Some Rooster Park Updates

The post-Labor Day rush that we’ve seen two years in a row has kept us away from the blog, but we have a few positive updates:

  • We’ve made this year’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies in Washington. It’s our first year of eligibility, and it’s great to be with such esteemed company as our clients RealSelf and SEOmoz, plus some of the region’s other great consulting firms. We’ll have some updates on our final placement and some photos from the event in mid-October.
  • Founder/CEO/guy typing this Scott Ruthfield was named to this year’s Puget Sound’s 40 Under 40. The profile includes photos with (fake) livestock, insight into a potential evening career, and just a few embarrassing items and errors.
  • We’ve moved! We’re now at 901 Thomas Street, right in the heart of South Lake Union, in what used to be the Jones Soda Building. We’ve been there for a week now: we’ve set up an account at the Yellow Dot Cafe, we’re counting the number of previous Amazon colleagues we’re each running into on the sidewalks (I had two on Friday), and we’ll hold some sort of mini-shindig in our 1200sf once we’re no longer working on card tables and sawhorses. Meanwhile, feel free to visit anytime, unless you’re the guy walking Thomas Street spraying Windex on everyone you see.

More soon!

Creating a synchronous hiring process

I sent a mail to a client today that looked like this.

Here’s why.

One topic I always cover with potential new clients is “what does your interviewing process look like.” Here’s how this conversation often goes:

Client: “Send us the resume, I’ll send it to the hiring manager. If she likes it, we’ll schedule a phone screen. If that goes well, we’ll do another phone screen, and then bring him in for a set of interviews, usually with 3-4 people. Then we can make a decision.”
Me: “Great, that makes sense. How long does that take?”
Client: “Well, it depends.  The hiring manager’s really busy, so it can take her a few days to get back to me. Then I have to find a spot on an engineer’s calendar, then I need to review the feedback with him and sometimes the manager, then schedule a second one. Then our admin will help coordinate an interview day. I don’t really know.”

This is a common answer, an understandable answer, and a terrible answer. In engineer-speak, it’s taking something that’s time-critical enough to be synchronous and making it asynchronous. In human-speak,  it’s allowing all kinds of delays in a process where you lose if you are slow.

Your process needs to be fast, and making it fast means putting it all in sync. This includes things like

  • Expect fast turnaround from your managers. If recruiting is really Job #1 for your company right now, then the internal admin/HR/recruiter person should be able to walk up to the manager at any free moment, have her spend 90 seconds reading the resume, and then make a decision on next steps. Sitting in an inbox (or printed on a desk) is time wasted.
  • Every interviewer knows and can act on the next step in the process. Phone screen goes well, you want another one? Great. When you’re talking to the candidate, ask him his availability; jump on Outlook or Google Calendar, see the free/busy times for the engineer you want to schedule, and book the appointment while you’re on the phone. Boom, you just skipped another runaround and another few days’ worth of delay. You think the candidate is ready to be brought in to interview? Great, you’re empowered to find a day when talking to her and then get someone to actually schedule the right interviewers, and you can even book the conference room (the one with the whiteboard, close to the bathrooms). This means HR and mgmt needs to inform interviewers of the process and empower them to make the next decision (if it’s a positive one).
  • Set an SLA of <48 hrs between steps. There should be a reportable reason why the next step in the process takes more than 2d in every case. Try to keep it to 1. Look for ways around artificial constraints (the “right” interviewer is out of town? Can you find another one? etc.)
  • If you’re going to want something else, ask for it in advance. If you want a coding or test plan sample, ask the candidate to bring it with her on interview day. Have that ready for you.
  • Debrief always happen the day of interview. Scheduling an interview should always include scheduling the debrief (however your company does it), and it should always happen on the day of the interview, so that there’s a consistent practice. (There may be advantages to a day’s delay to allow folks to cogitate – I haven’t seen that be true in general – but let that be the exception, not the rule, and then schedule a second debrief – again, while you’re in the first one.)

