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Love Your Co-Workers? Silicon Valley Startup Offers to Hire Entire Teams

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By Michael J. Coren Quartz April 27, 2016

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People work best in teams. Companies mostly hire individuals. That mismatch drove the payments startup Stripe, which is struggling to fill almost 100 open positions, to start hiring the same way it works: in teams.

The company announced its Bring Your Own Team initiative April 26. Candidates can apply with up to five of their favorite colleagues. Stripe will schedule group interviews, office visits, and professional challenges to solve together. The offer (or rejection) is made to the group as a whole. People can accept or decline individually.

Stripe said it does not intend to hire individuals if a team is rejected (but didn’t rule it out completely). The company expects groups to working together initially. It’s most keen to hire software developers, but is open to proven collaborations with designers, managers, or product managers.

Stripe’s idea grew out of frustration with conventional hiring, says Stripe’s CEO Patrick Collison.

“We’ve already had this idea that the standard Silicon Valley interview processes aren’t that good, especially in engineering. They over weight SATs and [grades], when even weighing them at all is a bad idea,” said Collison by phone. “What we under weight is the perspective of someone’s teammate.”

Collison says the approach should overcome a classic weakness of Silicon Valley companies: ignoring candidates that don’t fit a conventional mold. Their best employees, he realized, came out of group hires such as a woman with an economics degree and only a year of coding experience.

“People have in their heads their dream team: the people they’ve had tremendously productive experiences with at past companies that they know they can do great work alongside,” said Collison. "Wouldn't it be cool if you could express this fact to Stripe?"

The company’s approach does mirror a time-honored hiring technique in Silicon Valley known as “acquihires.” Companies that need to staff up internal engineering teams will often buy small or struggling companies at a premium. The product is usually shuttered or sidelined, and employees are reassigned to the new company’s priorities.

Acquihires, however, only benefit founders and their networks with access to capital, limiting the pool of talent. The effort and expense of building a company to get hired is, to say the least, inefficient. Bring Your Own Team is designed to skip that step as an “acquirehire without the company.”

It’s not clear if this effort will recruit better employees or improve the gender and racial diversity of new hires. It’s just one of the many hiring experiments popping up in Silicon Valley as the talent wars rage. Despite a retrenchment in early-stage startup funding, there’s a chronic shortage of engineering expertise in Silicon Valley. Startups are replacing traditional job interviews with coding tests. Google is ditching college degree requirements and hiding secret job applications in search results.

Stripe’s experiment is likely to strike fear into the hearts of companies without a good hold on their best employees. Groups were already shopping themselves around as a team (with mixed results). Applications started coming in within 24 hours of the posting, reports the company. Collison says he plans to keep hiring teams until the approach no longer generates results.

Brendan Baker, an engineer working with top accelerators and venture capital firms such as Greylock Partners, thought Stripe had hit upon an obvious but powerful shortcut through the inefficiencies of hiring.

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