams. And he’s got an amazing story that I just can’t wait to get into it with him and share with the rest of you guys.
In the nature of software development he wrote a book, Hack Your Hiring, what a great title. This is an area that I’m not an expert in, I’m not a software hiring expert, but in general we tend to play in all other spaces, and it was amazing, your story, so I just can’t wait to get into it with you.
With that said, tell us, how did you end up going from software engineer and executive to hiring guru?
Shaun: First of all thank you for having me, Fletcher, and thank you for that amazing introduction. And it’s interesting, a lot of the things you said around your background and not having the familiarity with hiring software people or technical people. The thing that I’ve found, and we’ll probably get into here in a little while, is that a lot of jobs are moving in the same direction as the experiences that I had hiring software engineers, which is that jobs are now … they’re not routine, repetitive things that people do, they are … People are information workers, they’re knowledge workers, and what I found was that a lot of the ways that we go around hiring people, didn’t really work for finding the best software engineers. And it’s the same thing for now if you’re hiring a salesperson, or you’re hiring your customer service representative-
Fletcher: That’s where we hit it off. You started telling me, and we’ll get to it, I know, but where you started telling me your system, I was like, “That’s the same system I’m promoting people use to hire salespeople, and managers, and executives, and customer service … ” You name it, every other role, just because like you mentioned, I haven’t played a lot in the software development space. I own a software company but I haven’t taught and trained in that area, but it was like identical, right?
Shaun: Yeah, it really is. It really is.
Shaun: There’s so many parallels. The old way of defining a position and looking for people, and like I said, I’m sure we’ll get into more detail around this, but … I, again, started out as a software engineer back when I was about 12 years old, so about 27 years ago. I’m here about to celebrate my last year in my 30s here in about a week or so, and I started teaching myself-
Fletcher: What languages were you coding in then?
Shaun: It was largely html and java script until I decided to teach myself C, which was an interesting challenge and then C++, and I took course in high school in C++ and realized I was ahead of the class, and the teacher.
Shaun: This was back in the ’90s I guess. So I started out in that field, I never thought I’d get into leadership, I never thought I would manage people, I never thought I would lead people, and fast forward many decades. But when I started to get included in interviews to help hire people, even if I was just an engineer helping to interview other engineering candidates, and then when I got to become each manager, when I was a team lead, and eventually when I was an executive, I realized that … it took some time, but I realized that the things that we say we’re looking for on job ads, the things that then translate into the way we screen resumes, the way we do recruiter screens, the way that we interview people, they don’t really match up with what we need.
And it took me about a year as an executive, and I think I told you this the last time we spoke, I became an executive, promoted from within and literally thought that hiring of my two dozen responsibilities, I thought hiring would be the easiest thing. And like the cartoon character like Wile E. Coyote I ran flat right into that brick wall of, Wow this is really hard. That was one of the things I learned.
Fletcher: Those are like two things you’ve talked about already. So the fundamentals like the job description, the advertisement. We miss the boat on that so often. There’s not an alignment. There’s nowhere even in the ballpark of who we’re looking for. And then I love that other piece is that, when I become a manager, I discounted how difficult it was yet … I mean I would argue, it’s the most important thing we do as a leader, as a manger is make or break whether we’re successful or not, is how we-
Shaun: I 100% agree.
Fletcher: … hire, right? I talk about I do a lot of sales and leadership, so you hire a salesperson, a million quota and they fall flat on their face in the first 90 days. Well you just lost a quarters worth of revenue, that that person didn’t generate. Well, software developer, I mean what are you paying a good developer these days? Well, what you might think is a good developer, and how long does that put your project back? Help me understand those mechanics, because I don’t think people realized how much that costs you.
Shaun: Yeah, so ballpark figure, and I live in Austin, Texas and we’re experiencing a boom over the last several years, but on average I can say that a software engineer will cost you 100 grand a year. One software engineer. And you could have multiple [crosstalk 00:06:14]-
Fletcher: Like a good, solid one.
