How Does Gigster Hire Developers Differently?
Here’s how we approach hiring great developers for the Gigster network.
Gigster is the belief that the shortest path from idea to working tech should be one click. It’s an ambitious idea and to achieve it we need top development, design and product management talent. That’s why we’re building a formidable freelance network.
It’s an ongoing challenge. Recruiting great workers is hard wherever you are in the world. It’s especially difficult in Silicon Valley’s tech industry.
Here’s how we approach hiring great developers for our network. Note that this doesn’t necessarily reflect how we hire for the company itself (although there are certainly some strong overlaps).
Gigster’s Hiring Strategy
We’re big on referrals. That’s because the best place to find A-players is by referral from other A-players.
For us that means asking freelancers who are already in our network. We first seeded the network by asking the most talented people we know in Silicon Valley to join. Top developers usually know other top developers, and that’s still the best way to find good people. That’s generally true in almost any industry.
Of course people also find us through our marketing efforts and by seeing us in media. We start with less data on these people so we have to find other signals that indicate their quality in ways that would be hard to fake.
Regardless of the source of a candidate we put an emphasis on what a programmer has done, rather than how long they’ve been in the industry. The applicant needs to be someone who builds more than they talk.
They need to be prolific and someone who, in their spare time, would be programming regardless. This reflects a “this is who I am” rather than a “this is what I do” mindset.
Not everyone has the time to work on side projects but for those who don’t they should have a lot they can say about their work.
Unlocking Dead Time
We also look for people who traditionally aren’t accessible to the market but are of high value. People who may have a full-time job programming for a company, but are looking to work on something else in their spare time.
This is similar to people who drive for Uber in their spare time. Although when it comes to building tech versus driving a car the value created per hour is variable and can be up to thousands of dollars per hour.
There’s a lot of talent working at top tech companies who would like to use their free time to make extra money, especially in the Bay Area. We’ve also seen these folks leave their 9-to-5 to work exclusively as freelancers instead.
Time Doesn’t Always Equal Experience
In nearly every job listing, employers place a premium on job experience. In many cases there are good reasons for this qualifier and experience can be a strong signal. But that’s not always the case.
For example, there are many technologies that are popular for a short time before they fade away. Given this happens often it’s important that developers in particular can demonstrate an ability to learn new technologies quickly.
We’ve found that smart people can usually learn whatever they need to. So when we test people, we’re looking for a base-level of knowledge and a base-level of experience. Smart people can learn quickly, they can adapt and pick up new languages, and we look for signals that indicate that.
The key thing we’re looking for is an attitude that contributes to a culture of excellence. Does the person we’re considering demonstrate an extreme dedication to quality? Are they interested in improving the community we have in our network? Do they naturally want to deliver a magical customer experience?
We also look at how someone communicates over email, Slack and other mediums. Strong communication is essential when you have several remote freelancers working on a project. Is the person friendly but direct? Are they deft at handling tricky communication and moving things forward?
Diversity is a very explicit goal at Gigster. We believe it makes companies better and teams stronger. Aside from it being the right thing to do we also believe there’s a strong greed motive.
Finding people that are from underrepresented groups allows for a variety of perspectives. That’s paramount for any company.
Nuts and Bolts
The application process for Gigster has multiple steps.
First, we ask candidates to fill in information about what projects they’ve worked on in the past. Many companies would focus on asking people how they solve hypothetical problems. We focus more on asking applicants about the most impressive projects they’ve actually worked on.
From there, we filter through people based on our impression of their past work and what skills they say they have. A lot of people are screened out at this step and the people who make it through go on to the interview stage.
What we do next is distribute the interview step across the top people in our network. Gigsters are the ones that determine who will join the network.
Interviews are 30 minutes or longer. The idea is to ask very high-signal questions so we can tell quickly how skilled the applicant is. The questions are usually designed around some software or product the applicant uses every day. So we could ask, “How would you build Dropbox?” with follow up questions.
Finally, we take a look at the past code you’ve written. If you do really well at this stage, we might fast track you into the network and treat your first project work as a trial. In most cases, however, we’ll ask you to do a second interview before we let you into the network.
Interview Not Survey
There is a certain type of candidate that tends to pique our interest. During the interview the interaction stops being a question-and-answer session and becomes a friendly brainstorming session. The applicant becomes engaged and they have ideas about different directions they could take a problem.
Building Tech as Part of the Process
The best way to know if someone can build good tech is to get them to build tech and see what the result looks like. That means the company pays the developer for the trial or asks them to work for free.
The first option is expensive and the second option isn’t feasible. The developers who will spend a lot of time working for free on a trial project are either extremely generous or not very good at what they do.
So whenever we do trials we take the former option but with a bit of a twist. We have them work on a client project in parallel with other developers. The benefits to the client are obvious: they get the best possible version of their tech this way.
We approach vetting this way for a few reasons. It’s cheaper to spend time making sure you get the right people onboard than it is to change out bad hires later on. We’re also fanatical about quality as a core guiding principle.
By ensuring the nucleus of the network is high quality we can bake that ethos into the network so that becomes the prevailing culture for years to come as we grow.
That’s why we’re willing to spend more time than other organizations really getting to know our talent and what they’re capable of.
Maintaining Quality and Measuring Hiring Success
If all goes well, the developer becomes a full member of the network. Based on how well they did in the interview process they’ll receive a karma amount. Karma serves as our internal measure of reputation. When a Gigster does good work we award them Karma points. The Gigsters with the most points have consistently delivered great results over time.
It also determines what sort of projects the developer can actually work on.
Their first milestone is a trial and they’ll receive some karma for that. Over time, as they do well in the network, their karma goes up or down. This makes performance measurable and transparent. This accountability motivates our network to consistently do great work.
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