How do you hire Employee #1 ?


A cursory poll of HackerNews and friends shows an overriding concern for meshing well with the existing culture at the firm. Ignoring for the moment the *-exclusionary nature of hiring someone just like you, the other huge problem is determining fitness.

ie. when testing for culture-fit, people will usually make a list of points to probe for. How do we know that list is complete? And what ordering of those questions minimizes the cost of hiring to the firm?


These seemingly minor questions (how hard could a culture-fit bandpass filter be?) are compounded by wilful development blindness; ie. small teams typically build up a large amount of technical debt, especially with respect to audit: what is the set of changes that transitions all the parts of a company from one known good state to the next; then how were those changes reviewed and authorized?

And from a hiring perspective: What would a bad hire look like? How to make sure the bad hire will be rejected? Provided the firm survives, how to pave the way for the next hire?


Scrappy start-ups need all the help they can get, and cannot afford to be anything-exclusionary. While remote-only work and classical professionalism have helped much, how do we know that exclusion has been minimized?

Case in point:

A struggle for me is that I would much rather write than speak, and read rather than listen. Most people in business appear more like speakers, in that while they will write for broadcast, they prefer speaking.

Consider facilitation, the entire field is predicated on what feels to me like stage direction: a room is set for a meeting, we all show up and recite our lines, then exeunt omnia. If anyone asks a question I've not prepared, I either haver and adumbrate or deflect with a hopefully humorous anecdote.

When people go off-script, all I can do is watch and commit it to memory; maybe I will be able to understand it later when I can corral my own thoughts.

How do we know this show was what everyone needed? How can one company be all things to all employees?


Is the writer / speaker chasm impossible to cross?

Probably not, right? Imagine a speaker starting a video-call with a writer, and the writer spins up a deepfake front-end with an IRC-bot back-end. The speaker chats with the deepfake while the writer IRCs? N.B. this does not fix sync/async culture mis-match.

What about *-exclusionary?

There are too many issues for everyone to just "get along". So instead of directly speaking / writing with someone, you both interact with Non-Player Characters, with a facilitation bot that extracts and relays information. It's just easier to reach Aumann Agreement with NPCs you like.

And performance?

Many people view audit and compliance much as traders view risk managers: evils to be circumvented or ignored if possible. The raw truth of the matter is that in order to reduce ad-hocracy and make better decisions, we need Compliance, Risk Management, and Inclusivity.


While we wait for our protocol droid NPCs to show up, the next best alternative is to adopt a reduced set of the Grugq's opsec rules [PDF] [vid], namely:

  1. Limit communication to need-to-know.
  2. Keep work and personal life separate.


Alternatively, we can just fail to hire; ie, ask friends for help, and learn which balls can be dropped.

Which of these alternatives seems better?


The best strategy for hiring today is to delay till tomorrow.