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8 things to look for in your next hire instead of 10x engineers

Some weeks ago there was a thread about the kind of engineersa startup should be going after. The thread both praised and unintentionally stereotyped toxic tech-bros. It got a big reaction myself included. I tweeted out of a heated disagreement, and ended up with a lengthy (by my average) thread.

But twitter is by its own nature impermanent, so following @happywebcoder's suggestion, here you have my not-so-hot-take on what to look for instead of a 10x engineer, minus some of the typos that twitter will keep forever.

  • Hire someone that sees the value of calling a meeting they won't enjoy to make sure they are building the right thing a bit later, instead of the wrong thing right away

  • Hire someone who works reasonable hours, and then goes home to do other stuff, and sets a healthy example for less experienced colleagues

  • Hire someone who can make four interns twice as productive by looking away from code long enough to help them gain autonomy, mastery and purpose and improve the onboarding process for the ones coming after them

  • Hire someone that praises individual accomplishments of every team member under their guidance but owns team failures creating the psichological safety that science suggests is the keystone of most productive teams

  • Hire someone that can write great quality code for the business core and hacky patches for an unexpected demo, and knows by relating with product and marketing enough, when time-to-market is more valuable to the company than pristine design patterns

  • Hire someone that listens to people with different points of view, and humble enough to change their mind, or to execute wholeheartedly on someone else's vision because helping the team is higher in their list than "being right"

  • Hire someone ready to learn and maintain a technology they don't like because sometimes trends fall out of fashion long before the usefulness of the components that were written with them

  • Hire someone that understands that their skillset is a small piece in a complex endeavor, and values every sales, marketing, support, accounting, and cleaning staff as equals, partners and essential contributors despite/specially because of the otherness of their crafts

What do you think? Do you agree? What are the things you look for in a new hire?

Top comments (11)

jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

It's almost like 10x engineers are actually the engineers that empower those around them...

Great list and good advice for hiring managers.

Personally, I think it's important to hire for personality, aptitude, and culture addition -- technologies and methodologies can be taught much more easily.

devnodachi profile image
Antonio Garcia • Edited

I really like your way of thinking, most of the hiring managers that I encounter want me to build an algorithm that doesn't make any sense, it isn't a way to test if someone is suitable for the job.

As I always say, the attitude and the perseverance is more important than having a Award from being the best in certain technology.

You can learn a new technology everyday, or a new algorithm that the team needs to solve a problem. But if you're actually a lonely soul that loves to work alone, and barely talks with the other members in the team, and doing everything thinking that's the way that things should be done... What's the point of knowing the implementation of the Huffman Algorithm? (for example) It doesn't change anything.

I'm doing my internship, and my tutor literally didn't let me code until the end. I learned a lot of things, that you need to do in order to make your code better. Since you need to analyse, design a lot of things before even touching the code. Until that it's done, it's time to code.

varley_o profile image
Owen V

Really great set of tips Oinak, thanks for sharing. I think the tips about taking the time to properly invest in your interns and junior Devs is really important. That and hiring people that understand the need to work sensible hours!

I think one of the things I put near the top of my list is people that aren't afraid to admit their mistakes and to share them with the team. It shows great maturity but also humility which I think is really important.

turnerj profile image
James Turner

Great list! Yeah, that original Twitter thread was a master class of how to be sarcastic in a way that nobody understands or, how I actually see it, just a terrible example of what a great developer should be.

I wrote an article about this myself though I like how your examples are from the perspective of looking for a new hire. In particular, this example:

Hire someone that sees the value of calling a meeting they won't enjoy to make sure they are building the right thing a bit later, instead of the wrong thing right away

I've been in many bad meetings but meetings/discussions/etc aren't inherently bad. Having a stigma that all meetings are bad and avoiding them definitely can trip up a team where real decisions need to be made.

Overall, a great list of things to look for in a new hire!

lennertvansever profile image
Lennert Van Sever

Knowing what to look for is only a part of the answer, what do you think are the techniques to identify these qualities during the hiring process?

Thanks for the post whatsoever

oinak profile image

For once: is not balancing a binary tree on a whiteboard.

I tend to ask about past experiences and learnings, and pay special attention to how they talk about colleagues, about the parts of the work they like and specially dislike.

I ask 'polemic' technical questions and look for compromise and compassion about other people's choices or constraints in the answers.

I ask devs about (disagreements with) designers, product owners, qa's or bosses and see how do they describe trying to get themselves on others' shoes.

And I ask every candidate what question I am missing because that tells a lot about them and gives me better questions along time.

I hope this helps you or others, also, I am curious abouthow do other people (agreeing with the profile I try to describe) interview for it.

hassan_schroeder profile image
Hassan Schroeder

I ask what they do to keep current on changes in the tech they're familiar with/using, what they want to learn next, what kind of side projects (if any) they're working on...

Self-motivated continuous learning is essential in this business, and not having good answers to the above is definitely a negative for me.

napoleon039 profile image
Nihar Raote

This is a great list of the values to look for in an engineer. Along with using this to hire a great developer, this can also be used as a standard for good teammates.

arthyn profile image
Hunter Miller

This is so important, glad to see more people talking about it πŸ˜„

sarafian profile image
Alex Sarafian

I look for potential which kind of contains most of the above. I like the balance of life bullet though. Very thoughtful.