Diversity in diversity

My previous post outlined some thoughts to consider when hiring career changers. One of the benefits of this approach is that you’re bringing fresh perspectives to your company. If you limit your team to individuals who have only worked in your industry, you’re missing out. Of course, relevant experience is highly valuable, but so is diversity and a rich set of experience, which is why more organizations are moving away from the concept that “cultural fit” means building a hyper homogenous company.


Even just a few years ago, having a degree from a prestigious university was considered a massive advantage. Don’t get me wrong – graduating through a rigorous program is no small feat and should be rewarded. But don’t discount someone who might have been a late bloomer, someone who simply didn’t have the financial means to go to an ivy league school, or whose life circumstances just took them in a different direction. Don’t discount the non-traditional learner. We recently hired one, and he’s got all the hustle, attitude and smarts needed to excel. 

Career paths

Some people know early on what they want to be. And of course, you have to admire someone who clearly has a passion for a specific field. Not to mention that for certain roles, it’s important that a candidate has had a clear and steady career trajectory. For other positions, you may be able to widen the pool of applicants. Don’t just look at the hard skills required, but also the soft skills, such as communication skills, impeccable time management, a high degree of emotional intelligence and adaptability, and the ability to provide outstanding customer service. 

Levels of experience

Let’s be honest – ageism is real. Yes, we can call the more mature candidates “overqualified”, but why wouldn’t you hire someone who is so qualified that they will allow you to raise the bar? Aren’t you sick of hearing about the boomer versus millennial versus Gen Z battles? You’re doing your employees a disservice if they don’t get a chance to work with individuals from different generations and with different levels of professional experience. In fact, offering diversity across generations is the only way to create an environment that mimics the “real world” – and your customers’ world!

Cultural backgrounds

One of the biggest gifts that you can give your employees is the ability to be immersed in a stimulating environment that fosters open-mindedness, provides a multitude of perspectives, and is a microcosm of the diversity that makes us better. Every individual, regardless of their background, brings a unique perspective to your organization. Leverage this, provided that the person embodies your company values and has the aptitude to succeed in their role (and that you have the willingness and bandwidth to train them!). 

Our founder, David Cummings, recently published a blog post about how certain challenging life experiences can be an important characteristic for an entrepreneur. I couldn’t agree more. I’ll add to this the struggle of being an outsider due to ethnic, social, or economic background, physical challenge, gender, or any of the factors outlined above. And if you’re looking for an entrepreneurial spirit in all of your employees, keep that in mind.

One of the most important things to consider when hiring is your company’s core values and how a candidate embodies them. For us, it’s being adaptable, scrappy, positive, supportive, self-starting, to focus on the things we can control, and to put our customers first are what matters most. And that’s what we’re looking for when recruiting. If your main focus is to hire great people, you will likely have a more diverse team.  

What about you? What are your thoughts on organically fostering diversity by hiring the best people and giving them a chance, regardless of their background?

Hiring career changers

Since the outbreak of the pandemic more than two and a half years ago, people have been quitting their jobs at a never before seen rate. Last year, more than 47 million people left their employers in order to pursue something new. Many of these seekers are looking for a career change. At Hannon Hill, we have been fortunate to be able to hire several of them, and they’ve already made a huge positive impact. As we’ve said before, “you can teach someone how to do something, but you can’t teach them how to be”. If you come across someone with a great attitude, strong work ethic, and some of the other traits that you deem important, consider giving them a chance, even if they don’t have some of the role specific experience that you were looking for. Here are some thoughts to consider in order to make sure that you’re setting those new hires up for success.

Don’t rush the hiring process

Hiring a new team member is a monumental decision, not just because the wrong fit can damage your company culture and lower morale, but also because the individual trusts you with their career and their livelihood. You want to be sure that the candidate really wants the job, that they have a realistic picture of what’s expected and what joining the company will be like, that they have the aptitude to excel, and that they are an exceptional fit. Most of the time, it’s impossible to make this determination after just one interview. Don’t rush into a hire just to fill the position or for fear of missing out on a candidate. 

Be sure that you’re equipped to train them

Every new employee deserves a top notch onboarding experience, but it’s even more crucial for career changers. No matter how self-starting someone is, they will need proper training. If their manager and their team members don’t have the time to invest in thorough knowledge transfer, you’re likely not setting yourself or the career changer up for success. In addition to providing on the job training, make resources like online courses and books available, and, whenever possible, help them find a mentor.

