Why New Hires Keep Your Team Honest
Welcoming a new teammate is always a source of great celebration. It's a sign that things are moving in the right direction at your company and validation that it's an attractive place to work.
Adding a new person also provides an excellent opportunity for your existing team to learn more about themselves from a unique perspective that only an outsider can provide. In this post, I'll discuss several opportunities to keep yourself and your team honest during the hiring process—starting with recognizing the need for the role, proceeding through the hiring process itself, and culminating in the onboarding of a new team member.
Pre-hiring: An opportunity for self-reflection
There are two primary reasons for hiring someone new—either to replace a departing team member or to fill a brand new role. Both present an opportunity to turn the spotlight back on yourself and ask some probing questions.
When a team member departs, it's a chance to look at the role's responsibilities and ask whether they still make sense. Maybe the position was filled by a long-tenured person who evolved their role without any explicit change in their responsibilities, and it's time to revisit those. Or maybe the last person wasn't happy in the role, and it's a chance to really dig into whether the position will set a new hire up for success in your company.
For a new role, you need to decide how you're going to present the responsibilities to potential candidates. Can you honestly see an applicant being excited to take on the role? Have you thought about how the role will interact and collaborate with existing positions on your team and the company? At Float, we are rigorous about working through the requisition process for a new role, and carefully consider the responsibilities and impact it will have within the organization. We spend a great deal of effort making sure the job description is both an accurate reflection of our desire for the role and an enticing proposition for the candidates we're looking for.
This can be a tough process to go through as it requires understanding the ultimate purpose of the hire. I'm not an HR expert by any means, but I have learned a lot about creating our new hire job descriptions from working with our People Ops Manager Linda.
Hiring: Know what you're looking for and define the interview process
When it comes to the actual hiring process, there is ample opportunity for self-reflection.
Where will the job be posted, and have you identified a good source of potential candidates? Should you stick to free job posting services or invest in getting the word out more widely? These questions relate to the importance of the role and its uniqueness. For a very important and specialized role, casting a wide net may not be the best approach. On the other hand, if you are hiring for a position with plenty of suitable candidates, a wider net is more likely to catch quality applicants.
Once you've shortlisted candidates for the role, is your team ready to conduct interviews? Do you have prepared questions and assessment guidelines that are appropriate for the position? If you have some sort of a take-home test for candidates to complete, is it relevant to the specific role? Has anyone on your team conducted interviews before, and if not, is there value in pairing people up to get more experience in the interview room?
We recently paired two of our engineers, Sameet and Fabio, to conduct technical interviews for one of our open engineering roles. As Sameet had previous interview experience, he led the first few calls, with Fabio taking the reins in the most recent interviews. "It's been helpful to coordinate on the format of the interview together to make sure that each one keeps the same style, language, approach, and content," says Fabio. "It's also been great to have Sameet in the background ready to jump in in case there is a question that he can answer better than I can."
Onboarding: A fresh perspective on how your team works
Onboarding doesn't begin on a person's first day of employment, as the paperwork typically starts as soon as a job offer is accepted. Do you have a reliable blueprint for getting contracts signed and gathering important information like bank details? Is there an organized and orderly process to ensure that all of the i's are dotted and t's are crossed so the person can hit the ground running on their first day?
Don't treat the first few days and weeks as a time to pile a huge amount of information on your new hire. A steady drip feed is more likely to succeed, especially if you assign an onboarding buddy who they can turn to when an inevitable question arises. By controlling the flow of information, you can give your new team member time to acclimate to all the new faces and processes they are being introduced to. More importantly, it gives them time to think and understand things in greater detail.
The truly magical part of hiring someone new is seeing their reaction to how things are done. It's a great opportunity to revisit past decisions and processes to make sure that they are still effective (and which you and your team may take for granted). At the very least, you may be able to add some helpful documentation to assist your future hires.
Your new team member may have strong opinions about how things should work. Tap into those feeling to understand more about what's worked for them in the past and how they've succeeded. After all, you brought them on to contribute, so let them contribute! Encourage them to write down their first impressions—both good and bad—and revisit them as time goes on and things become more familiar. Ask them what feels strange or awkward, and listen to their answers. Let them dig into places you may not have been expecting.
Our back-end engineer, Cristina, says that one of the first things she noticed when she started at Float last year was the lack of tests in all back-end repos. "This induced a sense of fear of touching the code due to unexpected results, which can be scary for a developer." She encouraged the team to begin incorporating testing into their daily routines. "This discussion led to a testing workgroup, which received a lot of positive feedback from all dev team members and will be applied not only to the back-end but also to the front-end, increasing the quality of Float," says Cristina.
New hires provide an opportunity to refresh old ways
Hiring someone new is a big commitment. Make sure that you make the most of the hiring process by being introspective and reassessing what you do and how you do it.
There are lessons to learn and opportunities to realize throughout the hiring process and into the regular day-to-day work of the team. By approaching the process with an open mind and encouraging others to do the same, you will gain so much more than just a new team member. You'll get a fresh perspective on your team, your processes, and the work that you do—and you'll be more than ready for any new challenges that come your way in the future.
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