Hiring is probably my favorite way to spend my time professionally. The act of sourcing, selling, and securing talent is a great reminder of why you do what you do; you have to articulate your mission, highlight your strategy, align everyone’s abilities, and achieve multi-party buy-in over the course of a hire. There are tons of tips around recruiting best practices and hiring manager expectations I’ll share in future posts, but today I wanted to highlight a term I keep in my back pocket when evaluating people: exponential hires.
It’s a concept I got from my first boss at Twitter, at a time when we were scaling rapidly (people, technology, process). We understood that we were hiring not just for specific roles, but in anticipation of the org needing to operate with 10x more complexity. As a reference point, the company was 500 people when I signed my offer and 700 when I started a couple of months later.
Not every hire needs to fit this label, but certain situations warrant it. So when does it make sense to bring in exponential hires versus just qualified folks?
First Hire as a Newbie - when you first start at a new company as a manager (or transition from individual contributor to manager at your existing company), one of your biggest moves is the talent you bring along
Team Bootstrap / Buildout - when you’re creating a net-new team, the person that gets things rolling has a huge hand in establishing the norms of the group
Office Expansion / Site Lead - when you’re expanding to a new locale, the site leader has to have the ability to both attract talent and craft culture
But what are the traits of an exponential hire? Here are some recurring characteristics:
Talent Magnet - people gravitate towards this person or their career choices, and this shows up in # of referrals, new sourcing channels, more pipeline diversity
Change Agent - this tends to be clearer in hindsight, but with some hires you can point to their arrival as the point of pivot (e.g. reliability stops being an issue)
Brand Booster - you can establish your company as a player in whatever function (sales, product, engineering, design) by getting an industry expert via this hire
Bar Raiser - when you bring in certain talent you almost reset what you expect going forward in a manager / leader because of their aptitude on that dimension
Ambition Creator - your company’s appetite to tackle bigger bets goes up thanks to this person, likely because they have a track record of breaking asymptotes
I’d love to hear from readers on how they identify exponential hires - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
a great HBR analysis on how talent strategy is a competitive advantage
Amazon has codified it’s talent strategy via it’s bar raiser program
this essay offers some frameworks to answer “what’s going on here, with this human?”
childish drawing / interpretation