Under Pressure

There’s a sentiment in hiring I’ve run into recently. The idea goes that you want to see how someone works “under pressure” before you hire them. What does that look like? You build in a step with a task, add a tight deadline, and wait to see how the applicants cope.

In the worst cases, there is an expectation that giving any help to the applicant would skew the results. And besides, that quick turnaround helps keep the hiring timeline nice and short! That’s always a win. Or is it?

Let’s think about what this looks like to your new colleague. On their first few interactions with you, they get an arbitrary dreadline. The first taste of working with you is rancid and sour and artificial. Stress Max. All the angst, none of the calories. You’ve told them that applying for this job is the most important thing in their life. To drop everything and show you how they cope when times are tough. That asking for help is a weakness.

You’ve also rigged the result. You are far more likely to end up with someone who looks like the people who already passed through the fire. That pressure you are applying presses harder on people who are shorter on time. You might rationalize it to yourself with a “it’ll only take an hour, two tops”. And it is easy to feel that way when it’s your only responsibility. When you are finishing up your 3rd job, or working and caring for a relative, finding precious minutes to do this extra task well can feel impossible. You either accept that you’ll do second-rate work, or you cut into your sleep, or you let down the people relying on you for a chance at a better life. Suddenly, that pressure is costing you a chance to see the potential of your candidates. And for what? A weak simulacrum of the worst possible experience of working at your company.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at the work. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have constraints. Looking at the work is one of the best tools we have to decide on who to work with. You can and should choose the scope of the work with care. Show the applicants what working with you looks like for real. Warts and all. If your business values thoughtful, careful work, give the applicant the time and support to do their best work. Treat them the way you treat the rest of your colleagues. Build up the trust battery, from the very first interaction. Make it clear how to get help, and what good work looks like.

Adding pressure to a system without a safety valve is a recipe for explosions.

Jason Fried and DHH talk more about dreadlines and the trust battery in their newest book: It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work. Check out the chapters “Hire the work, not the résumé”, “The trust battery” and “Dreadlines”. You can find out more at basecamp.com/books/calm

Basecamp is hiring a data analyst

Come work with us!

Basecamp is hiring a data analyst to help us make better decisions in all areas of the business. This includes everything from running A/B tests with statistical rigor to forecasting revenue for the year to tracing performance problems to analyzing usage patterns.

We’re looking for an experienced candidate who’s done similar work elsewhere (as you’ll be the only one at Basecamp with this specialty). But nobody hits the ground running. You won’t be able to answer every question immediately or know how all the systems work on day one — and we don’t expect you to.

We want strong, diverse teams built from different backgrounds, experiences and identities. We’re ready for the ongoing work that goes into building an inclusive, supportive place for you to do the best work of your career. That starts with working no more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis and getting 8+ hours of sleep a night. Our workplace and our benefits are designed to support a sustainable, healthy relationship with your work. (We literally just wrote a book on the topic!)

Today, our team works from 32 different cities spread across 6 countries. You can work from anywhere in the world, so long as you can design a normal working day with 4 hours or more overlap with Chicago time (CST/UTC-6). Nomads welcome.

About the job

Data informs almost everything we do at Basecamp, but we’re not a “data-driven organization” in the sense that data dictates decisions. Data is there to clear the head, but ultimately we drive the company with our heart.

This means the job isn’t about maximizing revenue or minimizing costs. Yes, we want to make money and we don’t want to be wasteful, but we also want to be kind, considerate, fair, flexible, and calm. You won’t be looking for ways to squeeze the last sour drop out of the lemon at Basecamp.

But you will help us make sense of the data. Establish the facts. Put a price on the choices we make. Help us understand the business, our software, and its customers.

Here are some examples of projects you might work on:

  1. Analyzing the performance of a new marketing page. Track the cohort that signed up with this variation. Keep us patient for a statistically significant result. Compute the value of the change.
  2. Identify when a brute-force login attack started, quarantine the IP addresses involved, work with technical operations to bolster our defenses, and write up the forensics report at the end.
  3. Analyze our purchase records to locate transactions within states that are starting to collect sales tax on software like ours, work with our accounting company to document that sourcing method, and help evaluate whether we should buy or build a sales-tax engine.
  4. Help product strategy analyze usage data to figure out whether a certain feature is working as intended, and if it is, who it’s important to.
  5. Illuminate how we’re spending money on cloud computing today, and estimate how much we’ll be spending next year, given our growth patterns.
  6. Answer the question: Has Basecamp 3 gotten slower in the last 6 months? Compare aggregate performance data to find the high-level trends, then help us pinpoint data tipping points or code regressions.

