What I look for when interviewing a candidate…

Having founded a high-tech startup that grew to 35+ people before it was recently acquired, and from my years of experience in the high-tech industry, I have found that there are three things that really matter in hiring – attitude, passion and team work. Everything else stems from these three attributes.

For me, a candidate’s attitude has to be: “if there is something broken – we will fix it, if there is something we don’t know – we will figure it out, we will do whatever it takes to get the job done.” My competitors may outsmart /outstrategize me, but they can never outwork me. There is just no excuse for being outworked, as that is one of the few thing you can control. To be clear, working hard doesn’t mean 16 hours days. It means to be focused, and have a dedicated effort to accomplish tasks at hand.

Just as negative energy is contagious and destructive, positive energy is one of the most powerful weapons an organization has. As we all know, one bad apple can spoil the entire basket, one wrong hiring decision has the potential to create for a very unpleasant work environment. So, one of the first questions I ask myself is: is this someone who will bring positive energy to the work place? Is this someone who is excited about what we stand for and are trying to accomplish? I am extremely sensitive about company culture and believe that strong cultures (like at Microsoft, Google, Toyota, etc) result in strong, lasting companies.

High-tech companies are typically filled with enthusiasts who love what they do and love working and helping each other. There is just no place for someone who has the slightest chance of causing disruption. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and all good leaders should be able to walk that line.

A startup environment, by it’s very nature, is very chaotic with ill-defined roles and responsibilities. Anybody working in a startup has to be full of energy and needs to constantly take initiatives on their own. Growth of both the candidate and the company depends on initiatives taken up by it’s employees. We live in a very competitive world, so it’s critical that people you hire have the drive to grow, succeed and win. Because if your people don’t , you can almost be guaranteed that there is a competitor who will. There is just no place for complacency.

Having knowledge of the domain, problem solving abilities, willingness to constantly learn, flexibility in roles and responsibilities, and the ability to take on more and more responsibility are some other basic key factors that weigh in on all hiring decisions.

At my own company, I always looked at hiring as bringing a new owner to the company. So, my advice to anyone who is at a technology startup and or looking to join a startup is, act like an owner in everything you do and you will have a very rewarding experience.

What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!