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Who's in the Video
Jason Fried is the co-founder and President of 37signals, the Chicago-based web-application company. He has co-authored all of 37signals' books, including the upcoming, "Rework," as well as the 'minimalist manifesto,'[…]

Always hire after you need someone, “after it hurts,” not before. When companies ramp up fast in anticipation of work to be done, it can be really hard to hire good people.

Question: What rules should companies follow when they're hiring?
Jason Fried: Sorn fundamentally I think it’s important to hire late.  So hire when it rnreally hurts.  So the reason I think that’s important is a lot of rncompanies, I’ve seen especially in our world, the tech world, hire in rnanticipation of needing people.  And when you do that it’s really hard rnto judge their skills because you don’t really know what they’re going rnto be doing yet.  That’s one problem with it.  The other problem with itrn is you have to keep them busy on things that don’t matter until the rnthing that comes around that you need them for matters.  And that’s rninsulting.  It’s insulting to somebody who’s really good to say, "What rnyou’re doing now doesn’t really matter, but we’re going to find rnsomething to you that matters in six months."  That’s just an insulting rnway to hire people and to treat people.  So we’re always hiring after wern need somebody, not before.  And that’s the high-level pitch that we rntalk about when we talk about hiring is, hire after it hurts, don’t hirern in anticipation of people.  Don’t hire for pleasure.  And there’s rncompanies that ramp up really fast and just, you know, I think that’s rnjust a really hard... it’s hard to judge.  It’s hard to hire anyone rngood, really hard to hire anyone good.  To hire 10 people good a month, arn 100 people good a month, you can’t really.  I think maybe if you’re rnlucky you can do that, but I think it’s very, very rare.  Unless you’re arn company that everybody wants to work at, a company like Google or rnsomething like that, where a lot of people want to work and they can rnmaybe attract the best of the best of the best, but most companies don’trn have that luxury.  So hire slowly, one at a time only after you need rnto.
rnTry them out.  So we try to try people out, we give them a project. rn When we hire designers, we give them a project to do for us, a one-weekrn project to do for us and we pay them for their time.  So because, when rnyou look at someone's resume or the work that they’ve done, you don’t rnreally know like, was this just them or did they work on a team, it’s rnvery hard to tell.  And a lot of work, especially with developers, you rncan’t see their code because it’s written for proprietary product that’srn owned by a company.  So we looked at the open source world, because rnthat code's available.  We can look at their actual code submissions andrn look at their documentation, look at all the stuff that they’ve rnactually contributed, not said they’ve contributed.  So we want to try rnto get to real as soon as we can. So real code, a real design.  If we rnhave to hire someone temporarily on a project basis to show us what theyrn can do, that’s far more valuable than looking at their resume or rnlooking at their portfolio because that’s usually not a great rnrepresentation of who they are today. 
Question: Are resumes and cover letters still useful? 
Jason Fried:  Irn love cover letters.  Resumes are just kind of ridiculous things.  They rnreally are.  They’re full of just lies and abstractions and it’s not rnthat people are being malicious, it’s just like, that’s the culture rnaround resumes.  And ultimately, everyone’s resume looks good enough. rn Bullet points make people... equalize people. The other problem with rnresumes is like, you know seven years experience with Microsoft Word, I rnmean, what does that mean?  What do these things mean?  They don’t mean rnanything. So, cover letters are great because you can tell someone wrotern them for you.  A resume is typically a general... it’s spam, first of rnall.  But it’s generally a general purpose document that you give out torn a lot of people.  If a cover letter is generic, I don’t want to talk torn that person.  If a cover letter is written for us clearly, and you can rntell in a cover letter, then you definitely want to consider that personrn because they actually want your job, not just a job, but your job.  Andrn I think that’s really valuable.  
Question: How do you find the right person for a business?