Shaun: Yeah, a solid one, who’s not fresh out of college. If somebody’s fresh out of college, maybe you could get away paying them 70, 80, 65, I don’t know. It depends on how good your sales process is in your recruiting process. But I can tell you right now even, looking at the market, there are so many well funded companies that are throwing money at people, and I’ve talked to people who I knew made less than 100 grand two years ago, who are now asking for 140, 150, 160 to even go to a new job.
That’s just the nature of the market. And we talked about how easy we think it’s going to be. And I looked this up because I thought that I was insane about how wrong I was about how easy it was going to be, but it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect where we look at something and we’re like, we oversimplify it. And it’s like, “Oh, well that will just be like …” the way I thought about it, “I just post a job, people apply, I pick the best people.” I oversimplified it.
And hiring’s more complex than that. It doesn’t have to be way more complex than that, but it is more complex than just, pick the best people because what does that mean?
Fletcher: Yeah, who is the best person? And that goes back to these fundamentals where so many of us miss the boat, we just skip past that. We just throw something up or worse … Have you ever stolen somebody else’s job ad and used it as your own?
Shaun: I have personally not stolen other company’s job ads.
Shaun: I’ve not stolen other company’s job ads, but I have reused … So when I was promoted I was replacing my former boss who moved on to something else, and I was reusing our old job ads. And I thought …
Fletcher: You didn’t think twice about it, right?
Fletcher: You’re just like, “Well, that’s good enough.”
Shaun: Yeah. We’re looking for developers, it must have worked before, so I use it again. And then after four to six months of just mixed results, I looked at these things, I literally looked at them with a critical eye and I read it as the software developer that I had been six months prior, and I thought, “I wouldn’t effing apply to this job. There’s nothing about it that interests me.”
Fletcher: Yeah. Exactly. Well probably because they put the job description up as the ad, first off, right? The boring old job description like I can lift 20 pounds and blah, blah, blah. And then I go, “Oh there you go, that’s the ad, we’ll throw that up there and everybody will want this.”
Shaun: Or even worse, they use those terms that are like recruiting BS bingo. Like looking for a rockstar, ninja designer, programmer. Things that don’t actually mean anything.
Fletcher: Yup. Exactly.
Shaun: You fill another because you don’t know what you mean. So you say, “I’m looking for a rockstar developer.” What does that mean? Does that mean they party until four in the morning, and they come in reeking of alcohol, what does rockstar anything?
Fletcher: Yeah, sign me up, right?
Shaun: Exactly, exactly.
Fletcher: Yeah, there’s a distinct difference between a job description and a job advertisement. Job advertisement is designed to attract your ideal candidate, the person whose most likely to excel at the measurable outcomes of the job description.
Shaun: Yes. And it entices them to do so, whether they’re currently employed, whether they’re not currently employed. It’s marketing. It really and truly is.
Fletcher: Even if you’re cold sourcing the candidate, at some point that cold interaction, you’re going to introduce them to the advertisement. And they’re either going to be like, “This is stupid,” or they’re going to be like, “This is amazing, enthralling and interesting,’ right?
Shaun: Right, and so you have to nail that marketing. You have to get that down. You have to not just, like you said, throw the job description out there, assuming that people will be like, “I can do those things, I’m so excited to apply for this job.” Like you have to actually convince them to do so. And that was again, something that I didn’t realized, I thought, Of course people want to apply, we’re a great place to work. But that’s also the bias that you have as an employer.
Fletcher: But the advertisement doesn’t tell you or help people understand why you’re a great place to work. They just talk about this grueling job and all these demands that we have on you.
Shaun: Yeah, and they don’t tell you why it’s a great place to work, and why maybe more importantly, it’s a better opportunity than what you’re doing right now.
Fletcher: Yeah. It doesn’t help me differentiate at all, right?
Shaun: Not at all.
Fletcher: Yeah, that’s the fundamental, foundational thing, and I love that. You started using that for months, and then one day you actually read it and you realized, oh, wait a second. And again, I think whichever way you end up, that’s so common for so many people and you got to get that really.
