How to hire outside your expertise

Recruiting for new roles is doubly tricky when they're so technical that you don't actually know what good looks like, as Attest's Jeremy King discovered.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 19 Mar 2019

If you’re a seasoned marketer, it shouldn’t be too tough to hire another marketer. But what if you’re looking to hire a software programmer for the first time, or a management accountant? This is a challenge many growing businesses face, especially when it regards highly technical expertise beyond the management team’s ken.

Jeremy King founded intelligence platform Attest after a career as a McKinsey strategy consultant. Despite having very limited exposure to technical engineering or sales, he knew he’d have to find the right people with the right skills if his high growth technology business was to thrive.

"When it came to hiring for Attest, the gaps in my own experience made it tricky to know even how to approach hiring some of these highly technical roles. For example, your very first tech hires materially impact the future of your company, because the choices these people make can take you down many different paths – but you don’t or can’t even know what the ‘right’ choices look like.

"I tried to talk to people who’d made similar decisions before, to understand the trade-offs they considered at the time and the real consequences that followed. Find people who have a clear hypothesis of what the right answer is. Even if you think they’re completely wrong, you can uncover consistent themes and wild concepts that can help you make the right choice.

"We chose hiring processes that were more lengthy and deliberate than most. This actively slowed us down, particularly with engineering hires where we chose people (and therefore technical architectures) that build for maximum scale, rather than taking the easy routes or rushing into production.

"Because of those decisions we made two years ago, we’re now able to do amazing things. For example, it takes minutes to add a new language to our customer intelligence platform, even Arabic which reads from right to left – a potentially major issue unless you built the platform to have flexibility.

"Think about every aspect of the hire and the role, from the core skills needed, to how they fit into your current culture. See the whole tree of implied choices, not just the immediately visible branches.

"If you create the opportunity for candidates to show what they’d actually do, and teach you what it implies, and they’re already helping you conquer the aspects and opportunities that you didn’t understand, that’s probably a positive signal that the person is the right the hire for you."

Further reading

Image credit: marchmeena29/gettyimages


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