Jostle is an innovative cloud-based platform that aims to create extraordinary workplaces and help organizations connect their employees efficiently with the help of intranet.
Recently, we had an opportunity to interview Brad Palmer, the CEO and co-founder of Jostle.
We asked Brad to provide us with some insights on how startup companies manage talented software engineers and stay commercially viable.
Q: Could you start by telling us more about Jostle and what it does? How big is the team? Where is the team located?
Brad: Jostle has created a new kind of employee intranet that is rich in functionality, yet easy to set up and use. It gets everyone plugged into their organization and allows them to quickly find what they need.
Thanks to our simple, work-relevant approach, we are achieving unheard-of employee participation rates—over 85% across all our customers. Jostle employs over 70 people in Vancouver.
Q: What challenges do you face when looking to hire talented software engineers for Jostle?
Brad: Vancouver is an appealing city, with lots of startups and many large development teams from all the mainstream software development companies (Microsoft, SAP, Amazon, etc.) Competition for the best talent is severe.
We only hire people that think clearly and thrive with hard challenges. Delivering a simple user experience in a rich platform requires clear-thinking people that challenge each other daily. Craftsmanship and co-creation are key values for us — our employees need to be able to thrive in our challenging and creative environment. Most developers fail this test.
Q: What trends do you observe in tech hiring and the market for software development talent? How is the current situation going to change?
Brad: It’s always been hard to hire the best people. Nothing new here.
What is new, is that employees are now placing much more value on the quality of the job (challenge, ownership, mentoring, growth) and the workplace (culture, flexibility, alignment). These are the things that allow us to win new employees.
Employees are now placing much more value on the quality of the job (challenge, ownership, mentoring, growth) and the workplace (culture, flexibility, alignment).
Q: Can you name the three best tactics that have helped you find great software engineers?
a) You truly need to be a great place with extraordinary software engineering. We shared 12 practical ways to do this in this article.
b) Involve the full team in interviewing. Ensure they all understand what qualities matter. That means having a clear job description and an agreed list of the skills and experience required. Be honest with each other as to which items are nice to have.
c) Hire fast. Ideally right at the interview.
Q: How do you source tech talent? Are there any channels that you believe bring you the best candidates?
Brad: For the most part, we use conventional channels: online job sites like Indeed, recruiters, and employee referrals.
One unusual channel that has been very successful for us is to form relationships with ESL schools. There are hundreds of them in Vancouver. The best ones differentiate themselves by finding great intern placements for their students. Many of our very best employees started this way. And because of it, we have Jostlers born in 25 different countries. This extreme level of diversity has become a crucial part of our workplace culture.
This extreme level of diversity has become a crucial part of our workplace culture.
Q: How do you set up a diligent interview process or find the right formula for selecting the best candidates?
Brad: First, we interview to determine if the candidate has the required technical skills and knowledge. Then we debrief while the candidate is waiting in another room. If the result is positive, the second interview happens right away. After this, both interview teams come together to make the final call. We return to the waiting candidate and either make a job offer or explain why we have decided to pass. We know what we need and when we spot it, we hire immediately.
Q: What is critical in onboarding of a new hire?
Brad: Helping them set up the tools they need, understand our culture and values, and get plugged into the teams around them.
Q: How do you retain software engineers? Please share your tips for keeping the human side of the business and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Brad: I ensure the engineers are always challenged and have opportunities to learn and grow. You need to make sure there is nothing roadblocking them, and take time to recognize their contributions.
Jostle is an intense place. This is why we provide lots of flexibility as to when and where you work, provided you stay connected with your team and deliver well-crafted code. Part of our culture is to celebrate each other’s personal accomplishments that extend beyond work.
Q: How does the deep knowledge of employee engagement help you keep the Jostle team happy?
Brad: Our business is wonderful in that it only attracts lovely customers. We get to watch companies all over the world transform as they engage on our platform to amplify their culture and make internal communications happen. Jostlers are inspired every week when they see things they crafted cause big improvements to the workplace experience of so many employees.
Part of our culture is to celebrate each other’s personal accomplishments that extend beyond work.
Q: Is there anything you learned about hiring engineers the hard way?
Brad: Take probation seriously. Hiring isn’t an exact science, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong. Trying to “repair” things month after month almost never works, and is effectively wasting the career of the person you hired. Help them move on quickly by explaining what they should look for in their next job, and how they can be more successful there.
- Only hire people who thrive in challenging and creative environments;
- Improve the quality of job and workplace continuously, as these are the main factors contemporary candidates consider;
- Make interviewing a collaborative process — involve all team members;
- Hire fast, but organize the process well;
- Don’t get upset when you hire a wrong candidate — hiring isn’t an exact science;
- Think of alternative talent sources such as ESL graduates;
- Help your new employees get used to new tools and teams;
- Build a challenging work environment and give your employees opportunities to learn;
- Offer flexibility;
- Celebrate not only professional but also personal contributions of your employees.