Question: What rules should companies follow when they're hiring?
Jason Fried: So
fundamentally I think it’s important to hire late. So hire when it
really hurts. So the reason I think that’s important is a lot of
companies, I’ve seen especially in our world, the tech world, hire in
anticipation of needing people. And when you do that it’s really hard
to judge their skills because you don’t really know what they’re going
to be doing yet. That’s one problem with it. The other problem with it
is you have to keep them busy on things that don’t matter until the
thing that comes around that you need them for matters. And that’s
insulting. It’s insulting to somebody who’s really good to say, "What
you’re doing now doesn’t really matter, but we’re going to find
something to you that matters in six months." That’s just an insulting
way to hire people and to treat people. So we’re always hiring after we
need somebody, not before. And that’s the high-level pitch that we
talk about when we talk about hiring is, hire after it hurts, don’t hire
in anticipation of people. Don’t hire for pleasure. And there’s
companies that ramp up really fast and just, you know, I think that’s
just a really hard... it’s hard to judge. It’s hard to hire anyone
good, really hard to hire anyone good. To hire 10 people good a month, a
100 people good a month, you can’t really. I think maybe if you’re
lucky you can do that, but I think it’s very, very rare. Unless you’re a
company that everybody wants to work at, a company like Google or
something like that, where a lot of people want to work and they can
maybe attract the best of the best of the best, but most companies don’t
have that luxury. So hire slowly, one at a time only after you need
Try them out. So we try to try people out, we give them a project.
When we hire designers, we give them a project to do for us, a one-week
project to do for us and we pay them for their time. So because, when
you look at someone's resume or the work that they’ve done, you don’t
really know like, was this just them or did they work on a team, it’s
very hard to tell. And a lot of work, especially with developers, you
can’t see their code because it’s written for proprietary product that’s
owned by a company. So we looked at the open source world, because
that code's available. We can look at their actual code submissions and
look at their documentation, look at all the stuff that they’ve
actually contributed, not said they’ve contributed. So we want to try
to get to real as soon as we can. So real code, a real design. If we
have to hire someone temporarily on a project basis to show us what they
can do, that’s far more valuable than looking at their resume or
looking at their portfolio because that’s usually not a great
representation of who they are today.
Question: Are resumes and cover letters still useful?
Jason Fried: I
love cover letters. Resumes are just kind of ridiculous things. They
really are. They’re full of just lies and abstractions and it’s not
that people are being malicious, it’s just like, that’s the culture
around resumes. And ultimately, everyone’s resume looks good enough.
Bullet points make people... equalize people. The other problem with
resumes is like, you know seven years experience with Microsoft Word, I
mean, what does that mean? What do these things mean? They don’t mean
anything. So, cover letters are great because you can tell someone wrote
them for you. A resume is typically a general... it’s spam, first of
all. But it’s generally a general purpose document that you give out to
a lot of people. If a cover letter is generic, I don’t want to talk to
that person. If a cover letter is written for us clearly, and you can
tell in a cover letter, then you definitely want to consider that person
because they actually want your job, not just a job, but your job. And
I think that’s really valuable.
Question: How do you find the right person for a business?
Jason Fried: One
of the things we’ve been seeing is that we really like it when people
really personalize their job pitch to us. Like, "I want to work for
you, here’s why." Some people make a Web site, a specialized Web site
just for us. Some people speak our language. You know, they’ll do
research on the company and they’ll understand what we’re all about.
And those sorts of efforts really show to me that someone really wants
the job. And again, not just a job, but our job. So I look for things
like that. And I would say, if anybody out there is looking for work,
and really wants to work for a company, you’ve got to do something
special to get that job. And that just means... that’s not about you,
it’s about the company. What can you show this company that tells the
company that you really want to work for them? So maybe it’s learning
something about their history and bringing it up, some abstract thing
that someone else might not bring up to set you apart. Maybe it is
showing off your work in a special way, in a different way that's
customized to that company. I mean, you’ve got to go beyond just
sending a resume. And you’ve got to go beyond even just a good
interview and you’ve got to go beyond just a good cover letter today.
You’ve got to really show them that you really want the work, and this
comes down to really being personal in your approach. One of our
designers that we hired, I think it was about a year or a
year-and-a-half ago, Jason Zimdars. Built a beautiful site showcasing
his work for us. But not just, here’s the work that I’ve done for
anybody, but here’s the work that I think is applicable to the work that
you guys do. And here’s some words that I think matter. And I know
you guys appreciate good writing so I’m going to take the time to write
something well. And that really had a huge impact on us. And everybody
who does that really has a big impact on us. We get a few hundred
resumes every time we post a job, you know. And there’s only a handful
of people who really go the extra mile and it’s sad. I think you know,
it’s not that hard probably to get a great job if you make an effort.
But if you just kind of blast out resumes and blast out generic cover
letters, forget it. You’re not going to get a great job.
Question: What’s the role of higher education in the new economy?
Jason Fried: We
don’t care about higher education. Don’t care about formal education.
I think maybe... I think, I don’t remember the stats, but it might be
like 40% of the company never graduated college. Things like that.
Some people went, some people didn’t go. I don’t care about that. It
doesn’t say anything to me. I actually like when people drop out
because if they drop out and follow their passion, I love that. Like
some guys are programmers – I don’t want to be at school for four years
because I can’t program at school. I can program for a company and I
can learn more in those two years that I would have gone to school and I
can program instead. So I’m far more interested in real world
experience and doing things and building stuff instead of theoretical
stuff, which I think is taught in most schools. I also find in people
who come out of school are a bit behind, actually on what’s really going
on out there compared to people who have just been in the field for a
while. So I just think experience is far more valuable to us than your
GPA or where you went to school.
Question: Are there generational trends you see when hiring?
Jason Fried: Everyone
we hire we make sure that they’re just good people. If someone
feels... if there’s an entitlement complex, I’m not interested, you
know, if people feel like they’re owed something, forget it, you can go
away. So if there’s any of that, we just dismiss it offhand and they’re
not... but I haven’t really seen a whole lot of that. So, but again, I
haven’t really had a lot of experience. I think someone who maybe
hires a hundred people a year probably has a much better perspective on
it than I do, but, you know, our youngest employee now is 21 and he’s
just awesome. Completely dedicated, great mind, great hard worker, I
don’t see any sort of different between like his generation and someone
who's 30, you know. Saying well the young guys these days, they don’t
do anything. It’s not like that at all. I see a lot of drive and, you
know, the other thing is, people just are just ahead today. I mean
people; someone who's 21 today is so much further ahead than somebody
who was 21, 10 years ago. And I think that’s great.
Recorded on July 22, 2010
Interviewed by Peter Hopkins