I want to go back to this, because I just think a lot of times there’s this, oh well, it costs two to five times X the person’s salary to get it wrong. One time early in my career as a recruiter and as a leader, I did the math. I was like, okay, job at cost, 1,000 bucks. I spent three hours interviewing them. Okay, that’s on my time, whatever, another 1,000 bucks. Okay. Training, spend two weeks, okay that’s like 2,000 bucks. Computer … And I mean I add the math, and I’m like, all the little things and I was like, all right, I’ve got $8,000. II was like, “Well, that’s not two to five times the cost.”
I really want to understand the software developer. You hire a software developer, $125,000 a year. Six months later, they don’t work out. What are the business repercussions of that?
Shaun: Yeah, so all the things that you outlined are definitely things important to consider. The cost of the work hours, we might call man hours, but the work hours of people in the process. I usually think of the costs of a recruiter if you use an agency recruiter, which is usually 15 to 30% of the hiring salary after 90 days. So if you don’t decide that that person’s not a fit in your 90 day period, you’re paying that recruiter fee.
But I think that with software engineers it is maybe a little bit more pronounced, especially because I’ve worked in software organizations where the software is the product that you’re trying to sell to people. So the quality of the product is taking a hit. The milestones you’re not hitting, the features you’re not releasing. All those other things.
Fletcher: Those things. Right there, that’s the cost. It takes me six months-
Shaun: The thing you’re selling to people.
Fletcher: … yeah, it takes me six months longer to get the product to where it needs to be so that I can raise the price, or that I can make it more sellable, or more attractive to the market place, that means I’m six months behind potentially, or longer, or even worse if I have to untangle the whole mess right, to getting the product to market or launching those features so I can raise my price, or make my client stick to [inaudible 00:13:17], reduce my churn. How much does that cost you? I mean that could be in the hundreds of thousands-
Shaun: Oh it’s massive.
Fletcher: Hundreds of thousands of dollars in many cases I would imagine.
Shaun: I’ve seen some of the similar numbers that you’ve seen. The one to three, the two to five, whatever multiplier. And Peter Drucker who is back in from several decades, this business consulting genius, he put it at more like 3X to 15X. And not just because I’m in this space, but because I really bear down and I thought about that. I really think that he’s more accurate because I think about …. When I got my first executive job I had a team of about 20, 22, 23 engineers or so. I had three or four roles to fill. Then a few people left because they saw my boss leave and they decided to spread their wings. And so three turned into six. And then we got financial approval to hire more people and that was 12, 13, 14 developer positions.
And I think about that now, if I had hired 12, just awful people. Not bad people, just not a fit for our organization, the amount of damage that that does because when you have a group of A-players, when you have a group of people who want to go above and beyond for a small business to help it succeed, when you have a group of people who want to do things that are outside their job description, who are striving constantly to be the best they can be, and you hire somebody who is, we’ll call them a B-player, somebody who will go to a certain point and then they’ll say, “Pay me more.” Or they’ll go to a certain point and they’ll say, “That’s not my job.” Or they’ll go to a certain point and they’ll say, “I don’t need to learn that, this is the better way.”
Most A-players start to notice that starts to hamper their excitement about being in the job-
Shaun: … that they’re in, you lose one of your tent-pole, lynch-pin kind of people. What does that cost you?
Fletcher: That costs you massive amounts of money. There’s a brain drain, there’s a productivity loss. Just the time that it takes to refill that. Again, the refill part, three months to refill the job, six months to refill the job with another A-player. You just lost all that time that you could have been producing something. And all your overhead, and all your lost opportunity. So there’s all these factors that it’s that lost opportunity cost that is in the hundreds and thousands, if not millions of dollars.
I’m working with a client who’s got sales people and a decent sales guy, B-player sales guys they would keep, produces $1.2 million a year in revenue. So, there’s two factors. One, you don’t fill that job. You just did not make $1.2 million. You fill it with somebody who doesn’t make it after six months, and maybe puts in 100 grand or 200 grand, they totally fail, that’s half a million plus now the time that it takes to refill it, you’ve also probably lost that million plus even more because of all those other things that you spent time doing, or heaven forbid, you drove away other A-players, right?
