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Hiring the best 7.15.2017

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How to hire great nonprofit tech teams

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Hiring the best 7.15.2017

  1. 1. Hiring The Best Building great non-profit software teams Ann Lewis, @ann_lewis, 7/15/2017
  2. 2. Who am I? Computer science grad, Carnegie Mellon 2003 Software Engineer for 15+ years Technical hiring at Amazon.com, Rosetta Stone, startup companies; recognized as a “bar raiser” at Amazon (technical interview lead) Interviewed O(500) candidates, reviewed O(5000) resumes (over ~15yrs) CTO of MoveOn.org, hired a whole new tech team in 2015, ran ~8 hiring processes from 2015-2018.
  3. 3. Hiring Software Engineers is Hard ● The Talent Gap: In the United States, there are more technical job openings than there are qualified candidates ● Salary Variance: Software engineering salaries can vary +-50K / year for the same job / candidate experience ● Attrition: in big cities with lots of tech jobs like San Francisco engineers change jobs every ~1 year
  4. 4. Challenges for Nonprofits ● Salaries: often non-profits can’t match industry salaries for software engineers ● Hiring expertise: many non-profits lack in-house experience in hiring engineers ● Culture and timing: some non-profits don’t know they need to hire until they’re up against a big deadline, or don’t see tech as core to their organization
  5. 5. Common pitfalls ● Over-reliance on outside consulting firms. ● Haphazard hiring, resulting in poor lack of fit. ● Failure to hire at all. Hiring an internal tech team ineffectively is more expensive than not hiring an internal team at all.
  6. 6. Your organization has a big advantage ● Great engineers want to do meaningful work. ● (Have you ever heard anyone get really excited about “e- business solutions”?) ● Great engineers want to work at mission-driven non- profits. ● Great engineers want to have an opportunity to change the world.
  7. 7. The Problem to Solve Great software engineering candidates exist, but you need to learn how to find them, and fairly assess team fit.
  8. 8. How to do it 1. Cast a very wide net: get as many applications as you can, advertise everywhere. 2. Run a rigorous interview process: filter, filter, filter 3. Hire for potential as well as experience. 4. Understand how to assess organizational fit. 5. Make strong offers that emphasize mission and culture as well as salary/benefits.
  9. 9. Casting a Wide Net ● Advertise all job openings publicly ● Advertise jobs in a variety of forums ● Don’t just hire your friends (everyone underestimates the limits of their networks) ● If possible, allow remote employees: let your hiring process become nationally or internationally competitive
  10. 10. Filter for: Builders ● Test people on the technical skills they will use to do their jobs, including both technical strategy and coding. ● Never neglect technical tests: many people with the job title “software engineer” have peripheral roles and don’t actually get their hands dirty coding. ● Above all aim to assess: can this person actually build stuff?
  11. 11. ● Don’t hire for X years of experience in technology Y ● Hire smart, motivated people who will learn and adapt to changing technology trends ● Very expensive problem: the lead engineer committed to a particular programming language or system who values the comfort of their current expertise over finding the best tool for the job Filter for: Flexible Problem Solvers
  12. 12. The easiest way to determine whether a candidate will work well with others in your org, particularly non-technical folks, is to include at least one non-technical person in the interview loop, and give them veto power. Filter for: Organizational Fit
  13. 13. Your organization has some primary method of communication (at MoveOn it’s email / written communication). Test this as a part of the interview loop. This is more for the candidate’s sake: candidates for whom communication style is not a fit will feel discouraged quickly. Filter for: Organizational Fit
  14. 14. ● Define the sequence of interview questions candidates will have to pass ahead of time, and objective thresholds for “passing” ● Minimize the amount of time between interviews ● Move decisively: after all interviews, let candidates know your decision as quickly as possible Run a Tight Interview Loop
  15. 15. ● Make a strong, well-rounded offer: in addition to salary / benefits, emphasize all the intangibles of working at a mission-driven org ● Make a time-bound offer: give the candidate 48 hours to decide ● Use your culture to close the deal: recruit others to reach out to the candidates with encouragement Make a Strong Offer
  16. 16. ● ~300 applications for 3 software engineering positions ● ~80 candidates phone screened ● ~15 candidates passed the coding interview ● 5 passed the coding interview in less than an hour ● 4 offers ● 3 accepted Case Study: MoveOn tech team hiring process 2015
  17. 17. ● We advertised on tech job sites with broad reach: WeWorkRemotely, HackerNews (y-combinator), wfh.io, StackOverflow ● Also advertised on sites with deep reach: Women 2.0, Women Who Code, Black Roots, Lesbians Who Tech ● 80% of resumes came from WeWorkRemotely ← benefit of being remote-friendly Casting a Wide Net: advertising
  18. 18. ● Wording is incredibly important ● Red flag or “trigger” words in your job description can cut your candidate pool in half ● My algorithm: start with an overly specific job description, fwd it to trusted colleagues who represent groups we didn’t want to inadvertently filter out, and edited based on their suggestions Casting a Wide Net: editing the job description
  19. 19. This was incredibly helpful: I discovered that in my wording, I was inadvertently filtering for people like me, when really what I wanted was to cast a wide net Casting a Wide Net: editing the job description
  20. 20. ● I removed the phrases “high energy environment” and “ninja” => an older colleague told me these are typically code for “young” ● I removed a long laundry list of “suggested technologies” => everyone I showed this to (including 3 people I hired) told me that since they didn’t 100% match to the job description they wouldn’t have applied Job Description Edits Based on Feedback
  21. 21. ● I added clear emphasis on how MoveOn values and uses technology: even though MoveOn is widely recognized in the US, its use of technology isn’t well known in the US tech community ● Made cover letter and mission statement a mandatory to filter for “how much do you want this job?” Job Description Edits Based on Feedback
  22. 22. “The MoveOn team considers technology to be a core part of our DNA. MoveOn pioneered mass online petitions, some of the first mass distributed online-enabled house parties and remote phone banks, and user-generated online campaigning. MoveOn’s millions of members generate site traffic that would make most startups jealous. And MoveOn has terabytes of data that all staff have been trained to query with SQL. At MoveOn, making decisions with data is a core part of how all work gets done.” Example of “Tech at MoveOn” paragraph
  23. 23. Available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TGlKslgdZHUHngydJexID Pos0ipxBc8A/view The Final Job Description
  24. 24. ● 300 applications ● Applications spread evenly across age groups 22-25, 25-35, 35-45, 45-60 ● 75% of the applicants identified as the demographic dominant culture of tech (in the US, this = white men) ● 25% of the applicants identified as not white men ● (While far from even, this better than the avg for the US) Updated Job Description Results
  25. 25. Of the group of applicants who followed all the instructions, and submitted a cover letter and mission statement along with a resume over 50% were groups other than white men (!) If you had asked me to predict these results based on my personal network, I would have predicted a much different result. Update Job Description: Results
  26. 26. ● 30min phone screen with technical strategy questions covering frontend, backend, databases, scaling ● 1 hour coding interview: 5min before interview, share a doc with candidate describing the problem, they code it up in the language / framework of their choice over video conference, or as a take-home. ● 2 additional 30 minute team fit / campaign strategy interviews with campaigners ● Reference checks Interview Process
  27. 27. 1. Getting a job with a mission-drive org is viewed as a rare opportunity 2. Advertise jobs publicly, don’t just hire your friends 3. Test your job description before deploying, and remove “red flag” phrases 4. Make the candidate prove they want the job 5. Rigorous technical interview 6. Emphasize mission when making the offer Summary
  28. 28. Questions? Ann Lewis, @ann_lewis, 7/15/2017

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