Note that being fast and being thorough are not in conflict. You can have as many steps as you need, as long as you keep them close together. We’ve had two candidates join teams in the last month, both at companies with a four-step, ~8hr process, both which made it happen in four days. It’s the delays, not the steps, that kill momentum and lose candidates. (Ideas on evaluating your steps will come in a later post.)

Oh, and the email? The number of days from Step 1 to Step 4 for a candidate at one client. Does that seem like a large number? Check your own stats.

Rooster Park Celebrations!

As usual, Seattle summer started on July 5, and so we’ve had a few events this week to usher in a great summer.

On Wednesday, our staffing team (Mira, Stacy, Caroline, Melissa, Amy, and I) went for a boat ride in Lake Union. As you can see, we had a miserable time.


On Thursday, we invited all 45 of our consultants (and a few guests) for a happy hour at the Elysian in Sodo. Not everyone made it – some didn’t want to get on planes, some went to the wrong place, and one consultant’s wife is having a baby any moment now – but the ones who did come had a good time. Also, T-Shirts! Surprise. Didn’t get yours? Let us know. Who knows what they’ll be worth on eBay some day.


Thanks, as always, to our awesome team. Here’s to a great summer and an excellent year ahead!

The P’s of Onboarding a Recruiter

A while back, I wrote about how to set up your recruiter for success. Recently we’ve  put together an outline on what we need to know when we bring on a new client, and I figured it was useful enough that I’d share it. I think this works for both new in-house recruiters (for very small companies) or third parties, though it’s certainly targeted at the latter.

I call it the 4 P’s, mostly to be clever. This post applies to both recruiters and companies, since as an employer, you want to make sure your recruiters have what they need.

Continue reading The P’s of Onboarding a Recruiter

The Middle of the Aloofness Spectrum

Real Story #1: John goes in and interviews for a C++ job he really wants. Knocks it out of the park technically, environment feels good, he walks away saying I’ll be shocked if I don’t get an offer. Client calls and says “John spent a lot of time talking about his other offers and about salary – he really didn’t ask about the work at all and we couldn’t tell if he wanted to be here.”

Real Story #2: Mark interviews for a Rails developer job at an entrepreneurial, family-friendly company. Technicals go great, Mark thinks an offer will be coming soon. Client calls and says “Mark was too excited and it made us nervous. Said this was the best interview he’s ever had, kept talking about how much he loved the culture, we don’t know why he wants it so badly.”

(BTW, in those two stories, the second one is usually salvageable, the first one is not.)

These are two sides of the aloofness spectrum – how much do you want to let an interviewing company know that you want the job, or how hard-to-get do you want to play?

The real goal, of course, is to come somewhere in the middle – confident, respectful, and genuine. Let’s dig in a bit.

  • Keep your comparisons to yourself. Both John and Mark above explicitly compared this interview/hiring process to another one with the interviewers. No good comes of this: filter it out when you’re talking, unless you’re explicitly asked a question.
  • Show interest in what the team is doing. I’m assuming this is a company you want to work at, and so you should be interested in it – don’t fake it. (If you are faking it, danger, go find something else to do.) If it is, make sure they know it. The engineers should be excited about their work – they want you to be excited too, so you can be part of the secret club and can help them recruit others in. Passion is always a plus.
  • Other options? Pick the right time and place to talk about it. If the company has an HR person (or you’re working with an external recruiter), that’s the person who needs to know about your other options, your salary requirements, etc. (Even if you are working with an external recruiter, tell the HR person anyway, because external folks forget to pass that info along.)The other engineers don’t need to know – the manager might. Also, this is a sentence or two, just one time: “I’m just letting you know I have another offer, where they’ve asked for a response by Wednesday.”  You’re setting yourself up for the right followup without dwelling or pushing.
  • Manage the squee. It’s great to be excited, and you should be energized by the opportunity. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by our own excitement and that filter goes away. Interviewing is dating, and you don’t want to scare them off with overexuberance.

That’s it. Be genuine, but stay within some guardrails, and you should walk away with more personal credibility than you had when you began.

Announcing Rooster Park Office Hours

Job searching (and the decision to think about job searching), both for contract and full-time work, is stressful, even for the most coveted candidates:

Hiring is also tricky, especially for startups without a history – how you target candidates, how you evaluate candidates for engineering and culture fit, etc.