Shaun: Exactly. You didn’t allow the A-players that could have applied to that job to actually get a chance because you hired this other person, right?
Fletcher: Yeah. Exactly. You were too busy dealing with this problem to be dealing with a solution.
Shaun: 100%. And it is an inexact science I will say. And it took me a full year of, as I say, I sucked on ice at hiring for a solid year. It was magical how bad I was at it. And eventually when I realized that … and you and I have talked about this, I realized that recruiting is a system.
Fletcher: That’s it.
Shaun: There are patterns. Or best practices, just like anything else. And so I started looking at other systems. I started looking at my own experience as an engineer, working in software systems, but also as a leader working with teams to deliver good value, and realized that there’s a lot of commonalities. So that is all about finding a system that works for you in the situation you’re in. [crosstalk 00:17:45]
Fletcher: And that’s what struck me when I met you. And maybe I’m a little more systematic or process logical about how I approach things too, but that’s how I’ve developed hiring systems and realized and come to realize, and I did it through many years of thinking and practicing and failing too. But, the epiphany at one point in my career was, it’s a process. It’s a system just like anything else you have to do in your business.
I mean the McDonald’s guy, he realized, if I can create a system that allowed us to in a repeatable way, deliver a high quality product that people would like. Now, but part of that was there’s … I’m sure there was a hiring system. There’s a cooking system, there’s a service system. In any good business there are processes and systems that are repeatable, that are trainable.
And I think you nailed it when you realized yourself that you didn’t have one, and then you used your engineer brain to say, “Whoa man, I think I need to have a process here.” So what did you come up with?
Shaun: Yeah, so you’re dead on. It is a system and sometimes somebody else’s system won’t work for you. But you do have to … And the thing that you mentioned there that I think some folks who are listening might gloss over, is the trial and error portion of that. You have to act like a scientist. And that’s exactly what I did. And I’m not saying that you have to act like a scientist because that’s what I did, I’m saying because it works.
So one of the first things that I noticed. And I mentioned earlier that I looked at our job ads and I realized, I’m not excited by this. So, one of the first things that I did, and this is a small example, was that in our job ads, we had our company description, which was kind of boring corporate speak, even for a start-up, but that was at the top of the job ad. And so I theorized, hypothesized that people who are clicking on a job ad care more about, can I do the job based on what’s described, than they care about anything about the company. I theorized that.
And so I literally ran a split test over time of putting the job description itself first and the company description last, versus the company description first and the job description last.
Fletcher: I love it.
Shaun: And I got way better results putting the job description first because people care more about what? Themselves. Whether or not they can do the job than they care about when your company was effing founded, and what you do today, they care more about the job. At least in an engineer’s case. So that was the first experiment I ran, of many.
Fletcher: What are they going to learn, what are they going to do? Why is this job … the actual things that I’m doing in the job going to be interesting.
Shaun: Exactly. And am I qualified? As an applicant.
Fletcher: Yeah. Well engineers think that way. Not always true in other roles. But I do agree. But that’s where again, it’s a scientific process.
Shaun: It is.
Fletcher: Hypothesize, test-
Shaun: It has to be.
Shaun: What you measure, you manage. That’s the phrase for a reason. When you measure it, you manage it. And I did this a bunch of times over several years at that job. I started to look at where we got candidates from because we were getting 100, 150, 200 resumes a day for a single position.
Shaun: And so over time I started to look at, where were we hiring people from? These candidates that we’re actually hiring, where do they come from? Did they come from Indeed, did they come from a recruiter? Did they come from a referral? Internal referral, or external referral? And so I started looking at those numbers and I realized that we had about the same number of hires from random job boards as we did the recruiters.
