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On 'Onboarding Remote Employees' thread from a few days ago, I kind of hijacked the topic away from remote companies to hiring practices for growing startups in general 😅 My long comment was in response to another comment along the lines of "I don't want to come off as too pushy upon initial onboarding" and it was along the lines of: If your expectation is for someone to contribute immediately, then you should be clear on that expectation from Day 1 and hire someone who's able to handle that expectation, not someone you need to train; because for most startups, the idea is to grow fast.

In any case, I was reminded of this exchange by a post by Bajali this morning on Twitter on what companies like Google did for hiring even way back in 2006. While I think the statement can certainly be challenged, I think if you go by the growth mentality, you should always be attempting to hire up, people who need their hands held as less as possible. Having said that, you also need to make sure interest are aligned in order to hire people who're more skilled than you ðŸĪŠ

Snapshot of the tweet below:



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    I think I am the one who made the point you have quote 😎

    So, thanks for addressing this in a separate post!

    I have got to agree with the comments made by @hrishikesh and @Borisov91. It is really tough to benchmark hiring strategies based on what Google does. In fact, I find it really tough to even align my startegy with companies like Todoist.

    I totally want only the right people and then to empower them with all the freedom knowing that they are going to totally change the course of our company. But I don't think any of these companies are also fighting a fight which most other startups are - that of survival.

    It is almost like a Maslow's hierarchy for companies. If I have crossed survival, I would then be able to move up the ladder to focusing on raising quality bars, hiring only super stars and then also empowering them.

    Till then, I am afraid the vision is restricted to the next year at max rather than building superstars for 4-5 years.

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      I kind of replied at length below 😅

      In short, I think "hiring up" is being misinterpreted - it's not hire superstars (because then you'll surely be outclassed), it's more hire people who're better than you at the job you're recruiting them for.

      The disclaimer should be that there's no "right way" to build a business. But like you said, you need to "cross towards survival" and that's harder when you're carrying more weight than you need.

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      Great points Justin.

      This immediately reminded me of the Bar Raiser interview at Amazon. While they deem a Bar Raiser as a person who isn't part of the team (for which the hiring process is ongoing) and is tasked to evaluate more neutrally, one of the key points in evaluation is also to judge if the candidate crosses the average threshold of Amazon employees. This is of course fairly subjective and hence, Bar Raisers are also people who've been part of Amazon for long.

      But here's the catch. Often the hiring manager would know the Bar Raiser & have a chat personally with him/her before or after the interview and make sure the candidate doesn't get rejected if they already like the candidate (disclaimer: this is only from my personal experience & my inference could be biased). They do this only because it is tough to find good people.

      For startup hiring, I totally subscribe to the fact you should strive to hire superstars & even people who are more skilled than you. But there're huge constraints at play - budget, time to hire, candidates willing to work for startups, location (if you aren't remote) & even retention 😓

      From my experience, these constraints become more prominent when hiring really good people. So while the objective can still be to hire up, it might practically not turn out to be the case.

      Would love to hear @Borisov91's thoughts & experience around this too.

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        Interesting topic!

        I've done hires that I've known are very bad hires. And I was comfortable with it, and it was a success in my opinion. Because sometimes, you need someone urgently, it has big impact to have someone than to have no one.

        There was a time where we hired 2 developers within 24h of deciding that we need to hire 2 developers as soon as possible. (we used for this, our own product)

        Similar to another case where we hired 2 operations people within 10 hours of the decision.

        You don't always need quality hires. Quality hires take time, typically 1-3 months, even in a startup. (unless you use, of course)

        You have to know what game you're playing, is it about quality, is it about time. Do not try to copy what works in another company, because your own case is different.

        On this topic - I can strongly recommend Reid Hoffman's youtube videos in the Blitzscaling series (and his Blitzscaling book).


        But maybe I'm drifting away from the topic!

        Within this topic:

        As an early-stage company (e.g. 10 employees), this is not my biggest concern, to be honest. But maybe my case is different than yours. I'm generally more concerned with solving the market risk (solving the product-market fit in a small team), not the execution risk (quality hires for the long-run).

        Although it is a great read your post, and I enjoyed it very much! Thank you for sharing it!

        Have fun and good luck with your companies,


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          Btw, our case is early-stage (about 10 employees), mostly bootstrapped, cash-constrained. The founders have very good work ethic (70hrs/week) and very good skill (top universities, experience from top companies etc.).

          With our budget, there's no way we can afford even a handful of super star employees.

          Instead, we get good employees for their main goal - and we work closely with them.

          This is very first-principles based approach, not typical advice.


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            Really great points.

            I subscribe to the focus of solving an immediate problem with hires rather than getting obsessed with an ideal laid down by bigger companies.

            Having said that, I do find these to be short-term fixes. We have made hires for short-term fixes and then find ourselves not knowing what work to give them after those fires have been put out.

            It isn't like we don't have other work - there is tons of work. But we don't think those hires would be a good fit to help us with those aspects of work. What we then see is that most of that work is going to the same people who are then getting overworked. 

            I am not really proposing a solution. But I think firing is not a straightforward or a pleasant process for anyone involved. So, the entire hiring process feels like postponing an inherent problem rather than actually solving for it. Maybe that's what early-stage startups need to do.

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              @borisov91, @hrishikesh, @johnwade - FWIW, my main point was more along the lines of what @karthik described above.

              The point of the post isn't that you need to be constantly hiring AAA players, superstars; if that's the case, a startup will be obviously outclassed by larger companies and MNEs. It's that whoever you hire to join you should be better than you at what you've hired them for. Budget will always be a problem. But your early employees are just as much investors with their time if not more than the people who provide you funds. So if you have a clear vision/timeline, set realistic expectations on returns, and offer the right incentives (maybe it's the opportunity to work on the right project, stock options, short-term bonuses, whatever) then you'd be surprised how many people are willing to contribute (if they share your vision).

              In my experience, "You don't always need quality hires" is not a good aim for startups with the aim to grow. Sure, it's easier said than done as good people are hard to find and we'll always make compromises in one way or another (try to hire friends, opt for short-term solutions, etc.) - but doing a startup is a hard job, and if you don't aim to fill a position with people better then you might as well save the funds, time, resources, etc. to do the job yourself. Because you'll eventually end up in a hire & fire situation, which isn't pleasant (although to be fair, this is kind of the original Silicon Valley playbook for growth; but there's a reason it's not longer as fashionable).

              Having said that, there's defintiely more than one way to skin a cat 🙀 And everyone will have different trajectories to their destinations. 

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                Maybe my earlier reply above was a bit rushed.

                There is indeed no one way to skin a cat! That was the main point that I was trying to make. So following Google's way is not necessarily a great way (even though it can be).

                Hiring people that are better than you is a good rule of thumb. Aiming to increase the quality of the team over time is also a good rule of thumb. But there are case-specific considerations, so rules of thumb sometimes need to be broken.

                This reminds me of what Ben Horowitz wrote:

                "Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win."

                Full essay:



                I agree that firing people is never pleasant/nice. If you hire people with short-term intention, it is morally right to tell them in some way about it. Then I think it is fine. For example, tell them that you need from them to solve a particular problem, which will take e.g. 2-3 months. This is a contractor job for this period of time.

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                  "Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win."

                  I like the quote a lot :)

                  Sure Boris - I agree with the information upfront. But I guess it often isn't as black or white.

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                    FYI, the first example of war time/peace time CEOs used by Horowitz is at Google 😜

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                      Fits this thread very well indeed :D

                      It's fun to have discussions with other founders in this forum!