Hire the guy that won’t fit in at your happy hour

Every company says they want to hire people that fit into their company culture. But what does that mean? Won’t homogeneity insure that the office won’t represent its customers, and is bound for failure?

The sports loving, beer chugging, cheerleader-ogling heads of the 10 person recruiting start-up insured my departure (after a 3 day tenure!) as they made inappropriate comments about the receptionist, played video games during phone interviews, and ultimately, snickered about a transgendered individual while we were at an offsite lunch to discuss HR policies. I recently saw them on the Inc 5000 list as a $66 million company.

The “whoever yells the loudest has the last word”, office-supply throwing, make your employees and interviewees-cry startup I was at didn’t attract more reserved employees, and also didn’t keep me for a year. They did, however, just reach a $1.2 billion market cap.

Company X, who had on it’s hiring criteria, “X-ness”, left that open to interpretation by the interviewee. Some people interpreted that to mean a spirit of innovation and pride in their craft, and others meant that they actually used the site (which was more targeted towards women). We missed out on some great hires as a result, I believe. While it is important to represent our customers within our company, this company went a little too far and could have actually violate EEOC in the opposite way, paying women outside of salary bands. This and other questionable practices lead me to raise issues with the upper management, cost me a promotion, and resulted in a forced resignation which pains me to this day. Their market cap is also over $1 billion.

Anyway, new client, when you kept refusing to bring my candidates onsite because of “communication issues”, I was at first genuinely bewildered. Sure, some were non-native speakers and had accents, but I hadn’t had any issues understanding them. It could be that I’ve spent over 11 years of my my career talking with people from around the world on a nearly daily basis. Finally, though, it went past the accents. “We are a small office, and we like to socialize,” you told me. I still didn’t understand what this had to do with Krunal; he seemed like a nice guy on the phone. As I sent you Vidya and Weitao to review, you stopped me in my tracks. “We are looking for Americans,” you told me.

New client, what you are asking of me is illegal. I’d like to also tell you that by just hiring “Americans” you will be missing out on the opinions of a whole world of people out there, people that could make your company not only a wild success here, but there as well. Unfortunately (yes, unfortunately!), there is so much money in American tech right now, that a billion dollars made from here is as valuable as a billion dollars made from there, and so you might not feel the pain for years to come.

Your best employees don’t have to be someone you want to share a beer with – at least not someone your current, frat boy self would want to share a beer with. For all the things wrong with my first employer, Microsoft, they really do EEOC hiring right. For any job posted, they ask themselves, “What are the key skills and requirements for being successful in this role?” Then, checklist style, they evaluate potential candidates on those skills, and those skills alone. As a result, I have friends of 10+ years from Hungary, South Africa, Togo, Nigeria, and yes, America. Microsoft has made plenty of missteps (I think those were in predicting the future) – but what they have done well is to be a global company.

So anyway, think past happy hour 2014. Think past $1 billion. Think globally. Even if your startup fails, you’ll have a better set of friends for it.

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