Answering these questions usually means formulating and running queries against our big data infrastructure. But it also means just doing the basic math, and ensuring we’re being statistically rigorous. You should be able to do both the technical and statistical work to answer questions like the ones in the examples above.

That’s a lot of different areas of responsibility! So you probably won’t be an expert in all of them, and that’s fine. A solid fundamental approach to analysis will pave the way.

And you’ll have plenty of help! Basecamp has a Security, Infrastructure, and Performance (SIP) group that’s responsible for managing the data pipeline, storage, and analytical interfaces. And a Operations (Ops) group that’s responsible for running our servers, network, and cloud services. It’s a plus if you’re able to help evolve these systems, but by no means a requirement.

About you

In broad strokes, Managers of One thrive at Basecamp. We’re committed generalists, eager learners, conscientious workers, and curators of what’s essential. We’re quick to trust. We see things through. We’re kind to each other, look up to each other, and support each other. We achieve together. We are colleagues, here to do our best work.

You’ll probably have a degree that has exposed you to the rigor of the analytical work. Social scientists welcome. If you don’t have a degree in Theoretical Statistics, that’s not a showstopper — and it’s not what we’re looking for, anyway! We care about what you can do and how you do it, not about how you got there.

While we currently have an office in Chicago, you should be comfortable working remotely — most of the company does! This means that the bulk of our work is written, whether that be in the form of long reports or short chats. We value good writers.

We also value people who can take a stand yet commit even when they disagree. We subject ideas to rigorous debate, but all remember that we’re here for the same purpose: to do good work together. Charging the trust battery is part of the work.

About our pay & benefits

Our pay is within the top 10% of the industry, for the matched role and experience, based on San Francisco rates. This comes to a range at hiring of between $115,000 and $141,000, depending on your seniority. No matter where you live. Plus, with two years under your belt, you’ll participate in our profit-growth sharing program.

Our benefits at Basecamp are all about helping you lead a healthy life away from work. While we have a lovely office in Chicago, it’s not where you’ll find foosball tables constantly spinning, paid lunches, or any of the other trappings that companies use to lure employees into staying ever longer at work.

Work can wait. Our benefits include 4-day Summer Weeks, a yearly paid vacation, a one-month sabbatical every three years, and allowances for CSA, fitness, massage, and continuing education. We have top-shelf health insurance and a retirement plan with a generous match. See the full list.

How to apply

Please send an application tailored to this position that speaks to us. Introduce yourself as a colleague. Show us that future. As we said, we value great writers, so please do take your time with the application. Forget that generic resume. There’s no prize for being the first to submit!

We’d like to hear about how you’d approach some of the example projects outlined in the description about the job. Imagine you’re doing the work and walk us through your thinking.

All that being said, don’t send in a copy of War & Peace. We hire rarely at Basecamp, so when we do, there’s usually hundreds of applicants. Be kind to the people doing application triage and keep your cover letter to fewer than 800 words and the thoughts on project approaches below the same ceiling.

Go for it!

We are accepting applications for this position until Friday, October 12. We’ll let you know that we’ve received your application. After that, you probably shouldn’t expect to hear back from us until after the application deadline has passed. We want to give everyone a fair chance to apply and be evaluated.

As mentioned in the introduction, we’re eager to assemble a more diverse team. In fact, we’re not afraid of putting extra weight on candidates from underrepresented groups at Basecamp.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

(And again, imposters: We are too. Take heart. Step up.)

Temperature Check

One of our colleagues on the Basecamp customer support team, Jayne Ogilvie, wanted to find out how other tech companies with remote staffs handle issues like communication, career development, and hiring. Jayne sent out a survey and got back a wealth of information and ideas about how other teams work together. In this episode of Rework, we hear more from two participating companies: Sarah Park of MeetEdgar talks about how their staff gathers internal feedback on important decisions, and Patrick Filler and Anitra St. Hilaire of Harvest talk about taking on the challenge of making their company more diverse and inclusive.


