Practicing Open: Expanding Participation in Hiring Leadership

August 23rd, 2016

Last fall I came across a hiring practice that surprised me. We were hiring for a pretty senior position. When I looked into the interview schedule I realized that we didn’t have a clear process for the candidate to meet a broad cross-section of Mozillians.  We had a good clear process for the candidate to meet peers and people in the candidate’s organization.  But we didn’t have a mechanism to go broader.

This seemed inadequate to me, for two reasons.  First, the more senior the role, the broader a part of Mozilla we expect someone to be able to lead, and the broader a sense of representing the entire organization we expect that person to have.  Our hiring process should reflect this by giving the candidate and a broader section of people to interact.  

Second, Mozilla’s core DNA is from the open source world, where one earns leadership by first demonstrating one’s competence to one’s peers. That makes Mozilla a tricky place to be hired as a leader. So many roles don’t have ways to earn leadership through demonstrating competence before being hired. We can’t make this paradox go away. So we should tune our hiring process to do a few things:

  • Give candidates a chance to demonstrate their competence to the same set of people who hope they can lead. The more senior the role, the broader a part of Mozilla we expect someone to be able to lead.
  • Expand the number of people who have a chance to make at least a preliminary assessment of a candidate’s readiness for a role. This isn’t the same as the open source ideal of working with someone for a while. But it is a big difference from never knowing or seeing or being consulted about a candidate. We want to increase the number of people who are engaged in the selection and then helping the newly hired person succeed.

We made a few changes right away, and we’re testing out how broadly these changes might be effective.  Our immediate fix was to organize a broader set of people to talk to the candidate through a panel discussion. We aimed for a diverse group, from role to gender to geography. We don’t yet have a formalized way to do this, and so we can’t yet guarantee that we’re getting a representational group or that other potential criteria are met. However, another open source axiom is that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” And so we started this with the goal of continual improvement. We’ve used the panel for a number of interviews since then.

We looked at this in more detail during the next senior leadership hire. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, our Chief Marketing Officer, jumped on board, suggesting we try this out with the Vice President of Marketing Communications role he had open. Over the next few months Jane Finette (executive program manager, Office of the Chair) worked closely with Jascha to design and pilot a program of extending participation in the selection of our next VP of MarComm. Jane will describe that work in the next post. Here, I’ll simply note that the process was well received. Jane is now working on a similar process for the Director level.

Sorry, comments are closed.

Skip past the sidebar