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Invest enough time to pick winners

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

Invest in winnersHiring managers need to recruit with care. But when you’re running a startup with global ambitions, every hiring decision can make or break the company.

In 2008, Brian Chesky co-founded Airbnb with Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. They identified 10 traits they sought in their employees (such as “hard-working Olympic animal” and “builds family spirit”).

Now they needed to interview engineers who could power the company’s growth.

They selected Joe Zadeh, a bioengineering Ph.D. from Caltech, as their third engineer in 2010. (He’s now an Airbnb vice president.)

Zadeh knew that Silicon Valley startups treat job interviews seriously. But even he was surprised by the high-level scrutiny that he underwent.

The months-long process began with two phone interviews, followed by face-to-face meetings with the two engineers hired before him.

After he passed those screens, he met with Blecharczyk. From there, he interviewed with Chesky and Gebbia together. After that, he met one-on-one with every Airbnb employee—even summer interns.

Overall, he estimates that he spent roughly 15 hours in interviews. He passed muster and expected a job offer.

But first, the company administered a timed three-hour coding challenge to assess his technical prowess.

Airbnb’s thorough hiring process shows the value of investing time and energy when filling important roles. While many employers rush to fill openings—and treat reference checking as an annoying formality—savvy managers put promising candidates through a series of tests to determine whether they’d make a good fit.

— Adapted from The Airbnb Story, Leigh Gallagher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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