Next week, we’ll release a bonus conversation with Sarah Park about MeetEdgar’s culture of transparency and open meetings. Make sure you’re subscribed via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, RadioPublic, or the app of your choice so you don’t miss it!

Things are going so well we’re doing a hiring freeze

Business has never been better at Basecamp. Despite all the competition, all the noise, and all the changes since we launched 14 years ago, 2017 was the year we earned the most revenue ever.

While that alone is cause for some celebration, it’s hardly the most important thing for Jason and I, as the business owners. Sure, it’s nice to see numbers tick ever higher, but we passed enough many years ago. What matters far more than big numbers for us today is how the business feels.

And it’s really never felt better, in almost all the ways. Basecamp the product is the best its ever been. Tens of thousands of new businesses and teams continue to sign up every month. We keep hearing from customers about the profound changes to their organization, productivity, communication, and even sanity that Basecamp helps them realize. It’s deeply rewarding.

We’ve also kept up with our founding mission to out-teach and out-share rather than out-spend the competition.

Since shortly after the launch of Basecamp, we’ve been stewarding the Ruby on Rails movement. The latest major release has a brand new framework, Active Storage, that was extracted from Basecamp 3. So too was the last major new framework in Rails, Action Cable. And now we’ve shared our entire two-pack punch to front-end development with Stimulus and Turbolinks.

Jason and I are finishing our fourth book, extracted from the lessons running Basecamp. It’s called The Calm Company and will be released this year. And after a lovely run with The Distance podcast, we’ve launched a REWORK podcast to share ever more of our lessons and perspectives.

So. Things are good. Really good, actually. Which invariably invites the question I get asked so often: WHAT’S NEXT?! Which is really a question of WHAT’S MORE? What else are you going to do in addition to all the shit you’re already doing? It’s so ingrained in our entrepreneurial culture that you must always be on a conquest. Once a set of territories have been subdued, you’re honor-bound to push further north.

Thanks, but no thanks. Basecamp has never sought to conquer the world or the markets. We do not have to win a total victory from a total assault to be fulfilled. Which partly stems from the fact that we aren’t beholden to financiers, partly because the satisfaction of running Basecamp comes more from doing the work, less from owning the work.

It’s this focus on the satisfaction of doing the actual work that’s been driving our outlook since the inception of Basecamp. How can we structure the business in such a way that Jason and I are able to spend the bulk of our time doing our favorite things? Designing. Programming. Writing.

That’s harder than it sounds. The momentum of growth assumes control of the ship quickly, if you don’t dare wrestle back the wheel. It’s so easy to just go with the flow. Of course we’re going to hire more people! Of course we’re going to spend more money! Of course we’re going to build more features! Of course we’re…

Before you know it there’s no longer time to do your favorite things. Now all the things that simply have to be done fill first your weeks, then your months, and then finally the whole year. I keep the parable of the fisher man in my mind often not to forget this boiling pot.

At just around 50 people and no full-time managers, it feels like we’re just at this crucial break in the waves at Basecamp now. On the other side, the tide will pull us out further and further out to sea. And maybe there are ever-greater riches to be found out there, but we’d be lost and adrift. If we dare resist the pull, we can stay anchored and connected.

So we’ve decided to dare. To resist. And thus, in our celebration of BEST EVAH, we’re taking the unusual step to drop that anchor and freeze all hiring at Basecamp¹.

“Wait, what?”, I can imagine a few puzzled minds thinking. Hiring freezes are usually for companies that are struggling. Trying desperately to cut costs to stay afloat. And here we are, doing better than ever, pulling that same move? Yes.

We’ve always been great fans of constraints, and capping the headcount in the face of growth is perhaps the biggest constraint of all. Especially because we’re not at all about running faster. Squeezing out more productivity from fewer hands. Quite the contrary.

The constraint of having the same team means that you also only get to do the same amount of work. But you don’t have to do the same actual work, you can do different work. You can judo the work. You can say no to more work. You can focus on more effective work.

That’s the kind of environment that excites me.

¹ The sole exception may be support, which is the only department that doesn’t yield well to just “do less”. If there are more customers and they need help, you gotta help them. But we’re working on making sure that they both need less help and that we don’t take on excessive amounts of new customers.

Looking for a new job? Don’t be boring

The best advice for someone who’s on the job hunt this new year

“Don’t be boring.”

When I asked Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellyvision, what advice she had for people who are looking to get a job, that’s the answer she gave.

