Techniques for hiring web geeks (yeah, that’s me)

I recently read the response to one of 37 Signals questions. It was titled “Is formal education important?” I completely agree with their mindset, but I wanted to add some insight on how we hire at Wildbit, especially since most hiring and employment is 100% virtual.

As most of you know, our team is spread out through Russia and Ukraine. We are always looking for great talent, but when i comes to an informal interview it is mostly via IM and email. Over the years I have figured out some ways to interview potential team members and understand if they are a good fit for Wildbit, aside from their skill set.

There are three main things I am interested in:

  1. What do you read and who do you follow?
  2. Where do you contribute your thoughts or ideas?
  3. Which sites or applications do you currently use?

What do you read and who do you follow?

This is possibly the most important question. When working in a virtual team, the most important factor is self-motivation and determination to improve. By understanding who the they follow, what books they read, and the blogs that are in their RSS feed, I can learn more about their interests, mindset, and personal motivation to seek out knowledge. This a great area to build some questions as well. I can ask more about why they read those blogs/books or follow the practices of those people.

Where do you contribute your thoughts or ideas?

The resources available to read and learn are endless, but a true sign of a skilled individuals is their ability to write. This is a clear indicator that the person has studied, processed the ideas, and created something of their own to talk about. Anyone can read blogs or books, but having opinions on those subjects is the basis of innovation and improvement. If someone has a blog or contributes to an open-source project, it helps me learn more about their opinions and becomes a prime example of their experience. The other value I find in writing is confidence. If someone is writing about their work or experiences, it shows confidence in their work, which is obviously very important when it comes to making decisions throughout the design and development process.

Which sites or applications do you currently use?

At Wildbit, we build social sites and collaborative web-based applications. It is important that the people we hire already have experience with the major web-apps out there. We all explore, learn, and expand our ideas based on what we use. If I know that the person already has an account on Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, Magnolia, or uses 37 Signals products, there is a good chance they already have a good deal of knowledge and experience about what already exists. The experience from many of these services becomes the platform to expand within our own applications.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has some hiring practices or questions that they ask when hiring. Over the years these three have been consistent for me.

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