We try to be helpful on an ad-hoc basis – we’ve helped at least two people get the jobs they wanted this year in a completely behind-the-scenes way, and helped another company redo their CTO search, which they’re now doing with another company – but we’d like to do more.

Starting next week (5/23), we’re holding open office hours on Wednesdays. Most of our meetings these days are with candidates and companies in South Lake Union, Downtown, and Pioneer Square, so we’re going to switch between two locations:

This office hours are open to both candidates and companies, completely confidential, and completely free (of money and obligation).

  • Candidates and companies: we’re happy to advise on both your own strategy finding a job, or on how you should find great candidates for your own team – including messaging, job descriptions, etc.
  • Confidentiality: we won’t share anything you tell us with anyone else, including your managers. Obviously if you’re concerned about being in a public place, we can try to meet somewhere else afterwards, but trust me – we meet people all the time in these places, and nobody knows why you’re there. We don’t have horns.
  • Free: no obligation to talk to us ever again, no salesman will visit you, your email address will not end up on a newsletter list forever (we don’t have one anyway), etc. This goes for both clients and companies. If you want to hear about our jobs and services, we’re happy to tell you about them, but we won’t lead or pitch you.

We’re doing this because a healthy hiring ecosystem benefits us: we see a lot of folks who struggle with these things, and if we do a good job, you’ll probably tell people. That’s worked for us before.

The only thing we ask is that if you think you’re going to stop by, please email us at officehours at roosterpark dot com and let us know, so we know to look for you.

We’re looking forward to meeting more people and being as helpful as we can. Hope to see you soon!

Handling rejection

A few weeks back, we had a candidate interview onsite with a client. It didn’t end well. Some quotations from a mail we received the following day, errors left intact:

I was exposed to a couple of rank amateurs with an agenda.

If you wanted a code monkey, you should have advertised that fact and not waste my time.

I am not amused by seeing dogs running around in a business setting. It’s unprofessional and quite infantile. Indeed, the  the idom “The Country is going to the dogs” has become more than a metaphor.

Continue reading Handling rejection

Investing in 500 Startups. Boom!

I met Dave McClure at Gnomedex 2007, where we argued over the future prospects for Spock, had sushi at Shiro’s (and saw Juliet from Lost), and otherwise enjoyed ourselves. (That’s also where I learned Dave Schappell knew everybody, and met probably ten other entrepreneurs in Seattle who I still talk with semi-regularly – no single conference has ever had so great an impact on my career.)

Continue reading Investing in 500 Startups. Boom!

Our commitment to investing in startups

Our success is inextricably tied to the success of the technology community, and in particular to the opportunities being created by new startups. While a slim majority of our revenue comes from Fortune 500 companies, those companies invest and acquire startups for talent or technology, are part of a healthy ecosystem, and individuals from those companies occasionally ask our thoughts on the people or potential making up those startups. Much of our revenue does come from small and medium-sized companies, and we’re well aware of their careful need to manage their spend on a weekly and monthly basis. We also spend a fair amount of time either supporting entrepreneurial events or just providing free advice on recruiting (both for employers and employees).

That stuff’s all good, but I wanted us to do something more directly beneficial to the community, so we have a new plan. Starting with 2011’s results, we’ll be investing at least 10% of our net income in technology startups. That is, >=10% of our income that we make in a year will be invested either directly in individual startups (as angel investments) or in angel or venture funds. We’ve already committed the 2011 investment: I’ll write about that in the next few days.

Continue reading Our commitment to investing in startups

Tell Us What You Make!

There’s a common conversation on Hacker News and the like about whether you should tell a recruiter what you’re paid. We ask this of virtually every candidate at the end of our first phone call with him/her: not at the beginning (so it doesn’t seem we’re just on the phone for a transaction). We try to ask it in a way that’s not aggressive, but where the question and the reason is clear: something like “just so that I can make sure that we’re in range for this position, can you let me know what you’re making today and what you hope to make?”
Continue reading Tell Us What You Make!