As a CEO of a rapidly growing 400-person company, soon to be 500 people, Lannert has done her fair share of hiring.

“It feels like companies hire people, but in fact people hire people,” she explained. “By and large, recruiters are bored. People play it safe. They commodify themselves into just a bullet-point list of skills and experience.”

By not being boring, Lannert pointed out how you’ll catch a recruiter’s eye, and make yourself much more likely to land that initial phone call or interview.

At the same time, it’s also a great way to assess the fit of the role for you, as a prospective employee. When you show who you are as a candidate — what you value, what environment you work best in — and don’t get a call back, that company may be saving you some time and energy.

How do you not be boring? Here are five things to try:

Focus on the cover letter, not the resume.

At Jellyvision, Lannert shared how they place supreme emphasis on the cover letter. “There’s nothing more refreshing than seeing someone who takes a chance to be incredibly human in a cover letter or an outreach, to put themselves forward,” she says.

This means language that’s real, down to earth — not stiff, business jargon-y, and cut from some googled job site template. As someone who’s reviewed thousands of applicants for jobs for Know Your Team, I’d often set aside an application when the person would start their cover letter with, “I’m interested in X role. Please see my resume attached.” Everybody writes that in their cover letter — focus on saying something different.

Show, don’t tell.

A few years ago, a friend of mine wanted to land a job at Trunk Club, a company he’d been dreaming to work for some time. The only problem was that they weren’t hiring at the time. I suggested that he show them what he had to offer the company — not just tell them. So my friend whipped up a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation detailing ideas, suggestions, and projects for exactly how he could improve their online presence and user experience. He did the work of showing how he’d be an asset to the team — not just telling. Lo and behold, they created a role for him and offered him a job.

Get creative.

As a CEO myself, when I was hiring Know Your Team’s first full-time programmer several years ago, I’ll never forget how one applicant wrote me a poem — yes, a poem — perhaps 20 lines long that described who he was and why he desired the role. While we didn’t end up selecting him (he lived outside the United States and we required that the person live stateside), I remember that application so vividly even years later. He took a chance, got creative, and stood out from the 400+ applications we received in the first 72 hours alone. He was far from boring, and it worked.

Demonstrate you want this job, not just any job.

Another way to not be boring is to make it clear: “I want to work here, nowhere else.” This past year, when we were hiring for our Chief Technology Officer role, someone took the time to build a custom software application, just for Know Your Team. He’d replicated the Know Your Team software to the best of their ability, using what he’d gathered from screenshots he’d seen online. His intention was to demonstrate that he was technically up to snuff for the role.

My greatest takeaway was that it showed he wanted to work here, and nowhere else. I was impressed by him wanting this job, not just any job, and that caught my attention.

Sound like yourself.

Perhaps most importantly, you should make sure you sound like yourself. Don’t try to write a poem if you’re not good at writing poems. Don’t try to be funny in your application if you’re not funny. Be thoughtful in portraying the truest version of yourself — not what you think the employer wants to read.

If you’re concerned about how to do this, the key is simply to take put a little time and care into your application. Don’t rush your writing your cover letter. Think about how you can thoughtfully show who you are and what you can bring to the company. When you pour considered thought and energy into something, your true self will come through. Being not boring is about being yourself, more than anything else.

Keep this credo of “Don’t be boring” in mind, as you apply for a job. Dare to be different, and stand out from the sea of bullet-pointed list resumes and bland cover letters. The less boring you are, the more memorable you are. And the more memorable you are, the more likely you’ll land the job you want.


P.S.: If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share + give it 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😊(And you can always say hi at @clairejlew.)

This article was originally published for Inc.com.

A question of skills

One of the first books I can remember reading was A Wizard of Earthsea. I was seven or eight, and it scared me to my core. That dark ocean was real and menacing in ways I couldn’t fully appreciate until later.

Beyond fear, one of the things that stuck with me from that book was the idea of true names. David Mitchell’s love letter to Earthsea paints the picture:

Knowledge of a thing’s true name brings mastery over the object, and as this applies to people as well, to tell someone your true name in Earthsea is an act of intimate trust.

I remember reading that tweet, and how violently I agreed with it. Hard/soft always felt jarring somehow. Ok, gone. I’m warming my hands on the smouldering embers of the dichotomy.

“So, what do we call them instead?”

