More Hiring Tips for Founders

Hiring is one of the most important tasks a founder can do. In an earlier post, Hiring for General Ability versus Specific Skills, we took a look at Jason Portnoy’s (PayPal employee #34) views on hiring.

In this post, we’ll look at thoughts on hiring from Jim Simons and Rory Sutherland.

Jim Simons, founder of the storied hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, gave some insight into his process during an interview with Nils A. Baas and Nicolai Tangen earlier this year. Jim says prospective employees were put through the paces — they’d be asked to solve problems right on the board. But Jim isn’t sold on this method. Once in a while he overrode the hiring managers. In one case the hiring managers told Jim the candidate was too slow. This particular candidate had just received a PhD from Harvard, and Jim happened to like him. So, Jim called the candidate’s PhD advisor and asked about the candidate. The advisor informed Jim the candidate was terrific and happened to solve the hardest problem the advisor had. The candidate worked out well for the company. “How fast you are on your feet is not necessarily an indication of how well you do, or how smart you are,” said Jim.

In an article for Spector UK, Ogilvy Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland says if you want more diversity on your team, you should hire in groups. In his example, when you buy a single house you set specific parameters. But if your budget is doubled and you’re asked to buy two houses, your criteria is different. Your whole pattern of decision-making changes. No one buys two identical houses, or for that matter, four identical cars. Yet when it comes to hiring, we seem not to understand this. We choose the safe, default option.

Rory says the potential exists to increase the level of diversity in employment if you hire people in batches. And this makes sense when combined with Jason’s preference for general ability, particularly when it comes to startups.



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