Mass Interviews – Menlo #7

[This post is part of a series about Menlo Innovations, the company described in “Joy, Inc.“]

Cover of Joy, Inc. Menlo does a lot of things different from other companies, Hiring for example. And I don’t mean “different” as in Google, i.e. you get grilled by a succession of 6 people or get interviewed by a good-sized portion of your future team as we do at sipgate. I mean different!

When they decide they need more people they invite 50 people to come interview. All at the same time, regardless of role. They divide the 50 people into pairs and tell them: “The goal for each of you is to make sure your partner gets a second interview.” All pairs get a small task and work on it jointly – only 1 pencil per pair – for 20 minutes. Each of the 25 pairs is observed by a Menlonian. They do 3 20-minute-rounds and rotate pairs and observers each time. After an hour, each candidate paired with 3 different candidates and observed by 3 different Menlonians. The candidates know what awaits them, BTW. They get information describing the hiring process beforehand.

Are you wondering how that works? How can they possibly figure out if someone is good at their job like this? They don’t. It’s not the goal in this first interview. The observers are looking for kindergarten skills: How do you communicate? Can you share? Can you build on someone else’s ideas?

Keep in mind, that at Menlo they pair rigorously. You really don’t wanna be stuck with an annoying pair partner.

Anyway, the candidates return home after the 3 rounds and the Menlonian observers gather. They go through the list of all 50 candidates and their respective 3 observers give a thumbs up or down. All thumbs up? The candidate gets a 2nd “interview”. All thumbs down? The candidate is out. Mixed vote? Discussions of why the vote was cast. At the end of the day, candidates have gotten their feedback.

The 2nd interview is actually a day, during which a candidate pairs with 2 different Menlonians on real work. The third and last round is a 3 week trial run, where they do normal work in the normal pairing rotation (new pair partner every week). Both, round 2 and 3 are paid.

Candidates who make it through all rounds are a really good fit and “bad” hires are very rare.

While the whole process is interesting, I especially love the first role-independent round: You won’t get tempted to bend a “No Jerks” rule for someone who’s technically brilliant. You don’t know whether anyone is brilliant. Jerks get sorted out before we get to role-specific skills.