Note that the training also needs to cover how your organization works. Sometimes, it’s not just a new skill set and job that the new employee is learning, but a whole new environment and organizational structure. You can’t expect acclimation to happen overnight, and you need to ease them into this new way of working. One of our most recent hires is a former teacher who had not worked in the corporate world. Imagine what a big change this was for her! (BTW, she is doing great!)

Plan to fill knowledge gaps

Don’t rely on the new person to figure out what they need to learn and how they’ll acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Collaborate with them to clearly identify how and when the knowledge gaps will be filled, and set benchmarks so you both can see if things are moving in the right direction. Encourage complete honesty. What do they feel confident or excited about? What is causing apprehension? Where do they think they can make a big impact? What is their preferred method of learning? Also note that honesty goes both ways. Be realistic about expectations, professional development and potential career trajectories. Don’t overpromise. 

Provide immersive onboarding

One aspect of learning how your company works involves learning the inner workings of each department. That’s where an immersive onboarding experience is quite valuable. Schedule time for the new hire to shadow team members in other departments and to have Q&A sessions. Some learning can be done by osmosis, by listening to calls with customers and prospects or overhearing conversations between co-workers. Of course, this is much harder to do in a remote only environment. You should also consider some scheduled cross-departmental learning and “getting to know each other”s. 

Be open to new perspectives, and encourage input

By bringing someone from a different background into your organization, you are giving yourself an excellent opportunity to listen to fresh perspectives. Encourage your new hires to share their first and second impressions, as well as any new ideas they may have. Just because you’re new doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak up. Some of the best innovations and ideas come from looking outside your industry. 

Ditch the acronyms

Be mindful of the fact that not everyone knows what an SOW, RFP, or PO is, let alone know the specific technical terminology that you use in your products. Get into the habit of speaking in terms that everyone can understand, as it will make your company more inclusive to your team members, customers, and prospects. Also: if you must make inside jokes, explain them to the new hires.

Check in regularly

Quality onboarding does not happen in a week. Check in with your new hires regularly, especially when they’re career changers. What’s been going well? Do they feel that you’ve held up your end of the bargain? Note that those check ins don’t always have to be scheduled. Sometimes a simple “how are things going?” when stopping at their desk can be just as effective. 

Not all positions lend themselves to hiring career changers with little or no experience in the field, but please don’t discount someone who is looking to make a change if they are great cultural fits, have a strong drive, and the right aptitude and soft skills. You could be missing out on gems. That said, not every company is prepared for those types of hires. That’s why transparency on both sides is so crucial.

What about you? What are your thoughts on hiring career changers?

When your behavior doesn’t match reality

In order for you to achieve both your short term and your long term business goals, you have to have a deep understanding of who you are as an organization. It’s imperative to have ambitions and to envision what you ultimately want your company to be and to look like, and it’s just as important to understand where you are currently and to act accordingly. Failure to understand the current reality or to have a false sense of self will make it much more challenging to get to where you want to be in the future. Here are a few examples.

Automating too much

If you count on customer service to be a key differentiator, ensure that you are giving your customers the individual attention they deserve. As you are growing your customer base, there might come a time when your team starts to think too much about scaling up, prematurely, and doesn’t focus on the personalized service they should be delivering. If you spend more time on automation than on actual service, reconsider your approach. Don’t automate yourself into indifference, but instead analyze how much personalized outreach and attention you want and should give each customer and find a way to make it happen. 

Delegating too much or too little

As a manager, you may worry about delegation. Are you delegating too much? Too little? Once again, it comes down to critically assessing who and where you are as a company. This is particularly important when it comes to interacting with customers. As a company with several hundred enterprise customers, do you think upper level management should engage with individual customers? I do. But the threshold is, of course, different for each organization. The key is to act according to your reality and not your aspirations. Does your VP of Product need to be involved in certain levels of UX decisions, or would it make sense to empower team members to make the call? If it’s the latter, what do you need to do to make it so?

The “I shouldn’t have to” trap

Another example of potential incongruence between your reality and your thoughts can be found in the “I/We shouldn’t have to trap”. If you catch yourself thinking “I shouldn’t have to tell them to make calls”, “We shouldn’t have to tell them that this issue needs to be resolved immediately”, “I shouldn’t have to remind them how important response times are”, or “We shouldn’t have to postpone the release” (you get the picture), stop for a minute to re-think, because clearly, you have to right now. Instead of an internal eye roll, accept that you are not where you want to be, analyze the reasons for it, and identify the steps necessary to improve the areas that are causing you heartburn.