Okay, well now it’s time to break down the numbers. Are the recruiters doing their job? Maybe, maybe not. How much time are we spending sifting through candidates coming through job boards. It’s one of the biggest things I tell small businesses. When you just say, “I’m going to post this garbage thing that I got on Indeed, I think that’ll probably work,” how much time do you pay somebody to go through all those resumes before you actually get to a candidate?
That’s a cost.
Fletcher: And if you just paid them to head hunt, which is not that difficult in this day and age, with LinkedIn and Indeed, those resume databases, I mean LinkedIn … whatever your profiles, but Indeed’s got amazing resume database, and Dice if your tech guy has got a great one. There you got, that’s all you need. You could hand select 10 people. And I think it comes [inaudible 00:22:31] especially from the hiring manager.
I mean obviously some roles you need a recruiter internally to do this, but if you have a small enough business, or a certain situation, if I’m a hiring manager and I reach out to you and I say, “Shaun, you look like you have an amazing engineering background and the things that you’ve done are awesome. I’d love to talk to you a little bit more about your career,” the odds of you saying, “No, get lost,” versus, “Yes,” are much higher saying yes because I’m the one that did it. I didn’t rely on some third party.
Shaun: Right. I will say especially in the tech world, recruiters, they’re the ones who know how to tread lightly because … I’m not even an active engineer any more and I write code for fun, but not for profession. And I still to this day cannot stop recruiters from contacting me. When I was an engineer, it was daily. I got sick of it.
So the hiring manager, the personal touch, if you’re a small business or an entrepreneur or somebody and you’re thinking about anybody you’re going to reach out to here, if you can reach out first party. Like you the hiring manager, you the business owner, whatever it is, that’s a huge win over having somebody that you’ve contracted out to. Because the one thing I keep saying, and this is such blasphemy coming from a technologist, everybody keeps trying to come up with the AI, or the ML, the machine learning, the big data thing that’s going to replace recruiting, but it is still a very human process where you as a business are trying to hire multiple people, but each one of those people are looking for their one job.
Think about how personal that is to them. And then think about whether you can replace that with AI or machine learning versus an actual human touch.
Fletcher: Yeah, and if the messaging is impersonal and doesn’t connect with them in a level that relates to their needs, their desires, to improve their quality of life. Look, we’re all human beings. We all strive to improve the quality of our life. That’s the bottom line. Whatever that means to us is different person to person, but that’s what we’re going for.
Shaun: Yup. And we make decisions emotionally, which most people will argue with. But we make decisions-
Fletcher: Anybody who’s a sales guru knows that.
Shaun: Yeah. I’ve hired probably-
Fletcher: Sales 101 is-
Shaun: … Sales 101 [crosstalk 00:25:03]
Fletcher: … the emotional drivers are the most important factors in whether or not somebody buys. Not the logical ones.
Shaun: Yeah. Well, they’ll justify with the logical ones, right? Like after the fact.
Shaun: After they’ve bought, they’ll say, “Well, it was cheaper and it’ll do this and it’ll do that.”
Fletcher: Or muddy’s the water in the buying process, but when you go to a car lot and you buy an $80,000 car, why are you doing that? The $20,000 car’s just as good.
Shaun: I can tell you first hand, not in any way, shape or form boasting, I own a Tesla Models S, I love that car more than most people love their children. That’s a joke.
Fletcher: But why? But why do you love that car so much?
Shaun: I decided to buy that car at the moment that I was going zero to 60 in under four seconds. Down … like an on ramp to the highway because that’s what the salesman told me to do, and when my head shot back into the seat, and then I got this huge grin on my face and I thought, “I’m going to own one of these cars one day, it may be soon, it may not be soon.”
Fletcher: That as an emotional reaction, right?
Fletcher: You had an adrenalin rush, and it felt exciting or whatever. There’s some deeper emotional driver that that touched on for you, and-
Shaun: And it was compounded through the process. I started using the touch screen, I started setting the different settings. I started messing with all the different features and I realized, it just kept on adding to that emotional thing. I got to say, I’ve hired at least a dozen engineers where they left a previous company and came to the company that I was at as a hiring manager, for the same or for less salary.
