It’s High Time to Rewrite the Hiring Script

DHH on Signal v. Noise:

At Basecamp, we have no illusions that we’re going to hire “the best”. In fact, even thinking about candidates in such absolute terms is nonsense. The world is full of people who are stuck doing mediocre work in a shitty environment or blessed to do stellar work by virtue of an elevating one. Most people are well capable of doing both!

This paragraph really spoke to me. People seem to think there’s a correlation between big names on a resume and that person’s work ethic or quality.


Not My Swan Song

Tim talks about the crazy first week of the Kickstarter and the rollercoaster of emotions that came with it.

Links and Show Notes


When Should Bootstrappers Get Paid?

Another fantastic episode of Build Your SaaS. Their conversation about paying themselves is great, but I liked the section about feeling business FOMO even more.

I feel that right now that I’m building Bokeh. Every day new stories come out about how Facebook is horrible for our society, and it always feels like a missed opportunity to point people to Bokeh. But I can’t because the thing isn’t built yet! If I’m honest, it’s incredibly presumptuous to say that it’s better because it hasn’t done anything to even begin to prove that.

If you’re building something, I recommend you make this show part of your regular listening.


Shed Your Money Taboos

Derek Sivers offers advice to musicians that applies to any creative pursuit:

The unhappiest musicians I’ve met are the ones who avoided the subject of money, and now are desperately broke or need a draining day job. It may sound cool to say money doesn’t matter — to say “don’t worry about it” in that negotiation moment — but it leads to a really hard life. Then ultimately your music suffers, because you can’t give it the time it needs, and you haven’t found an audience that values it.

I’ve made this mistake many times in my career. I’ve made it when negotiating a salary, and when I’ve priced projects. Unfortunately, it has meant being underpaid in many situations, then having to get the work done anyway.

I’ve come away from these instances with a great lesson, and one that Derek touch on too: people won’t value work, if you don’t assign it value.

Talking money is a life skill.

Via The Newsprint


Pricing Strategy for Creatives

Jason Blumer gives a few reasons as to why charging by the hour doesn’t work, but his first makes so much sense, it maddens me that I ever billed hourly:

When you charge by the hour, you and your client begin your relationship with diametrically opposed desires. You want to bill more hours, they want you to bill fewer hours. That is a sucky place to start a relationship.

This post is from 2012, but it’s just as applicable now. Something I’ve been doing recently is to give clients my daily or weekly rate for smaller tasks. I then use those rates to calculate how I should price their bigger projects. This way, nothing is tied to the hours I dedicate to something, and our interests are better aligned.


Questions to Ask in Interviews

As you might’ve heard, I’m looking for a job. Julia Evans wrote a great post on questions she asks during interviews. It’s helped me so much, prompting me to ask questions I’d never thought of before, or never had the guts to ask. Julia’s post reminded me that when you’re interviewing somewhere, you should be interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

Here are some of my favorites from her list:

  • What’s your approach to technical debt?
  • How often do you have meetings? Are there any scheduled/standing meetings? Who talks to customers (if appropriate) and how?
  • How are disagreements solved – both technical disagreements and other kinds? What happens when personalities clash?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you’ve had to let someone go?
  • What’s your retention rate of women over 1.5 years? Do you think you could have done anything differently to keep people who left?
  • How much vacation do people get? If there’s “unlimited” vacation, how much vacation do people normally take?
  • How does internal communication work? This one is super important and I need to remember to ask it more.

These are just a few gems from the amazing list she’s made. Here are some I like asking too:

  • What is something you dislike about [company name], and do you feel something is being done to address it?
  • Is there a clear path for career growth opportunities like added responsibility, promotions, raises?
  • How would you describe [company name]’s design philosophy?
  • Does your product have a design system? If not, why?
  • What’s the approach to working on your design system?
  • How often do you feel you’re working on something where requirements aren’t clearly defined or are constantly shifting?
  • Can you give me some details about [company name] efforts to create a more inclusive team?

