Product Team Recruiting
Giving visibility into key principles
We think about recruiting a little differently and wanted to take some time to unpack that thinking for future candidates interested in joining us. Of course, this is just a snapshot as of January 2023. We sure hope it evolves over time.
Here are some principles that have shaped our approach to recruiting to date.
“Screen in” rather than “screen out”
As a globally distributed team, we really do believe that talent can come from anywhere. That spans geography, experience level, etc. If a team holds that true, they need to do something in order to whittle down the sheer volume of their top-of-funnel. They then have two options:
Screen out: use proxies to screen candidates out of the top of funnel (eg resume keyword search for “Google Product Manager”)
Screen in: use assessment(s) to screen candidates in so that they can display their ability and interest in the work
“And interest” is a key point – current team members genuinely find working on these problems fun, if you’re working on an assessment of ours and can’t imagine regularly doing that work, you’re not going to have fun here
Neither method is perfect, but we’ve found that proxies poorly (like, really poorly) map to one’s actual ability to do the job. Thus, we’d prefer to cast a wider net and then use assessments to underwrite. To reflect on how strongly we believe in this, multiple candidates that we’ve hired recently don’t even have a resume uploaded into our Applicant Tracking System.
Give candidates a view into how we think
If you were a fly on the wall here at Clipboard, you would hear us frequently reference the notion of “Exuding Clarity”. We try to exude clarity to candidates (through our blog posts we’ve made public) for two reasons: a) we think it’s virtuous in its own right and b) we want candidates to feel comfortable self-selecting out.
There are two implications of screening in: a) recruiting activities are time-intensive for us (our team handles recruiting activities with some rare exceptions) and b) the candidate experience with Clipboard is probably going to be more time-intensive than your other interview processes. For (a), we’d love to provide sufficient information for folks to self-select out. Selfishly, we get a lot of cases and we wouldn’t mind having fewer. It would be intellectually dishonest to say otherwise. For (b), we want to make sure folks are comfortable knowing what they’re getting themselves into (in terms of our process as well as our culture). Our interview process today involves two written cases and three live interviews.
To hold ourselves accountable for exuding clarity, one candidate asked me during an interview: “What should I know about Clipboard’s culture that’s not publicly available?” A couple things come to mind, though they could be inferred from what we post:
It’s an intense place to work – we’re a group of curious problem-solvers that derive joy from improving the lives of customers, but also aren’t afraid to hold our peers accountable to operating at the level we expect
You have to be comfortable receiving lots of feedback, both written and verbal
If you don’t enjoy reading and/or writing, you really won’t have fun here
If you could query Slack with “what’s the most commonly asked question at Clipboard Health?” it’s “Where’s the doc?”
Meetings start with “table reads” and while we don’t reward document length, some weekly meetings are held over hour-long reading sessions with team members poking, probing, as well as celebrating
Assess “culture fit” through work product
While “culture fit” means different things to different people, our mental model is that someone is a culture fit if we think they’d thrive in our work environment (i.e. being subject to how we work [“writing is thinking”, “working in the open”, receiving lots of feedback] and how we make decisions).
The conventional path attempts to assess culture fit through behavioral questions. We don’t think that’s “wrong” (we think you can glean some signal that way), but we’ve found that emulating how we work through our assessments can be an effective tool to figure out if someone is actually a culture fit (and is much more effective than behavioral questions where it’s hard to separate aspiration from performance).
Assess the thought process, not the quality of the ideas
Although both of our cases ask for either an answer or an idea, we’re much more interested in your reasoning and intuition rather than your final answer (while there can be wrong answers, there are not “right” answers).
As you’re working through our assessments, strive to provide a window into your brain. If you make an assumption that you think doesn’t reflect reality but you think it’s a valid shortcut, detail that for us. Expect us to probe on the inputs of your thinking, as well as how you might react to new inputs. We try to give candidates room to think, while getting a sense of breadth, depth and speed.
If you align with what you’ve read about our culture, are excited about the prospect of working on hard marketplace problems with curious teammates, and are driven by our mission of moving people up the socioeconomic ladder, we’re excited to speak with you.
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