That does not happen very often in the software industry. And I’m not saying that I’m unique, I’m just saying that we got really good at recruiting people for the right reasons. And the only reason somebody leaves if they’re making 135,000 grand and they go to your company, which is taking a leap, putting their career in jeopardy really because they’re leaving a sure thing, assumably, for an unsure thing. The only reason they do that for now real change in salary or benefits, or potentially a drop in salary and benefits, is for emotional reasons, not for logical reasons.
Fletcher: So true. And it’s definitely the higher up you go, the more that becomes true. You start dealing with people who are super high earners, it’s like money’s not necessarily the driver anymore. There becomes more to working than money. Once you have a certain amount of money it doesn’t really change, or it doesn’t move the needle. Unless you 10X it maybe it doesn’t really move the needle very much.
Shaun: Maslow said it better than any of us could, you meet your basic needs, and now it’s like, do I want connection, do I want belonging, do I want all of these other things?
Fletcher: Yeah, that’s a good way to think about it.
Shaun: Well, you’re right.
Fletcher: Or even that you’re-
Shaun: It’s above a certain-
Shaun: … salary.
Fletcher: Yeah. So you began testing the marketing piece and the outreach and all that, you began figuring that out, and then how did the system progress for you?
Shaun: It started progressing, and it wasn’t linear. It wasn’t linear progress that was [inaudible 00:28:25] over time, but we would see certain benefits. And again, I mentioned earlier that I was looking at where are we getting our candidates from that we’re actually hiring. And I started looking at that and I started realizing, well job boards are costing us a lot of man hours and work hours in order to filter down to the right candidates. Recruiters were doing okay but we were paying them 20 grand, 30 grand every time you hired somebody.
And so I started thinking, where are the people that I want to hire? And so we started sponsoring meetups. We started hosting meetups on site. And not just like we’d throw the money, but I would go there to a meetup and say, “Oh, I’m here from this company and we’re sponsoring this meetup because we really support this tech stack, or this platform. And by the way, we are hiring. I’m not going to shove it down your throat, but please come talk to me if that’s something that you’re interested in.”
And we did that repeatedly. And people would see us now as connected to that space.
Fletcher: I love it.
Shaun: So that worked for sourcing candidates, and eventually what I’ve come to now, which is very similar to what I’ve seen you guys do with the way you break up the process, I started breaking the process down into, what’s most important at these steps. And I had five steps, they’ve kind of become seven now, but it’s really around how do I make sure that I know what I want? I know where to look for that person and for those skills and for that potential. And then how do I make sure that I know that I’m making the right decision on who I’m hiring. And that’s it.
Fletcher: So how do you know? So now it’s the last days, we haven’t talked about that. How do you know? Now you’ve sourced the talent and you’ve created some unique sales and marketing strategies, essentially is what you’ve done. And I love the meetup thing and creating a community around what your company does, if it’s … or the tech stack or kind of create that environment or that those relationships that are at this deeper level.
So that’s a great sourcing strategy-
Shaun: And by the way [crosstalk 00:30:29] I hate to interrupt you, but by the way if you are a company who you know you’re going to need to be hiring more than one or two people in a particular position, sponsoring one of these meetups or something like that, costs you next to nothing. You know that I spent $300 per meetup to buy pizza.
Fletcher: Yeah. The job ad on Indeed these days runs at about 500 bucks to sponsor it. And the price has been going up year after year because of the demand and the competition’s higher.
Shaun: Yeah, and all that does is make you look like every other company. It makes you look like every other company. If you do something a little bit different, you immediately set yourself apart, which is part of what you need to do as an employer. These people who are looking for jobs, actively or not, they don’t know about you. And that’s one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was why don’t people know about our company? It’s great to work here. Because they don’t because they’re busy doing their other things.
Fletcher: That gave you an opportunity to build a relationship in a meaningful way and to control the environment and to really do great things. But okay, great you do that and 20 people show up and they’re all maybe relevant, they’re all interested in whatever skillset or software you guys were talking about, but doesn’t mean they’re any good. So how do you figure that out?
