WIP: Hiring at Mattermost

Vision

Planning, recruiting, hiring and onboarding process to rapidly attract, align, vet, close and ramp new staff members to become high functioning contributors to their teams and to the success of our company.

Values

  1. High standards - Candidate team is well-trained, well-organized, well-documented and makes strong hires
  2. Rising bar - Continually measure, assess and improve the candidate experience and ever improving recruiting outcomes
  3. Thoughtfully inclusive - Minimize bias. No “shoe-ins”–every hire is a competitive process (except with written CEO sign-off)

Methods

  1. Clear Recruiting Process - Candidates should find clear, predictable recruiting process
  2. Well-Prepared Candidate Team - Mattermost candidate teams are professional, coordinated and well-organized
  3. Consistent Interview Areas - Criteria for candidate evaluation is effective and consistent across teams
  4. Trained Interviewers - Mattermost interviewers are trained and coached to operate effectively
  5. Continuous Measurement and Improvement - Clear measures, assessment and improvement processes are in place

Obstacles

  1. Lack of full-time People leader
  2. Different hiring processes in R&D and GTM organizations

Measures

  1. On average new candidates raise the bar per level band
  2. Average days between first screened candidate to role filled is quicker than 90 days
  3. Candidate NPS of 70 or better

Well-Prepared Candidate Team

All Mattermosters are ambassadors and guardians of our culture, and candidate teams need to be our “best of the best”. The candidate team is accountable for candidate experience and making a hiring recommendation to the head of each department to approve hires. This team includes:

  1. Hiring Manager
  2. Recruiter and/or recruiting coordinator
  3. Interviewers Level 1 or higher
  4. An “As Appropriate” interviewer

We detail the accountability and support for each role below:

Hiring Manager

The hiring manager is accountable for:

  1. Working with recruiter and/or People leader to define the responsibilities and requirements for the role
  2. Developing an assessment plan that assigns interview areas to interviewers Level 1 and higher
  3. Chairing the candidate review meeting and making a hire recommendation for the best candidate

Recruiting Coordinator

The recruiting coordinator or recruiting specialist is accountable for:

  1. Online screening - Evaluates candidates from referrals (people recommended by staff members and our networks), applicants (people who apply online) and sourced candidates (candidates not looking that recruiting specialists or agencies find).
  2. First meeting - Introduces candidate to Mattermost and opportunities and gets them excited. Provides materials to learn more about the company. Coaches the candidate on how to prepare.
  3. Ensure interviewer feedback is effective - Coordinating interviewers to ensure their interviewing per plan and their feedback is well written.
  4. Scheduling and post-meeting follow-up - Coordinates meetings with interviewers. Speaks with candidate by phone or Zoom after each day an interview meeting occurs.
  5. Coach interviewers - Share feedback to interviewers based on post-interview conversations and their written feedback to help interviewers improve.
  6. Coordinating candidate team round table - Bring hiring manager, As Appropriate interviewer, and key interviewers to discuss the candidate and make an offer decision.

Interviewers Level 1 or higher

Interviewers on candidate loops should be Level 1 or higher based on the Mattermost Interviewer Guide. They are accountable for:

  1. Interviewing candidates based on the assessment plan provided by the hiring manager
  2. Increasing a candidate’s interest and excitement about joining the company
  3. Assessing candidates in assigned areas and finding Red Flags and Yellow Flags
  4. Writing concise and effective feedback to hiring managers and recruiters

As Appropriate Interviewer

An As Appropriate interviewer, or “AA”, assesses candidates for cultural and level fit across disciplines. An AA loop is required before any candidate receives a full-time offer. Currently the only AA interviewers are Corey Hulen (CTO and Co-founder)–who can approve R&D hires–and Ian Tien (CEO and Co-founder) for all hires. Candidates for CEO interviews should be sent CEO interview pre-reading at least 48 hours ahead of meeting.

Exception: Non-staff interviewers–typically advisers or board members–may or may not have detailed written feedback. Their feedback would be inputted by the person owning the relationship with the interviewer.


Interviewing Guide

During the recruiting process, candidates and Mattermost are assessing each other at the same time. It’s vital that Mattermost interviewers both represent our culture and people accurately and precisely assess the candidate’s fit for our culture.

We invest in training and developing the skills of our interviewers through a series of skill levels, and skill development processes.