Misreading your culture 

Your company culture can be one of your biggest, if not your biggest, assets. It’s how people feel after interacting with one of your team members. It’s where the company handbook leaves off and how people act when nobody’s watching. A great culture spawns a sense of pride, and rightfully so. It’s only natural to brush off things that aren’t quite perfect, or to overestimate or underestimate certain parts about your team. Your team may be such an integral part of you that you may be blind to certain shortcomings, but if you are, you don’t empower yourself to help them improve and become even more successful. 

Being realistic about where you are and who you are is a necessary step towards moving towards your goals. Be sure to always take inventory, self-reflect, and make adjustments, not just when the results don’t match your expectations.

What about you? Can you think of situations in which not being brutally honest about your reality could adversely affect your company?

Ideas for weekly company updates

Even though we are a relatively small company, where everybody has plenty of opportunities to interact with anyone in the organization and to ask questions, we always want to identify ways in which we can increase transparency. For instance, we have several Slack channels in which we share pertinent information, such as #customer-shareable-news, #product-happenings, #customer-success, and #praise. In our weekly company meetings, the departments take turns presenting pertinent updates, projects, goals, and initiatives. We also experimented with dashboards that we projected in the office. Another thing we’ve been doing for a long time is weekly updates, which I write and share via email and Slack every Friday. It’s a narrative of notable developments and achievements in the past week and intended to provide context instead of just projecting KPIs. The format and the content continues to evolve, as it should. Currently, the updates contain the following components:

Positive news of any kind

I enjoy starting the update with some positive news, whether it’s a new customer coming on board, a milestone that has been reached, a milestone “Hannoversary, the birth of a child, or a pet having gotten adopted by a team member. 

Department updates

I summarize the main notables by department. Since each team member posts their daily updates on Slack, there’s no need to rehash what each individual accomplished. Instead, I mostly speak in the first person plural and talk about our main accomplishments, such as a new release, newly created content, and demos or training sessions completed. In addition, it’s helpful to outline any new initiatives or changes, including the reasons for those changes, and challenges that either a department or the company as a whole are experiencing. Upcoming events, such as webinars, conferences, community service, or celebrations also tend to be shareworthy. 


Good work needs to be recognized, whether it’s something tangible like the implementation of a new feature or a glowing testimonial or praise from a customer for helping them with the rollout of their new site, or something less tangible, such as when an employee went above and beyond to help another team member or made a significant positive contribution to the company culture. 

Calls to action

Weekly updates are a good way to remind your team of things that they need to do, such as completing their benefits selections during open enrollment or submitting their engagement surveys. CTAs can also include any type of help you or another team member is looking for, such as “If you come across any recent client examples of intranets, please share them with X”.

Content you might find interesting

I curate three articles per week and share them in a section entitled “Content you might find interesting”. They generally cover a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to customer service, time management, life hacks, user experience, product roadmapping, productivity, and relevant technologies. Note that it doesn’t have to be limited to articles and blog posts. You can mix it up with podcasts or videos, such as Ted Talks.

Customer news

Our customers are changing the world, as they shape and educate the minds of generations, by building and improving communities, fostering the arts, and spearheading technological and medical breakthroughs. We always think about them in this way, and we give them our utmost support and effort to provide them with the products and services that they deserve. It’s important for us to know what’s going on with our customers, so each week, I include three stories in my updates. 


Since the company’s success and well-being is everyone’s business, I share KPIs around revenue, such as total revenue to date, monthly recurring revenue, and net retention. Be sure to include the goals for each metric as well. 

Question of the day

It’s fun to end the weekly updates with a question and encourage communication, especially on a Friday. The question can be anything at all. Here are some recent examples: “What’s your favorite meal in the summer? Feel free to share a recipe!”, “If you had to compete in the upcoming summer Olympics, which two sports would you pick? Bonus question: What would you make an Olympic sport in order for you to be a fierce competitor?”, “What have you read recently that you would recommend?”

What about you? What would you recommend including in weekly updates?

7 signs that a candidate is not prepared

The result of a successful interview is not necessarily a new hire. It’s knowing if a candidate is or isn’t a good fit for your company. Since better interviews lead to better hires (as you’re weeding out the individuals who are not a fit), it’s important that you always strive to become a better interviewer and that you are prepared for each interview. You know how to strike the right balance between asking common questions in order to compare candidates and being adaptable enough to dig deeper when necessary to have a meaningful and organic conversation. Furthermore, you are able to instantly identify a candidate who is not appropriately prepared. How? Let’s take a look. 