As Julia writes in her post, don’t ask all of these in the same interview, and ask the same question to several people. You’ll start noticing a pattern in their answers; good or bad.

Have questions you like asking too? I’d love to hear about them.


Benefits Are the Bedrock of Great Company Culture

Paul Farnell is on a roll these days:

In the early days of running a startup, it’s hard to focus on things that don’t directly lead to revenue. The environment is plastic, so the little things you do can establish the foundation of a great culture. Great benefits start with the intangibles, so any effort you make to let people know you care about their well-being is appreciated.

Our industry’s misguided focus on being data-driven and seeing a return on investment has lead many companies to be short-sighted in this regard. If it’s numbers you want, interestingly (and not surprisingly) there’s a financial case to be made for great benefits:

Speaking of money, there is a financial case to be made for great benefits. You can measure benefits against employee retention to see if you’re doing it right.

Lazlo Bock, head of People Operations at Google, explained the causal relationship between benefits and employee retention on the Note to Self podcast. A few years ago, Google had a problem where a lot of new mothers weren’t coming back after maternity leave. As you might imagine, it’s really disruptive, time-consuming and expensive to replace great people.

Google extended maternity leave by two more months (still at full pay) and boom — their problem was solved. Retention rates improved by 50%, new mothers had more time at home and the company was saving money.

Sad this has to be said isn’t it? You treat people well, they’ll feel like their life is better by working at your company. They’ll stay. Now you don’t have to use your precious money that you love so much to find other people. It’s so logical, I don’t understand how companies don’t get it. Businesses that don’t treat their employees well prove to be working against their own interests.


The Difference Between “Remote” and “Remote-First”

Paul Farnell on the misconception that remote work prevents collaboration:

In my experience, the inverse is more likely: offices hinder independent work. Collaboration tends to happen in short bursts, followed by longer periods of writing, designing, coding and thinking. It’s more important to give employees quiet time than it is to cram them into an open office.

Paul nails it on the head. The whole open office idea looks amazing in photographs, but makes interruptions a staple of the day. People need quiet, heads-down time. It’s a fact of any type of work.

Later in the article, Paul writes ten ideas that make remote work, well… work. They’re all great, but my favorite is number three:

Lead by example. The behavior of the leadership team influences company culture more than a core values document. When a CEO uses their lunch break to hit the gym, others feel empowered to do the same. And when a manager spends their entire vacation answering emails, it’s harder for others to disconnect in their own downtime.

He’s right. It doesn’t matter what your “core values” say, if they don’t mean anything in practice, they’re worthless. Remote work is born out of the idea that our work lives can be better. If you’re still restricting the freedom and flexibility of your employees, it doesn’t make a difference that they’re working from home.

As with everything, leadership is what dictates whether this works or not. Remote culture is not easy to establish and nurture, but nothing worth it is easy to achieve.


How We Designed Our Interview Process

Gregory Koberger on the Blog:

Hiring is a broken system in the startup world.

Whether it’s hiring a product manager, a sales rep, or an engineer, employers often neglect to think about the experience from the interviewee’s perspective. They’re so worried about finding the most impressive candidate that they don’t bother exposing them to the day-to-day work or telling them about the inner workings of the company. As a result, the candidates who interviewed well are asked to take the job with no clue about what they’re getting into.

As you may have noticed, hiring processes are on my mind a lot these days. is doing something right here, and I’m sure will result in them hiring some really great people.


Make Firing People Suck Less

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Maybe if you fire a hundred people, you’ll eventually get used to it. But I doubt it. Firing people is horrible. Nothing has stressed me out more in the past twelve years of running Basecamp.

Of course, however hard it is to be the one to fire someone, it’s endlessly worse to be the one fired.

I’ve been fired once before. It was a horrible experience, but the people who fired me were insanely kind and gave me generous severance. I had just moved out on my own—out of state no less.

If you’re a manager, this is a must-read.