Back in January, Seth Godin proposed vocational skills and real skills:

Let’s call them real skills, not soft.

Yes, they’re interpersonal skills. Leadership skills. The skills of charisma and diligence and contribution. But these modifiers, while accurate, somehow edge them away from the vocational skills, the skills that we actually hire for, the skills we measure a graduate degree on.

So let’s uncomfortably call them real skills instead.

Before we anoint a replacement, let’s take a moment. Why are we making that distinction? How does this benefit us? How does it help us to achieve our aims?

Almost everyone I’ve spoken with, and every post I’ve read, agrees that hard skills are easier to measure. That soft skills are more difficult to pin down, but equally important (I’d argue even more so). I can buy that. So what?

Dividing skills into types is an attempt to be more precise that costs us clarity instead of adding it. Our every instinct tells us that precision is valuable. Language is an evolving, imperfect attempt to describe the universe. When we reach for precision, we’re hoping to get closer to the true name of things.

There’s a trap here. When we spend time and wit seeking a more perfect description of the different types of skills, we’re working at the wrong level of abstraction. Precision only helps us if it changes how we act.

There doesn’t need to be a distinction. Skills are skills. We can teach them. You can learn them. There’s no meaningful difference in the steps you take to develop a ‘vocational’ skill or a ‘real’ skill, a ‘hard’ or a ‘soft’ skill. An authoritative taxonomy of skill types doesn’t change how you approach things.

What do we need to pick up a new skill? Well, some combination of the following:

  • Time
  • Desire
  • Access to knowledge
  • Practice
  • Observation
  • Making changes in response to what you observe
  • Support

Measuring success is the same whether you are learning HTML or practicing sincerity. You observe outcomes. You need to understand what you are trying to do before you do it, a core part of mastering any skill.

Making this change is pretty straightforward. When you are working on a job post, you already don’t mention hard or soft skills. You talk about the skills and experience you’d like an applicant to have. If you are working on a training plan for yourself or a team member, you can list the skills you want to focus on. Save yourself the mental overhead of working out if a skill is vocational or real. You won’t need it.

We can discard the distinction without guilt. Chipping away at gendered stereotypes is reason enough. Part of the evolution of language is recognising when words are no longer true, or shouldn’t be. We should seek a more comfortable level of abstraction, a truer name.

The names we choose matter.

With endless thanks to Ursula K. Le Guin, who influenced me more than I ever realized. A huge thank you to Erika Hall for prompting this in the first place. Thanks also to Mathew Cropper, Chase Clemons, Brad Stott, Elliott Hilare and Yechiel K for talking with me about this and helping me to see beyond my limits. 💚 to Chase Clemons, James Glazebrook & Wailin Wong for editing.

Nobody hits the ground running

“We just want someone who can hit the ground running” is the common refrain for companies seeking to only consider senior-level job candidates. This is usually based on the premise that there just isn’t time to hire someone junior because they need on-boarding, training, and mentorship.

That’s all true. You shouldn’t expect a junior hire to immediately perform at the level of your existing company veterans. Everyone instinctively knows and accepts this.

Where instincts clash with reality is when hiring senior-level people. There’s a natural assumption that someone who was already, say, a lead programmer or designer in their past job will be able to step right into that role anywhere. That just isn’t so. Organizations can differ widely. The skills and experience needed to get traction in one place may well be totally different somewhere else.

Let’s take managerial direction, for example. At Basecamp, we’ve designed the organization to rely on managers of one. Especially at the deep end of the seniority spectrum. This means people are often largely responsible for setting their own short-to-medium term direction, and will only get top-level directives.

That can be an uncomfortable and confusing setup when someone is used to having far more hands-on, day-to-day direction on what to work on and when. The more accustomed someone is to that kind of directed form of work, the more there is to unlearn to mesh with how we work at Basecamp. That kind of unlearning can be just as hard as having to pick up entirely new skills, and sometimes even harder.

Getting the traction that someone would expect of a senior-level hire depends as much on general skills as it does on particular organizational compatibility. But because there’s an assumption that senior-level people should be able to just “hit the ground running”, there’s a bigger risk that expectations won’t be fulfilled quickly enough.

The fact is that unless you hire someone straight out of an identical role at an identical company, they’re highly unlikely to be instantly up to speed and able to deliver right away. That doesn’t mean a particular opening might not be best fit for a senior-level person, but it shouldn’t be based on the misconception of immediate results.


