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hiring: renting gold

Why Buy Silver, when you can Rent Gold - from realizing it was the only way I was going to hire people at Powerset.  

When I am hiring A-level people, I go into the process knowing that I won't be keeping them forever.  In fact, whenever I ask an engineer where they see themselves in 5 years, I often hear them say that they want to start their own company. 


Rather than avoiding this during the interview process, I recommend you hit it head on and embrace it.  Talk about it openly and honestly during the interview process and you’ll find that not only will you increase the respect the candidate has for you by having the balls to bring it up, but you’ll actually increase your chances of getting that person to join you.

I can't tell you how many people I interviewed at Powerset who told me they really didn't want to join because they wanted to startup their own company.  Whenever anyone told me that, I would go in for the kill and not let them leave until they agreed to join.  My pitch to them was simple.  "Let me rent you for 6 months.  You'll learn an insane amount about building a startup from me that will help you prepare to start up your first company.  You'll have the pedigree of Powerset standing behind you; and you'll have some cash in your pocket."  

This worked incredibly well, and when those people went to create their own companies (including Serious Business, GitHub, Crowdflower, InfoAxe and others), they were that much more prepared.  I found that by allowing the superstar to know that I was willing to not only let them go, but I was willing to help them go, it made a big difference.  

I don't think we could have created our team without this one principle working.

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