Interviewer Skill Levels

Level 0 Interviewer

  • Scope: New to interviewing at Mattermost - Feedback should not significantly impact candidate assessments.
  • Assessment: Documents strengths and opportunities with specific examples, but may miss issues trained interviewers detect.
  • Recruiting: Represents Mattermost as a potential colleague exhibiting cultural norms and proficiencies.

Level 1 Interviewer

Accuracy of candidate assessments should be above 85 percent (i.e. less than 15% chance they’ve missed something in area interviewed another Level 1 would spot).

  • Scope: 50m interviews for junior to intermediate candidates. Asked to assess specific capabilities or leadership principles.
  • Assessment: Catches obvious misalignment. Effectively documents strengths and opportunities for hiring committee.
  • Recruiting: Outstanding colleage. Makes candidates want to work with the interviewer in future.

Examples: Colleagues who have completed interviewer training and have exceeded 20 to 30 interviews with feedback from recruiters and hiring managers on the effectiveness of their feedback and impact on candidate experience.

Level 2 Interviewer

Accuracy of candidate assessments should be above 90 percent (i.e. less than 10% chance they’ve missed something in area that a Level 1 would spot).

  • Scope: 50m interviews for junior to senior candidates with or without guidance.
  • Assessment: Catches hard-to-spot show-stopper issues. Written feedback is concise, precise and thorough.
  • Recruiting: Talent magnet. Makes candidates eagar to join the company, not just the leader.

Examples: Experienced directors, senior managers, leads and ICs

Level 3 Interviewer

Accuracy of candidate assessments should be in high-90s (i.e. less than single-digit percent chance they’ve missed something in area interviewed that a Level 1 would spot).

  • Scope: 25m to 50m interviews for junior to exec-level candidates with or without guidance.
  • Assessment: Accurately and concisely assess candidate across broad and deep competencies.
  • Recruiting: Talent gravity well. Candidates sees Mattermost opportunity in a compelling new light.

Examples: Mattermost executives and executive advisers.

Interviewer training and development

Mattermost as a company is in the process of formalizing its interviewer training process. Right now, staff members working with their managers may either volunteer or be referred into an interviewer training process managed by PeopleOps, depending on need and capacity. In general, interviewers should have at least 1 to 2 years of experience working at Mattermost before interviewing.

The process involves staff members reading this guide thoroughly and working with a Level 2 interviewer or higher to estimate the staff member’s a) current proficiency in assessment and recruiting, b) opportunities to grow, c) path to development, which may include mock-interviews, online or in-class training, or participation in junior-level interviews.


Recruiting Process

The following steps outline the recruiting process. At any point, the process may be discontinued if it’s found the candidate is unlikely to be successful near and long term at Mattermost.

Posting Process

  1. Roles should be posted by recruiters with responsibilites and requirements clearly defined.
  2. Each role has an “interview plan” devised by the hiring manager and recruiter that provides guidance to interviewers on the areas to cover and sequence of interviews.

Screening Process

  1. Recruiters should screen applicants based on publicly listed requirements
  2. Promising candidates should be screened by the recruiter for basic culture and workstyle alignment

Interview Process

  1. The interview process should be scheduled by the recruiter based on the interview plan prepared with the hiring manager.

Interview Areas and Area Assignments

In general, we have “areas” to be assessed during the interview process that are grouped into four categories:

  • Capabilities (4-8 interview areas, assessed by interviewers) - Evaluated by colleages with expertise in the discipline we’re hiring for, or working with experts in the discipline
  • Culture (6 interview areas, assessed by interviewers) - Understanding a candidate’s alignment with Mattermost Leadership Principles
  • Chemistry (flag if an issue, assessed by all) - Poor chemistry is a reason to stop the process. Good chemistry should be neutral, never a reason to hire.
  • Workstyle (2 interview areas, assessed by recruiter) - Estimating how well a candidate will work in our environment. Typically assessed by recruiters or hiring managers.

Each interviewer should be able to cover 3 to 6 areas depending on the skill of the interviewer and scope of each area. Recruiters or hiring managers assign categories and segments to each interviewer.

For example, for a product manager role, the hiring manager may work with the recruiter to assign the following areas:

  • Recruiter: Workstyle (distributed work, open source work)
  • Interviewer A: Capabilities (requirements gathering, data-driven experimentation and validation), Leadership Principles (Insist on High Standards, High Impact)
  • Interviewer B: Capabilities (feature design, prioritization), Leadership Principles (Be and Owner, Customer Obsession)
  • Interviewer C: Capabilities (leadership, documentation, product marketing support), Leadership Principles, (Self-Awareness, Earn Trust)

The interview plan should be posted in Lever by the recruiter at the start of the interview with @mentions to each interviewer so they know which area to cover.

