Open Listings is an innovative real-estate service that provides a non-stop online house hunt. With Open Listings, homeseekers can make offers and buy a home online while saving thousands in fees.
R ecently, we had an opportunity to interview Kevin Miller, the Director of Growth at Open Listings. We asked Kevin to tell us about his individual approach to finding and retaining talented software engineers that allows him to compete with larger tech companies.
Q: Could you start by telling us more about Open Listings and what it does? How big is the team? Is it collocated or distributed?
Kevin: Open Listings is an all-in-one home buying service designed to give you an edge on any market. House hunt 24/7, create offers, and save thousands in fees — all from your computer or phone. To date, we’ve helped buyers get over $500 million worth of homes and save over $5 million.
Q: As a US-based startup, do you experience any difficulties finding skilled software engineers?
Kevin: Yes, it’s always difficult to find skilled software engineers. They’re located in San Francisco and Los Angeles for the most part. That said, SF is the most competitive place because engineers can pick and choose between so many incredible companies.
Q: How critical is choosing the right engineers for overall success of the company?
Kevin: Extremely critical. Our experience proves that the old saying “Today’s seed — tomorrow’s harvest” works — the first 10 engineers will hire the next 10, and so on and so forth.
Q: Could you give us a list of tactics that have proved to be successful in hiring and retaining top engineering minds at Open Listings?
Kevin: We mine our personal network. Great engineers know other great engineers. Once they get here, we ensure that they’re constantly working on projects that excite them, motivate, them and challenge them day in and day out.
Yes, it’s always difficult to find skilled software engineers... SF is the most competitive place because engineers can pick and choose between so many incredible companies.
Q: How exactly do you source tech talent? Are there any channels that you believe bring you the best candidates? What rules do you follow when compiling a job description?
Kevin: We source tech talent from our individual team members. We tried working with a third party but none of the candidates they brought met the level of quality we required.
Our experience proves that the first 10 engineers will hire the next 10, and so on and so forth.
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Q: How do you organize the interview process? How long does it usually take you to make hiring decisions? How do you make sure that the candidate will be a great fit for your team?
Kevin: It usually takes about 1–2 weeks to make a hiring decision about a candidate that we’re excited about. The interview process typically consists of 2–3 rounds where the candidate meets with the core members of the team, the founders, and the people they’d be working with most closely. It’s really tough to ensure that the candidate will be a great team fit, but we try to spend a bit of time outside the office grabbing coffee and getting to know the candidate better. If we have a company-wide event, such as a happy hour, we’ll invite the candidate and encourage them to meet other team members in different departments. This way we can later solicit feedback from many more people who aren’t evaluating the candidate for their tech talent and can focus on their company culture fit instead.
It’s really tough to ensure that the candidate will be a great team fit, but we try to spend a bit of time outside the office grabbing coffee and getting to know the candidate better.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to a company owner who finds it difficult to compete with large tech companies for talent?
Kevin: It really is hard to compete. Here’s how you win.
You need to find candidates that are motivated by being on the ground floor of something that has the potential to become one of these large tech companies.
Find candidates that are motivated by the idea of creating something really unique and noble, and avoid those whose only motivation is luxury benefits offered by large companies like Google or Facebook.
The advantage here is that you can give each team member true and legitimate responsibility where they can own certain functions of the product. At larger tech companies, there’s no way that one engineer could solely own a whole function of the business. In our case, we can give someone that type of responsibility and empower them to do a great job.
This is an intangible benefit that is hard to quantify but extremely important. It makes all the difference with the right candidate.
The advantage here is that you can give each team member true and legitimate responsibility where they can own certain functions of the product. At larger tech companies, there’s no way that one engineer could solely own a whole function of the business.
- Create your own tech talent network. It’s easy: hire great engineers — they know other great engineers.
- Ensure exciting, motivating, and challenging projects.
- Before hiring, introduce the candidate to the core team members, the founders, and the people they’ll be working with most closely.
- Get to know the candidate — spend some time outside the office.
- Find people who are excited about building something that has a lot of potential from the ground up.
- Disregard those who are only interested in luxury benefits that big companies can offer.
- Provide each engineer with a unique opportunity to own a whole function of your product.
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