We are not the permanent team solution for our clients. They often want to know:
- How do I find a technical co-founder?
- How can I learn to "do it myself"?
- How do I hire designers and developers?
We tell them:
- To find a technical co-founder, network in person at user groups and online at
LinkedIn and AngelList. Is what you really need a designer
- To learn to do what we do, sit next to us in our office for weeks at a time,
pair programming and sketching together.
- To hire someone, follow the same process we use, detailed below.
We've met our future teammates via:
We met Josh because he submitted excellent patches to
Clearance. He was in Michigan at the
time. Due in part to their open source work, we've hired great people as far
away as India and Thailand. We moved them to the cities where we have offices.
Ben, Joel, and Mason at the Boston Ruby Group.
A nice thing about those meetings are that they happen naturally. We're not
trolling GitHub looking for people or fishing for talent at user groups and
conferences. We're there, anyway. If we never hired again, we'd still be writing
and using open source. We'd be members of mailing lists and going to events.
We know what we'll get when we hire in the above ways. We know their
personality and energy level from the user group. We know their coding style
from their open source work. We know they'll take initiative because they
voluntarily contributed to the community.
We met Jessie and Laila via Dev Bootcamp. They went through
apprentice.thoughtbot.com, as did Adarsh,
Draper, Edwin, Diana, Melissa, Joël, Lisa, Lydia, Rich, Christian, and Tony.
We've also had great luck finding designers on Authentic Jobs and iOS developers
on Stack Overflow Careers.
We don't work with outside recruiters. We've found they don't present us with
people that would be a good fit for our team, and are often disingenuous about
the candidates they have. Overall, it isn't worth the effort reviewing lots of
We track each candidate's progress in the interview process using
We manually enter people into Workable for personal introductions.
People who apply on our website are automatically added.
Our CPO, Anna, leads the hiring process. She ensures that everyone gets a
response, and the integrity of the process.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a hiring process to be impacted by
unconscious or implicit bias. At thoughtbot we believe that more diverse
teams build better products, and that everyone should receive a fair
opportunity to join our team.
In order to achieve this goal, we've made the following improvements to our
- Implemented anonymous initial screening of candidate application.
This process removes names, school information, gender-identifying pronouns,
and other identifying information from candidates before their application
- Feedback left by reviewers at each stage of the process is not shared with
people later in the process. Interviewers in later stages can be confident
that the candidate made it to their stage because they met our objective
requirements for the prior stages. It also helps them more objectively
interview the candidate in their stage.
- Each stage has a rubric that helps interviewers more objectively evaluate
candidates on the criteria we are looking for at their current interview
- All salary offers are reviewed for equity and approved by Anna before they are
Unable to find off-the-shelf software to help us do this, we've created some
of our own.
Anyone can do the initial anonymous review of a candidate's application.
In particular, they review the candidate's experience and answers to the
We either send them a rejection or an email inviting them to do a
"Non-Technical Interview" with the hiring manager for the position.
In a non-technical interview that goes well, we've learned that they are
someone we'd like to work with, that they potentially have the skill set for
the role, they are a good match for our values, and that they
will make thoughtbot better by being here. We will also have gotten them
excited about thoughtbot, how we work, and what we stand for as a company.
After the non-technical interview, the next step is the technical interview.
We have standard questions for iOS developers, Rails developers, and designers
for the technical interview. We don't use puzzles or code challenges. Instead,
we prefer reviewing actual work the candidate has done, and talking to them
about design process, architecting systems, and writing code; the same thing we
do for work every day.
The final step for candidates is to visit us for a day. We pay for their flights
and three nights of hotels (rest up Thursday night, work with us on Friday,
enjoy Friday night, explore the city Saturday, fly home Sunday).
On that day, developers pair program with one
of our developers in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Designers pair in the morning and work on a small product design project
throughout the day and then present at 4pm. It primarily involves sketching and
working with one or two thoughtbot designers.
We do the interviews this way because there's no substitute for seeing someone
actually do the work and interacting with the team. We also want candidates to
experience what the company is like for themselves.
Aside from technical skill, during the entire interview process, we look for
like enthusiasm (invigorates others), focus (pays attention, resists
distractions, remembers directions), composure (remains calm when critiqued,
doesn't interrupt), gratitude (shows appreciation), curiosity (eager to explore,
asks questions to understand, actively listens), optimism (gets over
frustrations quickly), grit (finishes what they start, doesn't get
blocked), emotional intelligence (demonstrates respect for others' feelings,
knows when and how to include others), humor (likes to laugh, makes others
smile), and appreciation of beauty (notices and appreciates beauty and
To be hired, the candidate must get a unanimous "yes" from the existing
teammates with whom they interacted.
Offer and Onboarding
We use Workable to send the offer and get
them signed without the "print and scan" process on either end.
Offers are reviewed and approved by at least one member of the C-level executive
team before being sent. C-level executives and Managing Directors can execute
offers on behalf of thoughtbot.
When the offer is accepted, we run a custom onboarding app which we wrote.
It creates the teammate's email address, gives them access to systems like
GitHub and Slack, notifies Accounting, sends a welcome email to the teammate,
and creates a todo list for the hiring manager for any remaining manual items
that we haven't been able to automate.
We assign a guide to new team members for their first two weeks. The guide
helps them get set up, makes them feel comfortable, answers questions they
may have, or points them to the person who can answer their questions.
We are entirely bootstrapped, with no outside investors, and no debt. We are
paid for consulting only four days each week.
Sustainability of the company is very important to us. We want to bring great
people on at reasonable salaries and reward them as aggressively as possible for
We may never be able to compete dollar for dollar with other tech companies but
we can compete on being a great place to work, with lots of opportunities to
learn, and the freedom to define and execute on our own projects.
In addition to salary, everyone receives quarterly profit sharing bonuses.
Salary increases are the natural result of improvement, and occur company-wide
on a yearly basis. Our manager may increase our salary in a way that is
compatible with the company's finances and individually appropriate to us based
on things we've done, such as:
- creating great software
- making users, teammates, and clients happy
- improving ourselves by learning something new
- improving thoughtbot by bringing in sales, mentoring a teammate, contributing
to an internal tool or research
- improving our community by writing blog posts, contributing to open source, or
- doing the things we didn't think to put on this list
Our salary increase may also include adjustments based on market conditions and
cost of living increases.
It's important that our manager explains why a raise is being given and what, if
anything, could be done to receive a higher raise next time. We don't get raises
for "just showing up."