Capabilities

Each role should have roughly 4 to 8 areas of responsibility, which we refer to as “capabilities”, to be assessed based on the publicly-posted job description.

For example, for a Software Design Engineer II the responsibilities include:

- Designs, leads and delivers high impact features and changes across the product stack and test automation infrastructure. 
- Sets thoughtful, technical vision for areas of ownership, balancing functional and technical trade-offs, while working effectively with PM and UX. 
- Drops fluidly into different projects, ramps quickly and leads features to successful outcomes. 
- Inspires, organizes and enables groups of open source community members to contribute to development campaigns in building significant new functionality.

When interviewing, a hiring manager should work with the recruiter to divide the capability interviews among staff members qualified to assess each area. In some cases a requirement may be multiple areas. For example, Sets thoughtful, technical vision for areas of ownership, balancing functional and technical trade-offs, while working effectively with PM and UX. might break into three areas, a) Sets thoughtful, technical vision for areas of ownership, b) balancing functional and technical trade-offs, c) working effectively with PM and UX.

For each area, interviewers should approach candidates with a friendly curiosity to learn about the candidate’s depth of experience, breadth of perspective, and to uncover potential gaps and blindspots. Some examples of questions might be:

1 How do you approach X?

  • Can you share an example of a difficult decision while you were doing X?
  • How would you teach a junior person how do X?
  • If you were leading a team with multiple people with your same skillset and role, what would you do yourself and what would you delegate?
  • Can you share a story about making a mistake while doing X? What did you learn? How would you change your behavior in future?

Great candidates will be clear what they know and what they don’t know. If someone claims to know and area and their answers aren’t specific, ask follow-up questions. Be very careful about candidates who claim to know an area and can’t go deep.

Scoring Capabilities

Scores for each capability area should be on a scale of 1 to 5:

  • 1 - Underqualified - Not an area of significant existing skill
  • 2 - Low - Skill is below target level
  • 3 - On Target - Skill is at or above target
  • 4 - Strong - Skill is at upper end of target level, but doesn’t pass into next level
  • 5 - Overqualified - Skill exceeds level for the role to the point where candidate is mis-leveled (e.g. an intermediate-level candidate with senior-level proficiency in their area)

Level 1 interviewers and higher should enter their score per area into Level comments

Culture

Cultural fit for Mattermost is based on alignment to leadership principles. Unlike capabilities, which can sometimes be rapidly improved over time, cultural fit can be difficult to change, and also difficult to assess.

Paying close attention to cultural fit during the interview process is vital.

Leadership Principles

The following summarizes leadership principles on which candidates should be assessed.

Customer Obsession
  • Naturally curious about customer’s challenges and their world

Customer-facing Roles:

  • Naturally curious about customer’s challenges and their world
  • Empathetic, respectful, thoughtful
  • Obviously someone we’d feel comfortable presenting to customer.

Product and Engineering Roles:

  • Frames their work in the context of end goals and benefits to customers
Be an Owner
  • Owns outcomes - Doesn’t drop the ball, jumps-in when something important is needed and never says “it’s not my job.”
  • Accountable - Open about their mistakes, doesn’t “sugar coat”, doesn’t blame others
  • Growth mindset - Uses mistakes to change and permanently improve, focuses on future improvements over blaming others
High Impact

TBW

Self-Awareness

TBW

Insist on High Standards

TBW

Earn Trust

TBW

Scoring Leadership Principles

The scoring of leadership principles should be as follows:

  • 1 - Underqualified - Not a culture fit in this area
  • 2 - Low - Fit is below target level
  • 3 - On Target - Fit is at or above target
  • 4 - Strong - Fit is at upper end of target level, but doesn’t pass into next level
  • 5 - Overqualified - Fit exceeds level for the role to the point where candidate is mis-leveled (e.g. an intermediate-level candidate with senior-level proficiency in their area)

Workstyle

Workstyle should be assessed formally by either the recruiter or the hiring manager. During the interview process, as interviewers learn more about the day-to-day style and preferences of the candidate, they should raise yellow or red flags in Lever notes if workstyle may be an issue.

