Recruiting Rockstar Hackers vs Sales Sharks

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If you’ve read Joel Spolsky’s “Smart and Gets Things Done,” you should have a fairly good idea about how to hire your next rockstar hacker.

However, the processes for hiring a great engineer doesn’t really translate when trying to hire a top notch sales shark.

Ben Horowitz provides some key difference on how technical founders/co-founders should go about hiring a development team vs a sales team.


Interviewing for personality traits:

  • Engineer: Test for natural problem solving skills, and depth of knowledge for tools.
  • Sales:  Test for courage, hunger, competitiveness, and emotional intelligence.


The background check:

  • Engineer:  What have they coded? Do they even know what GitHub is? Where have they worked before?
  • Sales:  What have they sold? How much over what period of time, and how competitive was that market?


Expanding your department:

  • Engineer: Take your time. Hiring the wrong engineer can be costly. No such thing as being too careful.
  • Sales: Hire fast. Not having market share can be costly. No such as thing too many sales.


“Applying engineering hiring techniques to a sales organization is like eating poison ivy to get more green vegetables. You will get the opposite of what you want.”

~ Ben Horowitz


Source:  “Through the Looking Glass: Hiring Sales People

Image: danisabella

  • Good insights. Cheers, Rex

  • it’s hard to interview – I have to have 10 more people

  • Both need to fit the culture. How well they fit the rest of the team is a strong predictor of future success and stability.

  • Interesting comparison, also interesting that you called the engineer a hacker an apt name but one that has been deionized as a result of so called malicious hackers or crackers. Well said.

  • Lynn O’Connell

    Finding good sales people may be one of the hardest challenges business owners face!

  • jsegal

    I’m looking for a sales/growth hacker who also understands and believes in our mission of creating social value. What are good places to find people to interview? Thanks.