Jonathan Heiliger, VP Technology operations for social networking giant Facebook, has come a long way from his first hire, in his teens: “In my late teens I was working at Stanford University.
I hired a student to replace me in my job as a network ‘gopher’ after I had worked there a few months. This was back before the Internet was commercialized.
The job was pretty simple. We built routers and burned e-proms and woke up in the middle of the night to do troubleshooting for places like Apple and UC Berkeley and other large schools. We were their Internet connection. “
Today, Heiliger’s challenge is to find people who understand the scale and complexity of the Facebook product, he says.
Facebook’s user community has been growing rapidly, not just in terms of raw number of users but also usage on the site, Heiliger says. So the company has been hiring a 50/50 mixture of technical people who write software and build infrastructure and people for departments including business development, sales, marketing, finance, platform, and public relations, he says.
“I inherited an excellent team of about 40 people when I joined Facebook. In the last year, my team has more than doubled in size,” he says. ‘I have a little over 100 people in my organization and in the total company we are about 700 people.”
Heiliger’s responsibilities include running the infrastructure that is Facebook.com, including the server and network infrastructure that keeps the business running, plus the software and intelligence that sits on top of that, keeping the service performing well for users. He spoke with John Mann, an executive recruiter with The Alexander Group, for this article.
You are on a crash hiring spree. How do you avoid making mistakes when you have to move so quickly?
Everyone makes mistakes. No matter how hard you try, there will be some percentage of hiring mistakes you make.
Where the management test hits metal is not just in hiring employees, but in retaining and motivating them, and in fostering some collaboration and innovation inside the company.
When that does not go well, we deal with it by either helping the employee improve or helping them find a better organization to be a part of.
We try to avoid making mistakes by spending a lot of time screening candidates. We have a pretty large staff of in-house recruiters, coordinators and facilitators. We pass off all the candidates to recruiters so that employees can get back to their day jobs. We let the professionals run the process.
The candidates go through the screening process and the recruiters coordinate bringing in people for interviews, figuring out if someone is a fit, selling the candidate on the company and lining them up with jobs, setting expectations, etc.]
The ratios between the résumés we receive, the number of people we screen, and the number of candidates we interview is around 15 to one at the first step, and 10 to one between being screened and being interviewed, so there is a pretty big drop off.
We also depend on employee referrals quite greatly. We have been very fortunate to hire a number of great people from other companies in the Valley and even outside the Valley. We also spend a lot of time vetting people on college campuses and really trying to find people that are not just smart, intelligent and bright, but are also passionate about Facebook as a product and where we are going as a company.
One of the things we have done for new grads or people who are trying to choose between two teams is to have them join an interim team (we call it the Engineering Hiring Team) and for the first four to six weeks at the company, they report to an interim manager.
They get to fix bugs, become familiar with the code base and work on a variety of teams in different parts of the organization and technology stack so that the teams can continually interview the person even after they have been hired.
Then the person can figure out if they are better suited or prefer to work in one area or another. We just started that program. We do not have a lot of data on how good or bad the experience has been other than some early anecdotal feedback, which has been very positive. We will be able to retain those good â¬Sathletesâ¬