A few years back I interviewed for a product role with an event management company. The beginning of the process was typical – I visited their local office for three hours of initial interviews, followed by another three hours of virtual interviews with their San Francisco office.
At that point, the fit was a maybe on both sides. And if it’s a maybe after 10 hours of interviews and preparation, that means it’s a no.
Instead of either of us calling it what it was, the company requested that I complete a four-hour homework assignment to gather just a bit more information. The circus continued with dozens of texts, emails, calls, and another on-site interview. And finally, I was extended an offer.
While I should have drawn the line before the homework assignment, the indecision on their part gave me a more accurate understanding of their product development approach.
How you hire reflects how you build
How you hire your product team reflects how you build product. Slow, timid, and scavenging for just one more piece of information? Or knowing what’s critical, pushing forward, and making the best decision based on the available information?
There’s always going to be uncertainty and risk involved in hiring, just as there is in building product. But it’s the amateur product teams who spend weeks agonizing over decisions, failing to account for the value of time.
During interviews, if you experience tactics intended to stall or an exaggerated struggle to make decisions, there’s no reason you should expect anything different in how the product team operates.
I turned down the offer, despite the sunk cost, because of the worrisome parallels. You can tell a lot about product leadership based on the quality of communication and the speed of decisions.
This was one of the determining factors I used to evaluate my current position. It was a no bullshit interview process – the best I’ve ever been a part of. And the hiring process on our product team has proven to be an accurate reflection of our approach to product development.
What does your hiring process say about you?
Consider what your hiring process says about you and your team. If you’re drawing out your interviews for weeks, you’re likely asking the wrong questions or afraid to call a “maybe” what it is, a no. Instead, determine what you’re looking for, move quickly, and operate with conviction (strong opinions, loosely held).
For a better starting place, seek out high-integrity, curious people who add diversity of thought to your existing team. Questions should be geared around this, as well as some combination of analytical skills, creativity, cross-functional experience, and leadership.
And when you’re on the other side of the interview, consider the product, culture, and growth. But don’t give a free pass on the hiring process. If you look close enough, you’ll catch a glimpse of how the product is actually being built.
The best product teams know what they’re working towards – in both their day-to-day and hiring. They’re able to identify what matters, push things forward, and make quality decisions based on the available information. Seek out, and aspire to build, product teams who demonstrate this in every aspect of their work.
*This article was originally featured on Mind the Product