Large companies make one big mistake when hiring

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Democracy beats consensus every time, but most large companies go with consensus. I mean, most large companies will have many people interview a possible hire, and the company will give veto power to every person who participates in the interview process. If you know anything about politics or human interactions, you know that consensus is a good way to destroy group productivity. Consensus destroyed Poland back in the 1700s and consensus can destroy your company as well. Consensus means one person having a bad day can cause your company to lose a fantastic new employee, and consensus will give you erratic, crazy results from hiring. It is much better to take a democratic approach and let the majority decide. I’m guessing that a lot of tech companies have an approach where each person who interviews a potential new employee is given veto power.

I just went through the interview process with a bunch of big software companies in the Seattle area and I only received one job offer. I’m generalizing here, but I think that if I’m qualified to work for Microsoft, I’m probably qualified to work just about anywhere. For all but 2 companies, I didn’t make it past the phone screens.

To me, this says that something is wrong with the interview process. Companies shouldn’t be turning qualified candidates. I understand why they do, but to me it seems like a waste, and pretty unfair for lots of people trying to get a job. Getting turned down for a job you aren’t qualified for is one thing, but getting turned down because it was snowing the day of your interview is pretty crushing.

So what can be done about it? There are constantly great articles about different interviewing/hiring techniques. My personal favorite is contracting someone to do a small job for the company. That way they’re really invested in it (because you’re paying them) and you get to see how the person works first hand. A novel technique like that doesn’t necessarily scale too well though. How can a company like Microsoft that hires hundreds of people a week do better? (They hired me, so clearly they can’t)

I think the number one thing companies can do is calm down a bit and let the interviewee impress you. So many of the interviews I had were strictly technical. There was a little room for questions at the end, but never a time where I felt I could really show off the things I’m good at. They seemed to care more about whether I could come up with complex algorithms on the spot instead of things that I’ve actually done.

I didn’t get to talk about the iPhone app I built for the national restaurant chain, or the website I helped build with over 30,000 signups, or the developer blog I helped start at my old company. Sure, they saw it on my resume, but they never got to hear the details that made each of those things great. I feel like there are so many reasons to hire me, and it was hard to bring many of them up in a lot of the interviews that I had. The job I got? That was the one where I talked about my experience the most with the interviewer.

Hopefully I’m not coming off as bitter about not getting more job offers. I’m really not. I understand that I made mistakes and they can’t hire everyone. I just want companies to stop thinking that the talent isn’t out there, because it is. They just need to work a little bit differently to find it.

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