In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra put up a screen during musician auditions to make them “blind”. They had been hiring more men than women and were trying to figure out if they were biased in their hiring. Still, the audition results skewed towards men. Why?

There’s a bar my wife and I like to visit near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf called The Buena Vista. They serve a delicious Irish Coffee. Even more memorable is Larry Nolan one of their frequent bartenders. If you go there during the week, sit at the bar. You might get a special chance to see Larry perform magic while you enjoy your coffee.

A few weeks ago my wife, three year old, and I travelled to the Bay Area. My sister-in-law just had surgery and we went to help with chores and recovery. Things like driving the kids to school, taking her to appointments, etc. We spent a lot of time visiting their neighborhood and local spots, so didn’t even make it into San Francisco to visit our favorite bar.

So it was a nice surprise to see a Buena Vista at the airport on our way back home. It wasn’t the same atmosphere of course, but at least we could get a tiny taste of our favorite San Francisco-esque thing.

When our waitress came by though, she looked grumpy we were there. Immediately I thought she wouldn’t be a very good waitress. We asked if they had chocolate milk, our 3 year olds favorite drink. She answered curtly with a flat, “No.” She wasn’t any friendlier while we placed the rest of the order. Great. Not only we do we not get to see Larry, but this waitress is terrible.

Minutes later the waitress came back with our Irish Coffees. But she had another drink. A giant bottle of Chocolate Milk. She said she went next door to the adjacent store because she remembered they sold chocolate milk.

What an incredible move. Blew me away. Very few people would go to that length to make their customers happy. My daughter was thrilled.

Maybe our waitress was just having a bad day. Or maybe that’s just how she is — not a lot of smiles or cheery conversation. But I took all those reads and turned them into an assumption that she was a poor waitress and didn’t care about serving us.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Of course men aren’t better musicians than women. So what was going on at these auditions?

The Boston Symphony Orchestra kept exploring how to make their auditions more blind. They asked musicians to take off their shoes before walking across the stage to their audition spot.

Bingo. The sound of the musicians shoes were giving away their gender. Audition results went to almost 50/50 men/women.

I had a chance to catch up with a friend of mine last week, Kurt Mackey. Today he runs Fly.io. At his previous company he instituted blind interviews. The system allowed for interview screening questions that involved code, but hid details about who the interviewees were. And the results were fantastic.

But it’s not just hiring. Bias and poor assumptions creep into everything we do. Look how wrong I was about something as trivial as ordering food at a restaurant. The whole experience humbled me in my ability to read people and showed me how poor some of my knee jerk assumptions are. It’s a huge reminder how much work we need to do to rid ourselves of biases.

I left that waitress a big tip.

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: here, where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. Also if you’ve enjoyed this article, please help it spread by clicking the below.

And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.

Interview or Interrogation?

Interviewing for a new job is so nerve-wracking. The adrenaline kicks in, and you are trying so hard to keep it under control. Trying to deliver the polished answers you prepared and rehearsed over and over. Hoping that you don’t slip up, or get tongue-tied. There’s the weight of an entire future sitting on your shoulders while you try to parse the questions.

Then there are the interviews where you get the feeling that the interviewer is trying to trip you up. I’ve had them in the past, but couldn’t be sure if I was imagining things. Did other people find interviews combative?

As we thought about how we would approaching hiring a new support programmer, we hit the books to find out.

Don’t expect to eat at lunch.

Though a company like Lending Club claims that lunch is a time for candidates to take a breather and relax, don’t. Your interviewers care about whether you are socially skilled and easy to be around…

…Lierman recommends that you pack a small water bottle and snack in your bag which you can nibble when you excuse yourself to go to the restroom.

How to Survive a Marathon Job Interview

There’s something fundamentally broken about a hiring process that inspires bathroom snacks as career advice. Articles like Nikki Brown’s dissection of “best-in-show” hiring processes weighed heavily. As a remote company, we can avoid the barbarism of the coffee shop interview, but how could we do better? What could we do to set up a candidate for success?

Flipping the script

So, we tried a little experiment. We set up interviews with our shortlisted candidates as usual. A few hours before the scheduled start time, I sent out the following email:

I’m looking forward to chatting with you later. Before we start, I thought I’d say hello and let you know that you’ll be chatting with Justin White and myself. I’ll invite you to the call at noon Chicago time. If you’d prefer to do audio only, that’s totally fine, same if you’d like to use video. Whatever makes it more comfortable for you.