They didn’t bring their resume

When a candidate has an in-person interview, they should bring copies of their resume for each interviewer as a courtesy instead of expecting the interviewers to either have it memorized or printed themselves. Ideally, they also bring other supporting documents, such as references and any pertinent samples of their work (for instance, a marketing candidate might bring a brochure that they created). 

They don’t have a good reason why they want to work for your company

“How did you find out about the position?” is a slowball and a way to make candidates feel comfortable. Generally, if someone is excited about the opportunity at your company, they remember how they learned about it. If someone says “It might have been [insert website here]”, make a mental note to ask more about their job hunting processes. How do they identify companies that they want to work for? Which brings us to the next red flag. If a candidate can only give you generic reasons, they may not have investigated your company much prior to the interview. If the response is “you seem to have a great company culture”, probe further and ask “What does culture mean to you?” and “How would you describe our culture?” Listen carefully. If the answer mostly revolves around a relaxed dress-code or the “laid back” environment, there may be a misalignment. 

They can’t explain your products and/or services

I like to ask our candidates what they did to prepare for the interview. You’d be surprised at some of the answers. Believe it or not, some individuals responded to the effect of “not much”, or “I poked around on your website”. Find out if the candidate downloaded your whitepapers or signed up for a trial of your product if available. Have them explain your offerings and your value proposition. Depending on the seniority of the position, consider asking the candidate strategic questions such as “what other verticals do you think might be good fits for us?” or “what do you think is keeping our prospects up at night?”.

They don’t know who the interviewers are

One of the most obvious signs that someone is not prepared for an interview is when they don’t know with whom they’re interviewing. Make sure that your HR rep who set up the interview gives the candidate the names and titles (not email addresses – you want to make sure that the candidate is resourceful enough to find them when sending follow-up emails) of each person with whom the candidate will speak. If someone clearly does not remember who they’re talking to and didn’t take the initiative to even write down pertinent information in preparation for the interview, it’s a reason for concern. Some interviewees demonstrate their level of preparedness through comments, such as “I saw that you went to [school]/used to work for [company]”, “So you started out in [department]”, or “I read on your blog that”. Good! But others may be more reserved, so you may just ask them “What do you know about [name of person]?”

They only talk in generalities

A decent candidate proactively researches what types of questions are typically asked in interviews for the position that they’ve applied for. A good candidate is prepared to answer these questions in a thoughtful manner that includes very specific, personal examples. For instance, if the question “Tell me about a time when you went through extraordinary lengths to (close a deal, make a customer happy)”, is only met with general statements (“You have to go the extra mile, and customer service is what I do best”), the interviewee may not have been appropriately prepared.

They can’t answer this crucial question

You want people on your team who are invested in their own professional development. Consider asking something along the lines of “What do you do to get better at your craft?” or “Who is a thought leader in your field that you follow?”. If you catch a candidate off-guard and they can’t name any blogs or books they read, podcasts they listen to, or courses that are being offered, it should give you pause. Not everybody can think quickly on their feet in a stressful situation such as an interview. However, a well prepared candidate may have expected this question.

They don’t ask thoughtful questions

The types of questions that a candidate asks during the interview are just as important as the answers they give – sometimes even more important, as they are a direct reflection of the person’s interest in the position and genuine desire to learn about your expectations, your challenges, and vision. They also reveal critical thinking skills and the candidate’s willingness to identify if and how this could be a mutually beneficial relationship. If the interviewee doesn’t take advantage of having the opportunity to ask questions and or just inquires about benefits and work hours, it’s generally not a great sign. 

Understand, though, that you simply can’t apply the same expectations to all candidates. If you offer an entry level position for recent graduates, you can’t expect the candidates to go through the same preparation process as candidates for a senior Account manager, for example. In addition, the further along in the vetting process someone is, the more preparation you should expect. 

Finally, note that even if a candidate aced the interview, you still want to be thorough in your process and not skip any steps, such as waiting for the follow-up, having them do an assessment with deliverables that are relevant to the position, and a cross-departmental interview to determine culture fit. Fast-tracking a candidate can be one of the biggest (and most expensive) pitfalls when it comes to hiring

What about you? How do you determine if a candidate is not adequately prepared for an interview?