Shaun: That’s a very good question which we could probably spend the next 12 hours talking about. Here’s what I think it comes down to. First and foremost before you ever advertise a job, go out looking for candidates, before you do anything, it’s determining what success looks like in a role. It’s not just saying … and I use this example a lot, but if you’re hiring somebody for customer service, you’re not just hiring them to answer phones and respond to e-mails. Those are the activities, but could you imagine a scenario where somebody could answer phones and respond to e-mails horribly, and your customers are more pissed off than whenever they started.
So that’s not good enough. It’s about defining what the outcomes are for that particular position.
Fletcher: I want five star reviews from 50% of the clients that you talk to every day.
Shaun: Yes. And those even I would say, are closer to the outcomes. But the outputs would be … and you’re absolutely right on that, but the outputs, when does the thread end on a particular interaction with a customer? Does it end with their issue being resolved? Does it end with their issue being escalated to somebody else? Does it end with them being transferred to a manager at the appropriate time? Figuring out with success looks like for that particular person is super important.
And I came by this, again, through falling on my own face. When I first hired, I hired somebody who went through our entire interview process, mid level developer role, past all of our technical screens, the interviewers loved this person, we invited them to a team happy hour thing that we were having. Everybody liked them. They came on board, and within a couple of weeks we realized something was wrong.
And what was wrong was they were basically burning through tickets. So issues, or tasks that came to them, they were rushing through them and then passing them along and then forgetting about them. And that wasn’t the way that we worked. We wanted quality built into the code we wrote, we wanted other people to review it, we wanted our team to pair with anybody on this because we were a product organization, we wanted to make sure that we ensured quality and what we were shipping to our production code.
And we talked to this person over several weeks, and they insisted they were doing a good job because they closed so many tickets. But quality was more important than quantity to us.
Fletcher: Wrong metric, right?
Shaun: And so eventually we had to let them go and I racked my brain thinking about this and talking to people and figuring out how did we go wrong here? Because all the signs pointed to this being a good hire. And what I eventually realized was, we never really defined success for the position.
Fletcher: Yeah, how to change it. Or, you were defining maybe even in the wrong ways. Or, missing a way of measuring. And that’s it. So everything we keep talking about comes back to before you even start hiring. A lot of it is.
Fletcher: It’s setting the foundation. This has been a really great conversation because I just think, this is the part nobody ever wants to do. Like, this is so boring. Let me inspect and do an analysis and let me really understand what the real chi drivers of success are and spend that time thinking and planning and iterating and adjusting and using the scientific method because maybe you get it wrong. It would be reasonable to say that I want a developer who can pound through tickets and then maybe I realize, well whoops wait a second, we’re more of a quality shop and that’s not really the best leading indicator, right? Learn from that and-
Shaun: And that’s fine to do that.
Shaun: It’s fine to do that if you have the money and the time.
Fletcher: Yeah. Exactly. But if you don’t have a target to begin with, you can’t then go back and say, “Oops, that was the wrong target,” either. This is not a perfect science, and as you mentioned duly noted earlier, you do have to customize this for your world and your situation. There are these fundamental best practices that we’re talking about that are totally applicable to everybody’s world, but then they need to utilize them to create the path that ultimately makes them successful. And I think it’s such a unique journey for all of us, but if we follow a system that we can adapt and grow to accommodate our own individual needs, yeah, I think it can be very, very powerful.
Shaun: Yeah. I honestly think, and obviously I have biases, I work in the space, and you probably agree with me because you also have biases because you work in the space, I really feel like talent is the next big gold rush. I see the speed of business moving so quickly over the next several decades.
We do have AI, we do have ML, we do have gig economy. We’ve got automation in all of these crazy places. We’ve got 3D printing. We’ve done all these crazy things that are going to make business move faster, so the ability to put the right people in the right situation to succeed-
Shaun: … yes, fast, quickly. I mean Eric Schmidt, one of the founders of Google said something to the effect of, “The best leaders in the future are going to be the ones who can find the smartest people and put them in the right situations the fastest.” And I’m totally butchering that paraphrase, but he’s not wrong.
