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HashiCorp’s success is driven by its people—and that makes hiring one of the most important investments we can make in the future of the company. It is critical we offer a world-class candidate experience, set a high bar, and bring in great people who are aligned with our principles.
Hiring is everyone’s job. Many of our team members regularly serve on interview panels, but even those of us who don’t conduct interviews still interact with candidates—or future candidates. You never know when a customer, partner, or even your next-door neighbor might apply for a role on our team. So it’s essential we’re all aligned on the philosophy behind how HashiCorp hires. Our hiring and interviewing philosophy has three foundational tenets: 1) our company principles inform our hiring behavior and decisions, 2) a consistent process leads to the best hiring decisions, and 3) we are committed to building diverse and inclusive teams.
Principles in Practice
Everything we do at HashiCorp is grounded in our principles, and in the case of recruiting, that applies to both who and how we hire. While understanding a candidate’s functional competencies and attributes is imperative, even the most highly skilled potential hires are unlikely to thrive if their priorities and values aren’t aligned with our own.
One thing that drew me to HashiCorp as a candidate was the clear idea of what the culture should be. It was great to see a place that was thoughtful and deliberate about that from the beginning.
Some principles will weigh more heavily in our hiring decisions than others, not because they matter more, but because they’re harder to coach. A candidate who shows excellence in vision but needs to improve their communication skills might benefit from mentoring on that front. Principles such as integrity, kindness, and humility, however, are rarely if ever negotiable since they are harder to coach.
Especially because we have such a collaborative environment, humility is key. Listen for more ‘we’ than ‘I’ when someone is walking you through a past project.
Creating a successful hiring process and a great candidate experience also requires us to keep HashiCorp’s principles top-of-mind in terms of how we conduct ourselves. Humility, integrity, clear communication, and kindness are paramount in our interactions with candidates. Hiring managers, recruiters, and other team members should take care to focus on the candidate, not themselves, and to treat everyone they interview with respect.
At some companies the hiring process is like a black box from the candidate perspective. It’s alienating. I think the most valuable thing we can do is be fully open about what the job requires, and even about what we are trying to understand with the questions we ask. An interview isn’t a test you pass or fail; it’s a way to learn about each other.
I felt the kindness and empathy at HashiCorp from the first interview, and that made a big difference when I was deciding whether to accept the offer. If you’re going to spend the next few years of your career somewhere, you want it to be a place that really cares about people.
The Value of Consistency
The second tenet of our hiring philosophy is we believe a consistent interview process is not only more efficient, but more effective. The process we’ve built and our training on how to use the recruiting system are designed to give us the best possible chance of finding the right person for each role—as well as collecting reliable data to help us further fine-tune over time. This consistent system of hiring sets clear expectations for both candidates and internal interview teams, which improves each candidate's experience. To ensure alignment across our company, employees should complete the “Interviewing” learning path in Litmos before they begin interviewing candidates.
Our Hiring Manager Process Overview and Process Responsibility & SLAs documents offer detailed guidance on the workflows that should be followed when hiring. The foundation of consistent hiring at HashiCorp is our library of interview plans which outline role-specific attributes and behavior-based interview questions. By defining interview questions and a clear interview plan ahead of time, we ensure we focus on the attributes most essential for a given role—and we treat candidates equally.
Asking the same questions not only levels the playing field, it makes it easier for interviewers to be present for each candidate. The interview is the candidate’s moment, and we want to do everything we can to set them up for success.
Having a plan ahead of time creates a better candidate experience. We’ve had positive feedback, including on places like Glassdoor, about our interviewers being clear on exactly what would happen—and sharing that information with candidates.
Behavior-based interview questions challenge interviewees to provide specific examples from their backgrounds rather than talking in general terms. For example to assess humility, an interviewer would ask, "Give me an example of a piece of feedback that you received from a peer, stakeholder, or manager that has helped you the most to improve your performance. How did you take that feedback and turn it into an actionable plan?" Check out more examples of interview questions related to our principles here. Behavior-based interviewing is a far more reliable predictor of a candidate’s success than a more traditional approach, but it takes a lot of practice to learn. Often, this is especially true for interviewers who have extensive experience, as they will likely need to dedicate more time and attention to breaking long-held habits.
There’s a lot of value in being systematic in the questions you ask and even the way you take notes—but behavior-based interviewing isn’t about checking boxes. It’s a conversation. Make sure you’re really listening.
Behavior-based interviewing is new for many of our interviewees too and we often have to redirect them away from theoretical answers and instead push for specific examples. Particularly at a company like ours, where kindness is a foundational principle, pushing back can be uncomfortable at first for many interviewers. But remember: digging deeper and being kind aren’t mutually exclusive.
Giving candidates a great experience isn’t just about being nice. It’s making sure you’re getting the most out of their time.
My most memorable interview question challenged me to explain how autonomous I could be in a sales role. We talked about the balance between needing to fully understand the technology and recognizing that deals are won through collaboration.
Investing in Inclusion
While a consistent process makes hiring a better experience for interviewers and interviewees alike, it’s also critical in reducing unconscious bias—which is one of the biggest roadblocks to good hiring. Bias can not only prevent us from identifying the best person for a given role, but rob our team of the diverse perspectives and inclusive practices that make our products, and each other, better.
Different perspectives and backgrounds are incredibly valuable, not just in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity, but location, years of experience, education, and more.
Hiring and retaining a more diverse team starts with proactive sourcing. Though referrals have value, they also lead to homogeneity because individual employees tend to know, and thus recommend, people who are similar to them. We partner with organizations to help us connect with more candidates from underrepresented groups, and everyone on the team can contribute to a more diverse talent pool by being thoughtful about the referrals they make and the professional networks they develop.
Our pool of interviewers can also help us build a more diverse team. No single person can get a complete understanding of a candidate in one 45-minute meeting, and complementary perspectives can help us avoid blind spots. Debate within a panel’s feedback is not only welcome but often a sign the system is working as intended.
Someone from a different background might have an entirely different read on a candidate than I do, and we want them to feel comfortable sharing that view. If three people give a strong ‘yes’ and one says ‘definitely not,’ that’s something we should dig into.
While diversity is highly valuable on hiring panels, we must avoid placing an undue burden on employees from underrepresented groups. The more team members we train to interview, and the more diverse the team itself becomes, the easier this will be. In the meantime, we must do our best to strike a good balance, and to think critically about which panels—such as leadership roles and other key positions—should be highest priority.
Training more people to interview not only allows for more diverse panels, it’s a learning and development opportunity. It’s great when junior people get to have a seat at the table in our hiring process.
The journey to a stronger and more diverse team is a marathon, not a sprint. Like many fast-growing companies, the distance left before we meet our goals varies by team, and it’s important to recognize hiring is only one piece of a broader effort that includes retention, career development, and more. But if every member of the HashiCorp team is aligned on—and accountable to—the philosophy that drives our hiring, including the principles and practices that inform who we hire and how, we can and will get where we want to be.