The Internet isn't very good at keeping secrets, and anyone who believes otherwise deserves most of what they get.
Hiring processes are no exception: no matter how jealously a company guards its hiring "secrets," they'll inevitably leak—and invariably, they'll turn out to be the same "secrets" as at dozens of other companies. Candidates, employees, and alumni talk. And like so many things in life, the ideas they share matter far less than how they're executed.
To save everyone some trouble, we've open-sourced Koan's hiring manual. By sharing the playbooks we use for everything from position descriptions to reference checks, our goals are to:
- give candidates transparency into our hiring process
- create intention (and keep ourselves accountable)
- create boilerplate for others to use
The goals always come first at Koan, so there you are.
Hiring is broken (but we can make it better)
Anyone who's stepped up to a whiteboard has seen a broken interview process firsthand. On-the-spot exercises with little bearing on the job at hand aren't even the worst offenders. Not in an industry whose horror stories include:
- late or absent interviewers
- uncompensated work
- openly hostile interview environments
- subjective assessments
- rescinded offers
If these sound like failings in basic human decency, we're right there with you. This isn't hard stuff. Check those basic boxes, though, and you'll still run into the parts of hiring that are intrinsically hard. You won't be able to get the full picture of a future colleague in a matter of hours. You won't be able to put every candidate at ease. You won't eliminate every unconscious bias.
An intentional hiring process can make things better, though. And it should.
How we hire at Koan
We're a small but growing team. We've hired steadily as our revenue and funding have grown, following a pretty standard process. We create a new position based on existing roles and levels and find someone awesome to fill it. That means:
- creating the position
- sourcing candidates
- offers and diligence
At each stage, established metrics and scorecards assess candidate qualifications and determine whether we'll advance or pass on a candidate for the immediate opening.
There's one more step, though. After a candidate reaches the final interview stage—and regardless of whether we share an offer or decide to pass—we use a brief internal retrospective to tune and iterate on the process as a whole. This last part is critical. There's always an opportunity to improve, and revisiting and recalibrating the process while it's front of mind has helped us take advantage.
Through steady iteration, we've evolved a hiring process that's proven reasonably fair, clear, and easy to run. Which begs the question...
Why not share it?
A rising tide lifts all boats, and few tides have raised the tech industry like open source. Taking a leaf from our development playbook, releasing our hiring process is a way to share our own learning while hopefully saving others some trouble.
Not that there isn't something in it for us. Besides living up to our company value of bold transparency, an open employee handbook and hiring manual also empowers candidates, makes our process more intentional, and helps hold us to account.
We've always done our best to prepare candidates for what they should expect at each stage of our interview process. But with a hiring manual built around past experiences, candidates can spend as much (or as little) time as they like reading up on the details. When we bump into new questions or edge cases, we update the manual. Everyone benefits.
Opening up our hiring process has also forced us to approach it with more intent. Documented expectations make it easier (though not easy) to confront subjectivity and bias and to keep up our "SLAs" internally and with candidates. We ask every candidate—even those we don't end up hiring—who reaches an in-depth interview for feedback at the conclusion of the process, and we usually get it. It isn't unequivocally positive (though it's usually pretty good), and it's enormously helpful in uncovering our blind spots and adjusting the process for everyone that comes after.
Here it is: Koan's hiring manual. Borrow it, use it, adapt it to your team—and let us know how it goes! We're looking forward to hearing your experience, and we're toasting to more transparent, equitable hiring across the industry at large.
So no, we're not worried that we might be letting secrets slip. If there's one secret in hiring that actually matters, it's the people that run it. And given Koan's mission to help every team achieve their purpose, we've taken pride in gathering people at the table who consistently raised the bar.
If you're ready to build a better way for teams to work together, Koan is hiring. We'd love to hear from you—and maybe we can even share our interview process first-hand!