From the March 30, 2014 New York Times and the Corner Office column by Adam Bryant and his interview with Tom Erickson, chief executive of Acquia, an open-source software company
How do you hire?
I ask the person to tell me what they want to do, and what inspires them. When they have free time, what do they choose to do? How do they work with others in difficult situations? If you’ve had to fire people, how did you do that? How do they think about leadership, and how do they think that’s sustained?
In a fast-growth company like ours, you may come in with only one or two people reporting to you, even though you had 500 or 800 reporting to you in previous jobs. How are you going to deal with that? Your leadership skills and ability to influence people are much more important than your need to have direct lines of authority.
I also use a lot of behavioral interviewing techniques. I do believe that what people did previously is likely to be what they’ll do in the future.
What else do you look for?
One thing I preach a lot about is the importance of “ready, fire, aim.” There are people in the world who are ready-aim-fire types. If I sense from an interview that they are a ready-aim-fire person, I’ll tell them: “I don’t think this is the right place for you. You need to be in a place where precision matters and the ability to get the right answer will be valued. Because those won’t be valued here.”
How do you figure that out?
If it’s a college student, I’ll listen to the way they talk about their studies. How meticulous do they feel they need to be? If they’ve had other jobs, you can get a sense of where they were comfortable and where they weren’t comfortable. Some people are just very set in their ways.
I’m looking for people who are going to jump in and own their work, who are going to risk something, and risk failing. So you can ask questions about how often someone’s failed or how comfortable they are about failure. Then you decide, “Is this going to be a ready-aim-fire person or a ready-fire-aim person?” Because if you don’t accept failure from an emotional perspective, then you’d be a bad fit for us.