How nGen Works Hires

Originally posted on the nGen Works site, which is now gone.


Hiring people is the worst thing in the world! Hyperbole? Very likely! Very likely the worst example of hyperbole, ever. Literally.

Hiring has been on my mind a lot lately as we try out some new (to us) things here at nGen. To explain how we hire, it’s probably best to explain how nGen Works works – See what I did there?

nGen Works is a flat company with a Jellyfish work model. The plus side of this structure is we’re free to find the best people we can, no matter where they live. The downside is something along the lines of needles and haystacks.

Concentric circles showing nGeneers at the center, Friendgeneers at the next level out, then The Army of Awesome.

  • Core Team – Full-time nGeneers, the center of this disco inferno.
  • Friendgeneers – Friends of the company who help us on a contract or hourly basis.
  • Army of Awesome – People who haven’t worked with us yet, but who we’ve heard of and/or think it would be neat to work with.

Building Up The Army of Awesome

Most companies file résumés. nGen has The Army of Awesome Resource Spreadsheet of Awesomeness! (They won’t let me all caps that. Too much awesomeness.) When a new need arises, I crack open the doc and start looking for [needed-skill-set-du-jour]. The spreadsheet is just a Google doc with the data from our Friendgeneer Survey. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t a custom CRM. (Who has time for that? Not me, that’s who.)

While I try to be good about responding to submissions, you might not hear back from me (or anyone else looking to create a super team) immediately. With the ebb and flow of client services work, we may not have a project that matches your skill set. But really and for truly, when someone fills out the survey it doesn’t go into a black hole. I try to be good about saying, “Hey, got your stuff. No black holes here,” and frankly need to be better about it. Seriously, to everyone who’s filled it out, I see you! waves

What nGen Looks For In a New Friendgeneer

When it comes right down to it, what I look for in hiring someone is no different than anyone else.

  • Are you available?
  • Can you do the work?
  • “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” (Quiz points to you for placing that quote. Also this isn’t an actual question.)
  • What’s your rate? Sometimes the project’s budget is very tight, for any number of reasons. While we don’t go with the cheapest option, we do work within our means.
  • Do we want to work with you? Pretty much the most important question.
  • What time zone are you in?

And that’s it. I put this as an ordered list because it tends to be the progression of the conversation as I reach out to people. That last question about time zones really comes into play if I’m leaning toward hiring someone. While I tend not to care where someone lives, knowing how many hours you’d be working before I even get up can be important, but for the right person we’ll make it work.

So that’s what I (well, we, but I’m writing this, so I) look for when I find someone to talk with, but finding that right person in the first place…

Here’s the thing: like most places, nGen brings people on to meet the need of the project in front of us. Teams are no bigger or smaller than they need to be. It’s the Jellyfish way, after all. When I’ve got a blank spot on the roster, I hit up that ol’ spreadsheet and immediately do a cmd+F for the skill set I need.

I start with the first person I find. Look through their answers and if I like what I see I stop there. I don’t go through the five other people who might meet our needs. I don’t need six email threads going at once. I’m not an email-blast recruiter. I want to talk to you first. Things go well? Done and done. They don’t? On to the next person. I’ve found (having done it the blasty way before) that overall I spend less time reaching out to people if I do it one at a time.

After each interview, I update the spreadsheet with notes (for others and for Future Me) and turn the background color of the row with the person’s info green (for hired) or black (for not a fit). Super high-tech? You bet!

I’m Not Mr. Waturi

No, I don’t know what’s up with all the my-era-pop-culture references. And there’s your answer to the quiz, folks!

Availability can usually be figured out in the initial “Hi, you filled out our survey” email. The rest of the items on the aforementioned ordered list get taken care of with a call and, depending on the skill set, a bit of digging around in Dribbble, GitHub, and even Twitter. It’s pretty typical stuff, I suppose. For the most part, the question I’m looking to answer is: do I want to work with you?

I’m basically asking you to hang out for months on end, helping me get some complex, quality work done. We all need to like each other. So yes, “Can you do the job?” is helpful, but it really isn’t my focus.

Because, honestly, I don’t care if you’re a core contributor to the JavaScript Framework Darling of the Day (of which there have been 12 new ones launched since I started writing this). If you come across like an ass, we’re done here, people.

Catchy Blog Post Wrap-up Title Here

After all that, if things look good, I hire you. Sometimes it’s for a very specific gig, like prototyping for some usability testing. Sometimes it’s longer-term, like building us an API or iOS-ing for a client’s project.

When the work is done, ofttimes it’s, “See ya,” but, depending on nGen’s workload and the need, we do keep people on for other projects.

The end result of all this is a list of regular, go-to, trustworthy people. But as time goes by (and landscapes shift) we dust off the Spreadsheet of Awesomeness and go looking for a new best friend.

We never know exactly what the next project will bring or when we’ll need someone who can unicorn their way out of a paper bag. It’s sometimes a long process, but it’s worth it to find the right person.