KPCB 12-200 Engineering Meet-Up: Recruiting Done Right (Part 2 of 4)

Note: This column and the associated video clips are from a panel at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB)’s 12-200 Engineering Meet-Up on October 24, 2013. At the event, Mike Abbott, Partner at KPCB, Matt Rogers, Founder and VP of Engineering at Nest Labs, Eric Feng, CTO at Flipboard and Abhi Khune, Engineering Manager – Infrastructure at Pinterest, discussed best practices and lessons learned in scaling technology platforms, recruiting top talent, and more. This is the second post of a four-part series.

Clip 3: Why You Need an Internal Recruiter – and Why You Need to Drink More Beer

If you want to be an effective recruiter, it helps if you like to drink beer.

That’s just of the insights that cropped up during a recent panel about engineer recruiting techniques hosted by KPCB general partner Mike Abbott in San Francisco. Participants included Abhi Khune, Engineering Manager of infrastructure at Pinterest; Flipboard CTO (and Kleiner alum) Eric Feng; and Nest founder and engineering VP Matt Rogers. Abbott himself played that role when he ran the engineering team at Twitter.

Rogers, risking the wrath of recruiting firms everywhere, advised startup execs to hire internal recruiters and shun external recruiting firms. A great recruiter, he says, is “worth their weight in gold.” Feng finds great utility from online recruitment tools like LinkedIn, which have a vast pool of candidates.

Feng also advises having founders and execs make the initial outreach, rather than recruiters themselves. Furthermore, Rogers adds that rather than ask people to come into the office for an interview, he likes to ask people to go out for beers. “It works every time,” he says.

Clip 4: Should You Hire Other Firms’ Engineering Rejects?

When searching for engineers, should you hire people others don’t want? Should you be taking big risks – for potentially high returns?

Rogers’ view is clear: you don’t make risky hires. Firing people is too disruptive, so don’t go out on a limb with key hires. According to Feng, when he was at Hulu they found that candidates with some of the best academic records did not always make the best engineers. His view: you need to figure out the things that map to success at your company.

Clip 5: Be a Culture Vulture: Figuring Out Who Fits In

The key to successful hiring goes beyond just finding people with the right technical skills, you also need to figure out whether people will be a good fit with your company’s culture.

Rogers says that assessing cultural fit is not the job of everyone who interviews job candidates. He likes to do it himself, keeping his radar up for big egos and BS artists. “You have to trust your emotional gut,” he says.

Khune adds that one good test he uses is to ask candidates why they chose to work at their previous company. “It tells you how they think,” he says.