Jason Fried: Onern of the things we’ve been seeing is that we really like it when people rnreally personalize their job pitch to us.  Like, "I want to work for rnyou, here’s why."  Some people make a Web site, a specialized Web site rnjust for us.  Some people speak our language.  You know, they’ll do rnresearch on the company and they’ll understand what we’re all about. rn And those sorts of efforts really show to me that someone really wants rnthe job.  And again, not just a job, but our job.  So I look for things rnlike that.  And I would say, if anybody out there is looking for work, rnand really wants to work for a company, you’ve got to do something rnspecial to get that job.  And that just means... that’s not about you, rnit’s about the company.  What can you show this company that tells the rncompany that you really want to work for them?  So maybe it’s learning rnsomething about their history and bringing it up, some abstract thing rnthat someone else might not bring up to set you apart.  Maybe it is rnshowing off your work in a special way, in a different way that's rncustomized to that company.  I mean, you’ve got to go beyond just rnsending a resume.  And you’ve got to go beyond even just a good rninterview and you’ve got to go beyond just a good cover letter today. rn You’ve got to really show them that you really want the work, and this rncomes down to really being personal in your approach.  One of our rndesigners that we hired, I think it was about a year or a rnyear-and-a-half ago, Jason Zimdars.  Built a beautiful site showcasing rnhis work for us.  But not just, here’s the work that I’ve done for rnanybody, but here’s the work that I think is applicable to the work thatrn you guys do.  And here’s some words that I think matter.  And I know rnyou guys appreciate good writing so I’m going to take the time to write rnsomething well.  And that really had a huge impact on us.  And everybodyrn who does that really has a big impact on us.  We get a few hundred rnresumes every time we post a job, you know.  And there’s only a handful rnof people who really go the extra mile and it’s sad.  I think you know, rnit’s not that hard probably to get a great job if you make an effort. rn But if you just kind of blast out resumes and blast out generic cover rnletters, forget it.  You’re not going to get a great job.  
Question: What’s the role of higher education in the new economy? 
Jason Fried: Wern don’t care about higher education.  Don’t care about formal education. rn I think maybe... I think, I don’t remember the stats, but it might be rnlike 40% of the company never graduated college.  Things like that. rn Some people went, some people didn’t go.  I don’t care about that.  It rndoesn’t say anything to me.  I actually like when people drop out rnbecause if they drop out and follow their passion, I love that.  Like rnsome guys are programmers – I don’t want to be at school for four years rnbecause I can’t program at school.  I can program for a company and I rncan learn more in those two years that I would have gone to school and Irn can program instead.  So I’m far more interested in real world rnexperience and doing things and building stuff instead of theoretical rnstuff, which I think is taught in most schools.  I also find in people rnwho come out of school are a bit behind, actually on what’s really goingrn on out there compared to people who have just been in the field for a rnwhile.  So I just think experience is far more valuable to us than your rnGPA or where you went to school.
Question: Are there generational trends you see when hiring? 
Jason Fried: Everyonern we hire we make sure that they’re just good people.  If someone rnfeels... if there’s an entitlement complex, I’m not interested, you rnknow, if people feel like they’re owed something, forget it, you can go rnaway.  So if there’s any of that, we just dismiss it offhand and they’rern not... but I haven’t really seen a whole lot of that.  So, but again, Irn haven’t really had a lot of experience.  I think someone who maybe rnhires a hundred people a year probably has a much better perspective on rnit than I do, but, you know, our youngest employee now is 21 and he’s rnjust awesome.  Completely dedicated, great mind, great hard worker, I rndon’t see any sort of different between like his generation and someone rnwho's 30, you know.  Saying well the young guys these days, they don’t rndo anything.  It’s not like that at all.  I see a lot of drive and, you rnknow, the other thing is, people just are just ahead today.  I mean rnpeople; someone who's 21 today is so much further ahead than somebody rnwho was 21, 10 years ago.  And I think that’s great.

Recorded on July 22, 2010
Interviewed by Peter Hopkins