We’ve got about an hour to get to know each other, and I was thinking it might be nice to start with any questions you have, then move on to ours. This is a collaborative chat — we want you to succeed, and it’s the start of working together. That might last for an hour or 5 years, or the rest of your career, but it starts here. Should be fun!

The big change was to flip the natural order of the interview, to start off with the candidate’s questions for us. They could get to know us, settle into the conversation and get comfortable before we asked ours. We wanted to set the stage, so that they could show us their best self. The best way to do that was to turn over the keys, and let them take the wheel.

The rest of the email reinforced that aim. From letting them know who they’d be chatting with, to giving them the time in their local timezone. Giving them control over how we would do the chat, to stressing that this is where their time at Basecamp starts. Acknowledging that this should be enjoyable, and setting them up to win.

We had some great conversations with all our shortlisted candidates. Relaxed, confident and in control, they gave a great account of themselves. Because we recognise that interviews are stressful, we took a more compassionate approach. That led us to a place where every one of our finalists gave their best shot, and some tremendous interviews. They were the most fun I’ve ever had on either side of the interviewing table. We made a great hire, and Rosa started her Basecamp career with our support, right from the very first minute of her interview. Now we get to keep that promise, every day.

Could you try flipping the script in your next set of interviews? What ideas do you have to build an even more collaborative approach? A little unscientific survey shows that we’ve got a way to go:


Can you help change those results? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Five fresh faces at Basecamp for 2017

Basecamp says welcome to five new people!

Basecamp is bigger than its ever been, but in the grand scheme of software companies serving well over a hundred thousand paying customers, we’re still pretty small at 52 people. So that means every hire is kinda a big deal! And we’ve made five in 2017, so I thought I’d introduce them.

Tara Mann has joined our iOS team as its second designer, alongside Jason Zimdars. Our mobile teams are tiny, both iOS and Android got by with just one designer and two programmers since inception. But we thought it was time to have an extra mind in the mix to explore a wider array of designs before we dive into implementation. We’re thrilled to have Tara be that mind! She hails from New York and previously worked at Twitter.

Rosa Gutiérrez Escudero has joined our Security, Infrastructure, and Performance team as a programmer with a special focus on on-call investigations. We’ve long rotated amongst all programmers the on-call responsibilities, dealing with customer issues that need deeper technical investigations and may require elaborate root-cause fixes. But as the burden has grown, and the breath of programmers we employ has widened, it was time for some dedicated attention. Rosa brings that attention and then some. A direct exchange from the team evaluating her application: “Jim: Holy shit. Ann: Indeed”. Rosa joins us from Madrid, Spain and has worked in software, as a cupcake barista, at a chocolate startup, and in academia. What a delicious background!

Shanae Dykes has joined Team OMG to help customers over email, phone, twitter, and wherever else they may need to reach us. The support team has been the fastest growing part of Basecamp in the last few years, as we’ve sought to offer 24/7 responses within 15 minutes or less the majority of the time. All that while signing up thousands of new businesses every week. Shanae is going to help us cope with that. She is from Alabama and helpfully gave us a quick training course in Southern slang we she joined, so we knew what “yonder” and “britches” meant before she started chiming in the campfires. She used to work at Apple in Applecare.

Ashley Bowe has also joined Team OMG. She’s in the minority of Basecamp employees who actually live in Chicago where we have our office. She was born in Argentina, but the place she really wants to go back to soon is Iceland, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that! Ashley worked at Venmo and Uber in the past.

Flora Saramago has joined the Core Product team as to work alongside Jeff, Pratik, and Tom as a Ruby on Rails programmer. She was the final, incredibly hard choice out of 600+ applicants to one of those rare general-purpose Rails openings we haven’t had in years. She impressed us deeply with her writing, multi-year wins in Rails Rumble, and volunteer coaching for Rails Girls. Flora joins us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and worked at XL Solutions before.

So that’s the five wonderful women who’ve joined Basecamp in 2017. If you’d like to work with Tara, Rosa, Shanae, Ashley, Flora, and the rest of the Basecamp crew, we currently just have two openings on our Ops team. But if that’s you, please do apply.