Fletcher: No. When you look at these really successful business leaders, most of them have figured that out and it keeps coming back to me. I mean that’s been my mantra. The most important job as a leader, as a manger is to identify and hire the best people. And then yes, I need to do lots of other things to enable them and lead them and things like that, but the first step is that. And we just, like the story you shared, a lot of times, we gloss over that, the importance there.
And then nobody teaches us how to do it either.
Shaun: No. There’s no college degree with recruiting in the title.
Fletcher: HR’s not recruiting guys. By the way.
Shaun: No. Hopefully it will become more of an active part of most businesses, but you’re 100% correct that the first responsibility of a leader is making sure that you have a team that can accomplish the mission.
Fletcher: Yeah. That’s why so many people get stuck in leadership roles where they’re the doer. They’re the A-player. And that defeats the purpose. If I’m the one doing all the work, then why am I the boss? That’s not the definition of a leader.
Shaun: No, the best problem solvers struggle oftentimes to be the best leaders because leaders are often facilitators, and that’s not a four letter word, facilitator. I love being a facilitator. I love watching other people who are probably smarter and more capable than me, accomplish things that I couldn’t accomplish on my own. There’s no greater joy that I could possibly have. And it makes me feel empowered as a leader that I did a good job.
Fletcher: Yeah. Everybody is happier at the end of this journey when we do it correctly. Shaun, it’s been really fun chatting with you again. I’m so lucky I got another chat with you. Where can we find you and learn more about your processes?
Shaun: 100%. Again, I appreciate you having me on. I stumbled upon this hiring expertise landscape and I realized that so many small businesses and entrepreneurs didn’t have the skillset the same way that I didn’t. So, what I did in my first couple of years when I was not a gainfully employed employee and I decided to strike it on my own, was I wrote a book called Hack Your Hiring, which is The Tactical Playbook to Find, Evaluate and Hire A+ Talent. It literally is a playbook. There’s 75, one to two page plays that you can run inside the book that will help you with anything from sourcing candidates to how you evaluate them, to the logistics of your recruiting process. That’s available on Amazon, it’s on Kindle, it’s on audible, it’s on iBooks I believe.
So, Hack Your Hiring, you can find that. And then I also put together a free guide which is a download for folks who, they just don’t want to be stressed out by hiring, and whether you believe it or not, you might be getting stressed out by hiring as a small business leader.
Fletcher: You already be start having some misfires.
Shaun: Exactly, exactly. And you can find that easily at makehiringeasy.com/guide, and that’ll give you a free PDF download. It’s a gorgeous guide that’ll guide you through those seven elements that I believe keeps you from being all stressed out. And when you do that you’ll also get daily e-mail tips on how to execute on each of those things.
Fletcher: I love that, I love that. I would encourage everybody to check that out. makehiringeasy.com?
Fletcher: And Hack Your Hiring.
Shaun: … you can go drop into the [crosstalk 00:41:14] flash guide. And the book again … the book’s cheap, it’s on Amazon. It’s under I think 15 bucks right now and it’s, Hack Your Hiring: The Tactical Playbook to Find, Evaluate and Hire A+ Talent. All the feedback I’ve gotten on it is, for a book about hiring, this is really entertaining.
Fletcher: Nice. I love that. A business book that’s actually interesting to read.
Shaun: And it’s about 140 pages, it will not take your entire weekend I promise.
Fletcher: Yeah, I love that too. Shaun, I love what you’re doing. I’m so glad our universes collided here. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with you. All of this, the links, and how to contact Shaun, we’ll put it on the landing page here so you can find those, refer back to them. And we’ll be promoting this on the socials as usual. So we’ll make sure that everybody can find you and it’s been great chatting with you.
Shaun: Thanks so much Fletcher, I really appreciate the opportunity. And I love nerding out about this, so anytime.