For example, if an interviewer learns that someone who’s going to work from a home office talks about how they’ve repeatedly failed to be successful in that environment in the past due to lack of supervision–despite the fact they told the recruiter that they love the environment.

Distributed workstyle

Assess the candidate’s proficiency in working in distributed organizations. How self-motivated are they? How strong is their written communication? What are their past successes and failures working in distributed environments?

Open source workstyle

To what extent have they contributed to open source projects? How comfortable are they with working online and in public? What are their successes and failures working in open source communities?

Scoring Workstyle


Interview Meeting Checklist

Each interviewer should meet candidates over Zoom for interview meetings. Interviewers should be on-time and in a quiet place that has a strong internet connection. The checklist for conducting an interview is as follows:

0:00 - Introduction

  • Greet the candidate.
  • Share some information about your role and yourself.
  • Share the following with the candidate (which they may have heard before, but it’s fine to repeat 20 to 30 seconds of commentary):
    • During the conversation, the interviewer will be typing to take notes
    • There will be time for questions towards the end of the time, though the candidate should feel free to ask questions during the conversation
    • The interview will last about 50 minutes, and 10 minutes at the end to write feedback
    • The recruiter will be in touch with next steps

0:03 - Interviewing

  • Have a conversation with the candidate to assess their fit
  • Take notes during the conversation
  • If you were assigned areas by the recruiter or hiring manager make sure to include those areas in your written feedback
  • Document “Red Flags”, which may be show-stoppers, e.g. poor judgement, presenting misleading data, past issue with integrity, etc.
  • Document “Yellow Flags”, subtle one-time mis-steps, e.g. poor interview behavior. If these issues repeat, escalate to Red Flag.
  • Document “Sparkles”, if a junior candidate surprises you with an insight, note this. Two sparkes is a very strong positive sign.

0:40 to 0:45 - Open for questions from candidate

  • When you have around 5 to 10 minutes remaining, ask the candidate if they have any questions
  • If candidates ask for your assessment of them, you can share your high level observations, but refrain from sharing whether you are leaning towards a Yes or a No recommendation. That decision should be made after the interview as you reflect on your notes.
  • If they don’t have any questions, or when the time is done, thank them for their time and leave the Zoom meeting

0:50 - Conclude interview, write feedback

  • Conclude the interview after 50 minutes.
  • Spend the final 10 minutes consolidating your feedback into Lever as a comment with an @mention to the hiring manager.
  • In your first sentence include an @mention to the hiring manager and whether you feel the candidate is a hire.
  • If you believe the candidate is a strong fit based on the areas you explored click the THUMBS UP control
  • If you’re not sure, or if you don’t believe the candidate is a fit, use the THUMBS DOWN button.
  • DO NOT leave the recommendation blank. If you’re not sure, it’s THUMBS DOWN.

Example of feedback:

@jane.smith I'm a hire on Bobby Droptables: 

Strengths: 
- Experienced and comfortable balancing functional and technical trade-offs 
- Strong empathy across dev, PM, UX and customers, with good attention to detail 
- Very solid on customer obsessions, constantly refers back to stories and examples

Opportunities: 
- Okay at setting vision, but a bit in the weeds
- Someone should dig more into leadership, ran out of time 

Other: 
- If he comes, he might want to bring over a couple of developers from his current company  

(2) Sets thoughtful, technical vision for areas of ownership
(3) balancing functional and technical trade-offs
(3) working effectively with PM and UX
(4) Customer Obsession 

Additional notes: 

[Add additional notes, e.g. questions and answers] 

Post-interview

  • If the candidate sends you a thank you note, respond to it the same day and CC the recruiter.

WIP: Competitive Advantage through Inclusion and Diversity (CAID)

Mattermost’s aims to use inclusion and diversity to increase competitive advantage:

  • An inclusive environment enables us to attract, engage and empower outstanding talent from diverse backgrounds that competitors struggle to access.
  • Diversity among our colleagues increases the speed and depth at which we can understand and capitalize on new opportunities.

We refer to this principle as Competitive Advantage through Inclusion and Diversity or “CAID”.

  1. People first, not country first - Do not blindly consider policies at U.S. companies as “best practice”. Empathize with colleagues outside of the U.S. Be mindful of talent from 7.5B people in the world, beyond 0.3B Americans.
  2. Recognize bias - We are all biased. Bias can come from educational backgrounds, geographies, common friends, or other factors unrelated to potential and performance. The more recognize our own bias, the more effectively we can manage it through mindfulness and structured training.