When it comes to hiring, there are two rules that Nimble Storage CEO Suresh Vasudevan follows. One’s a headline-grabber, the other obvious, if not often followed.
“First, we do not hire jerks,” Vasudevan told the Register. “If I can choose between an arrogant rocket scientist and an agreeable guy that I love to work with — that isn’t quite as talented yet, I choose the latter.”
The strategy, which Silicon Valley regulars may recognize as uncommon, has apparently worked well. San Jose-based Nimble Storage, which sells flash optimized hybrid data storage systems, had a successful IPO last December, causing Barron’s to wonder whether it will be “the next great storage company.”
If there is a single overriding image of tech companies, it is of a world-class engineer who makes things happen but also happens to be a world-class jerk, someone whose bad behavior generates ulcers, hurt feelings, mental breakdowns and lawsuits.
For their titular bosses – if anyone really controls these people – it’s a deal with the devil. Great performance sometimes comes at considerable cost, and not just in salary and options.
One way Vasudevan avoids these people is by focusing hiring on those his workers already know.
“We love to work with employee referrals. It says a lot when our own employees bring another potential colleague to us, because they will have shared the company culture with that new colleague and have estimated they are the right type for us,” he said.
Hiring experts say that every selection matters, because a single poorly chosen employee can, over time, infect an entire company. First, they can demoralize those they work with. More importantly, as these people get promoted – and they do – there’s a tendency to hire others just like themselves.
Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht has gone so far as to add a “no jerks” line to his company’s job descriptions. And the Bellevue, Wash., corporate wellness company has noticed a change in who applies for its jobs. “The volume has gone up,” Albrecht told Inc. magazine, “so we know we struck a chord: We received more than 150 applicants for one position.”
Many people have actively pursued his jobs, “mentioning the company vibe and values, expressing a desire to work at a place where they are treated like people.”
What is a workplace jerk?
“There are often varying definitions of jerkiness — and sometimes stylistic differences can be misconstrued. If you raise your voice on behalf of a customer, is that jerkiness? We use judgment, but if a consensus develops, there may be a better fit for that person at a more jerk-tolerant company,” Albrecht concluded.