Uber’s Travis Kalanick Likes ‘Experiential’ Hiring

San Francisco-based Uber, brainchild of serial entrepreneur/CEO Travis Kalanick, is currently valued at $3.5 billion. Despite having been stymied by regulators in several key markets, the nearly four-year-old company is growing at a rapid pace. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kalanick said his company plans to address its rocketing growth by growing its workforce from 550 to between 1,500 and 2,000 by the end of 2014.

Uber LogoTo meet staffing needs, Kalanick uses a unique hiring approach which relies less on interviews than on experiential practice. He told the Journal that he prefers to get a sense of familiarity by actually working with someone rather than putting them through a series of increasingly stepped-up interviews.

“Simulating what it’s like to work together is the best way to determine whether somebody has the raw talent to not just do the job, but to grow into something bigger,” he said. “It’s not about doing 15 interviews with 15 different people.”

Kalanick says Uber looks for the kind of talents that aren’t exclusive to a particular skill set, but are agile enough to scale with the company.

Business Insider writer Mark Nisen largely concurs with the Uber CEO and notes that interviews aren’t always the optimum way to figure out how someone actually functions at work. For example, he recalls Google’s research into its use of brainteaser questions and their eventual rejection. What was supposed to cut the wheat from the chafe – at least where Google was concerned — didn’t work in favor of the company’s hiring goals.

Kalanick’s approach also counters Amazon’s hiring template, which requires potential employees to interview with a series of people the company calls “bar-raisers.” The approach is meant to limit bad hires and ensure a cultural fit. From Jeff Bezos’ perspective this makes sense: The Amazon hive is an established, highly-coordinated, team-centric machine.

Ultimately, any company’s hiring springboard should hew to both its professional and cultural philosophies. What works for Uber may not work for Amazon or Google, and vice versa.

Kalanick has a touch of startup snot/genius, aggressively pursuing expansion and confidently arguing with naysayers about the company’s controversial surge pricing. He’s a straight-shooter regarding everything but Uber’s total revenue – which according to Valleywag may be more than $100 million a year. Considering the company’s current growth and the industry’s expectation of its success, Kalanick is on to something and needs the kind of team players who can model his approach.

One Response to “Uber’s Travis Kalanick Likes ‘Experiential’ Hiring”

  1. Barbara L

    This makes sense — it is an experiential trial for the applicant and the organization. Instead of the usual long-drawn out gauntlet of interviews, people get to be brought inside and roll up their sleeves with colleagues. Also, instead of having priority work deferred or overloading the existing staff, progress can be made on the work/projects/etc. I don’t see much downside here. If things don’t work out in the trial period, there should be some pre-arranged agreement which allows the applicant/employee to leave with no harm done and a good reference.