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Ask the Head of Technology – What do you look for when hiring?

At Plastiq today, we are hiring for a lot of Engineering roles. At various prior companies I’ve been involved in the hiring and onboarding process for 100s of Engineers. As I’ve grown in my career and gained more experience, I’ve actually simplified my hiring philosophy down to 3 key questions that I ask myself (or the hiring manager on my team) when we are deciding whether or not to issue an offer to a candidate:

  1. 1. Can they do the job? (Skill-set)
  2. 2. Will they do the job? (Motivation)
  3. 3. Will they fit with the team? (Values)

Can they do the job? (Skill-set)

This is often where Engineers interviewing potential hires focus their attention. Don’t get me wrong, technical skills assessment is important. One qualifier I put on assessing candidates technical skills is the rule that we should not expect a candidate to have 100% of the technical skills needed to do the job. Why you might ask? My perspective is that if they have all the skills already, what is in it for them if they join us? If they are going to take the risk to leave their current job, they should have some learning opportunities available to them. Instead I look for candidates that have ~80% of the technical skills needed to do the job and the demonstrated aptitude to pick up the other 20%.

In our Engineering Interview Process, we use steps like the pair-programming interview and group interview to assess the technical skills required – whether that be coding skills (in the pair-programming interview) or technical design skills (in the group interview).

Will they do the job? (Motivation)

This quality is extremely key for us at Plastiq. We are a small (but fast-growing) startup. We purposely don’t have pages and pages of defined processes (we don’t create them till we need them), we don’t have a lot of structure (we create it as we need it). As a startup we are going to face a lot of challenges along our growth path. We are going to get knocked down sometimes. To thrive at a startup, you’ve got to have resilience and be able to move fast with greater resolve when you are working against the odds. To do that, you’ve got to be motivated by the company mission. Without that drive, it will be very hard to succeed. That drive and motivation often makes a big difference in success in a role.

Throughout our Engineering Interview Process, we try to gauge this – everything from a candidate’s interest in joining Plastiq (many of our best candidates looked up information on us and came in with really good questions about our product direction, business model etc.) to their eagerness to join a startup and run at the pace we want to run at.

Will they fit with the team? (Values)

In our¬†Engineering Interview Process, particularly in our group interview, we look to gauge “what would it be like if this person was on our team?”. Crucially, we do not look for people that look like our current team – looking for “people that fit” does not mean “people like us”. We are fortunate to have a team that is diverse in multiple respects – ethnicity, gender, experience level, education background etc. Our engineering team members have joined us with varied experience levels ranging from 0 years to 20+ years. Our team members have come from all over the world – over half of our team grew up outside the United States. Our educational backgrounds span from Accounting (one of our engineers is a Certified Management Accountant!) to Design to Engineering Physics to Computer Science.¬† Diversity of experience is incredibly valuable to us as it brings diverse viewpoints that help us create the best technology solutions. The unique differences that come from different cultural, gender, and ethnic backgrounds create a rich environment with many perspectives.


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