startups

5 Ways We Think About Hiring

Hiring the right people using a simple, company-first philosophy.

It’s been fast and furious at Canary over the past nine months. “Exponential“ is a good way to describe our growth.

With hypergrowth comes hyper job posts, hyper interviews, and hyper email in our inboxes. So, how do we use all of this to decide who’s right for our team? Here’s a quick guide to how we think about our hiring process, what’s important down the road, and which amazingly talented individuals we want to come work for us.

We’re building a company, not just a product.

First things first: we never hire to fill a seat or simply get a task done. We’re building a company with the goal that each hire will be a rock-solid player who will stay and grow with us for the long haul. Focusing on careers instead of roles ensures that need doesn’t outweigh fit, and that top candidates find the value and support they’re looking for in our team.

Start with generalists, then specialize.

As my friend Nora keenly observed, “one startup is already hundreds of startups in one.” You’re figuring out so many different things as you start that it’s vital to have smart people you can throw at anything, from legal to finance to infrastructure. As time progresses, you’ll need specialized experts, people with the know-how to match the brains. When that switch occurs varies by startup, but it’s important to keep in mind which stage you’re at as you grow, and to ensure the generalists are firing themselves from certain roles and specializing as time goes on.

What does culture really mean?

Too often, culture gets confused with fringe benefits like Summer Fridays or happy hours. In reality, culture represents the traits a company values. Do you want team players or star individual contributors? Are you encouraging personal development? Would you let someone go if they were doing okay, but rarely produced great work? Is kindness one of the traits you hire for? All of these types of questions have helped us craft Canary’s culture into something we can better track and hire for.

Friends are a good idea.

Game recognize game; people at the top of their game spot other top performers quickly. If you’ve got people who are great workers, chances are they know other people who are great. We leverage this network internally as much as possible. Not only is it much cheaper than a recruiter, but it often lands us new people who already work well with our current team.

Sometimes, you need to let people go.

With deadlines looming and a small team on your hands, it can be tempting to hold on to underperformers longer than you should. Interestingly, it’s liberating and empowering to let those people go. It reinforces your culture, and in the end, it’s a win-win; you move more quickly, and they find a workplace that’s better suited to their needs. It reminds me of dating advice I got years ago: if you’re in the wrong relationship, it’s nearly impossible for the right one to show up. You’re rarely going to find the right person for the job until the right person knows there’s an open position.

Tips for getting hired.

Want to give yourself a better chance before you even walk through the door? Here are a few pointers for interviewing at Canary:

  • Be passionate.You can’t train people to be eager. If you show up and you love what we do, you’re already going to stand out from the crowd. Coming in with excitement and ideas you’d want to implement will win you points.
  • Be human. This seems like the simplest thing, but so many people fail at this. Read your resume OUT LOUD to someone else. If it’s not something you would normally say, rewrite it. Do the same thing for your cover letter or an introductory email.
  • Mind the details. Proofread your cover letter and resume for spelling. Proofread them again for grammar, especially if you’re applying for a copywriter position! Proofread them again to ensure they sound human. Show up on time. Have a few printed resumes handy for interviewers. Write thank you notes or emails; we have a summer intern who won all of us over with hand-written notes. Remember that all of the little things add up.
  • Don’t tell us, show us. Come to an interview equipped with anecdotes, facts, reports, designs, code, etc. that backs up your resume to show us that you can talk the talk and walk the walk.

We’re excited to keep growing in the right direction. If you’re smart, passionate, experienced, talented, a good cultural fit, and have at least one good joke you can share with our team, we hope you’re a part of that growth.

What’s the best interview question you’ve asked or been asked? Let us know in the comments.