Once you become an engineering manager, at some point you will participate in hiring new people, directly or indirectly. During the “Engineering Management Talks with Plato” event, Luc Vincent, VP of Engineering at Lyft, shared his approach to building out a team in his presentation, “How to hire hundreds of engineers in one of the most competitive markets in the world.” Luc previously worked at Google for almost 12 years. He shared his experience with hiring people for engineering and engineering management roles.
Who should you hire?
The first question that comes to mind is who you want to hire. Luc was straight to the point: Hire senior people at the beginning, because they will help you to grow your organization exponentially. You don’t want to hire recent college graduates for these types of roles, but instead recruit established, successful, tenured engineers via LinkedIn and other job boards. In the process, it’s crucial to have positive, trusting relationships with your recruiters, and make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of candidate qualifications, job descriptions and expectations, etc.
Hiring people you have already worked before is another way to go. You already know them and what they can do, have rapport and trust with them, and have a previous working relationship, so you don’t need to wait three or six months to develop a solid working relationship — you can delegate the job right away. Luc mentioned that many companies will have new hires sign an agreement stating they will not try to recruit former coworkers for a year.
How do you attract the right people?
Once you know whom you want to hire, the next question is how to attract the right people. The best way to do that is to improve your storytelling skills so you can present the best possible story of your company and the team you’re trying to build during interviews. Another way to attract the right people is to sponsor local events for various engineering leaders. Not only will you be gathering top talent in one room and telling your story, it’s also a great opportunity to share best practices.
Employee location — is it important?
There is one more important thing to consider: location. While Luc prefers to have people at company headquarters, he also admits that when a company starts to scale as quickly as Lyft (300% yearly), eventually it’ll have to open new offices at various locations or hire remote workers. You need to know how to organize those offices and give each one a separate identity. Another thing to think about is different time zones. Luc shared an example of a company that hired the best people, anywhere and everywhere all over the world. The company would then interview potential employees through Slack, and if potential employees can do an interview and work with company through Slack they continue the collaboration. That being said, there are many different approaches a company can take.
How to keep people once you hire them
In engineering management, employee fluctuation is quite common. Additionally, as a company grows, tenured employees might feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable with all the changes — they don’t recognize the company anymore. When people are excited to work with you and believe in the company, they stay. It’s not about the money or the perks; it’s about believing in the company and the product. This is where storytelling comes in — to connect people to your company, team building, and growth prospects.
What’s more important: passing coding tests or having a good attitude?
In Luc’s opinion, if you’re a software engineer, you need to know how to code, and therefore should easily be able to pass the test. A person’s attitude, on the other hand, is a different story — he worries about developer divas, who may be great engineers, but have a terrible attitude, which leaves a negative impact on the team and organization long term.
During the hiring process, interviewers will often have varying opinions on a candidate’s likability. Luc mentioned an interesting fact about interviewing that the hiring team realized when he worked at Google — there’s not much difference in decision-making when there are six interviewers instead of four. So they whittled the hiring team down to just four interviewers. In Luc’s experience, there will usually be three interviewers who give the thumbs up for a candidate, and one who gives a thumbs down. That helps you make a decision when choosing a candidate.
To summarize, hire senior talent first, grow your network, expand your company to other locations if you can, and, last but not least, become a great storyteller.
Check out the video of Luc’s presentation below, and be sure to visit our YouTube channel to see the rest of the videos from the event.