Process Makes Perfect: The Nylas Playbook for Hiring Awesome Engineers

Improve your hiring game with these 3 tips.

We’re hiring! It’s a common refrain at any meetup or conference these days. But how can you be sure an engineer has the skills your team needs both now and for the future? How do you assess cultural fit? And how do you make the interview process fantastic for your team and each candidate? These are all questions we’ve been considering at Nylas.

As a rapidly growing startup, our team wasn’t sourcing the well-rounded and diverse candidate pool that reflected our values.

As a way of coming up with a solution, we created our own hiring playbook. It’s an iterative process, but we wanted to share some of our insights in hopes that they help other tech leaders hire great talent.

Playbook Strategy #1: Identify What Makes Your Company Unique

Find your company’s unique value to candidates and broadcast it so that they understand the culture around your company before they apply.

As a team, we knew we needed to find a way to distinguish ourselves from other startups looking for world-class engineers.

But how and what makes us different?

We put our heads together to come up with a plan to communicate the story and character of our company. We discovered an awesome website called Keyvalues which flips the traditional company hiring page pitch from what we do to who we are. We thought about what values define us and came up with a set of ideals:

 

  • Engineering-driven: Our engineering goals drive other company objectives
  • Work/life balance: We respect your life outside of work
  • Customers come first: Our developer success engineers build the bridge between our customer and product
  • Open communication: We have weekly all-hands meetings to keep the entire company aligned
  • Actively practice inclusion: We provide tools and training to ensure that our processes are collaborative
  • Start-to-finish ownership: We have an open, autonomous structure and everyone is a full-stack engineer
  • Open source contributor: Our team contributes to open source projects like Debian, mypy and others. We are also active members and present at conferences like Pycon and Pybay, and other local meetups
  • Community: We like to break bread together both over our daily catered lunches, and for post-work dinners

We also open-sourced our employee handbook earlier this year so that anyone can see our company policies. This helps us answer a lot of common questions about leave, benefits, remote work, and more. We worked very hard on our benefits package, and highlighted the elements that we pride ourselves on, such as our caregiver leave policy which grants both parents with paid time off and includes care-giving time for the elderly.

After having both of these efforts visible for a couple of months we’ve heard from multiple candidates that they were able to understand our culture before ever stepping in the door. This has been great, as it lets us focus our on-sites on deeper discussions. We knew that we were onto something with these changes, and these transparency efforts became the first part our playbook.

Playbook Strategy #2: Diversify Your Pool of Candidates

Implement ways to infuse diversity and inclusion into your company ecosystem and create partnerships with underrepresented organizations that you support.

Our efforts on transparency served as a very important foundational step towards meeting our goals, but it’s only one piece of establishing the kind of company we want to be. All throughout the software engineering world we’ve seen discussions about the lack of diversity on engineering teams. We wanted to come up with a way to ensure that we were doing our part to help bridge the divide.

Our VP of Engineering, Tomasz Finc, was a mentor for Code2040 last summer and had such a impactful experience that we’ve partnered with them for our summer intern program. Code2040 is leading the way in supporting more black and latinx students in engineering and were thankful to have our first intern this summer.

We’ve also been working with HackBright Academy to support more women in engineering. HackBright is the leading SF Bay Area company engineering school for women and we’re excited to grow our company with their support. There is still a lot more work that has to be done to better equalize the engineering world but we are very proud to work directly with like-minded organizations to move it forward.

We now actively have a practice of discussing ways to give rise to supporting more underrepresented candidate pools. As part of our playbook, we implemented a recurring cross- company hiring bias meeting in which we each take part in ensuring we are doing all we can do to integrate these groups into our hiring efforts. 

Playbook Strategy #3: Nail The Interview Experience By Collecting Feedback

Collect feedback about your interview process from every candidate and when reviewing a potential new hire, create a standardized process in order to minimize bias.

Once we invite an applicant for to interview with us on-site, it’s really important that we create an experience that makes them comfortable and allows them to best showcase their skills. Each of our interviews uses a standard set of questions that are judged using a rubric to minimize bias. We focus on how a candidate aligns with our company values. We strive to keep our interview loops as diverse as possible and incorporate departments outside of engineering to participate. Our process also consists of each interviewer providing feedback in an individualized way through Lever before reviewing any other thoughts about a candidate from other interviewers. After this process, all of the feedback is discussed together.

At the end of each interview we make sure to send out a survey to better understand how we could improve our interview process. This part of our playbook has generated an abundance of observations for us to implement for the next interview round, allowing us to get better with the process each time we go through it. We hope to continue to grow and learn from all of these efforts.

Happy hiring!

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Interested in Becoming a Nylanaut?

At Nylas, we empower our employees to reach their full potential. We believe that one of the main inspirations of being at a startup is charting your own destiny. We love meeting creative people who are looking for new challenges! We’re hiring for our NYC and SF offices; you can check out our current openings here and get in touch by emailing!

 

Co-Authored by Tomasz Finc and Serena Malkani 

About Author

Tomasz Finc

Tomasz is the VP of Engineering at Nylas. He previously worked at Wikimedia and Amazon building agile teams and products. He studied at Berkeley and is often found chasing around his daughter.

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